The alarm rang at 4.30 AM on Day 2. We had long treks lined up for the day to cover the remaining Nava Narasimha temples, we wanted to start before sunrise, finish by 3 PM and start back to Hyderabad. It was biting cold outside, surprising because in this part of the country the weather is a constant – hot and dry ! We had to literally beg the lady attendant for hot water, she was annoyed that we woke her up that early.
By 6 AM, we were waiting for the guide to meet us near the temple. When he showed no signs of turning up and tired of waiting for him, we headed for breakfast at the hotel where we had dinner the previous day. Steaming hot idlies, vada and pongal – the equivalents of bliss !
The guide finally made an appearance at 7 AM after several visits to the Administrative office, which wasn’t so bad because one has to pass through the temple to go to the office which meant we got our share of the morning pulihora prasadam !
We drove to Eguva Ahobilam and began our trek. We had told the guide that we wanted to first go to the Jwala Narasimha Temple and the Ugra Sthambam because they were very difficult treks and we wanted to complete them first. We had no idea that this important instruction was not understood by the guide because he lead us to the trek to Pavana Narasimha Temple !
Pavana Narasimha Temple trek
The trek to Pavana Narasimha Temple begins just next to the Ahobila Narasimha Temple, it is a 7 kms trek, one way. One can also hire a jeep to take you to the temple but we decided to trek because it is more fun. It is advisable to borrow sticks available near the temple, they are helpful in getting a better grip while trekking. These sticks have to be returned once you come back.
One has to climb steep steps at the beginning of the trek, these steps are not counted in numbers but in kilometers – almost 2 kilometers of steps ! That you will be drained by the time you climb these steps goes without saying. Half way up, we got a view of the Malola Narasimha temple nestled in the middle of the forests on the opposite mountain, it was hard to believe that we had trekked all the way up the previous day.
When we finally reached the top of the steps, sweating and aching, we asked the guide how far the Pavana Narasimha temple was – another 5 kms, the answer was enough to exhaust us and we were not even half way up our first trek and we still had tough treks ahead !
Pulling up all our energies, we continued the trek. The steps gave way to rocky pathways winding through the jungle.
The morning walk in the jungle was the ultimate kind of peace, the silence was broken every now and then by the sounds of different birds and insects going about their daily morning routine. The forest here is very thick but does not have too many wild animals, we were told apart from hordes of monkeys, wild boars, bears usually roamed around the forests.
The trek seemed never ending, deeper and deeper into the jungle we went.
The sticks that we brought along were very useful in helping us get a grip on the rocky, sometimes steep path, it was easier to walk with them for support. We also felt very exposed in the forest, what would happen if a wild animal made an appearance or what if wayside thugs decided to rob us – nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, nobody to call for help. Every movement made us jump thinking some animal or some anti-social element was lurking behind the trees !
Taking a guide along is the most sensible thing to do even for the most adventurous people, mobile phones don’t work here, there are no sign boards to show the way, hardly anybody around to ask for directions, would not be surprising if even the authorities are unable to trace you !
When we were on the verge of losing our energies and tired of all the walking, we found a board directing us to the temple. A kilometer trek later, we reached the Pavana Narasimha Temple, a small temple located in a valley. If you are the kind who expects something grand at the end of an arduous task, you will be disappointed but the whole point of the Ahobilam trek is to enjoy the trekking experience.
When we checked our watches, it was 9.30 AM, we had been walking for the last 2 hours ! We had a quick darshan, there are a few stalls selling puja items and some refreshments. We rested for a few minutes to re-energise and began the trek back.
Of all the 9 temples, this one alone is entirely on a different route, so one to has to trek the entire way back to the starting point and then take the route to other temples, which meant we had to walk back the 7 kms, making it a 14 kms trek !
The return trek was more tiring mentally than physically because in our mind we knew we had to trek for another 1 1/2 hour atleast. In some places we had to trek up the slope because in the onward trek, the path towards the temple was down the slope. Soon we began to really tire and we decided we were not going to try the trek to Jwala Narasimha and Ugra Sthambam, the two very tough treks. We were too exhausted and hungry to even think of them. The only saving grace was that we had to climb down the 2 kms steps, climbing down is always easy.
As we descended the steps and got a view of the main temple, a kilometer away, we could hear the sounds of Nadaswaram. We thought it was coming from the temple loud speakers. When we actually reached the bottom of the steps, this is what we found.
This young man was practising Nadaswaram all by himself. The sound of the Nadaswaram echoed off the hills and got magnified which we could hear a kilometer away ! This was enough to lift our spirits, we were amazed by the natural loud speakers !
When we reached the end of the trek, we felt like victorious soldiers. It was past 12 noon and though we were weary, the travel enthusiast in us wasn’t willing to give us a rest, we decided to visit the remaining temples that were easily accessible – Krodha Narasimha, Chatravata Narasimha and Yogananda Narasimha.
Krodha Narasimha temple
Krodha Narasimha Temple is half a kilometer walk from the main temple at Upper Ahobilam and since we were already there, we decided to trek the short distance, if we had trekked 14 kms, another 1 km was not going to harm. It turned out to be the most difficult 500 meters walk of our lives. After the long trek, our bodies had relaxed and the actual pains began to surface, our legs seemed heavy and we literally dragged ourselves to the temple. It felt like our legs were using us for walking instead of the other way round ! But, the feeling of ticking off one more temple from the list more than made up for the pain.
Chatravata Narasimha Temple
It was a huge sigh of relief when we visited the temple and returned back. Without a second thought, we drove back to Lower Ahobilam, we were starving by then. We still had the energy or let’s say the interest to drive to the Chatravata Narasimha Temple, this temple is 2 kms from Lower Ahobilam and is located on the highway and accessible by road. The priest had just closed the temple for the afternoon and was driving back, somebody else ahead of us saw him on the way, stopped him and made him go back and open the temple! Thanks to them, we didn’t have to go disappointed.
Yogananda Narasimha temple
From here, we drove to the Yogananda Narasimha temple very close by. All these temples have been renovated in recent times.
It is a wonder how people of the ancient times managed to trek to all these places and install idols of Lord Narasimha, wonder whose great idea it was !
Back at lower Ahobilam, we were famished. We quickly packed our stuff, made one last visit to the administrative office to thank them for their help, clicked a picture of the Prahalada Varada Temple, the main temple and took leave of Ahobilam.
We promised ourselves that we would come back again and complete the treks to the other temples that we couldn’t do in this trip.
We then drove to Allagadda for lunch, the Abhiruchi hotel on the highway was supposed to be famous. How famous it was, we came to know, only after reaching there and finding the place overflowing with people ! We had to wait for half an hour to find a place to sit, it was an agonising wait because we were hit by severe hunger pangs ! Our patience paid off when we were served a delicious Andhra meal, a fitting end to our tiring adventure.Starting the journey back by 3.30 PM, we reached Hyderabad in 6 hours.
People go on these treks and visit the temples to seek Divine blessings, as you walk through the mountains and the forests, listening to the songs of nature, you realise that Divinity does not exist only in the temples but resides in every bit of nature, every single being – everything around us is Divine, we just have to feel the oneness with it !
That was the philosophy part of it. The stiff, painful muscles and body aches – that is a story for another day !