Simhachalam is about 16km north of Visakhapatnam. Simha means “lion”, and chalam means “hill”. There is the famous Varaha Narasimha Temple here.
Near the foot of the hill is the sacred Pushkarini bathing tank. There is a perpetual spring called Gangadhara by the Varaha Narasimha temple that is said to have medicinal properties. To get to Gangadhara, if you are standing facing the temple entrance, you proceed to the left until the end of the road, then turn right and again go to the end of the road.
Varaha Narasimha Temple (Jiyada-Narasimha)
This temple, whose Deity is known as Varaha Narasimha Swami, is on top of a 240m (800 ft) hill about 16km northeast of Visakhapatnam. This Deity is about ¾m (2½ ft) high. He has a two-armed human form, but he has the head of a boar and the tail of a lion, thus making him unique. Simhachalam is one of the 108 Divya Desam temples and is one of the major Vishnu temples in India.
The priests daily apply layers of candana (sandalwood paste) to the Lord’s body to cool his great anger. The sandalwood is removed only once a year during the Vaishaka period (April/ May), bringing thousands of pilgrims on that day to see the Lord’s form. The original Deity is situated within the depths of the temple, but another Deity known as the vijaya-murti stands on the altar. When you come close for darshan, what you actually see is the Lord covered by a mound of dried sandalwood paste.
Priests, who generally belong to the Ramanuja-sampradaya (Sri-sampradaya), are in charge of the Deity worship. Ramanuja visited here in the 11th century. Sri Chaitanya came here.
As you approach the temple, the view of the high gopurams and elaborate carvings is impressive. The temple was built in the 13th century by a military commander of Narasimha I, who also built the Konark temple near Puri. It is a combination of Orissan and Chalukyan styles of architecture. The temple buildings are black granite, and carved into the rock are the forms and pastimes of Vishnu, especially in his incarnation of Lord Narasimha.
North of the temple, outside the enclosure, is the Kalyana-mandapa, which has 96 intricately carved pillars. Here there are many sculptures of Lord Narasimha and other Vishnu incarnations, such as Matsya and Dhanvantari.
According to the priests, a visit to this temple will bless barren persons with offspring. Just outside the Deity room, in the mukha-mandapa (hall), is a pillar named Kappam Stambham, which is decorated with cloth and surrounded by silver plates and flower garlands. Women can be seen embracing this pillar and praying with great devotion, asking the Lord to fulfill their desire for children.
The powerful demon Hiranyakasipu told his servants to throw his son xe “Prahlada” Prahlada into the sea at this place and to set a mountain over him. Lord Vishnu jumped over the hill and lifted Prahlada from the sea, thus rescuing Prahlada from his demoniac father. The Lord is said to have tilted the hill so Prahlada could escape from underneath it.
On Prahlada’s request, the Lord then assumed the form of the Varaha-Narasimha Deity so Prahlada could see both of the Lord’s aspects—the one by which he had killed Hiranyaksa and the one by which he would kill Hiranyakasipu. After he was granted this sight, Prahlada is said to have built a temple around the Deity. Over thousands of years the temple deteriorated and was later found by Pururava, who is mentioned in the Ninth Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Upon discovery, Pururava heard a voice from the sky telling him to cover the Deity with sandal paste and to expose him only once a year on Candana-yatra (the Vaishaka-trtiya in April or May). Pururava covered the Deity with sandal paste and rebuilt the temple, which has flourished ever since.
On Candana-yatra, the priests break the Deity’s sandalwood covering and the Lord can be seen directly. This event takes place on Aksaya-tritiya, the third day of the first half of the month of Vaishaka (April–May). The sandalwood covering is taken off and the Deity is then ceremonially bathed. In the evening, the Deity is again covered with sandalwood.
The Kalyanotsava Festival celebrates the marriage of the Lord to his eternal consort, Lakshmi. It is performed with all the rituals and fire sacrifices of a traditional Hindu wedding. It begins on the 11th day (Ekadasi) in the first half of the lunar month of Chaitra (March–April) and continues for five days till Purnima, the full moon day.
There are simple guesthouses by the temple.
Adivivaram, the village at the foot of the hill, is 4km from the Simhachalam Railway Station.
From Visakhapatnam the #6A bus goes to Simhachalam. You get this bus at the side of the RTC bus stand and you get off at the last stop. Once you get to the Simhachalam station, walk out of the station, turn right, and walk a few minutes to get to the bus that goes to the top of the hill. You can also approach the temple by climbing the hill, which has about 800 steps. Once you are on top of the hill you are directed to enter the temple through a side entrance.