Even the cardinal directions have assumed symbolic significance in Pauranic culture. Obviously context should be taken into account when divining the meaning of a symbol, but north, for example, is said to be the abode of the Self because from the immortal ‘northern’ position the Self looks out on the ‘southern’ world of time and death. The idiom to “head south’ means to go downhill, to decay. The God Dakshinamurthy whose name means ‘the one facing south’ and whose idol (murthy) is installed in the Kalahasti Temple, sits in the North and faces south. East often represents the dawning of wisdom, the sun being another common Self symbol. The symbolic use of direction culminates in the idea of building temples at the point on a river where its meandering points it back to its source. The holiest city in India, Benaras, is built on a stretch of the Ganges that flows northward, the idea being that when the mind turns back toward its source, the God/Self, it realizes its innate divinity. So, the small river on whose banks the Kalahasthi temple is situated is meant to remind us of the Ganges and the wealth of spiritual associations it conjures.
The Vedas posit four ends for which human beings strive in their search for happiness: pleasure (kama), security or wealth (artha), duty (dharma) and freedom (moksha). In the temple at Kalahasti these four universal motivations, which may take any worldly form, are, according to temple literature, converted into spiritual impulses. They are represented by four deities facing in the four cardinal directions. Shiva in the form of Dakshinamoorthy represents desire, in this case the desire for liberation, although he more commonly is said to represent the feeling of wealth (dakshina) that comes when you know who you really are. At Kalahasti the Goddess Gnanaprasoonamba (the giver of knowledge or the mother of all knowledge) represents the ‘wealth’ i.e. freedom from limitation conferred by Self knowledge. The deity Kalahastishwara (the lord of Kalahasti) faces west and symbolizes liberation. Liberation, the death of ego upon the rediscovery of the Self, is the final stage of life just as setting is the sun’s last act before it disappears over the horizon.
The Tamil Cholas and the Vijayanagara Rulers have made several endowments to this temple. Adi Sankara is said to have visited this temple and offered worship here. There are Chola inscriptions in this temple which date back to the 10th century CE. The Telugu poem 'Sri Kalahasti Satakam' explains the traditions associated with this temple.Muthuswamy Deekshitar, one of the foremost composers in the Karnatic Music Tradition has sung the glory of this temple in his kriti 'Sree Kaalahasteesa'.
Sri Krishnadevaraya built a huge gopuram in 1516, a few feet away from the entrance to the temple. The entrance to the temple is crowned with a smaller tower. There is an underground Ganapati shrine in the outer prakaram, while in the innermost prakaram are the shrines of Shiva and Parvati. This ancient gopuram over the main gate, which is 36.5 meters (120 feet) high and the entire temple is carved