Srikalahasti Temple is located in the town of Srikalahasti, in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India. It is one of the most famous Shiva temples in South India, and is said to be the site where Kannappa was ready to offer both his eyes to cover blood flowing from the Siva linga before the Siva stopped him and granted him mukti.
Srikalahasti temple, situated 36 km away from Tirupati is famous for its Vayu linga, one of the Panchabhoota Sthalams, representing wind. The temple is also regarded as Rahu-Ketu kshetra and Dakshina Kailasam. The inner temple was constructed around 5th century and the outer temple was constructed in the 12th century by the Chola kings and the Vijayanagara kings. Shiva in his aspect as Vayu is worshiped as Kalahasteeswara.
During the early days of creation, Vayu performed penance for thousands of years to “Karpoora lingam” (Karpooram means camphor). Pleased with his penance, Shiva manifested before him and said, ” O Vayu Deva! Though you are dynamic in nature, you stayed here without movement and did penance for me. I’m pleased with your devotion. I shall grant you three boons”. Vayu said, “Swami! I want to be present everywhere in this world. I want to be an integral part of every Jiva who is none other than the manifestation of Paramatma. I want to name this Karpoora Linga, which represents you, after me. Samba Siva said,” Your are qualified for these three boons. As per your wish, you will be spread throughout this world. Without you there will be no life. This linga of mine will forever be known all over through your name, and all Suras, Asuras, Garuda, Gaandharvas, Kinneras, kimpurushas, Siddhas, Saadhvis, humans and others will worship this Lingam”. Shiva disappeared after granting these boons. Thereafter, this Karpoora Vayu Lingam is worshipped by all Lokas (worlds).
There are several other legends connected to the glory of the temple. Prominent among them is of Parvati who was cursed by Shiva to discard her heavenly body and assume the human form. To get rid of the above curse Parvati did a long penance here. Pleased with her deep devotion Shiva again recreated her body – a hundred times better than her previous heavenly body and initiated various mantras including the Panchakshari. Consequent to this, Parvati gained fame and came to be known as Shiva-Gnanam Gnana Prasunamba or Gnana Prasunambika Devi.
Cursed to become a ghost, Ghanakala prayed at Srikalahasti for 15 years and after chanting the Bhairava Mantra many times Shiva restored her original form. Mayura, Chandra and Devendra were also freed from their curses after taking bath in the river Swarnamukhi and praying at Srikalahasti. To Bhakta Markandeya, Shiva appeared in Srikalahasti and preached that a Guru alone could make esoteric teachings and, therefore he is Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara.
As per another legend, Vayu and Adishesha had a dispute to find out who is superior, to prove the superiority Adishesha encircled the Kailasam, Vayu tried to remove this encircle by creating Twister. Because of the twister, 8 parts from kailasam fell into 8 different places which are Trincomalee, Srikalahasti, Thiruchiramalai, Thiruenkoimalai, Rajathagiri, Neerthagiri, Ratnagiri, and Suwethagiri Thirupangeeli.
Around the 10th century, the Chola kings renovated the temple and constructed the main structure. The temple received contributions from various ruling dynasties like Cholas and Vijayanagar Empire. The hundred pillared hall with intricate carvings was commissioned during the regime of Krishnadeva Raya during 1516 AD.
The 120 feet (37 m) high main gopuram and the 100 pillar mandapam were constructed by Krishnadevaraya, the Vijayanagara king in 1516. The presiding image of Shiva in the form of Linga is made of white stone in a shape resembling trunk of elephant. The temple faces south, while the sanctum faces west. The temple is located on the foothills of a hill, while there is also a belief that the temple was carved out of a monolithic hill. There is a rock cut shrine of Vinayaka, 9 ft (2.7 m) below the ground level. Vallaba Ganapathi, Mahalakshmi-Ganpathi and Sahasra Lingeswara are some of the rare images found in the temple. There is a large shrine of Jnanaprasanammba, the consort of Kalahatisvara. There are smaller shrines in the temple for Kasi Viswanatha, Annapurna, Suryanarayana, Sadyoganapathi and Subramanya. There are two large halls namely Sadyogi Mandapa and Jalkoti Mandapa. There are two water bodies associated with the namely, Surya Pushkarani and Chandra Pushkarani.
The temple is revered as one of the Pancha Bhoota Stalam where the presiding deity is worshipped as Vayu linga(air). This temple is considered “Kashi of the South”. Saivaite saints of the first century sang about this temple. This is the only temple in India which remains open during Solar and lunar eclipses, while, all other temples are closed. This temple is famous for Rahu-Kethu pooja. It is believed that performing this pooja will ward the people from astrological effects of Rahu and Kethu. As per Hindu legend, Kalahatiswara was worshipped at this place by Brahma during all four Yugas. Arjuna, the Pandava prince during Mahabharata is believed to have worshipped the presiding deity. The legend of Kannappa, who was a hunter and turned into an ardent devotee of Shiva accidentally, is associated with the temple. The temple also finds mention in the works of Nakeerar and the Nalvars, namely, Appar, Sundarar, Sambandar and Manickavasagar in the canonical works of Tirumura. As the temple is revered in Tevaram, it is classified as Paadal Petra Sthalam, one of the 275 temples that find mention in the Saiva canon
The temple follows Saivite tradition. Maha Shivaratri is the most important festival when lakhs of devotees offer prayers to seek the blessings of the Lord. Mahasivaratri Brahmotsavams are celebrated in par with Maha Shivaratri for 13 days during which the Utsava murtis of Siva and Parvati will be taken on Vahanams in a procession around the temple streets.