Sri Kalahasti is one of the Panchabootha sthalams (Five Elements Temple) of Lord Shiva representing 'Air'. The Linga is hence worshipped as 'Vaayu Linga'. The manifestaion of the Lord as Vaayu Linga has a legend to go with. While Lord Brahma engaged in creating Kailash as per the order of Lord Shiva, a piece of it fell off in the South and came to be known as Dakshina Kailash or Kalahasti. Lord Shiva manifested here as the 'Vaayu Linga'.
The popular legend has its say that a spider (Sri), a snake (Kala) and Hasti (an elephant) worshipped Lord Shiva here and attained Mukti. The spider wove a web around the Linga for its protection, the elephant cleaned the Linga with the water carried in its trunk and the snake placed a gem on the crest of the Lord to adorn Him.
The elephant unaware of the devotion of the others washed away the cobweb that was built around by the spider with the water and in the course knocked of the gem that adorned the Lord. The three entered into a mortal combat where all the three of them die, with the Lord emerging out of the Linga to bestow upon them the greatest boon of liberation. He then proclaimed that the Linga would henceforth be addressed as Kalahasteeswara conjoining the devotion of all the three.
The most important legend that goes along with the fame of the temple is that of Kannappa Nayanar, one of the 63 Nayanmars. Thinnan or Kannappa's worship though seemingly crude, was fragrant with devotion. A story that honours the right attitude on the pedestal than mere observance of rituals.
Thinnan washed the Linga with water carried in his mouth, adorned the Lord with the flowers held in his locks while his hands endeavored to carry freshly cooked meat to be offered to the Lord. One day to his astonishment, he found the Lord's eye bleeding. He tried by all means to treat the eye of his beloved Lord but of no avail. The panic stricken heart pushed him to pluck his own eye to treat the Lord. No sooner did he do this, the other eye of the Lord started bleeding. The grief stricken, one eyed Kannappa then placed his leg on the bleeding eye to mark the spot while he attempted with all eagerness to remove the second eye. Lo and behold !, Lord Shiva, on account of his selfless devotion appeared to liberate him totally of the darkness of world as well as life. Thinnan henceforth came to be known as Kannappan.
Kannapan is believed to be the reincarnation of Arjuna, the Pandava.
Read other legends associated with the temple & temple details on the Next Page