The Shiva Shrine manifested for one of the five key elements of nature, the Air. The other four elements being sky, water, land and fire for which there are manifestations of Shiva temples in the state of Tamil Nadu. These are also called Pancha Bootha Sthals.
There are several legends connected to the glory of the Kalahastheeswarar temple. One such famous and interesting legend is as follows. Once, Vayu Deva was performed a hard penance for thousands of years and Lord Shiva got pleased of the penance. So he granted the boon to Vayu Deva that Lord Shiva will be worshipped after the name of Vayu Deva and the shrine will be a prominent place of worship with the Lord's name as Vayu Lingam.
This temple is a testimony for the fact that anyone who has an voracious devotion to God can attain his feet. The history says that the hunter kannappa was a dedicated devotee of the Lord and he was readily willing to donate both of his eyes to stop the bleeding from the God's idol. Thus he egot elevated and honored to be one of the six three saints glorifying the benovalence of god with the name “Kannappa Nayanaar”.
Like other famous monuments and temples across the world, this temple also has witnessed the various dynasties. The construction of this temple was started in the 5th Century by the Pallava Kings and completed by the Chola Kings in the 10th century.
There are many epigraphic evidences that the temple has been functioning in a flourished manner with the endowments and offerings given by the various Kings of different reigns. It is worth mentioning that, there is a hundred pillared hall in which the intricate carvings commissioned by the Vijayanagara King Krishnadevaraya portrays the aesthetic culture of our ancestors.
The style of architecture is a mixture of different regimes ruled the city from time to time. It is an architectural wonder that the 120 feet main tower called RajaGopuram, which was built by the Vijayanagara King Krishnadeva Raya as a commemoration of his victory over the Gajapathi Kingdom during the 15th century. There was a bronze idol of the King in the bottom front portion of the tower. Unfortunately, there was a crack found in the tower 25 years ago, developed as a vertical fissure and the tower collapsed in May 2010. A new more taller tower has been built on the still strong base and the consecration ceremony was conducted during January 2017.
The temple is in the south facing directions whereas the sanctum faces the west. The Lingha idol is made up of white stone looking like the trunk of an elephant. The temple is situated in the foothills of a hill and is believed that the temple is constructed as a rock-cut monolithic hill. There is also a rock-cut of shrine of Vinayaga, which is a 9 feet image, situated at the base of the hill. As found in other temple, this shrine also houses various sub-shrines for the devotees to worship. The temple is constructed adjoining the durgamma hill , kannappa hill and kumarasamy hill on the other three directions.
There is a separate shrine with the courtyard for the consort of the Lord Kalahastheewwarar, with the name Gnanaprasunnambigai. The Goddess is believed to be more powerful fulfilling the prayers of her devotees. In Tamil, She is called as Gnanapoongothai meaning “Woman of Wisdom”.
The temple is also called “Dakshina Kaasi” that is just how Kasi is a holy place for Hindus in North India, this place is equally sacred. The name Sri Kalahasthi relates to the story where a spider, a snake and an elephant attained the lotus of the God as a reward for their dedication and devotion towards the Lord. “Sri” means Spider, “Kala” means Snake and “Hasthi” means Elephant, thus the Lord is called.
Though the temple is situated in Andhra Pradesh, the temple and the Gods are very close to the heart of the people from Tamil Nadu, may be because the other four shrines of Pancha Bootha Sthals are situated in Tamil Nadu, namely Tiruvanaikoil (Water), Kanchipuram(Land), Chidhambaram(Air), Tiruvannamalai(Fire). The persons following Saiva tradition have a desire of visiting all the five temples at least once in their life time.
The rituals and poojas are performed following the saivaite tradition in this temple.The sub shrines also enjoys the rituals performed four times every day.
Apart from the other festivals, “Maha Shivarathri” is a major festival celebrated in this temple celebrated in a very grand manner. Lakhs of devotees visit this temple during this festival. Arrangements are made in a pomp manner, special functions are arranged and the celebration extends for a period of thirteen days. Maha Shivarathri Brahmothsavams are conducted and during that time, the processional deities of the Lord and Goddess are taken out in procession around the temple.
By Road : Kalahasthi is at a distance of 38 kilometers from Tirupathi, 110 kilometers from Chennai, 545 kilometers from Hyderabad and 300 kilometers from Bangalore. TNSTC and KSRTC operate buses from Chennai and Bangalore very frequently.
By Train : There is a railway station at Kalahasthi. Trains are operated form Vijayawada, Hyderabad and Kolkata. The nearest railway jjunction which is a distance of 25 kilometers from Kalahasthi is Renigunta. Trains plying to Chennai and Mumbai stop at this junction where the temple is at an easy reach.
By Air : Tirupati is the airport closest to Kalahasthi at a distance of 25 km. Daily flights are operated from Delhi, Hyderabad and Bangaluru.