About the Place :
Ahobilam, a quaint less known town in the Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh. The place is of mythological significance, it is believed that here, Lord Vishnu (in his Narasimha avatar) slain the demon Hiranyakashipu.
Ahobilam is divided into two parts – Lower and Upper Ahobilam. Lower Ahobilam is the town with 4 temples and Upper Ahobilam is the hilly forest area with 5 temples.
This place is situated in the Nalammalla forest range of Eastern ghats, and one, has to trek to be able to see all the temples.
We planned for a one day trip (Fri Night to Sunday Morning). Research says, if we start the trek early (around 7AM at least), we can visit all the temples in a day. So, we put faith on our transport and ourselves. There is no direct transport from B’lore to Ahobilam. One has to choose from below two options:
1) Bangalore to Allagadda (around 380 Kms) by bus and from Allagadda to Ahobilam (30 KM) by bus.(APSRTC Super luxury platform 10 KSRTC Majestic bus stand 8:30 PM – 4:15 AM)
2) Bangalore to Nandyal (around 370 kms) by train, Nandyal to Allagadda by bus(around 45 kms), Allagadda to Ahobilam by bus(30 KM).
Accommodation (available in lower Ahobilam):
1) Hotel Harita (APSTDC Hotel)
2) Malola Guest House (run by Ahobilam Mutt)
3) Nitya annadana Brahmana Chatra.
Journey to Ahobilam :
We chose the former route to Ahobilam and found out that the first bus from Allagadda starts at 5:15 AM to Ahobilam and there are buses at 6, 6:30, 8, 9 and so on, and it takes around 45 min to one hour to reach Ahobilam. So, with this math, you can reach Ahobilam by at least 6:30AM, i.e., if the buses ply on time, which turned out to be a big IF. We had pre-booked booked accommodation in hotel Harita online
Our trip was co-incidental with the Nilam cyclone, an ideal time to get drenched and experience the greenery and avoid the sweltering heat.
The APSRTC bus departed at 9PM.The journey was fairly smooth up to 3:30AM when the bus halted as one of its rear tyre got punctured. When we finally reached Allagadda it was around 7AM. We boarded the 8AM bus to Ahobilam, which departed at 8:20AM, and finally reached Ahobilam at 9:45 AM. After checking into Hotel Harita and having our breakfast (pongal), we left for trek at 11AM, a good 3 hours late from our earlier planned time.
We decided to visit Upper Ahobilam first. You can either hire an auto, jeep or board a bus to Upper Ahobilam. The frequency of state owned buses is less, and we were running short of time, so, we hired a jeep. The jeep costs about Rs 150 for the joyride. Since, it had rained heavily, the forest was completely green. We reached Upper Ahobilam in around 30 minutes.
The main temple “Ugra Narasimha or Ahobila Narasimha” is located at the base of the hills. Guides charge around Rs 400 for visit to all temples except Pavana and Ugra Stamba. No guide was game enough for UgraStamba trek, they argued “Vana vachindi sir, ekkadanaki kadu” (It has rained and hence would be slippery). You can hire a bamboo stick for Rs 2. We did not hire a guide, but took sticks and started climbing from the left side of the main temple.
The climb upto Varaha Narasimha temple was fairly easy. After visiting the temple, we asked for directions and then moved on. We did not find any steps for a while, made our way through boulders and a small stream for around 15 minutes, at last we found steps. Apparently, our route was a shorter one, there is one more route with steps, which is easier, but longer. We reached “Prahlada Varadar” temple, here, a guide convinced us to take us through Ugra Stamba and rest of the temples for a cost of Rs. 450. We hired him after a bit of reluctance and started our climb to Jwala Narasimha (which is around 400 steps).
Jwala Narasimha turned out to be a very scenic place. The temple is situated in a small cave behind a waterfall, one has to go behind the waterfall to visit the temple, kinda phantom cave experience. There is also a small pond, in which it is believed that Lord Narasimha washed his hands after slaying the demon Hiranyakashipu. We could see some red patches along the stone walls of the pond, which according to the guide are traces of blood. We took some rest, and then started our climb to Ugra-Stamba, which turned out to be the most enjoyable one.
Ugra Stamba Trek :
Trek to Ugra-Stamba starts very near to Jwala Narasimha Temple. You have to climb the rock on the right side, just before the pond. The trail is not noticeable, unless you are experienced and the climb is quite steep (angle > 50deg).
We followed the guide’s instructions “cross ga ekkandi”, climb in a criss cross manner.There were people from other places (Mantralaya, Mysore etc) climbing with us. After around 10 minutes of trek, it started raining heavily, we climbed, in spite of the rain for some time, but, took shelter later on. It never stopped raining completely, so, we had to climb in rain. We also found that the stick was actually a hindrance for this particular trek.The view at the highest point was beautiful (as is the case with every trek), partly because of the weather and the mist around. We dropped our sticks and parted with our footwear, as, we had to climb down a steep rock, this was cool as the rock below was the end of the hill, and a drop of around 100 feet, around a radius of about 4 feet. Ugra-Stamba was on one more rock, one has to climb a small ladder to reach it. There is just enough space around the Ugra-Stamba, for one person to go around (pradakshine). After our prayers, we started the walk down, which was easier and faster.
Once we got down, we started our trek to Malola Narasimha (Narasimha dear to Goddess Lakshmi) temple, this is around 700 steps fairly straightforward. On our way down, we visited Krodha Narasimha Temple. We were very hungry by then, and it was around 3:15 PM. We wanted to have lunch, on our way down, the guide showed us the way to Pavana Narasimha, which was around 5 Km trek. We decided not to visit the temple, as we were running out of time. We still had to eat and visit 4 more temples. We had some yummilicious andhra food to the brim in the Brahmana Chatra at the base of Upper Ahobilam.
Lower Ahobilam :
We hired an auto for the rest of the temples. The “Karanja Narasimha” temple is on the way to Lower Ahobilam, next we saw “Kshetravata Narasimha” followed by “Yogananda Narasimha”. Apart from the main temple, yogananda narasimha has an ashrama and two more Narasimha temples, one of which has the idols of all 9 Narasimha vigrahas, symbolizing as adipati of 9 grahas.
The last leg was visiting the Bhargava Narasimha temple, in a forest. The ride was very rickety, there was no road, the auto was literally travelling on stones. Hold on tight to avoid getting hit by the auto ceiling or tossed out. Hiring a jeep is ideal way to reach this place. We climbed around 200 steps to reach the temple.
The entire journey was absolutely outstanding with a perfect blend of some adventure with trekking and faith as we got to visit the temples of mythological importance.
Back to Bangalore:
We got back to Lower ahobilam town, had tea, and after packing some steaming kerala paranthas for supper, boarded a Hyderabad bound APSRTC bus to Allagadda. We reached Allagadda at around 7:45PM. Warm yummy paranthas in the midst of annoying mosquitoes was kinda fun [eh really?]. The APSRTC bus to Bangalore which was scheduled to leave at 8:45 PM, left a good 35 min late. It started raining heavily when we reached Kadapa, and the bus took a roundabout route and reached Bangalore City bus Stand by 7AM.
Some useful info :
1) Apsrtc online booking site : www.apsrtconline.in/
2) APSTDC hotel booking : http://126.96.36.199/aptdc/login/OnlineLogin.jsp
This works on Internet explorer only.
3) One can also stay in Malola guest house in Ahobilam Mutt :
Manager, Malola Guest House
Ahobilam 518 545, Kurnool District, A.P
Phone: 08519 – 252 025/0252 045
or in Nitya Annadana Brahmana Chatra :
Contact: Mr Vasantha Rao – 0900910700
4) There are very few eateries in Ahobilam, but, you can get good bajji, bonda and well cooked Kerala Paranthas, the side dish was a little bit of a let down though. Not a foodies paradise. The Brahmanna chatra at the base of Upper Ahobilam(behind the main temple), serves awesome free lunch in the noon. You can donate if you want to. This one meal really filled us to the brim.
5) The best time to trek is during winter (Nov to Jan), unless you don’t want to get drenched in sweat and tan in the sweltering 45 degrees during summer. There was some rain to our surprise and this made the weather plesant. There will be special pooja and jatre (procession) usually in May during Narasimha Jayanti, but it would be very crowded and hot.
6) Take lots of water and some food. We did not carry, but were lucky to get some prasad (dried grapes, sugar and cashew), by the kind priest of Jwala Narasimha temple.
7) The temples at the top, close at around 5PM and you have to reach the base before it gets dark. The temples at the bottom also close at around 4:30 – 5, but you can get the darshan of the lord, through grilled door.
8) You can visit all the temples if you can start the climb by 7AM, else 1.5 days are needed. A day for Upper Ahobilam and half a day for lower Ahobilam. If you decide to stay for two days, then include the Mahanandi temple in the itinerary, which is also beautiful ,around 50 Kms from Ahobilam.