Mangalagiri Lakshmi Narasimha Temple is a vaishnavite temple and considered to be a place where Bhagwan manifested by himself. It is situated at the foot of the Auspicious Hill in Mangalagiri of Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh. It has one of the highest gopurams in South Bharat with 153 feet (47 m) in height and 49 feet (15 m) wide and has eleven storeys.
It is said that Devi Lakshmi has done penance on this hill and that is why it got this name Mangala Giri (The auspicious hill). This place is also said to be one of the 8 Swayam Vyakta Kshetras (where Bhagwan Vishnu manifested by himself) in Bharat. The eight places where Bhagwan Vishnu manifested himself (Swayam Vyakta Kshetras) are
(1) Sri Rangam (Ranganadha Swamy temple)
(2) Srimushnam (Bhuvaraha Swamy temple) near Chidambaram
(3) Naimisam (Chakranarayana), Neemsar, near Lucknow
(4) Pushkaram (Vishnu temple) Near Ajmer
(5) Salagramadri (Chakrapani) Muktinath , Nepal
(7) Narayanasramam (Badrinath)
(8) Venkatadri (Bhagwan Venkateswara) Tirupati .
Thotadri (Bhagwan Vanamali), Nanganeri is the present Mangalagiri. However people also say the Vanamamalai Thodadri Perumal temple near Tirunelveli, Tamilnadu is also known as Thotadri where Bhagwan Vishnu manifested himself as one of the 8 Swayam Vyakta Kshetras.
The shape of the hill Mangalagiri looks like an elephant from all directions. The temple of Sri Panakala Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy is situated on the hill. On the right side of the steps provided to reach the temple, there is a stone inscription by Sri Krishnadeva Raya of Vijayanagar and a little further up, the foot prints of Mahaprabhu Chaitanya can be seen. Midway on the steps there is a temple of Bhagwan Panakala Lakshmi Narasimhaswamy that has one face with the mouth widely opened.
A dhwajasthambham (flag pole) was erected in front of the temple in 1955. The steps to the temple over the hill were constructed in 1890. Behind the temple there is the temple of Sri Lakshmi, to the west of which there is a tunnel which is believed to lead to Vundavalli caves on the banks of the Krishna.
Vundavalli caves were carved out of solid sandstone on a hillside in the 4th to 5th centuries CE. These caves contain exhibits of Jain monastics, Buddhist and Hindu sculptures. Bhagwan Vishnu descended himself on the hill Mangalagiri in the form of Narasimha which avatar was assumed to kill Hiranyakasipu, a rakshasa father of Prahlada, a great devotee of Bhagwan Vishnu.
The legend says that Namuchi, a Rakshasa after great penance obtained a boon from Brahma that he would not be killed by anything that is either wet or dry. He began to harass Indra and the Devathas. With the support by Bhagwan Vishnu, Indra destroyed the army of Rakshasa Namuchi, who hid in a cave in sukshmakaram (small size) giving up his sthulakaram (Physical manifestation). Indra dipped Sudarsanam, the disc of Bhagwan Vishnu in the foam of the ocean (which is considered to be neither wet nor dry) and sent it into the cave.
Bhagwan Vishnu manifesting himself at the centre of the disc kills Namuchi. Hence, Bhagwan Vishnu is worshiped by the name Sudarsana Narasimha in this place. The blood that flowed from the body of the Rakshasa Namuchi seemed to have formed into a huge pool that became a hill. The Devathas were unable to withstand the fire of the anger of Bhagwan and they prayed for appeasement.
Bhagwan took amrutam (nectar) and cooled down. It was in Krithayug. Bhagwan said that he would be satisfied with ghee in Threthayug, with milk in Dwaparayug and with Jaggery water (i.e., panakam in Telugu) in Kaliyug. Hence, Bhagwan is called in Kaliyug as Panakala Lakshmi Narasimhaswamy.
It is believed Mangalagiri is in existence from the beginning of the Universe with the names Anjanadri in Krithayug, Thotadri in Threthayug, Mangaladri and Mukthyadri in Dwaparayug and Mangalagiri in Kaliyug. In Krithayug, Vaikhanasa Maharshi worshiped Bhagwan and his murthi is worshiped even today in the temple.
It is also believed that in Dwaparayug, Bhagwan Rama while departing for Vaikuntam after completing his mission in that incarnation advised Anjaneya to stay at Mangalagiri and after obtaining his blessings to remain in this world forever. Anjaneya took his adobe at Mangalagiri as Kshetrapalaka.
There are three Narasimha Swamy temples in Mangalagiri. One is Panakala Narasimha Swamy on the hill. Another one is Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy at the foot of the hill. Third one is Gandala Narasimha Swamy at the top of the hill.
Panakala Narasimha Swamy Temple on the hill – Bhagwan who drinks panakam or jaggery water It is said that here, Bhagwan manifested by himself (Swayambhoo). In the temple, there is no murthi of Bhagwan, but only his mouth, widely opened to 15 cms. The mouth is covered by metal face of the god. The God takes jaggery water as offering by a conch. When the Jaggery water is actually poured into the mouth of Bhagwan, a gargling sound is clearly audible as if Bhagwan is actually drinking it and the sound becomes shriller and shriller as and when Bhagwan is drinking.
The sound will come to a stop after sometime and the balance of the jaggery water is thrown out of the Bhagwan’s mouth. This phenomenon happens not once in a day but is a recurring feature throughout the day as and when devotees offer panakam (jaggery water). It will be interesting to note that even a single ant is not traceable near Bhagwan nor around the temple vicinity in spite of the offering of so much jaggery water.
As the offering of the panakam to Bhagwan is unique, he, here is called Panakala Narasimhaswamy. There is also a legend about the offering of the panakam (jaggery water) to Bhagwan. It is said that the hill was once a volcano. Sugar or jaggery water, it is said, neutralizes sulphur compounds found in a volcano and prevents a volcanic eruption.
We can reach the temple through steps-way on foot (around 600 steps) and also by road-way. The steps to the temple were constructed in 1890. In 2004, ghat road had been constructed through which the pilgrims can reach the temple easily. Laxmi Narasimha Swamy Temple at the foot of the hill At the foot of the hill, there is a temple of Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy whose origin is traced to the time of Yudhishtira (in Dwaparyug), the eldest of the pandavas.
During 1807-1809, Raja Vasireddy Venkatadri Naidu who ruled from Amaravati as his capital constructed a stupendous gopuram (tower) on the eastern gate of the Lakshmi Narasimhaswamy. It is one of the highest gopurams in South Bharat with 153 feet height and 49 feet wide with 11 storeys, and gates facing east and west.
The northern gate is opened only once in a year on Vaikunta Ekadasi that comes in the Margashirsha month of Hindu calendar (December- January) and considered to be the most auspicious day by the devotees of Bhagwan Vishnu. The image of Bhagwan in the form of Narasimha and that of Lakshmi Devi to his left are of stone. The garland of Bhagwan with 108 saligramams is of special significance here.
Dakshanavrutha Sankham, a special conch believed to be one that was used by Bhagwan Krishna and gifted by the Maharaja Sarfoji of Tanjore, is one more possession of significance of Bhagwan. There is also an ancient ratha belonging to the temple with ornamental wood carvings depicting the scenes from the great epics of Bharata, Bhagavatha and Ramayana.
Thimmaraju Devaraju a military chieftain of the Vijayanagar rulers did some improvement to this temple. He had constructed prakarams (compound walls), mandapas, gopurams (towers), five images of Bhagwan Bhairava, a festival chariot, ten varieties of courts for annual ceremonies, flower gardens lakes and tanks.
He had also installed utsava vigrahas in the temple (metal images intended for being taken out in procession). To the north of the temple, there is a temple of Sri Rajyalakshmi and to the south there is a temple of Rama with Sita and Lakshmana. Gandalayam on the top of the hill, there is no murthi but has a deepam (lamp). This lamp is visible from many nearby villages.
Mangalagiri is on the NH16 between Vijayawada and Guntur (situated 13 kilometers southeast of Vijayawada and 21 kilometers northeast of the city of Guntur) very near to the capital city Amaravathi. Mangalagiri handloom cotton and silk sarees are very famous and was registered as one of the geographical indication from Andhra Pradesh.
(Featured image source)
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