Saturday, July 13, 2013

AHOBILAM Trek through Waterfalls, Streams and Cave temples in Nallamala Forest

Ever since I heard about Ahobilam about a year ago from few of my friends, I have added it to the list of places to visit in Monsoon. Being a nature lover I found Ahobilam an amazing pilgrim place in the forest, where we trekked in order to cover the temples that are spread over surrounding hills. I posted an event on Travel India Cafe, an open group for travel enthusiasts so that interested members could join. Arif, Dinesh, Kishore, Veera, RamaKrishna, Naveen including me were a group of 7 members who started off for Ahobilam on the night of 12th July. Let me give a brief about Ahobilam.

Ahobilam:
Ahobilam is located in Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh in the Nallamala Hills of the Eastern Ghats. It is one of the foremost places of worship of Lord Narasimha, an avatar of Lord Vishnu. It is unique in the sense that it is the only place that enshrines nine forms of Lord Narasimha. Ahobilam is divided into lower Ahobilam and the upper Ahobilam. Upper Ahobilam is about 8 km away from lower Ahobilam. Ahobilam is also known as Ahobalam meaning great strength (Aho - great,balam - strength).
Ahobilam Temple overview Map
Ahobilam Temple overview Map

According to Hindu mythology, Nallamala Hills is the personification of Adisesha, the great serpent bed of Lord Vishnu. Four important Shaiva (Lord Shiva) and Vaishnava (Lord Vishnu) places of worship are located in these hills - Srisailam (Shaiva) is the tail end, Ahobilam (Vaishnava) is the middle portion, Tirumala (Vaishnava) is the head and Srikalahasti (Shaiva) is the mouth of Adisesha. One has to visit all 9 holy shrines & Ugra stambam at Ahobilam on foot. Ahobilam is also referred as Nava Narasimha kshetram as Lord Narasimha appears in 9 different forms which are Bhargava Narasimha Swamy, Yogananda Narasimha Swamy, Chatravata Narasimha Swamy, Ahobila (Ugra) Narasimha Swamy, Varaha Narasimha Swamy, Malola Narasimha Swamy, Jwala Narasimha Swamy, Paavana Narasimha Swamy, Karanja Narasimha Swamy.

How to reach Ahobilam ?
The nearest railway stations are Nandyala, kadapa, dhone which are 75KM, 120KM, 125KM respectively from ahobilam. One has to travel by bus to Allagadda and take another bus to Ahobilam.

However the easier way from Hyderabad is to travel by bus overnight to Allagadda and catch early morning bus from there which goes till upper Ahobilam. Upper ahobilam is 8 kms away from lower ahobilam and apart from very few buses one can hire an auto.

Where to Stay?
There are lots of options to stay in lower ahobilam. Sri Ahobila Mutt maintains a Guest House called Malola Guest House at lower ahobilam. APTDC is running Haritha hotel. Apart from these there are few other hotels also and some decent choultries available.

There are only two choultries at upper ahobilam where only a couple of rooms are available apart from a hall where one can stay for night. However it is advised to avail room at lower ahobilam.


Food options?
At lower ahobilam there are few private run canteens available. Sri Ahobila Matam has established a trust called Annamacharya Nitya Annadanam Trust. The Trust provide free food to devotees of Sri Lakshmi Nrisimha. Free prasadam is offered three time a day. Dadiyannam (Curd rice) is offered morning and evening. At noon time Tadiyaradhanam (full course meals) is offered.
Nitya Annadana Satram
Nitya Annadana Satram

At upper ahobilam there is a private run shop where one can get snacks and morning breakfast. Arya Vysya Annadana satram provide food to devotees in the afternoon and evening. Apart from these two there are no other options. At Pavana Narasimha swamy temple there are small stalls which serve Tea, lemon water and snacks.


The Day of Journey:
We planned to catch an overnight bus to Allagadda and from there another bus to ahobilam. I have done reservations for 10 PM bus from MGBS. All of us are reached bus station by 0930 and our bus was already on platform. Everyone introduced themselves to the group and soon the bus started off for allagadda.

Amazing time we had at Ahobilam:
We reached allagadda at 5 o’clock. We were told that the bus to ahobilam will come at 05:30. It was still dark and we waited for the bus and soon we are on our way to ahobilam. It’s a journey of around 35Kms which took us more than an hour. The forest looked even beautiful in the early morning sunlight. The bus stopped at lower ahobilam and the conductor told us that it will go till upper ahobilam. It is 8 Kms ghat section drive from lower ahobilam.

Ahobila Ugra Narasimha Swamy temple(Main Temple)
Ahobila Ugra Narasimha Swamy temple(Main Temple)
Upper ahobilam is surrounded by green hills with hardly any crowd unlike most of the popular pilgrim places. We went to Arya Vysya satram(choultry) and requested for a room. The person told us that the amount we pay for room will be spent for nitya annadanam to devotees and asked us to have lunch and dinner in satram. All of us got ready quickly in an hour. We had small discussion about days plan and got down for breakfast. We asked the person in satram about places to cover and gave us some useful information and booklets with a map. We thanked him and came out to have breakfast before we start. There is a only one tiffin center which is besides our choultry. We had Uggani-Bajji , a famous rayalaseema food item and hot vada.

We decided to visit pavana narasimha swamy first as it is little far from other temples and in another direction. There are two ways behind the main temple. We took steps on the right side. Behind temple the floor was red with animal’s blood. We felt sorry for the animals and moved ahead. Some people are taking goat along with them to sacrifice at Pavana Narsimha temple. Some people are coming back with skinned goat hung to wooden log carrying on their shoulders.
On the way to Pavana Narasimha Swamy temple
On the way to Pavana Narasimha Swamy temple

On the way to Pavana Narasimha Swamy temple
On the way to Pavana Narasimha Swamy temple
The temple is about 8 Kms away. Climbing the steps was tiring and they seem never ending. We climbed more than 400 steps with few breaks before we get to the trail leading to the temple. The path was straight and clear through dense forest on the hill. We can see another temple and waterfalls on the opposite hill from here. The air was so fresh and pure. The path was rough and rocky at some parts.  Kishore, Veera and Ramakrishna were ahead of of us and dinesh, naveen, arif and I were behind stopping often for capturing pics. We walked more than hour to reach the temple. We had darshan and also visited a small cave temple nearby. 

Pavana Narasimha Swamy temple
Pavana Narasimha Swamy temple
There is another motorable route to reach this temple which will be around 20 Kms long through dense forest. We filled our empty water bottles and spent some time there. We started back with the plan of covering any other temples by evening. While coming back we could see more number of pilgrims coming and few of them with goat along with them to sacrifice at the temple. We stopped on few occasions to have some pics and sometimes for a couple of minutes break.
Just for fun... :)
Just for fun... :)

On our way back at one point I saw a path to my left that seems to be going somewhere into woods. Out of curiosity I walked few steps in that direction and now I could see a rock patch that looks like a rock wall. I went ahead further and now I can see it clearly. It was a complete rocky face of a hillock with enough angle of slope to roll down easily. Bored of walking on a well laid path and being adventure lovers we decided to climb up without a clue of what we are going to see on top of it. Adding to it the rock was getting wet with a very thin layer of water that’s coming from top making it even more slippery. Kishore, Veera, Arif and RK bravely started climbing where kishore got up with such an ease as if he was walking in a park. Arif, veera and RK took their time and climbed cautiously who removed shoe in the middle and climbed with only socks on their foot. I along with Dinesh and Naveen took a safe bet and climbed through the rough rocky patch with grass at one end ensuring enough grip for us. 
View from Hill top
View from Hill top
We are amazed to see the panaromic view from top and we can see a series of lush green hills running all along the beautiful Nallamala forest. This place is simply amazing and very serene. We just decided to stay there sometime and settled down. We had some biscuits, snickers and snacks that we carried with us. After we are done with food it was rest time. For about 20 minutes it was sheer silence where every one of us was happily lost in the tranquility of the forest we are surrounded by.
Our Resting spot and fun time roaming around
Our Resting spot and fun time roaming around
Time for pool side meeting...
Time for pool side meeting...

It felt like all the positive forces of the nature are being imbibed by our souls. Just spending couple of hours in such soothing environment will have far more benefits than doing any meditation or yoga sitting inside four walls or in a concrete jungle that we are living in. The time rolled off quickly and we spent more than 3 hours here. We had an extended session of photography where we tried different compositions to click some awesome snaps. Finally we left the place with loads of energy and with a plan of visiting any other temple on the other side of the hill.

Aim High
Aim High....


It started drizzling by the time we reached steps that turned into heavy rain in no time. We got back to our room by 0430 pm and decided to sign off for the day. We got freshen up one by one and went to main temple of Ahobila Ugra Narasimha swamy. After darshan we came back to our room. In the night at dinner time we did seva by serving food in annadanam. After dinner we discussed next day’s plan and dozed off for the day with an early morning alarm set in our minds.

The day to UgraStambam :
Ugrasthambam
Ugrasthambam

On the second day morning we were ready on time as per our schedule. We had a lot to cover today starting with climb to the top most and farthest point which is Ugrastambam. We are on our way to ugrastambam following the directions on the way passing by temples that we decided to visit on our way back. Ugra Sthamba means fierce pillar. This is on top of the Vedadri (Vedachal) mountain. It is the belief that Lord Narasimha came out of this Sthamba to kill Demon King Hiranyakasipu. Most of the way was climbing steps upto Malola Narasimha swamy temple and a trail walk for few minutes before we get down steps to reach the bridge. After crossing the bridge we saw people coming along the water stream which we thought could be the way to any other place or temple. Here again we had to climb steps to reach jwala Narasimha swamy, another tedious task ahead of our tired souls. We got up quickly with couple of breaks to catch up breath. After reaching jwala we had to climb the path on our right to reach Ugrastambam. Very few people attempt ugrastambam as it is a very rough path with rolling stones and very steep climb. I started climbing at my own pace, slowly and very cautiously. It was all loose rock and it has even become more slippery with yesterdays rain. At couple of stretches the angle of slope becomes more where we had to be using our four limbs ensuring safer climb. Finally we were on Ugrastambam with stunning 360 degree view of the forest from top of it. We cannot get something’s easily; it takes sweat, determination and hard work to get them. This is one amongst such things. 
Ontop of Ugrastambam
Ontop of Ugrastambam

I did pradakshina around ugrastambam which is on the edge of the cliff. Words fall short to describe about this place. We were so enthralled by the magic of this place. We spent around 2 hours on top of ugrastambam that ended with an extended photography session. This place has certainly have a lot of positive forces concentrated on it.
Kishore and Arif Ontop of Ugrastambam

Lost in the nature....

Now feeling like fully charged we started descending down to jwala. We should be even more cautious while getting down. Keeping safe distance between each of us to avoid getting hurt by any rolling rocks we reached Jwala Narasimha swamy temple. We passed by a waterfall to the temple in a small cave and had darshan. We had amazing time under waterfall here. The water is very pure and crystal clear.
waterfall bath at Jwala Narasimha swamy
Waterfall bath at Jwala Narasimha swamy

Our next destinations on list are varaha narasimha swamy and Malola Narasimha swamy temples. We started descending steps from jwala and in few minutes we are at the bridge. Now we saw many people coming and going along the water streams flowing below the bridge. 
Elder people are being carried in this manner for all temples darshan
Elder people are being carried in this manner for all temples darshan

On the Bridge....
On the Bridge....

We got to know that this is an easier route to jwala from main temple rather than climbing all the way to Malola and getting down. We took this route and it was all in the water walking on the rocks and passing by small ponds on the way in the gorge with rock formations on both sides. 
Funtime @ pool enroute Varaha Narasimha swamy temple
Funtime @ pool enroute Varaha Narasimha swamy temple

Seeing a nice waterpool I couldn’t resist myself and jumped into it. This route is amazing with water all the way. We reached varaha narasimha swamy temple, had darshan here and again started climbing steps to Malola Narasimha swamy temple which we passed by in the morning. As per the map apart from temples there is a Prahladuni badi(school) also near Malola Narasimha swamy temple. We had darshan at this temple and started walking in the direction of Prahladuni badi which is little far from here. We were little skeptical about Prahladuni badi whether is it worth to visit or not as its not much popular and very few people visit it. We just asked a person who was coming from that way about it. He simply said that it’s a must visit place and there is a small waterfall too. We are more than happy to hear about one more waterfall. When we reached there, we are stunned to see this beautiful place. This place is a hidden jewel.
Prahladuni badi
Prahladuni Guha
It is like a flat triangle shaped rock bed carved out of a huge hillock. A waterfall at on one side is icing on the cake. It’s a huge area from where we can see the main temple and choultries lying right below the hill. At the corner there is a small cave which is prahladuni guha or badi. Soon we are under waterfall. The water was lashing with great force and feels like a nice massage to our tiried bodies. We played in the pool and under the fall for an hour. We slid through the waterfalls, climbed a little to get into a small gap enough for us to sit and enjoy the massage with full force of water and most importantly to pose for some awesome clicks.
Waterfall at Prahladuni badi
Waterfall at Prahladuni guha

It was almost 5 ‘o clock by the time we started back to satram from prahladuni badi. We got ready quickly and packed up our bags to catch a bus at 7 ‘o clock that goes to allagadda directly from where we have to board the bus back to Hyderabad. The people of satram are very kind to us and guided us well, they asked to have dinner at satram itself and while having dinner bus came. The driver also had dinner with us and we left for allagadda in the same bus and from there to Hyderabad.

Ahobilam visit was a great experience for us and being nature lovers we thoroughly enjoyed the trek in the forest surrounded by lush green hills on all sides, water streams and waterfalls. The thrilling climb to ugrastambam offered stunning view from top and hill top that we explored on the way back from pavana narasimha was a surprise package for us. Last but not least one must not miss to visit Prahladuni badi which is a hidden jewel among these.
A Mandapam besides our satram
A Mandapam besides our satram , first thing that we saw in upper Ahobilam

With this I conclude my trip report here and I wish u a very Happy and safe trip to AHOBILAM.
SoorYa