Caitanya Mahaprabhu's Tirtha-yatra, Part 48


Sri Jiyada-nrsimha at Simhachalam, Visakhapatnam

Mar 16, CANADA (SUN) — A serial exploration of the holy sites visited by Lord Caitanya.


In today's segment, we go to the famous tirtha of Lord Nrsimhadeva in Andhra Pradesh, known as Jiyada-nrsimha. Lord Caitanya visited this temple during His South India pilgrimage, as described in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya Lila 1:

    Madhya 1.103

    jiyada-nrsimhe kaila nrsimha-stavana
    pathe-pathe grame-grame nama-pravartana

    "After visiting Kurma-ksetra, the Lord visited the South Indian temple of Jiyada-nrsimha and offered His prayers to Lord Nrsimhadeva. On His way, He introduced the chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra in every village."

In an earlier segment we covered Kurma-sthana, a temple dedicated to Kurma avatar, in which a Yoga-nrsimha Deity also resides. Like Jiyada-nrsimha, Kurma-sthana is also located in Andhra Pradesh, about 100 kilometers northeast of Visakhapatnam. Jiyada-nrsimha, more commonly known as Simhacala, is only five miles from central Visakhapatnam.

Map of Jiyada-nrsimha at Simhachalam

After visiting the temple of Jiyada-nrsimha, Sri Caitanya went to the banks of the river Godavari, at Vidyanagara. There the Lord met Sri Ramananda Raya. Vidyanagara is approximately 700 kilometers south of Visakhapatnam.

In Madhya Lila 8.3-9 we find a great deal of information about Lord Caitanya's visit to Jiyada-nrsimha tirtha:

    Madhya 8.3

    purva-rite prabhu age gamana karila
    'jiyada-nrsimha'-ksetre kata-dine gela

    "According to His previous program, Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu went forward on His tour and after some days arrived at the place of pilgrimage known as Jiyada-nrsimha.

    The Jiyada-nrsimha temple is situated on the top of a hill about five miles away from Visakhapatnam. There is a railway station on the South Indian Railway known as Simhacala. The temple known as Simhacala is the best temple in the vicinity of Visakhapatnam. This temple is very affluent and is a typical example of the architecture of the area. On one stone tablet it is mentioned that formerly a queen covered the Deity with gold plate. This is mentioned in the Visakhapatnam Gazetteer. About the temple, there are residential quarters for the priests and devotees. Indeed, at the present moment there are many residential quarters to accommodate visiting devotees. The original Deity is situated within the depths of the temple, but there is another Deity, a duplicate, known as the vijaya-murti. This smaller Deity can be moved from the temple and taken on public processions. Priests who generally belong to the Ramanuja-sampradaya are in charge of the Deity worship.

    Madhya 8.4

    nrsimha dekhiya kaila dandavat-pranati
    premavese kaila bahu nrtya-gita-stuti

    Upon seeing the Deity of Lord Nrsimha in the temple, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu offered His respectful obeisances by falling flat. Then, in ecstatic love, He performed various dances, chanted, and offered prayers.

    Temple carving of Lord Nrsimhadeva

    Madhya 8.5

    "sri-nrsimha, jaya nrsimha, jaya jaya nrsimha
    prahladesa jaya padma-mukha-padma-bhrnga"

    "'All glories to Nrsimhadeva! All glories to Nrsimhadeva, who is the Lord of Prahlada Maharaja and, like a honeybee, is always engaged in beholding the lotuslike face of the goddess of fortune.'

    The goddess of fortune is always embraced by Lord Nrsimhadeva. This is mentioned in the commentary on Srimad-Bhagavatam written by the great commentator Srila Sridhara Svami. The following verse was composed by Sridhara Svami in his commentary on the Tenth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.87.1):

    vag-isa yasya vadane laksmir yasya ca vaksasi
    yasyaste hrdaye samvit tam nrsimham aham bhaje

    "Lord Nrsimhadeva is always assisted by Sarasvati, the goddess of learning, and He is always embracing the goddess of fortune to His chest. The Lord is always complete in knowledge within Himself. Let us offer obeisances unto Nrsimhadeva."

    Similarly, in his commentary on the First Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.1.1), Sridhara Svami describes Lord Nrsimhadeva in this way:

    prahlada-hrdayahladam bhaktavidya-vidaranam
    sarad-indu-rucim vande parindra-vadanam harim

    "Let me offer my obeisances unto Lord Nrsimhadeva, who is always enlightening Prahlada Maharaja within his heart and who always kills the nescience that attacks the devotees. His mercy is distributed like moonshine, and His face is like that of a lion. Let me offer my obeisances unto Him again and again."

    Simhachalam Temple complex, Visakhapatnam

    Madhya 8.6

    ugro 'py anugra evayam
    sva-bhaktanam nr-kesari
    kesariva sva-potanam
    anyesam ugra-vikramah

    "'Although very ferocious, the lioness is very kind to her cubs. Similarly, although very ferocious to nondevotees like Hiranyakasipu, Lord Nrsimhadeva is very, very soft and kind to devotees like Prahlada Maharaja.'"

    This verse was composed by Sridhara Svami in his commentary on the Seventh Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam (7.9.1).

    Madhya 8.7

    ei-mata nana sloka padi' stuti kaila
    nrsimha-sevaka mala-prasada ani' dila

    In this way Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu recited different verses from the sastra. The priest of Lord Nrsimhadeva then brought garlands and the remnants of the Lord's food and offered them to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

    Temple guardians carved in Mandapam Pillars

    Madhya 8.8

    purvavat kona vipre kaila nimantrana
    sei ratri tahan rahi' karila gamana

    As usual, a brahmana offered Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu an invitation. The Lord passed the night in the temple and then commenced His tour again.

    Madhya 8.9

    prabhate uthiya prabhu calila premavese
    dig-vidik nahi jnana ratri-divase

    The next morning, in the great ecstasy of love, Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu started on His tour with no knowledge of the proper direction, and He continued the whole day and night."

Simhachalam Theertham

Simhachalam Temple at Visakhapatnam

Just as we find an unusual degree of detail in Caitanya-caritamrta on Mahaprabhu's visit to this tirtha, there is also a great deal of information about Jiyada-nrsimha (Simhachalam) readily available, underscoring the great popularity of this holy site.

Visakhapatnam is known locally as Vizag, and is the second largest city in Andhra Pradesh. Simhachalam draws throngs of pilgrims, who come to enjoy darshan of Lord Nrsimhadeva and to see the excellent architecture and sculptures in the temple. Although many carvings were defaced by the Muslims, many examples remain of the beautiful Chola and Chalukya style construction and ornamentation.

While the exact date of construction is unknown, temple inscriptions date the earliest donors to the 10th and 11th centuries. Simhachalam, also known as Simhagiri or 'the hill of the lion', is home to rare Deity form. Known as Varaha Laksminarasimha, Jiyada-nrsimha's image combines the iconographic features of Varaha and Narasimha. The original shape of the Deity is in the tribhanga posture, having two hands with the head of a lion on a human torso.

Sri Varaha Laksminarasimha in Lingam and Nijaroopa Forms

The Deity resembles a Shivalingam covered with sandal paste, and the Lord remains covered in sandal all year, except for the special occasion of nijaroopa darshan (the holy appearance in true form), which lasts for just 12 hours. During that time, the sandalwood paste is removed, and the original Deity form can be seen. This ritual is also known as Chandana Visarjana.

The observance of Chandanotsavam day is conducted on the Vaisakha Suddha Tadiya, according to the Telugu almanac. After the Lord's sandalwood paste is removed and He gives His devotees darshan, He is then covered with a fresh layer of sandalwood paste brought from Andhra Pradesh and Orissa.

Scraping sandal sticks for Chandanotsavam
[Photo: K.R. Deepak, The Hindu]

Among the many beautiful aspects of temple ornamentation are carvings reminiscent of Konark, featuring elephants, flowers and vines, the Lord's incarnations, and various other scenes. The outer walls of the sanctum sanctorum contain images said to be King Narasimha, in various postures. The Kalyana Mandapa within the temple has 16 pillars, each carved with bas reliefs depicting the Visnu incarnations. The temple faces the west.

Simhachalam temple is known as the second richest temple in South India, after Tirupati. An annual revenue of Rs. 520 million is given to Lord Nrsimhadeva here. After defeating Prataparudra Gajapathi, Sri Krishna Devaraya visited Jiyada-nrsimha twice, in 1516 AD and 1519 AD, offering numerous villages for the maintenance of bhogam worship, along with opulent jewelery.

Sri Varaha Laksminarasimha Utsavam Deity

One temple inscription shows a queen of the Velavadu chief Gonga (1137-56 AD) covering the Deity with gold, while another inscription says the eastern Ganga King Narasimha built the central shrine in 1267 A.D. There are more than 252 inscriptions describing various historical aspects of the temple. For the last two centuries, the family of the Raja of Vizianagaram have served as the temple's trustees.

Bay of Bengal off coast of Visakhapatnam


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