The Himalayas rise high to the everest in the north while the far
south of India shows the deep sea - rather the communion of the three
oceans. The western region and the eastern region of Peninsular
India, on the otherhand, while tapering towards Kanyakumari, exhibit
a wide range of maountains known as Western Ghats and Eastern Ghats respectively. While the Western Ghats present wholesome sceneriesand adventurous travel both by rail and road, the Eastern Ghats display not only picturesque view but demonstrate divinity as well.

The Eastern Ghats are likened to the great serpent Adisesha basking in the sun with His head (or hood) at Thirumala, His middle at Ahobilam and His tailend portion at Srisailam- all the three with famous temples on them.

The subject we have before us is Ahobilam. Ofcourse, Thirupathi and
Srisailam are also frequented pilgrimage centres. Ahobilam because of this special issue. Not only Mahabharata; but also ancient Puranas like the Kurma Purana, Padma Purana and Vishnu Purana mention about Ahobilam and its presiding deity Narasimha. In fact, Brahmanda Purana says that this place was once the palace of Hiranyakasipu who was slain by Sriman Narayana manifesting as Narasimha from a pillar there for the sake of His staunch devotee Prahlada. Vagaries of time brought about the destruction of the then existing structures yielding place to nature's creation of the mountain range that preserved the site of incarnation as "Svayam Vyakta Kshetram" of Lord Narasimha.

According to Sthala Purana, there are two popular "legends" (the appropriateness of terms like legend, myths or mythology etc in relation to Shastras is questionable) for the derivation of the word 'Ahobilam'. It is stated that the Devas while witnessing the terrific aspect (Ugra Kala), the Lord took on in order to tear to pieces Hiranyakasipu sung His Praise as 'Ahobala' meaning Lo] The strength. Hence this place has come to be known as Ahobilam. In support of this, there is a Prapatti shloka about ahobilam that reads: "ahovIryam ahosauryam ahobAhu ParAkramah: nArasimham Param daivam ahobilam ahobalam"

The other version is that because of the great cave, the ahobila, where Garuda worshipped, did penance and realised the Lord, the place itself has come to be called Ahobilam. The ahobilam Kaifiyat gives support to this "legend". The Ahobilam Kaifiyat forming part of Mackenzie collections gives very valuable information regarding the Ahobilam temples. Kaifiyats - the digests from 'Kaviles' or village registers containing information on the political, social, religious and other conditions of the villages in Deccan were prepared by Pandits and Mussaddis working under Col. Mackenzie. The Ahobilam Kaifiyat is in Telegu and available in the state Archives at Hyderabed.

As per this record, "On one of the mountains in the Nallamalai hill rage, eight amadas from Srisaila Kshetra, Garuda commenced silent penance to obtain a vision of Lord Narasimha who destroyed Hiranyakasipu. The Lord in His grace, after long years of the tapas of Garuda, manifested Himself in the cave of a mountain.

"Ten Paravus to the northeast of the mountain, where Garuda was doing
Penance, a vision of His manifestation was then granted to Garuda, who after obtaining a sign of the location of the mountain cave,gladly travelled thither and saw the embodiment of the Satswaroopa, Mahapurusha, Lord Jwalanarasimha not easily accessible to common people. Garuda then worshipped the Lord, and praised Him that 'ahobilam is mahabalam' (Ahobilam is a great sustainer with strength).

The Lord's Divya Mangala vigraha was worshipped by Him with several stotras. Garuda then considered Himself as blessed after a vision of the Lord. This divine place thereafter obtained the deserving name of Ahobbilam.

"The mountain on which Garuda performed Tapas became famous as Garudachala. In the days of yore when truth and dharma prevailed,great heat was observable near the mountain cave of Ahobila; according to "legend" when green grass was put in the cave, it would catch fire and smoke would be emitted. Several great Rishis lived there for a time; after sometime with the knowledge that great places would become common Janapadas in the Kali age, they left for northern lands, covering up the Narasimha cave with boulders. Traditionally therefore this place is being called the Narasimha Kshetra. There are thus nine Narasimha places - Nava Narasimhas, Rishi-installed and worshipping areas:
Jwala Ahobila Malola
Kroda Karanja Bhargava
Yogananda Kshatravata
PAvana nava Moorthayaha.

The nine Narasimha sthalas are (1)Jwala narasimha (2) Ahobila
narasimha (3) Malola Narasimha (4) KroDa narasimha (5) Karanja
narasimha (6) Bhargava narasimha (7) YogAnanda narasimha (8)
Kshatravata narasimha and (9) PAvana or Holy narasimha.

Before visiting these nine shrines, let us see how we approach this place. Situated in the Nallamalai hills, Ahobilam is about 24 kilometers from Allagadda Taluq Headquarters, 112 kms from Cuddappah and 65 kms from Nandyal in Andhra Pradesh, and can be reached by bus from Hyderabad and also by rail via Kurnool and then by bus from there.

Thirumangai AzhwAr has sung the SingavEl Kunram is accessible to none but Devas. This is partially true even today since the area and the hills are covered with thick vegetation, thorny bushes and forests where leaves rustle and crickets chirp. The whole complex is in two parts- one called Yeguvu Ahobilam or upper Ahobilam with the Nava Narasimha shrines and the other called Diguvu Ahobilam or lower Ahobilam with a single shrine for Lakshim Narasimha connected by a road, stretching a distance of about 12.8kms. from Lower Ahobilam to Upper Ahobilam. From there, the other shrines are to be reached only by trekking and managing difficult terrain, flowing streams and slippery rocks. The nature is bounteous there affording plenty of water by way of ponds, brooks and resting places under sheds of forest growth. One can witness several cave like rocks on the way.

Quite an adventurous trip indeed to be enjoyed, if one has faith, will power and devotion. Lions dwell in the forest and no wonder the half lion manifestation that Narasimha took chose to dwell in similar surroundings. If one can undertake a strenous traverse of 8kms from

Upper Ahobilam, one can see the Ugrastambham and have a darshan of Ukkukambamu (pillar) on the mountain said to be the one from which
Lord Narasimha emerged in response to Prahlada's prayers.