Srikalahasti, a town on the banks of River Swarnamukhi, is one of the holy centres in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh. The township is close to Tirupati and is a part of the Tirupati Urban Development Authority (TUDA). Srikalahasti is one of the Pancha Bhoota Sthalams of Lord Shiva, the other being Tiruvannamalai, Chidambaram, Thiruvanaikaval and Kanchipuram.
The name of the town is a combination of three words, 'Sri' meaning a spider, 'Kala' meaning a serpent and Hasti meaning an elephant. As per mythology, these three creatures are believed to have worshipped Lord Shiva at the site to attain salvation. The religious centre known as Kalahasti or Dakshina Kailasam is referred to as a spiritual abode of Lord Shiva.
There are several testimonies in the form of religious shrines that date back to the pre-Christian era. Most of the Hindu shrines in and around the town have been constructed during the reign of Pallava, Chola and Vijayanagara kings.
The temple town is a combination of traditions, customs, myths and folklore, which is famous for the Srikalahasti shrine. The religious centres are a fine example of South Indian architecture, featuring well carved gopuram and delicately carved Dravidian structural designs. The religious centres are situated on high altitudes, providing a beautiful sight of the surroundings.
Srikalahasti has an ancient Shiva temple that has several mentions in Skanda Purana, Shiva Purana and Linga Purana. Several Tamil Shaivite saints had visited the shrine for seeking the blessings of Lord Shiva. The famous shrine of Srikalahasti was built by Kulothunga Cholan I, II and III during the 11th century. A huge mandapam was later added in the 16th century by Krishnadevaraya.
The festival of Maha Shivaratri is celebrated with great zeal in the Tamil month of Maasi, between February 15 and March 15. There are several processions of the deities during the festival, which are considered to be of high religious significance.
Travellers can reach Srikalahasti through air, rail and road from various parts of the country. The airport closest to the destination is located in Tirupati at a distance of 60 km from Srikalahasti. It is connected with Madurai, Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore. Chennai International Airport is nearest international airport to Srikalahasti.
The railhead of the town is situated on Tirupati-Vijayawada broad gauge rail, which is connected with all the major cities of India. Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation operates buses from Bangalore, Chennai, Naidupet, Nellore, Tirupati and Vijayawada for Srikalahasti.
October to March is the ideal time to explore Srikalahasti and pay homage at the shrines due to several festivals being celebrated during these months.