India is a secular country and has been a birthplace of many religions. Hinduism is most popular religion and is represented by the number of temples in all the nooks and corners of the country. One such temple is the Mahanandi temple or Mahanandiswara Swamy Devasthanam.
Mahanandi temple, situated inside thick forests east of Nallamala hills, is about 21kms from Nandyal, Andhra Pradesh, India. This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and his gate-guardian Nandi. It is an ancient shrine built 1,500 years ago and is encircled by 8 other Nandi shrines together called Nava Nandis.
Mahanandi Temple History
Local folklore tells an interesting story about this temple. Once there lived a sage called Silada in Nallamala forest. He only ate stones as food. He meditated on Lord Shiva and led a content life. He had no children and so his wife requested him to pray to the Lord for a child.
Lord Shiva, the ever benevolent, blessed them with a male child and both they named him Mahananda. The boy grew up and after his thread ceremony (Upanayanam), he immersed in meditation of Lord Shiva. Pleased with his devotion, Lord accepted Mahananda as his vahana or vehicle. Shiva converted him into a bull and took him along to Kailasam, his heavenly abode.
The Lord converted this place of Mahanandi birth into a sacred Kshetra and the water arising out of this place was made into a holy river or Thirtha.
Mahanandi Temple Architecture
The present temple structure was built a Nanda king. Folklore goes thus: A shepherd herded his cows near a village called Gopitavaram. A particular cow would enter a bush and ooze its milk in the area. It returned home with an empty udder. On investigation, an ant hole was found and a child would collect and drink this milk daily.
This routine reached the Nanda King’s ears. He came down to the village to investigate personally. The cow ran away and the child disappeared as soon as the king approached. At night, the king had a dream in which the Lord Shiva said that he was the child who consumed the milk. The Lord also directed the king to build a temple in honour at the location and at the same time installing nine nandis in and around an 80 kms radius. He also directed the Nanda king to construct a water tank which will be served by the Holy Ganga herself.
Thus began the construction of this holy site. A huge tank was dug out and was named Rudra Gunda. Two other tanks were built with the names Brahma Gunda and Vishnu Gunda. The water has never dried in these tanks and it also irrigates 2000 hectares of fertile land under cultivation
Special Architectural features of the temple
The Mahanandi Temple has three freshwater pools of which two are in the entrance and one is in the temple campus. Also called Kalyani or Pushkarni, these pools have been built in a special way. Some features of the holy tank are:
- The tank measures 60 square feet and has a mandapa(pavilion) in the centre;
- The inlets and outlets are arranged in such a way that the depth of water in the tank remains at a constant five feet;
- Water flow is the same in all seasons;
- Water emerges from the Swayambhu Lingam in the Garbhagriha(sanctum sanatorium);
- Water in this Pushkarini is lukewarm and is known to possess healing properties. Also water is warm in winter and cool in Summer
- The water leaving this pushkarini irrigates the fertile land around in the village
Festivals and special Poojas
Special sevas are a part of daily routine in this temple. Unlike most South Indian temples, you can go close and touch the Shiva Linga in Mahanandi Temple!
Mahashivaratri is observed with great fervour here. Special poojas and rituals are conducted all through this day.
Mahanandi Temple Accommodation
You can stay at one of the Hotels and Choultries in Mahanandi. Government backed APTDC Haritha Hotel Mahanandi provides hospitality services that is pocket friendly.
TTD Choultry has 28 Rooms which cost approximately Rs.400/-. Naga Nandi Sadnam has about 25 rooms and each room costs about Rs.200/-. Another Choultry Shilpakruti has 10 rooms costing Rs.200/- each. You can also stay in TTD Kalyana Mandapam or Dining Hall (Mini Kalyana Mandapam) paying Rs.7000/- and Rs.4,000/- respectively.
Route Map to Mahanandi Temple
The nearest railway station to Mahanandi temple is in Nandyal. Nandyal is about 21 kms from Mahanandi and you can cover this through Thimmapuram or through Giddalur Road taking a left diversion at Bovalkuntla cross.
Hyderabad airport is at a distance of 215 kms from Kurnool from where you can travel to Nandyal and then to Mahanandi.
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