Varaha Lakshmi Narasimha Temple


The Sthala Purana (local legend) of Simhachalam consists of 32 chapters; the number denotes the manifestations of Narasimha. According to Dr. V. C. Krishnamacharyulu, the legends of Simhachalam and other Hindu temples in Andhra Pradesh were written in the 14th century after the attempted establishment of Islam in the region. He added that the writers wrote the legends inspired by the stories of Narasimha available in the Hindu Puranas. Hence, Vishnu Purana and Bhagavata Purana are the major sources. However, the legend of Simhachalam provides new information about the previous life of the temple’s founder Prahlada. The first four chapters of the legend cover the importance of Simhachalam, its deity, and the principal water body Gangadhara.

Once, the Four Kumaras visited lord Vishnu’s abode Vaikuntha as children. Jaya-Vijaya, the demigod gatekeepers of Vaikuntha, failed to recognize them and denied their entry. In resentment, they cursed the duo stating that they would have to give up divinity, be born, and live the lives of mortal beings on earth. Vishnu failed to revoke the curse of the Kumaras and felt sorry. He later offered two solutions: either being Vishnu’s devotees in seven human lives or his enemies in three demonic lives. Jaya-Vijaya could not bear separation from Vishnu for a long time and chose the second possibility. In their first demonic lives, Jaya-Vijaya were born as Hiranyakashipu and Hiranyaksha to sage Kashyapa and Diti in an inauspicious time during sunset. To tease Lord Brahma and other gods, Hiranyaksha ensured that earth loses its vitality and sinks into the rasatala, the lowest level in the cosmic universe. Vishnu assumed the form of a boar referred to as Varaha and restored the earth to its normal position. Varaha later killed Hiranyaksha in a war that lasted for thousand of years. Hiranyakashipu vowed to seek revenge and prayed to Brahma. He gained a boon which made him invulnerable to death either by day or night, either in the morning or the night, and either by a human or a beast. When the gods headed by Brahma visited Vaikuntham to tell an account of the happenings to Vishnu, a guardian named Sumukha obstructed them. They manage to meet Vishnu and also convey the misbehavior of Sumukha. Vishnu assured that Hiranyakashipu shall be killed and Sumukha would be the serving cause. Sumukha pleaded for a pardon but Vishnu denied it, saying that an offense against his devotees is inexcusable. As per Vishnu’s orders, Sumukha was born as Hiranyakashipu’s son Prahlada. Prahlada displayed staunch devotion towards Vishnu in his childhood. As a result, he had to face many death trials. In one such instance, Hiranyakashipu’s soldiers threw him from the top of a hill and placed the mountain on him. Vishnu jumped over the hill and lifted Prahlada from the sea. Prahlada asked Vishnu to assume a deity form where the avatars of Varaha, who killed Hiranyaksha and Narasimha, the one who would kill Hiranyakashipu soon, can be seen together. Vishnu assumed the form of Varaha Narasimha, for whom Prahlada built a temple after Hiranyakashipu’s death. Worship was conducted and the place was named Simhachalam (lion’s hill). This is covered from the 5th to 29th chapters of the legend.


Sri Varaha Lakshmi Narasimha temple, Simhachalam is a Hindu temple situated on the Simhachalam Hill Range, which is 300 meters above sea level in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh. It is dedicated to Vishnu, who is worshipped there as Varaha Narasimha. As per the temple’s legend, Vishnu manifested in this form (lion’s head and human body) after saving his devotee Prahlada from a murder attempt by the latter’s father Hiranyakashipu. Except on Akshaya Tritiya, the idol of Varaha Narasimha is covered with sandalwood paste throughout the year, which makes it resemble a linga.

The moolavirat of Varaha Narasimha is kept in a separate hall named Prahlada mandapa. In its original form, the idol of Varaha Narasimha is two and a half feet tall. The deity stands in a tribhanga posture with a boar’s head, a human torso, and a lion’s tail. On either side of the deity, the idols of Sridevi and Bhudevi holding lotus flowers are seen. The sculpture of Varaha Narasimha has no ornaments and drapery carved on the body. Its limbs and face are disfigured due to vandalism. The moolavar is covered with sandalwood paste imported from Srivilliputhur, Tamil Nadu. After the application of the sandalwood paste, the moolavar resembles a four feet tall Shiva Lingam. There is enough space for the devotees to offer pradakshinas (circumambulations) to the deity inside the Prahlada mandapa. There are only four main ornaments used in the temple: a Thirunamam made of diamonds and rubies, a chain of emeralds, a 100-tola gold bracelet, and a golden crown. A number of sub-shrines are housed inside the temple complex. Two of them are dedicated to Andal, one of the 12 Azhwars and Lakshmi, the consort of the principal deity. The latter is housed in a small room located near the northwestern wall; it served as a cell of the temple’s treasury in the past. Lakshmi is referred to as Simhavalli Thayar, and her idol is in a lotus position with four hands. The forearms display abhayamudra and varadamudra, and the rear arms hold a pair of lotus flowers. The remaining eleven Azhwars are accommodated in separate rooms. Sub-temples are dedicated to Ramanuja, Manavala Mamunigal, and Vishvaksena inside the main complex. Shiva’s manifestation Tripurantaka is the kshetrapala (guardian deity) of Simhachalam. The guardian deity is identified with Bhairava, a fierce manifestation of Bhairava. Tripurantaka and his consort have a temple dedicated to them which is located on the way to Gangadhara. It is one of the oldest South Indian temples dedicated to this deity. Bhairava was believed to be more fierce than Narasimha and hence, the devotees used to visit this temple first in the past to pacify him. The idol does not have any clothing and ornamentation in accordance with the legend, which terms Bhairava the god of seasons. Due to its obscure location and insufficient funds, the temple is currently in a dilapidated state. The other prominent sub-temples are the ones dedicated to Rama, Anjaneya, and Kasi Vishweswara, a form of Shiva. These temples are located near Gangadhara.

 Source: Wikipedia