Simhachalam Temple is a hilltop temple situated in Vishakhapatnam (Vizag) in Andhra Pradesh. It is visited with great reverence by devotees of Lord Vishnu. It is dedicated to Lord Narasimha Swamy, a lion-man incarnation of Lord Vishnu and is beautifully adorned with really intricate carvings. The Sanskrit translation of “Simha” is a lion and “Achala” is a hill, hence the name Simhachalam.
The deity is in the tribhangi posture, with two hands and the head of a lion on a human torso. The temple has the most exquisite stone-carved 16-pillared Natyamandapa and 96-pillared Kalyanamandapa. According to the legend, Narsimha’s avatar when he killed Hiranyakashyp was very fierce. His idol is covered with sandalwood throughout the year and is revealed only once a year. The day is celebrated as Chandanotsavam and on this day, the temple receives maximum devotees from all over the world.
Simhachalam Temple History
- The legend of Simhachalam relates to the story of Hiranya-Kasyapa, his son Prahlad and Lord Vishnu’s avatar, Narsimha. Hiranyaksha, the brother of Hiranya-Kasyapa intended to disturb the peace on earth and seized it. Lord Vishnu assumed the incarnation of Boar (Varaha Avatara) and destroyed him, thus rescuing the earth.
- Hiranyakasipu, with intent to avenge the death of his brother Hiranyaksha, performed austerities (tapasya) to seek immortality from Lord Brahma. Brahma grants him a boon that he could not be killed by animal or man, neither in the morning nor in the night. Hiranyakasipu, with an evil desire to bring the world to his feet, began punishing the gods, sages, and worshipers of Lord Vishnu.
- However, Hiranyakasipu’s own son Prahalad was a devotee of Lord Vishnu. Angered by Prahalad’s devotion, Hiranyakasipu tried several ways to end his life. He asked his servants to drown his son in the sea and place mount Simhadri over him. However, Lord Narayana rescued him by jumping over the hill and lifting up Prahalada from the sea. Simhadri is thus the place where the Lord rescued Prahalada.
- After Narsimha killed Hiranyakyshp, Prahalad built this Simhachalam Temple. However, Simhachalam Temple was neglected for centuries and it began to decay with time. When the next life-cycle began, Simhachalam Temple was discovered by Emperor Pururava of the Lunar Dynasty. Legend has that Pururava, and his wife Urvasi, were drawn to Simhachalam by a mysterious power. That is how they discovered the deity which was lying on the hill, embedded in crests of earth. It is also said that he received a message from the heavens not to expose the image but cover it with sandal paste. He was also instructed to worship the Lord in this form and only on the third day of the month of Vaisakha, could he remove the paste and reveal his nijaswarupa. Emperor followed these instructions and kept the deity covered with sandal paste, revealing it only once a year. He also constructed a temple around the deity, which has remained ever since.
- Based on the inscriptions discovered which dated back to the year 1087, endowments to the temple were made by Kulottunga Chola I of Tamil Nadu. According to another inscription, one of Velanandu chief Gonka III queens covered the image with gold during the of the years 1137-56. Yet another one mentions that the central shrine and the enclosing veranda were built in the 13th century by the Eastern Ganga king Narasimha I. There are over 525 inscriptions in the temple, written in Telugu and Oriya and one of them states that the monarch of Vijayanager, Krishna Deva Raya had visited the temple twice, once in 1516 AD and then in 1519 AD. There are details of his victories in the temple inscriptions such as the one where he defeated the Gajapati ruler of Orissa Gajapati Prataparudra Dev and provided offerings to the villages so that they could continue the worship. A valuable emerald necklace offered by the Emperor is still present in the temple. The trustees of the temple for the last 3 centuries have been the Royal family of Vizianagaram, also known as ”The Pusapati Gajapathi’s”.
Significance of Simhalchalam Temple
- The presiding deity of the Simhalchalam Temple is Varaha Lakshmi Narasimha, which resembles a Shiv linga and combines the iconography of Varaha and Narasimha. The idol, which is covered throughout the year in sandalwood paste, reveals itself once a year during the Chandana Visarjana and at that time, the pilgrims can see the deity.
- Simhalchalam Temple is an architectural marvel and deserves high praise. Simhalchalam Temple has a high tower surmounting a square shrine and a 16 pillared mandap. There is a portico in the front with a smaller tower above it along with a veranda, where a stone care structure rests with stone wheels and horses carved in stone. The structure is made of dark granite, which is intricately carved with conventional and floral ornament and scenes from the Vaishnavite puranas. One of the pillars is called the kappa stambham or ‘tribute pillar’. It is believed that the pillar has healing powers and cures infertility.
- The carvings and the architecture bear similarity with that of Temples in Konark such as the chariot, elephants, and flowers/plants. The 16 pillars of the Kalyana Mandap have carvings depicting the incarnations of Lord Vishnu and the outer sanctum is dedicated to depicting the images of King Narasimha.
What are the timings of Simhachalam Temple?
Darshan Timings: 7 AM to 4 PM, 6 PM to 9 PM.
Festivals celebrated at the Simhalchalam Temple
- CHANDANOTSAVAM: The main festival celebrated in Simhalchalam Temple is on akshaya thritheeya which is the 3rd day of Vaisakhamasam (usually during the month of April or May). Although throughout the year, the deity is covered in sandal paste preperation, on this day, the sandal wood paste is removed from the deity in a ceremony call Chandanayatra or Chandanotsavam. The devotees can then witness the Nija roopa darsanam (darshan without the chandan layer) of the Swamy. Over 1 lakh devotees visit the temple on this day to celebrate the festival.
- UGAADHI (TELUGU NEW YEAR): The Pandhiri raata utsavam is celebrated at the temple and Sri Swamy is dressed as the bridegroom (Chaitra Suddha Padyami).
- NARASIMHA JAYANTHI: The Narasimha Jayanthi festival occurs on the 14th day of the 1st half of month of ‘Vaisakha’ and is celebrated as Birthday of the Lord Narasimha.
- RADHOTSHAVAM: This is a festival celebrated at the temple before the God gets married.
- KALYANOTHSAVAM: Sri Swamy vari Vaarshika Thirukalyana Mahothsavam (From Chaitra Sudda Dasami to Chaitrasudda Pournami) (march/april).
- VAISAKHA POURNAMI: This is the 2nd phase of Chandana Samarpana and is one of the most auspicious days at the temple.
- JYESTA POURNAMI: This is the 3rd and final phase of Chandana Samarpana and is celebrated early in the morning.
- TEPPOTSAVAM: Teppotsavam is celebrated on Pushya Bahula Amavasya and on this day, the ‘Utsava idols’ are taken in a palanquin from the temple to ‘Varaha Pushkarini’. The delotees get to have a look at the Lord and the procession begins on the hill at 3 p.m. and reaches the foot of the hill around 4.30 p.m.
- KANUMA: This day is celebrated by bringing the deity downhill to the garden for darshan and a fair is organized. The temple administration organizes this fair near the lake and scenes from Bhagwat Gita’ ‘Gajendra Moksha’ episode are enacted by the priests. The idols are then taken to Sri Pydithalli Ammavari temple.
- VYKUNTA EKADASI: On this day, the Lord Narasimha Swamy attracts the devotees on vykunta dwaram and is celebrated on Dhanusudda Ekadasi.
- GIRI PRADHAKSHINA: Generally, Giri Pradhakshina is celebrated in the month of June or July on “Aashada Pournami”. The devotees fast on this full moon day and walk around the Simhalchalam hill which is a stretch of 34kms. Only after the darshan and the Pradakshina do they break their fast and eat dinner. Alternatively, devotees may also circle 180 times around the temple if they find the 34km trek too tiring.
Poojas and Rituals at Simhalchalam Temple
The following poojas are performed at the Simhalchalam Temple throughout the year:
- Ashtottara Sathanamarchana
- Sahasranamarchana (05.00 PM – 05.45 PM)
- Ammavaraki Ashtottara Sathanamarchana
- Kappasthabham Aalinganam
- Nitya Kalyanam (09.30 AM – 10.30 AM)
- Garuda Seva
- Swarnapushparchana (Every Thursday at 07.00 AM – 08.00 AM)
- Laksha Kunkumarchana
- Laksha Tulasi Pooja
- Saswatha Laksha Kumkumarchana
- Saswatha Laksha Tulasi Pooja
- Nityapooja, Bhogakainkaryamu
- Saswatha Nitya Kalyanam
- Saswatha Garuda Seva
- Sahasra Deepalankarana Seva (Every Saturday at 05.30 PM – 06.30 PM)
- Sudarsana Narasimha Yagam (Monthly once on Swathi Nakshathram day)
How to reach Simhachalam Temple?
- By Air: The nearest airport to Simhachalam Temple is Vishakhapatnam airport, Vishakhapatnam which is 10 km away (30min drive) from the Temple.
- By Train: The nearest railway station to Simhachalam Temple is Visakhapatnam Train Station which is 7 km away from the Temple. From the Vizag Railway station, it is 45 mins drive by road. If you get down at the Waltair Railway Station, you can visit Simhachalam by Bus (6A).
- By Road: Busses numbered 6A, 28 and 40 starts from the Dwaraka Bus Station (APSRTC Complex). Devotees who are starting from Gajuwaka, you can get Bus numbered 55 and devotees starting from Maddilipalem, get the bus numbered 540.
There is also a Trekking route available for trekking lovers from Madhavadhara side, two hours climbing to temple premises with steep natural stone steps and a beautiful view of Vizag city and at the other side the temple view from the hill top.
Hotels in Vizag: Where to stay
- Several cottages are available for devotees to stay in at the top of the hill, such as A.P.T.D.C.
- Chandana Tourist rest house, Temple Cottage and Tirumala Tirupati Devastanam Cottages. Apart from these cottages, there are several hotels and other accommodation options available down the hill in the city of Visakhapatnam.
Where to eat nearby?
In 1989, the Dharamakartha, Dr. P.V.G.Raju Garu introduced the Nityannadanam Scheme under which close to 1500-2000 devotees are served the Annaprasadam every day. This count has recently increased to 5000 devotees and the temple is welcoming more people. Apart from the meal at the temple, there are options available at eateries around the temple at the hill.
- Sri Ayyappa Swamy Temple – It is located on National Highway 5 in Sheela Nagar, Visakhapatnam and is dedicated to Lord Ayyappa, who is the preceding deity. Kerala Vastu Shastra has been used to build the temple and it was constructed 25 years ago by the BHPV Employees Union. The Sri Ayyappa Swamy Temple is located 27kms away from Simhachalam Temple.
- Sri Sampath Vinayagar Temple – The temple is established in Asilmetta, Visakhapatnam and was built in the year 1962 by Late S.G. Sambandan, Late T.S. Selvaganesan, and Sri T.S. Rajeswaran. The devotees visit the temple believing the mythology that the powerful deity Sri Sampath Vinayagar will wash off their sins if they offer their prayers. The Sri Sampath Vinayagar Temple is located 20 kms away from Simhachalam Temple.
- Arasavalli Sun Temple – It is dedicated to the Hindu deity Surya or the sun, and is located in Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh. The temple was originally named Harshavalli which means and an abode of joy. The temple was constructed by the Kalinga rulers Devendra Varma of Orissa in the 7th Century AD. The Sun Temple is located 11 kms away from Simhachalam Temple.