The ancient temple of Sri Kurmanadha with its highly glorified past and peerless history in the North Coastal District of Srikakulam is immensely popular among the Vaishnavas of Andhra Pradesh and the neighbouring state of Odisha.
Situated just 3 km away from Bay of Bengal in a remote village, the temple is visited by thousands of devotees for its illustrious past. The temple is dedicated to Sri Kurmanadha, the second Dasa Avatara or Kurma avatar (tortoise) of Lord Vishnu. This temple, looked after by the Simhachalam Devasthanam has several unique distinctions. The moolasthanam (central piece) is considered to be a Saligrama and is referred to as Sri Kurmam by the Puranas. The idol is a natural image not sculptured and is of a size of a large tortoise.
The head of the deity is in the form of Kurma (tortoise) and is represented by Vishnu Namam and the tail is represented by Saligrama gifted by Sri AdiShankaracharya. There is a shrine of Yogananda Narasimha Deva in front of the temple.
Sri Kurmam temple as per scriptures is encircled by Panchalinga Kshetras (five Shiva Temples) and Ashta (8) Tirthas spread over 20 miles circumference. The temple is located in a triangular area between rivers Nagavali, Vamsadhara and Bay of Bengal and regarded as Kaliyuga’s Vaikuntam.
It is also said that Balaraama on his south Indian pilgrimage to this temple ordained that Sri Kurmam be the only Kurma Kshetra in this world with no replicas be built for Kurmanadha anywhere. He dug the earth and subsequently the river Nagavali originated and flows in its Western periphery while Vamsadhara flows in its Northern periphery.
The Famous Five
The five Shiva temples in its periphery are Sri Uma Rudra Koteswara temple in Srikakulam, Shiva temple in Kalingapatnam, one each in Singapuram and Ippili villages and the last one is located adjacent to the SriKurmanadha main temple. The Ashta (8) Tirthas are- Narada Tirtham, Sudha Kundham, Chakra Tirtham, Madhava Tirtham, Kautilya Tirtham, Vakra Tirtham, Narasimha tirtham and Mahodadhi.
According to the Puranas the temple existed few million years ago and the outer structures are constructed many a time after dilapidation and the present structure is 700 years old. The references to the temple are available in Kurma, Vishnu, Padma and Brahmanda puranas. As per the scriptures Kurmaa avatar is considered as the second incarnation of the famous Dasha Avataaras of Lord Shri Maha Vishnu. The 8th Skanda of Bhagavatam refers to the classical legend of the Ksheera Sagara Madhanam where Lord Vishnu reincarnated himself into Kurmam (tortoise) to aid the Devatas and Rakshasas during the cosmic churning of the Ocean of milk to obtain nectar.
Another legend says that during Kruta Yuga a pious king Sweta Maharaja observed fierce penance for many years. To fulfill the wish of the King, Lord Vishnu manifested (Swayambhu) in this place in Kurma avatar. Later Lord Brahma overlooked the celestial rituals and consecrated the shrine with Gopala yantra.
According to the inscriptions on the temple dated back to 1281 the sacred place of Kurmakshetra was re-established by Sri Ramanujacharya under the influence of Jagannatha Deva at Jagannatha Puri, Odisha. Later the temple came under the influence of King of Vijayanagara. The deity was worshiped by the Vaishnavas of Madhvacharya sampradaya. Oriya inscriptions written by Sri Narahari Teertha a discipline of Sri Madhavacharya who later became king of Kalinga were thought to have reconstructed the temple in Orissan style.
A popular legend about the second Dhwajasthambha (flagpost) prominently believes that Sri Ramanujacharya prayed for Lord Vishnu at this temple in 11th century. The Deity facing East till then turned towards west to bless the Acharya. Henceforth a second Dhwajasthambha was installed as the deity was facing west since then.
Unique Features of Sri KurmanadhaTemple
- Unlike in most other temples the deity faces towards the west. Hence the temple has two Dhwajasthambas (flag posts) in east and west directions. As a rare feature, devotees are permitted to enter the Garbha gruha (sanctum sanctorum) to have closer darshan of the Lord.
- It is one of the few temples where Abhisekham is performed on a daily basis like the Shiva Temples.
- The place is referred to as Moksha Sthanam where last rites are performed for the deceased in the Swetha Pushkarini located in front of the temple. Swetha Pushkarini is said to have been created by Sudarshana Chakram. It is believed that Sri Maha Lakshmi, the consort of Lord Vishnu emanated from this lake and is adored with the name, Sri Kurma Naayaki. The goddess sits in a Varada Mudra posture seated on Garuda Vaahana.
- The lake is believed to have cosmic cleansing powers. So when people drop the Asthikas (ashes) they will eventually metamorphose into Salagramaas (Divine stones).
- Even mother Ganga is believed to take bath in this lake on Maagha Sudha Chaviti to cleanse her off the sins left by the devotees.
- The Prasadam of the Lord is said to possess mystic powers. There is a unique story behind the offering or the Prasadam. Post consuming this Prasadam, the celestial dancer Tilottama became devotional and renounced material things, King Subhaanga won war, devotee Vasu Deva got cured of leprosy and many more.
- The temple was visited by many great kings and Saints including Lava, Kusha, Balaraama, Sage Durvasa, Adi Shankaracharya, Ramanujacharya and Chaitanya Prabhu.
- Sri Kurmanadha bestows peace and bliss and is said to relieve the malifects of the Saturn (Sani doshas).
- This is the second temple in town with Durga Mata in Vaishno Devi form, the other one being the Vaishno Devi Mandir in Jammu and Kashmir.
- The temple is renowned for its rich architectural beauty. The intricate carvings of Lord Vishnu and other deities vouch for the mastery of skilled artisans.
- Stone sculptures of the temple peak resonate the Gandharva Shilpa Kala style.
The marvelous sculptures on the Eastern and Southern entrances are adorned with 108 pillars, where each pillar has a distinctly different carvings on it. Some of the pillars are seen hanging from the roof without any support from bottom.
- The stones on the floor of the Pradakshina Mandapam are believed to infuse magnetic energy into devotees through as they walk along this stretch.
- The ancient sculptures are painted in vegetable colors and resemble those of Ajantha- Ellora Caves.
- A KASI DWARAM or an underground tunnel to Varanasi is present in the North eastern corner of the Pradakshina Mandapa that speaks of the ancient engineering skills. This tunnel is now closed as wild animals and snakes are prone to enter the temple.
Like many temples in South India, to protect the temple from the onslaught of foreign invasion in 14th century locals applied limestone mix on the entire temple complex to camouflage it as a hillock. The solidified limestone peels are being removed even now and some are still visible on temple walls till date.
Important festivals celebrated in the temple are Dolotsavam (phaluguna pournami or Holi), Kalyanotsavam (Vaishaka Sudha Ekadasi), one day annual Janmadinam-Jayanthi (Jyesta Bahula Dwadasi and Mukkoti Ekadasi.
Another important attraction within the temple premises is the tortoise park.
Activities Inside The temple
Abhisekham is performed upon paying Rs 100 nominal price on behalf of devotees.
Akhanda Deeparadhana for Rs 51 for one day or Rs 1116 for one day in year permanently
Nitya Bhoghum for the Lord for Rs 300 for one day or Rs 3116 for one day in year permanently
Kalyanam for Rs 516 for one day or Rs 5116 for one day in year permanently
Arasavilli Sun Temple
Sri Mukha Lingam Shiva Temple
Sri Venkateswara Temple-Narayana Tirumala
Andhra Pradesh Tourism and Development Corporation (APTDC) offers comfortable accommodation in the Haritha Resorts at Visakhapatnam. Suitable accommodations can be availed at Srikakulam or at the Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanam Guest house in Srikurmam.
APTDC organises Non-AC coach one day tours that covers Arasavalli Sun Temple, SriKurmam, Buddhist Monastery, Kalingapatnam Beach and Srimukhalingam from Visakhapatnam.
Departure- 6:30 am Arrival- 8pm
Fare: Adult- Rs 800 and Child: Rs 640 (Fare includes Breakfast, Lunch, Tea/Snacks).
How To Reach
National Highway: The temple is located on the NH5 from Chennai to Kolkata.
By Road: 12 km from Srikakulam and 110km from Visakhapatnam
Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC) operates buses from Srikakulam to the temple every 10 minutes and nonstop buses from Visakhapatnam to Srikakulam buses run every 15 min.
By Rail: Nearest Station is Srikakulam Road which is 12 km from the temple
By Air: It is 115 km from Visakhapatnam airport.
Featured Image Courtesy – Wikipedia