Built during Chola reign, by the Chola king Rajendra Chola, Srikalahasti Temple has immense historical as well as religious significance. With a history dating back to Pre Christian Era, the current structure of the temple was built in 10th century during Chola rule; Vijayanagar Empire also contributed in the varied improvements and additions to the main temple.
On the banks of River Swarnamukhi, adjoining a hill, Kalahastiswara temple is an ancient temple that is dedicated to the Hindu Lord Shiva as a personification of the one of the primary elements of nature - Air. SriKalahasti Temple is one of the Pancha Bhoota Sthalams- temples that worship Lord Shiva as the representation of principal natural elements. Other temples are Chidambaram that is dedicated to Space; Thiruvanaikaval for water; Tiruvannamalai for Fire and Kanchipuram for Earth. Here Lord Shiva is worshipped as Kalahasteeswara while his consort Goddess Parvati is worshipped as Gnanaprasunambika.
Located at a distance of around 36 km from the Tirupati Balaji Temple, Srikalahasti, is the only temple which is dedicated to the God of Vayu. This can be seen from the other miraculous feature of Srikalahasti Temple - the Vayu-linga. In the temple’s sanctum sanctorum, there is lamp which a wavering flame throughout day and night without any traces of wind to facilitate its flickering. This indicates the presence of Lord Vayu. The Shiva linga is of white colour and is said to be self-manifested- Swayambhu.
The main lingam is not touched even by the priest, even till date it remains untouched. Hence, abhishekam is not offered to the main lingam but the holy mixture of water, milk, sandalwood, flowers, camphor and other key ingredients are offered to the Utsava murthi.
The legends behind Srikalahasti Temple explain the origin of the name. The name of the temple is derived from three fervent devotees of Lord Shiva; Sri for Spider; Kala for Serpent and Hasti for Elephant. According to the story behind Srikalahasti Temple, there were three devotees of Lord Shiva, who with utmost devotion served Shiva Lingam. According to the legends, the devotee Sri, spider had built a web around the holy lingam, to protect from extreme weather conditions like rain and heat. While the snake (Kala) would place its most precious gem on the lingam and offer its prayers. At the same time, Elephant (Hasti), used to get water in its trunk and perform abhishekam of the Lord Lingam with the same water. It is said that spider belonged to the Krita Yuga, while snake and elephant belonged to the next era of Treta Yuga. Pleased with their unwavering devotion, Lord Shiva had granted his devotees ultimate salvation from world. The name Srikalahasti signifies their deep devotion and Lord’s love for his disciples.
The shape of the Lingam further authenticate the legend as if you look from top, it appears like a snake with five hoods; while from closer, it looks like an elephant’s trunk with tusks on both the sides; there is also a figure resembling Spider at the bottom of the lingam.
There is one more legend associated with this temple according to which a hunter named Kannappa Nayanar, who was a devout follower of Lord Shiva, offered his own eyes to the Lord. Hence his statue can also be found in the sanctum.
Along with this, SriKalahasti Temple is also linked with Rahu and Ketu, two of the nine important celestial bodies of Indian astrological system. Many pilgrims visit here to offer their prayers to Rahu and Ketu, considered be immensely powerful.
As it is well connected with the temple town of Tirupati and easily accessible by road, most of the devotees on their trip to Tirupati also plan their visit to SriKalahasti temple and seek lord’s blessings. Srikalahasti temple pooja timings are from 6:00 AM to 9:00 PM. Though there is no official site, timings of Srikalahasti Temple for sevas and darshan are easily available online.