I had no idea that Simhachalam, the town is different from the hill on which the temple is located. I found this out only late last night as I arrived at Simhachalam from Araku by train. So I stayed at Gopalapatnam where the train station named Simhachalam is located. The room costing only Rs. 130 per night was so basic and horribly unclean that I did not even bother to take note of its name. There are not many choices at Gopalapatnam.
An interesting fact about this temple is that the deity is covered in sandalwood. The paste is washed away only once a year to reveal the fearful face of Varaha with the body of Narasimha. This is a rare mix of two avatars in a single deity. He is named Varahalakshmi Narashimha Swamy. This image can be seen on a sculpture on the shikara.
The temple complex is today seeing lots of construction activity. A pillared corridor enclosing a courtyard is being built. A large hall is already nearing completion and it may serve as the venur for free meals. In fact, the bus from Simhachalam to the hill temple takes four rupees as contribution towards annadhanam. Since this is a place of pilgrimage, no photos are permitted inside the temple. However, the open ambulatory around the sanctum has lots of space even with the crowds. So if you stand there for minutes to make a sketch you will not be in anyone’s way. Even if you fish out your camera for a quick snap, no policeman will come and confiscate.
The outer walls of the garbha griha and the shikara over it are stunning pieces of art. The same can be said of the antarala, which has a broad low shikara with ribbed discs (similar to amalakas) that speak of Orissan influence. In one of the aedicules, instead of a deity there is a series of vertical stone slabs that give full ventilation to the anatarala. This is a feature rarely seen and is a first for me.
There is a stone chariot drawn by two horses. The wheel has diamond mouldings, beaded mouldings and triangular mouldings. These are interspersed with creeper, floral or kumbha motifs.
One of the most beautiful creations here is the Kalyana Mandapa. The pillars are superb. The capitals show countless variations of the lotus motifs. Lotuses are represented in many ways – pointed, elongated, broad, multi-layered, half-open, curled out. There is one exquisite octogonal pillar on which four five-headed nagas are sculpted such that each naga interwines its body with both the adjacent ones.