Travelling in a bus in South India if you suddenly see beautiful mountains capped lush with enchanting sound of Om Namah Shivay then it must be Bhramaramba Mallikarjunaswamy Srisailam or what is popularly called Srisailam.
It is the second shrine on the Dwadash(Twelve) Jyortirlinganga Circuit.
The place is believed to be witness to all yugas-Sata,Dwaper,Treta and Kaliyug as per Hindu mythology.The place is also known as Southern Kashi. Srisailam recently hit headlines with Bolywood Superstar Amitabh Bachhan announcing donation of Rs.1 crore to Srisailam.
Srisailam has its own identity among the twelve Jyotirlingas. The elegant temple, beautiful greenary and picturesque setting attracts millions of devotees every year. Srisailam is located in Kurnool district of Central Andhra Pradesh. The ancient and sacred temple of Srisailam is of great historical and religious significance.
It is situated on the south bank of the river Krishna, in the Nallamalai forest, on a hill. “Sri Mallikarjunam” and “Sri Parvatham” are its other popular names. The temple is also the seat of Mahakali in the form of Bhramaramba. The most appealing feature of this temple is that any one irrespective of his cast or creed can not only enter the temple, but can also touch the deity and worship here.
Interestingly,the whole area is believed to den of Naxals and few years back,evening travelling was not allowed by the authorities.
One of India’s largest tiger reserves, the Nagarjunasagar Srisailam Sanctuary (Now named Rajiv Gandhi Reserve Forest), is spread over 3568 sq. km across five districts of Andhra Pradesh. You will be amazed at the abundance of wildlife in Srisailam. The Srisailam Sanctuary shelters blackbuck, panthers, chinkara, spotted deer, nilgai, pangolins, leopards, soft-shelled turtles, porcupines, crocodiles and a variety of other animals, birds and snakes, in addition to the tiger.
Bhramaramba Mallikarjunaswamy Srisailam has 8 gates. Shiva and Parvati are worshipped here in the form of Mallikarjuna and Bhramaramba Devi. Shiva’s sacred bull Vrishabha is said to have performed penance at the Mahakali temple till Shiva and Parvati appeared before him as Mallikarjuna and Brahmaramba. Brahmaramba is one of the 18 Shakti Peethas .It is said that Shakti Peethas gives will power, knowledge power, and work power to its devotees.
Lord Rama himself installed the Sahastralinga, while the Pandavas lodged the Panchapandava lingas in the temple courtyard. Heroic legends from the Mahabharata and Ramayana are sculpted in stone on the temple walls and the Mahabharata epic refers to Srisailam as Sri Parvata – the blessed hill. Demon King Hiranyakashiyapu is also worshipped at Srisailam. During the Karnataka Movement, Chatrapati Shivaji used to come to have a Darshan of the JyotirLinga during the Maharatri.
Why Southern Kashi ?
Kashi or Varanasi in north India is situated between the rivers Varuna and Asi and it has many ghaats with temples. Same is with Srisailam and hence it is also known as Southern Kashi.
Ancient story:Mallikarjuna Swamy
When Kumar Kartikeya returned to Kailash after completing his trip around the earth, he heard about Ganesha’s marriage from Narada. AngryKartikey left for Krounch Mountain. Parvati was very upset on being away from her son. She requested Lord Shiva to look for their son. Together, they went to Kumara. But, Kumara went away a further three Yojanas, after learning about his parents coming after him to Krouncha Mountain. Before embarking on a further search for their son on each mountain, they decided to leave a light on every mountain they visited. From that day, that place came to be known as JyotirLinga Mallikarjuna. It is believed that Shiva and Parvati visit this palce on Amavasya (No moon day) and (full Moon day) Pournami, respectively. Visiting this JyotirLinag not only blesses one with innumerable wealth, but also name and fame and fulfils all the desires.
Once, a princess named Chandravatidevi decided to go to the Jungles to do penance and meditation. She chose Kadali Vana for this purpose. One day, she witnessed a miracle. A Kapila cow was standing under a Bilwa tree and milk was flowing from all of its four udders, sinking into the ground. The cow kept doing this as a routine chore everyday. Chandravati dug up that area and was dumb founded at what she saw. There was a self-raising Swyambhu SivaLinga. It was bright and shining like the sun rays, and looked like it was burning, throwing flames in all directions. Chandravati prayed to Siva in this JyotirLinga. She built a huge Shiva Temple there. Lord Shankara was very pleased with her. Chandravati went to Kailash wind borne. She received salvation and Mukti. On one of the stone-inscriptions of the temple, Chandravatidevi’s story can be seen carved out.
Mallikarjuna Swamy temple:
The beautiful temple with its imposing gopurams is a spectacular sight. A large idol of nandi facing the sanctum presides over a pillared hall. The door to the sanctum is silver plated. To its left is the idol of Ratnagarbha Ganapati. To the right are Virbhadra Swamy and Bhadrakali.The small black linga has a hooded golden cover.The garbhagriha is small and only temple priests are allow.To the north of the sanctum is five lingas installed by Pandavas.
A demon named Arunasura acquired immense power after he pleased Brahma with his devotion. He received boon that any creature with two or four legs would not be able to kill him.He became a menace.Devas thus went to goddesss Durga and requested to destroy Arunasur.Goddess agreed and she destroyed the demon by releasing thousands of bees (Bhramara),which have six legs. They stung the asura to death. Goddess Durga remained in Srisailam in the name of Bhramarambika.
Bhramramba Devi Temple:
The beautiful temple has its unique style. The door leading to the sanctum is covered with silver. The idol of the devi has eight hands and beautifully decked up in neatly pleated silk sari. One can watch kumkum puja by suhasinis (Married women)as seva to the goddess.
Patronage of Srisailam
Srisailam is a wonderful place to see India’s ancient architecture. It is said that ruling period of Reddy Rajus was the golden age of Srisailam. During this age they make Srisailam become popular visiting place to devotees with the effort of construction of steps to reach Srisailam. They also constructed Mandapam in the temple premises. It is said that devotees offered their body parts viz tongue, hands, legs, and head to god in this Virasiro Mandapam .
Another important dynasty that struggle for the development of Srisailam was Vijayanagara rulers. 2nd Harihararaya was constructed south facing shrine. Srikrishna Devaraya declared Srisailam as a separate state. He took up constructions for temple Rajagopuram, rest shelters for pilgrims on both sides to chariot street. Srikrishna Devaraya carved a wall around the temple with rich sculpture.
Ruler of Maharashtra, Chhatrapathi Sivaji also strived for the development of Srisailam. He took up works like construction of North shrine to the temple and allotted some money for the maintenance of temple and allotted separate army force for the protection of the temple.
Ahelyadevi Holkar, a great devotee of Siva built a strong bathing wharf consisting of 852 steps on the banks of the Patalganga.
Each year millions of devotees visit Srisailam. The temple opens at 4:30 am and closes at 10:00 pm. However for general devotees the temple opens at 6:30 am and closes at 9:30 pm .Like Tirupati Balaji,the Srisailam temple also has ticket and without ticket facility for the devotees. One can stand in a long queue for Darshan and also has a option to take ticket of Rs.50 or Rs.100(VIP). In the general queue in the peak season it takes 2 to 3 hours, while queue of ticket holders takes 30 minutes to one hour. The devotee who wants to perform Abhishek has to take ticket of Rs.600.00.The ticket allows only married couple or single person. The charge includes Pooja material and Prasad for Mallikarjuna Swamy temple.
There are different charges at Bhramaramba temple. For kumkum pooja one has to take ticket of Rs.350.00.
When to Go?
During Makarsankranti, Ugadi, Mahashivaratri and Holy Shravan month, the temple remains heavily crowded. It is peak time. It is advisable to go during other time.
There are very good hotels of Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation at Srisailam. The charge is between Rs.500 to Rs.1000 for one room, two bed accomodation for one day. Besides there are few guest houses, who charge from Rs.200 to Rs.1000.
Interestingly, one who visits Srisailam has to savour south Indian food as hotels do not cater to other taste.
Places around Srisailam:
Each devotee who is going to Srisailam is supposed to visit Sakshi Ganapati temple. As the name denotes, Ganpatiji is a sakshi(witness) to a devotees visit and is thus first place to worship here. It is one km before Srisailam temple.
Five springs assemble here and thus the place is known as Paladhara Panchadhara. It is the historical place where Adi Shankaracharya worshipped Lord Shiva and created Shivanandlaheri and Saundarya Laheri.
In India big rivers were worshipped as Ganga. Here Krishna River is also known as Ganga.
This is a very beautiful place just on the outskirts of Srisailam. Three rivers-Krishna, Tungbhadra and Bhima meet here and hence the place is called Patalganaga. The visitor can go to the river side by rope-way (charge: Rs.30 per person) and can also take Boatride (Rs.30 per person).There is a Ghaat for bathing.
After completion of Darshan at Srisailam, the devotee has to visit Shikhareshwara Temple, 8 km away from Srisailam. It is situated at the height of 2811 feet. One can get a view of the Srisailam temple through the space between horns of the Nandi idol here. It is said that if one can see the Dhwaja of Srisailam, one can get moksha. Bionoculars are also available (Rs.2 per person).The temple is situated at the heighest point in this region.
Chenchulaxmi Tribal Museum:
This is a tribal museum showcasing tribal style and it is just on the outer side of Srisailam temple premises.
How to Go?
From Ahmedabad one has to go upto Secunderabad-Hyderabad. The distance is approximately 1400 km. Trains are available (Once or twice in a week).These are 7038 Bikaner Sec,7203 Bhavnagar Kakinada and 7017 Rajkot Secunderabad Express, which take 24 hours to reach. After reaching there one has an option to take state road transport bus. There are frequent buses available from Secunderabad ST Bus station and normal bus has fare of Rs.110 and luxury bus charges Rs.120 per person. The distance is 222 km from Hyderabad. The bus takes 6 hours to reach.
There is also best package available. Andhra Pradesh Torism Development Corporation (APTDC) has a package of Rs.660.00 per person. This include fare for both sides, site seeing and one night accomodation at Srisailam. The bus starts at 9:00 from Secunderabad and return second day at 7:00 p.m.