It was in October 2007 that we decided to visit Srisailam; well, I really have no idea how it took another year though to get the same going! Anyway 7 became 8, but we did go in October. Shayaad time time pe likha hai aane waale ka naam ;).
Srisailam, Mahanandi, Ahobilam and Mantralayam were part of our itinerary, but we had to skip Mantralayam this time around, the time factor coming into play.
Su’s colleague, who hails from Nandyal suggested we visit Yaganti and Borra caves(known to be the longest cave structure in South India); so, it meant either “Shrink to fit” or get the best possible of whatever we visit atleast and visit the other place at peace next time around. Finally, it boiled down to “Srisailam, Mahanandi, Yaganti, Belum Caves and Ahobilam”.
So, we set out on Gandhi Jayanthi day at around 5 a.m in the morning (No night journey possible owing to the Tiger Reserve). Well-laid roads in the midst of dense Nallamalai forests(‘Nalla’ means beautiful and ‘malai’ means hill; Felt like I have never seen ghats these dense anytime before), nice comfortable AC Innova, beautiful places to visit(as we had heard and seen and read), what better way to celebrate Navaratri? Yes, our Navratri2008 was in Kurnool district .
Options for breakfast etc.. are minimal on the way. I had read somewhere that Dindi is an option but that too had horrible Idlis and Dosas(if u can call them so atleast) to offer and the Parle-G biscuits were all we could rely on. Other than that,you can only find a few dhabas on the way and thats it.
Srisailam offers a unique mix of devotional and adventure tourism. On the way, about 40 kms before Srisailam, around 8 kms via another route is located the beautiful Mallela Theertham falls. Amidst lush greenery, you need to climb down about 300 steps or so to reach down here. Owing to rains and also some unfortunate incident of a boy having drowned there shortly before we arrived, we could not spend much time there nor get any snaps; but this place is definitely worth a halt on the way to Srisailam. This place is a nice option for trekking too.
The presiding Deities of this kshetram, Lord Mallikarjuna Swamy is one of the twelve Jyothirlingas and Goddess Bhramaramba Devi is one of the eighteen Mahasakthis and both are self-manifested. The unique feature of this kshetram is the combination of Jyothirlingam and Mahasakthi in one campus, which is very rare and only one of its kind.
On the way to Srisailam, just as we are about to enter the ghat, is the Umamaheswar Shrine. U can see an indication that we have to travel downwards for around 8 kms. Another place worth visiting.
View from Umamaheswar shrine
Also, caught a glimpse of the Srisailam dam on the way.
U will be surprised to see the geometric aptness of the mountain ranges here; so uniform structures.
Ain’t it like a trapezium?
How about this one?
I had already booked the Abhishekam tickets for Srisailam online for the next morning @ 6:00 a.m, as that seva would entitle us to touch the Jyotirlingam and perform Abhishekam ourselves; the only thing we knew would be difficult but could not book was the accommodation. Srisailam was heavily crowded and after much juggling around for almost 3 hrs, we were finally able to get a room; a pretty decent one at that at the APTDC run Haritha. Careful about accommodation before you get to Srisailam; its either the caste-based accommodations (choultry as they are called) available or the ones run by the tourism department; so make sure to book them through any APTDC office before getting there.
The Haritha restaurant provides decent food; alternately, you can also eat out at the many choultries even if you dont stay there. We did eat out at one choultry during our stay there and they serve really nice, hot food there at no cost; if u are interested, you can donate what ever u would like to. Not many options for food outside either.
Well, now that we had a room, we got fresh, had some lunch and set out to visit a few places around. All places in Srisailam are of great historic and spiritual significance.
First we visited Sakshi Ganapathi Shrine. The traditional belief is that the Ganapathi in this temple keeps regular account of all the pilgrims to tender ‘Sakshyam’ (evidence) of their visit to this Kshetram and so named as Sakshi Ganapathi. The sculpture of this deity is exquisitely made holding a book in the left hand and a pen in the right hand in such a way as noting down the names of devotees.
We then decided to visit Patalaganga; A ropeway ride takes u down to the Patalaganga at nominal rate of Rs.30 (to and fro) where people take bath , worship the River Krishna etc…;you can also opt for a boat ride before coming back via the ropeway.
View from ropeway
View of sunset from the boat
Another view from the boat
Worshipping River Krishna
That was to end the sojourn for the day as it was getting dark; we went to the main temple abhishekam counter for collecting the items for the seva next day (as was mentioned in the ticket), had dinner and retired to bed.
Temple view at night; Deepavali in Dussehra
The temple elephant
We were supposed to be there for the seva the next morning at 6:00 a.m. The melody of the mangalavadyas (melodious instruments) and the vedamantras (hymns) fell on my ears and woke me up much before, and Su and I got ready to leave to the temple by 4:30 a.m itself. The APTDC Haritha is just a stone’s throw away from the main temple.
The Abhishekam was an experience in itself as each person [or couple] is allowed to perform the Abhishekam, apply the Vibhuti (sacred ash) onto the Jyotirlinga and is an experience which can really get the Kundalini rising in everyone.
After the Abhishekam, we paid a visit to the Bhramaramba Devi temple. The plan now was to visit Ista-Kameswari shrine (now from Kurnool to Prakasham district)
which is 21 Km to the east of Srisailam in the midst of dense, picturesque forest. The only way to get to this shrine is by hiring a Mahindra four-wheel drive; u will see why in the snaps below.
On the way to Istakameswari
NH-7 of the Istakameswari route 😛
We have to tread some distance on foot.
It is said that by having the Darshanam of Istakameswari, one can fulfill all his desires. The Goddess has a serene and beautiful smiling face which at once captures the attention of one and all. She sits in a small cave where we need to bend down and go to have her darshan; felt as though it reminds us of the fact that however high we try to rise ourselves in life and have the ego, pride whatever, in front of the Jaganmatha, all of us need to bow down in humility. The priest asks everyone to keep kunkum on the forehead of the goddess and u can see that her forehead as soft as any other human female.
Having prayed to IstaKameswari, the plan now was to have lunch, finish the local site-seeing and leave to Nandyal. Thanks to Su’s friend Sudheer, who suggested we stay in Nandyal rather than Mahanandi and also booked room for us in
a 3-star hotel. Nandyal is a nice place with all facilities and we also found a nice Udupi Restaurant for Petpuja while there. Nandyal was also easily accessible to all the remaining places in our itinerary (Mahanandi, Yaganti, Belum Caves and Ahobilam).
Before leaving for Nandyal, we visited Hemareddy Mallamma temple. The significance here is that Hemareddy Mallamma was an ardent devotee of Lord Siva and on obtaining his vision, tears of joy welled down her eyes and even to date, tears flow down 24×7 and we can see the same flowing down.
On the way here, we can also see the Panchamathams, which played an important role in the History and Cult of Srisailam. They are well associated with the religious and social activities of the temple in the medieval times. These Mathas acted as educational institutions dedicated to higher learing in various branches and catered to the intellectual and spiritual needs of the society. The historical inscriptions related to Srisailam speak about eleven Mathas in Srisailam. But only 5 Mathas are still in existence and all of them are in dilapidated condition. These Mathas are rich in sculptural and architectural wealth, where several Sivalingas were installed and worshipped since centuries. These Mathas also looked after the administration of the temple and its rituals.
Then we visited Phaladhara–Panchadhara (4 kms from the main temple), Hatakeswaram (another km away) and Sikharam , all on the way to Nandyal itself.
Tradition records that Bhagavan Adisankara performed penance at Phaladhara–Panchadhara and composed the famous Sivanandalahari here. This spot is located in a narrow valley approachable by a flight of steps where subterranean streams of pure water with musical sound reverberating the surroundings. According to local folk these streams are known as Phaladhara Panchadhara and these two signify their origin from the fore head of God Siva the Phaladhara (Phala = fore head, dhara = Stream) and denote the five aspects of Siva, the Panchadhara (Pancha = five, dhara = Stream). The water from this stream flows uninterrupted in all the seasons.
The Hatakeswaram shrine was very beautifully decorated with white and pink flowers and the priest here told us that Lord Siva gave darshan to a devotee who was a hatayogi here inside a pot and hence the Lord here is known as Hatakeswaram.
Sikharam is the highest peak of Srisailam and is located about 8 Km from the main temple . It is belived that mere glance of this Sikharam frees the human soul from the fitters of rebirth. The deity here is named as Veera Sankara Swamy and locally popularized as Sikhareswara Swamy.
Another place worth watching in Srisailam is the Akkamahadevi caves which we had to miss out as there is a boat to this place only at around 10 a.m or so and also leaves only if there are some 18 people. Since we were not sure of the same and also having to visit IstaKameswari shrine, we thought it was a blessing in disgusie to get us to Srisailam again and bid goodbye to the place. There are many other places also like the Bheemuni Kolanu which we heard from the locals who also added that accessibility to the same was really difficult.
Fond memories of Srisailam still remain and most probably will remain forever.
Still to come: Mahanandi, Yaganti, Belum and Ahobilam