Mangalagiri - The Auspicious Hill
Mangalagiri means The Auspicious Hill. This place is one of the 8 important Mahakshetrams (sacred places) in India. The eight places where Lord Vishnu manifested himself are (1) Sri Rangam (2) Srimushnam (3) Naimisam (4) Pushkaram (5) Salagamadri (6) Thothadri (7) Narayanasramam (8) Venkatadri. Thotadri is the present Mangalagiri. Lakshmi Devi has donetapas on this hill. That's why it got this name (The auspicious hill). 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 temple. Third one is Gandala Narasimha Swamy at the top of the hill.
This shape of the hill looks like an elephant. From all the directions, the hill appears in the elephant shape only. There is an interesting legend to show as to how the mountain came into existence. Pariyatra, an ancient king had a son Hrasva Srungi visited all holy and sacred places to regain normal bodily stature and finally visited this holy place of Mangalagiri and stayed for three years performing penance. All the Devathas (Gods) advised him to stay at Mangalagiri and continue to do penance in praise of Lord Vishnu. The father of Hrasva Srungi came with his retinue to take back his son to his kingdom. But Hrasva Srungi took the shape of an elephant to become the abode of Lord Vishnu who is locally known as Panakala Lakshmi Narasimhaswamy.
The temple of Sri Panakala Lakshmi Narasimhaswamy 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 are to be seen. Midway on the steps there is a temple of Lord Panakala Lakshmi Narasimhaswamy there is only the face with the mouth widely opened. A dhwajasthambham was erected in front of the temple in 1955. 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. The stone inscription of the kings of Vijayanagar relate besides to the conquest of Rayalu over Kondapalli etc., that Siddhiraju Thimmarajayya Devara granted a total of 200 kunchams (10 kunchams make one acre) land in 28 villages of which Mangalagiri was one and gift of 40 kunchams by China Thirumalayya to Ramanujakutam.
The steps to the temple were constructed by Sri Channapragada Balaramadasu in 1890. There was a cave next the devi temple on the hill. It is said that, there is a way to Vundavalli from that cave, and the sages used to go by that way to take bath in Krishna River. Now, the cave is very dark, and the way could not be seen.
Panakala Narasimha Swamy - God Who Drinks Panakam
It is said that here, god is self-existent. In the temple, there will be no statue of the god, but there is only mouth, widely opened to 15 cms. The mouth is covered by metal face of the god. The temple will be opened till afternoon only, with the belief that devatas will perform pujas in the night. The God takes jaggery water as offering by a conch. The Jaggery water is actually poured into the mouth of the Lord, a gargling sound is clearly audible as if the Lord is actually drinking it and the sound becomes shriller and shriller as and when the Lord is drinking. The sound will come to a stop after sometime and the balance of the jaggery water is thrown out. This phenomenon happens not once in a day but is a recurring feature during the course of 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 the Lord nor around the temple in spite of the offering of so much jaggery water. As the offering of the panakam to the Lord is peculiar, the Lord here is called panakala Narasimhaswamy. There is a legend about the offering of the panakam (jaggery water) to the Lord. 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.
Behind the temple there is the temple of Sri Lakshmi, to the west of which there is a natural cave. It is believed that it will lead to Undavalli caves on the banks of the Krishna river and the sages used to go to take bath in Krishna River. Now, the cave is very dark and the way could not be seen. We can reach the temple through steps-way on foot and also by road-way. The steps to the temple were constructed by Sri Channapragada Balarama Dasu 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, there is another temple whose origin is traced to the time of Yudhishtira, the eldest of the pandavas. Yudhishtira is said to be the founder of the chief image of this temple and the deity here is called Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy. In Vijayawada itself, which is 8 miles from Mangalagiri there is a hill called Indrakeeladri in which Arjuna is said to have done tapascharya (penance) in order to obtain the weapon Pasupata from Lord Siva. About 200 years back 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 India and only one of its type in this part of India. It is 153ft. in height and 49 feet wide with 11 storeys, and gates facing east and west. This great and imposing tower dwarfs the central shrine. The devoted patience of thousands of skilled craftsmen and the labour of many more apprentices which had gone into this great structure is a testimony to the religious fervour which characterized the builder. After constructing the gopuram, it was leaning towards one direction. The Kancheepuram Architects suggested to dig a tank opposite to the tower. After digging the tank, it is said that, the tower became straight.