Silathoranam -- The Natural Arch in Tirumala Hills

Natural Arch, Tirumala hills is a distinctive geological wonder located 0.6 miles North of the Tirumala hills temple. The Arch is also called Silathoranam (శిలాతోరణం)in local Telugu language (Telugu language: “Sila” means ‘rock’ and “thoranam” means a garland strung over a threshold, connecting two vertical columns or an ‘arch’ as in this case). The arch measures 8 m (26.2 ft) in width and 3 m (9.8 ft) in height, and is naturally formed in the quartzites of Cuddapah Supergroup of Middle to Upper Proterozoic (1600 to 570 Ma) due to natural erosive forces.

The arch is one of the few natural arches or bridges in Asia. But there are many others in other continents, such as the Rainbow Bridge (Arch) and Arches National Park in Utah, USA which depicts 2000 sandstone arches, the Durdle Door arch in Dorset and the Arch of Cut Through in UK, Pravčická brána in Bohemian Switzerland, in Czech Republic, Pont d'Arc in Southern France, Rainbow cave arch in the Galilee Israel, El Arco de Cabo San Lucas in Mexico and London Arch in Australia


Myths behind this Natural Arch

Mythological folklore related to the arch, linked to the famous Tirumala hills temple of Lord Venkateswara, has three versions.

According to one version, the arch resembles the hood of a serpent, a conch (Sanskrit: Shank) and a discus (Sanskrit: chakra) – all symbols of worship in Hindu religion – and considered to be the source of the Idol of Lord Venkateswara or Lord Balaji at the Tirumala hill temple.

The second version is that the main deity in the Tirumala temple is of the same height as the height of the arch.

The third version is that Lord Vishnu (Hindu God) called as Balaji or Venkateswara (the Central deity of Sri Vaishnava tradition) at the Tirumala temple town, is supposed to have put his first foot down at a place called Padalu or Srivari Padalu (శ్రీ వారి పాదాలు)(Telugu language: Divine foot prints) which is the highest point of Tirumala hills, the second step at the location of the arch. Thereafter, the next step is stated to have been placed where his idol is now worshipped in the temple at Tirumala




Science behind this Natural Arch

In the 1980s, during excavations for a geological fault in the Tirumala hills, geologists found this rare geological formation of the rock arch which has two dissimilar sets of rocks with a connecting thin link. The assessed geological age of the rock arch is 2.5 billion years. Formation of the arch is attributed to intensified weathering and erosion of stream action that has withstood the torque of nature.This is a rare geological fault which is technically called in the geological idiom as ‘Eparchean Unconformity’.


How to reach this place ?

The approach road from the temple is wide and is an avenue of trees. Private vehicles are allowed to the location. A 20-minute walk from the Varahaswamy temple in Tirumala would be a pleasant experience.

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