Mahanandi, sixteen kms from Nandyal, in Kurnool district, is famous for its ancient Shiva temple and water pools. The drive from Nandyal, a busy marketing town, is past paddy fields and forests, and truly spectacular.
Sri Mahanandiswara Swamy temple in Mahanandi is located in the picturesque village of Thimmapuram, a scenic spot on a gorge of ravishing beauty, amidst thick forests, to the east of the Nallamalas. It was here, according to legend, that Shiva accepted Nandi's prayer to become His vehicle. In a radius of 15 km of Thimmapuram are nine Nandi temples, known as Nava Nandis. Sri Mahanandeeswara Swamy temple is the most important of them. The Chalkyas of Badami built this 7th century temple. Tablets belonging to the 10th century speak of the various kings and dynasties that have patronized this temple.
There is a shrine for the Navagrahas, after which is the sanctum. Devotees with abishekam tickets can perform the ritual to the Lingam. By the side of the sanctum is the shrine of Sri Kameswari Ammavaru. At the rear is Sri Kodanda Ramaswamy shrine. Beyond the huge courtyard, in a separate enclosure, is Sri Vinayaka Nandi shrine. This is the second of the nine Nandis. A bit away from the temple is Sri Garuda Nandi shrine. Surya Nandi, Naga Nandi, Soma Nandi and Prathama Nandi shrines are in Nandyal, while Vishnu Nandi is in the nearby forest. Shiva Nandi is in Kalamula Kaluva.
According to the sthala purana, Nanda Maharishi performed such intense penance that a putta (anthill) formed around him. As years passed, a shepherd noticed one of his cows releasing milk from its udders over the anthill. He reported the matter to the king. The king hid himself at a distance and saw the cow discharging milk over the anthill. A young boy then appeared from nowhere and told him of a Lingam hidden in the anthill. Later that night the king had a dream in which he was told by Lord Shiva that it was He who appeared before him in the form of the boy. The greatful king then raised a shrine over the Lingam. The temple owes its present importance to Sri Mahanandhayya, belonging to the priestly class, who did much to popularize the shrine. The Kodanda Ramaswamy shrine is a recent addition, built in 1953.
There are two pools outside the temple, which are fed by a torrent from another source, The source is a sparkling clean pool inside the temple, near the sanctum. The pool is 5.6 sq metres (around sixty sq ft), with a mandapam in the middle. So crystal clear is the water that you can see the pebbles underneath. Water from the mountains though the exact source is yet to be identified surfaces at the sanctum sanctorum (garbagriha), just below the swayambhu Lingam, and from there enters this pool. Water from here automatically gets into the two pools outside the shrine. An outlet takes the water to the villages nearby, irrigating in the process more than 2,000 acres of prime agricultural land. The inlets and outlets are so arranged that water is kept at a constant level of 1.51 metres (five feet) in the main pool, irrespective of the seasons.
The grand shine is set in the foothills of the Nallamala Ranges, and surrounded by lush green fields and forests, the hills providing a wonderful backdrop. In the outskirts, on the road to Nandyal, is a huge nandi. This is a recent addition, built of concrete.
How to get there:
Mahanandi is only 16 km from Nandyal, a major commercial centre. Those coming from Ahobilam should come via Allagadda to Nandyal. Allagadda is approximately 50km from Nandyal. Nandyal is also the nearest railway station, on the Vijayawada-Guntakal section. Hyderabad (219 km) is the nearest airport. Accommodation: Aplenty, both in Mahanandi and in Nandyal.
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