|HOW TO REACH
The popular Varaha Lakshminarasimha Temple at Simhachalam or Simhachalam Temple is situated 16 km north of Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh State. A blend of Orissan and Chalukyan features, Simhachalam temple is the most famous shrine in Andhra Pradesh. It attracts many pilgrims including many from Orissa.
The temple is set high on the secluded forest of the Simhachalam range of hills, in a wooded hollow surrounded by a wide circle ground. It is dedicated to the incarnation (avatar) of Vishnu known as Sri Varaha Narasimha (the man-lion) which gives the hill its name.
The temple is believed to have been dedicated originally to Shiva, but was later converted to a Vaishnava place of worship after a visit by Ramanuja, the famous teacher, at the end of the 11C. It continues to be a popular centre of pilgrimage.
Dating back to the 8th Century, the temple was entirely rebuilt in 1268 by Vengi Chalukyas of Andhra Pradesh. Later it was entirely rebuilt in 13 century by a military commander of Narasimha I of the Eastern Ganga dynasty who ruled from 1234 to 1263. So, naturally its art combines from Orissa and the Chalukyan features. The famed Emperor Sri Krishna Deva Raya visited the temple twice in 1516 AD and 1519 AD. He had presented a number of ornaments to the Simhachalam temple. An emerald necklace is still can be seen in the temple. The shrine has nearly 525 inscriptions dating back to 1098 AD on its walls.
The temple can be approached by a long winding road that ascends the hill. It takes a 15-min drive. Down the hill, from a car park, a thousand steps leads to the temple gateways on the north and west. It takes around 1 hour to climb up and 40 mins to descend. Visitors can enter through the north Gopura decorated with figures of gods and goddesses. This is the temple's most impressive feature. From the side entrance of this Gopura, a flight of 50 steps leads to the temple through the western doorway.
The main temple is a marvel of architecture with many depictions of flower and plant. The temple with a square shrine is surmounted by a high steeply pyramidal tower. It has a portico in front with a small tower. A beautifully-carved l6-pillared Natya mantapa facing this portico and an enclosed varandah, all made of dark granite. The 12 columns of the inner hall support a celing with rotated squares. The outer walls of the shrine and hall are adorned with yalis and makaras. The pyramidcal towers over the temple and hall are crowned by circular ribbed elements. There is also a beautiful stone chariot, drawn by horses.
Here, the idol of the presiding deity is always kept covered with sandal paste giving the appearance of a sandal wood Shiva Linga. To the left, is the Kappa Sthamba, a pillar decorated with bells and silk cloth. It is widely believed the childless couples embraces this pillar, they will be blessed with children. To see this one have to pay Rs 10/- .
The actual form of the deity in the tribhanga posture (i.e two hands with the head of a lion on a human torso) can be viewed only during the 'Chandanotsavam' alias 'Chandana Yatra' festival held in March- April, every year which attracts thousands of devotees from all over the country. Other festivals celebrated here are the kalyanam of Varaha Lakshminarasimha (March-April) and Visakha Poornima (May).