“The best project you will ever work on is you” – Sonny Franco
For the first time in my life I wished for a relaxing trip. Go into the jungles – visit a few temples, waterfalls, enjoy the local food and back to business. BTW I changed my job again and hence the gap. I have been working like a donkey so wanted to wonder in the woods like a lion. Little did I know – once a donkey – always a donkey; and you will know why, by the end of the trip.
Through the dense Nallamala forest and washed-off roads we reached a small town called Ahobilam where Vishnu incarnated in the form a lion-man; Narasimha avatar to kill the demon Hiranyakashipu.
This place is divided into two: Lower and Upper Ahobilam. We will visit the Lower Ahobilam temple for the evening where the Lord got married.
There are lots of interesting stories related to this place. First – how did the demon Hiranyakashipu came into existence and Second – how he got killed?
The first story – how did the demon Hiranyakashipu came into existence
Jaya and Vijaya were the gatekeepers of Vaikunta the abode of Lord Vishnu. Four Sanat Kumars – sons of Lord Brahma once went to visit Lord Vishnu and were stopped by Jaya and Vijaya which led to a rift between the parties and angered the Kumaras. Kumaras then cursed Jaya and Vijaya to loose their divinity and take birth as mortals for 3 life times. At this point Lord Vishnu intervened. Jaya and Vijaya asked him to lift off the curse to which he replied that he cannot do that but instead he assured that in their three life’s Vishnu himself will come and kill them so that they attain moksha and return back to their rightful place. In their first birth as enemies to Vishnu they were born as
Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu in Satya Yuga.
Ravana and Kumbhakarna in Treta Yuga.
Shishupal and Dantavakra in Dwapara Yuga; (good luck pronouncing all the names)
Second story – how Hiranyakashipu got killed
The story starts when Hiranyaksha, his brother got killed by Lord Vishnu in his Varaha avatar. Hiranyakashipu swore revenge that he would, in turn, destroy Vishnu. He decided to undertake penance to earn the grace of Lord Brahma. Brahma pleased with his austerities, appeared before him and told him to ask for a boon. When Hiranyakashipu demanded immortality, though, Brahma refused, saying that anything that was born on Earth had to die someday. So he told him to ask for another boon. Hiranyakashipu thought for a while and asked that nobody killed him under the following circumstances: Neither by an entity, living or nonliving; nor by any weapon. Neither by a demigod nor by a demon. Neither by a human nor by an animal. Neither within nor outside his residence. Neither during day nor nighttime. Neither on the ground nor in the sky.
Brahma granted him all of the above, blessed Hiranyakashipu and left. This newly found power made the Asura drunk with his power. He decided that it was time he showed off his powers and established his superior status, even as compared to the Devas.
When Hiranyakashipu was in penance, Indra and the other Devas decided to attack his home. At that point, sage Narada intervened to protect Kayadhu, the devout and pure-hearted wife of the demon. He took her under his wing, until the time Prahlada, the child she was carrying, was born. Right from the womb, Prahlada would hear Narada sing praises of Lord Vishnu. Thus, he became a great bhakta (devotee) of Vishnu. Hiranyakashipu resented his son’s leaning and extreme devotion toward Vishnu. When things became unbearable for him, he decided to kill Prahlada. However, he failed each time he tried to kill the boy.
Prahlada refused to acknowledge his father as the supreme power and would instead keep praying to Vishnu. One day, Hiranyakashipu led his son to a pillar and asked him if Vishnu would be residing in there. Prahlada answered in the affirmative and said that his Lord resided everywhere. In a fit of rage, he lifted his mace and banged it hard against the pillar.
The pillar shattered and from inside it, jumped out Narasimha, a fearsome entity who was half-man and half-lion. This was actually the 4th avatar of Lord Vishnu. He had manifested to destroy the arrogant asura and also to protect his young devotee, Prahlada. Narasimha then proceeded to attack Hiranyakashipu.
As per the asura’s conditions for death, Narasimha was neither a human nor a Deva nor an animal. He manifested at twilight (a time which was neither day nor night); on the threshold of the courtyard (this was neither inside nor outside the palace). He put the asura across his thighs (this was neither on the ground nor in the sky) and, using his sharp claws (not weapons of any kind), he tore the demon open, disemboweling him; killing him instantly.
So today we will be trekking to to the pillar from which Narasimha manifested which again goes through forests and rocky terrain.
Seriously, he couldn’t pick a simpler pillar to smash…
We definitely needed a guide for this one and I am glad we got one as it had started to rain. Everyone one around us advised us not to climb. But our guide was like – it’s a piece of cake, I’ll take you there, don’t worry. And that was all I needed to move forward.
I pray this bridge stays intact till I come back.
This is the path, if you can call it a path, which freaked me out. We climbed almost 5kms through this rocky jungle with just a stick to support us.
My guide was my photographer for this trek, I couldn’t manage to hold on to anything but my stick and had to crawl like a monkey all the way up.
I have no idea how I climbed this….. however as if this wasn’t enough !!! Now I have to climb down to reach there……
And just go down those loosely held life risking ladder… one slip and I would have had a direct audience with God today !!!!
And I am finally there… Oh Gods!!! Now getting down from here will be an achievement in itself.
I was tired, but it was the good tired feeling that you have after doing something worthwhile. The gentle breeze, the sunlight, the chirping of the birds, the calmness – I was soaking it all in. This is by far the toughest hike we have done which left me euphoric for long. Given a chance I would like to be born in one of these isolated places – worrying about nothing but daily bread n butter and enjoying the nature in its fullest. For this life I am not sure I can go back to a life like that after seeing what money can buy. I have had this dilemma for a while now – will I be able to give up on material things to live a nomadic life? Having that money in my pocket is what gives me the strength and confidence to plan random trips like these, will I be peaceful knowing I don’t have that bank balance or in other words “safety”? With these thoughts in mind I start my descend back.
We took a different route while coming down – thank God or thank Shivanna(our guide). He took us through the dense forest and that was awesome. There was always a risk of a wild animal pouncing on us or a snake getting angry with us, but these thoughts didn’t occur to me until we crossed the forest safely.
After a long nearly 5 kms walk or more…. I lost all sense of position. Happy to see some ground where I can relax. We had to keep walking – walking – walking while we were in the jungle, the minute we stopped we were surrounded by the over enthusiastic mosquitoes who wanted the taste of some human blood. Sitting by the stream I got myself a little free fish spa 🙂 There were others there who had packed some food and were enjoying it – I wish I had packed some snacks as suggested by my guide. I can’t wait for the walk to be over and eat something appetizing.
The place where we sat is where Prahalad – the son of the demon studied Vedas. He must have also walked through the jungle daily to get to this place. No wonder why he wanted his dad dead 🙂
On our way down we visited some other Narasihma temples. I am way beyond exhausted. All I care for now is some good food and a nice bed and its my job that pays for these two so I am going to hang on to it for a while 🙂 and leave it to nature to fulfill all my desires…
OM Namo Narayanaya!!!