I got the opportunity to visit the abode of the most merciful Lord Shiva and BhramarAmba on 30th and 31st May.
This was my third trip here. In my first trip, I came along with friend Anil MS and the second trip was with friends Ravishankar, Kenny and Jagadish.
In this third trip, I was alone or rather the better word is that this time I was accompanied by myself.
I booked the APSRTC tickets from Bangalore to ShriShailam about one week in advance. The return ticket I took only the day, I was supposed to start from Bangalore. There are two buses currently available from Bangalore. One is at 1720 Hrs and another is 1845 hrs. From ShriShailam to Bangalore, they are at 1500 Hrs and 1630 Hrs respectively.
The journey time is about 15 Hrs.
I reached Majestic bus stand on time. The weather was looking like about to rain. The bus started as per schedule.
It stopped at around 8 PM at Rajdhani Punjabi Dhaba for dinner. During last two visits also the bus had stopped at same place.
I took only Roti and Daal. I wanted to be light, as there was weather change involved also the exertion of the journey should not affect me physically, so light food was advised.
From Atmakur, Nagarjuna Tiger Reserve Forest area starts. The Bus takes around 3-1/2 hours from Atmakur to ShriShailam. ShriShailam comes in Nagarjuna Tiger Reserve.
Finally at around 9:30 AM, I was there.
It was drizzling a bit and hence the weather was pleasant.
I thanked the most merciful Lord for giving this opportunity again to me.
ShriShailam is reputed to be one of the most ancient kshetras in India. The shrine of Lord Mallikarjuna and mother BhramaraAmba is situated on a flat top of Nallamalai Hills, It is on the right side of the River Krishna in Kurnool District of Andhra Pradesh. This celebrated mountain is also named as Siridhan, Srigiri, Sriparvatha and Srinagam.
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. 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.
The epigraphical evidence reveals that the history of ShriShailam begins with the Sathavahanas. The earliest known historical mention of the Hill - ShriShailam, can be traced in Pulumavi’s Nasik inscription of 1st Century A.D.
The Second Harihararaya of Vijayanagara Empire constructed the Mukhamantapam of Swamy shrine and also a Gopuram on Southern Side of the temple.
In the 15th Century Sri Krishnadevaraya Constructed the Rajagopuram on Eastern side and Salumantapas on both sides of the temple.
Chatrapathi Shivaji constructed a Gopuram on northern side in the year 1667 A.D.
ShriShailam is referenced in the ancient Hindu Puranas, and the epic Mahabharata.
From Bangalore itself, I had enquired about the accommodation here, but was disappointed. The main problem is that they are not ready to rent a room to any single individuals. Even for a dormitory, they refused. So after getting down from Bus, I thought this fruitless to again go and talk for a room. Instead I headed towards Sulabh toilet complex.
Later I came to know that rooms were all full and many people also did not get any room.
After taking bath, my itinery started at ShriShailam.
My plan was to cover following shrines:
1. Abode of Lord Mallikarjun Mahaadev and mother BhramarAmba.
2. IshtaKaameshwari shrine.
3. (a) Sakshi Ganapti
(c) Hatakesvaram anf Mother Lalita Shrine
4. Patala Ganga
5. ChenchuLakshmi Tribal Museum
Besides this there is AkkaMahadevi Caves. I had visited there in my both previous visits so decided to skip it this time.
To read more about these, please refer my previous blog on ShriShailam visit.
In both my previous visits, I had visited Abode of Lord Mallikarjun Mahaadev and BhramarAmba first. This time, I decided a little change in this.
First I started to visit the shrine of mother IshtaKaameshwari.
The ancient temple of Istakameswari is located in a dense and picturesque forest environment about 21 Km to the east of ShriShailam. Datable to the 8th – 9th Centuries A.D, this small shrine appears to have wide popular significance during medieval times. The sculpture of the deity is very unique and have no parallel anywhere in India. The Goddess has a serene and beautiful smiling face, which at once captures the attention of one and all.
Not only from the religious angle but also from the spiritual point of view the place has got its own importance from the ancient times. The perennial stream encircling the temple adds additional attraction to the shrine.
Trip to this sacred shrine can be done only by hired Mahindra Jeeps. They charge Rs. 120 per head and I agreed as I knew what lays ahead on the route.
The last 10 KMs is in dense forest and does not have road. The route is very tough and can be covered only by either foot or Mahindra Jeeps. I felt proud that an Indian Organisation built such a tough vehicle, which can talk eye to eye with such a route.
This was second trip to this shrine. For first timers, this route is difficult enough to send chill across spine many a times.
The Jeep was moving slowly through forest ups and downs. Many a places it was just almost toppled. The driver was excellent and I wish, one day I will also possess such fine skill of driving.
After getting down from Jeep, one has to walk about 500 Meters to reach the shrine.
As I reached close, I heard the sound of Veda Mantras. Those sacred sound in the serene environment was just amazing and filled my heart with joy and ecstasy.
One family was doing some Puja near the temple and the priests were busy in chanting mantras.
Shrine is very small and one has to go inside crawling.
After having a look on Mother, all tiredness goes away. The smiling face of mother relaxes all. Just like She is assuring all, don’t worry, I will keep away all evils and difficulties from you!!
I prayed there to the supreme mother. The Adhishwari of Lords, let your Varda Hasta keeps me away from all difficulties, let your smiling face always assure me and let my mind be always be in your lotus feets.
The temple is in the midst of settlement of Chenchu Tribe.
While returning from there, one jeep ahead of us was almost toppled. But nobody got hurt. And then a huge cry from every corner “Mata IshtaKaameshwari ki Jai” and all problem and fear went off!!
A visit to this temple is a rewarding experience.
But the shrine is in a very bad state of existence and needs to be renovated.
Total time taken to visit this shrine is about 3-4 hrs.
When I came back to ShriShailam, It was about 2 PM. I headed towards a hotel for lunch.
After taking lunch, I went towards the main temple. One Policeman informed me that Darshan is available till 3:30 PM. So I rushed.
As I went inside the temple, I felt very happy to see that not many people were there at that moment. Generally it is huge rush during morning and evening.
And here he was, Chandramauli Lord Mahaadev, the most merciful, the most benevolent and the omnipotent!!
With folded hands, I prayed to the Lord.
Let this be my salutation to the Auspicious ones, who are the embodiment of art, whose heads are adorned by the crescent moon, who are the fruits of mutual penance, whose bounteousness is displayed amongst (their) devotees, who are lavishly auspicious to the three worlds, who appear repeatedly in (my) heart and who experience the bliss that wells up.
(Aadi Shanakaracharya in Shivananda Lahari - Shloka 1)
I worship that Siva in my heart, who is known through the three Vedas, who is dear to the heart, who is the destroyer of the three bodies (of man), who is pre-eminent, who is three eyed, who is distinguished with his matted locks, who wears a moving serpent as a necklace, who bears the deer(the symbol of Maya), that Mahadeva, the self luminous, who is compassionate to me, who is the lord of all, who is the basis of the intellect, who is with the mother and who is very good at imitation.
(Aadi Shanakaracharya in Shivananda Lahari - Shloka 3)
Feeling elated with the Darshan, I headed towards the temple of Mother BhramarAmba.
This Shakti Temple is situated just behind the Shiva Temple.
I reached there to worship the lotus feet of divine Mother, who is there to give abhayam to all her devotees!
Oh, She who is refuge to all this world,All gods except you mother,Give refuge and grants wishes,Only by their hand.But only you motherNever show the world in detail,The boons and refuge that you can give,For even your holy feet will suffice,To remove fear for ever,And grant boons much more than asked.
(Aadi Shanakaracharya in Soundarya Lahari - Shloka 4)
If any one has wish in his mind to pray.“You , Bhavani , my mother,Please shower on me, a part of your merciful look”,Even before he says, “You Bhavani”,You my goddess,Would give to him the water,Falling from the crowns ,Of Vishnu, Rudra and Brahma,At your feet,And grant him, the eternal life in your world.
(Aadi Shanakaracharya in Soundarya Lahari - Shloka 22)
How merciful are the Lord and Mother indeed. They made the darshan so easy for me!!
Feeling happy with the blissful darshan, I came out of temple complex.
Then I again took a shared auto for local sight seeing. It includes visit to Sakshi Ganapti,
PhalaDhaara-Panchadhaara, Hatakesvaram and Mother Lalita Shrine as well as Shikharam.
This small shrine located about 3 Kms from ShriShailam and is one of the sacred spots frequented by pilgrims since times immemorial. 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. It is in practice that devotees during their return had the darshan of this Ganapathi and informed their name and gotra to him. Srinatha the renowed poet of 14th Century A.D. in his Kasikhandam states that this Sakshi Ganapathi is visualized by sage Agasthya during his pilgrimage to ShriShailam.
This picturesque spot is on the way to ShriShailam of about 5 Km away in a serine atmosphere.
Tradition hopes that at this place God Siva appeared to a potter devotee in Atika (Piece of Pot) and hence named as Atikeswaram and later it became as Hatakeswaram.
Another tradition gives the name to this place from a particular yogic school known as Hatayoga, one of the form of Astangayogas (the eight yogas).
Some historians located a laboratory of Alchemy (Rasayoga) at this place during medieval times. The present temple dedicated to Hatakeswara Swamy is stone structure datable to 11th – 13th century A.D. and is consists of a Garbhagriha and opened pillered Mukhamandapa.
Nearby is temple of mother Lalitha and also of Shani Mahadev.
I am lucky that I am here on Saturday to pray in the Lotus Feet of Lord Shani Dev.
PHALADHARA – PANCHADHARA
This most beautiful scene spot in surroundings of ShriShailam is located about 4 Km from the main temple. Tradition records that Bhagavan Adisankara performed penance at this place and composed the famous Sivanandalahari here. His Holiness Kanchi Paramacharya confirmed this and marble statues of Sarada Devi and Sankaracharya installed there and daily regular Poojas are being offered also.
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 in interrupted at all seasons. The Skanda Purana describes the flow as ‘Bhogavathi’ and it joins in the river Krishna.
This sacred spot is located at about 8 Km from the main temple at a height of 2830 feet above the mean sea level. It is the highest peak of ShriShailam Hills.
The Skanda Purana proclains that a mere glance of this Sikharam frees the human soul from the fitters of rebirth. (Srisaila Sikharam Drustva Punarjanma Na Vidyathe).
In ancient days people used to come to ShriShailam on foot and those who unable to reach the shrine returned back by seeing this peak.
The Shikhareswaram temple is an ancient stone structure consisting of Garbhagriha, Antaralaya and 16 pillered Mukhamanda. The deity here is named as Veera Sankara Swamy and locally popularized as Shikhareswara Swamy.
Historically the Reddy Kings have constructed a flight of steps to this temple in the year 1398 A.D. and also a tank (Pushkarini) at this place.
During the medieval times this spot was the centre for many secret sects of Saivisam who performed their rituals in the cave like chambers which can be seen even today.
This place give a panoramic view of the entire temple complex of ShriShailam including the meandering river Krishna.
I returned after praying, full of satisfaction and bliss!
Evening was approaching and so I walked towards Patal Ganga Ropeway. From here one can enjoy the beauty of mountains and flow of Krishna River below. The Nagarjuna Sagar Dam is also very clearly visible from here.
As it appeared dark, I cam back near to the Temple. I was looking for a suitable place to spend the night, as I did not had any room.
I wanted to take dinner now. But first I visited Aadi Shakaracharya shrine. Near temple main gate, there is a shrine for Aadi Shankaracharya constructed by Shri Kanchi Kaam Koti Mutt.
Finally after dinner, I decided to take rest in a Varandah near the main temple gate. Many people were there.I spread my bed sheet near a Ashoka Tree and laid down.
I was feeling very happy. The sky was the roof and the earth was the bed. The twinling stars and cool breeze soon took me to sleep.
At around 4 AM, the sound of Veda Mantra woke me. I sat in Sukhasana and tried to meditate to the lotus feet of Lord, who are so difficult to get even by ascetics but so easily attainable by a crying heart!!
Perhaps morning pooja was in progress at temple.
..........Namo brahmane namaste vaayo
twameva pratyaksham Brahmaasi
twaameva pratyaksham brahma vadishyaami
Avatu maam avatu vaktaaram.O
m shantih shantih shantih!
(………..Prostrations to Thee, O Vayu! Thou art the visible Brahman. I shall proclaim Thee as the visible Brahman. I shall call Thee the just and the True. May He protect the teacher and me! May he protect the teacher! Om peace, peace, peace!)
After meditating a little while, I went towards Sulabh Complex, but it was still closed. So I roamed here and there for some time, when by 5 AM, it was open. As I was the first to take its services, it was quite fine to use.
A little rush was there. I took Rs. 100 route. In abut 15 minutes, I was there near Lord. Some ladies were putting perhaps Ghee or Butter at Lingam, As I went near the lingam, priest asked me to touch the Lingam, but I hesitated…..Can I? The Lord is so merciful. The priest admonished me in Telugu and I touched the Lingam and then touched my head with that hand…..it felt so great!!! Unbelievable!!
Then I visited temple of Mother BramarAmba. In front of the shrine is the Shree Yantra. Hence to do Shashtanaga Pranaam there to mother is not allowed.
It is said that the Shree Yantra was installed by Aadi Shankara there.
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.
Lord Rama himself installed the Sahasralinga, while the Pandavas lodged the Panchapandava lingas in the temple courtyard.
They are just next to the main shrine.
It was about 7 AM. I thought of taking some breakfast. But I felt some turbulence in my stomach. So I just took a half litre bottle of pepsi and headed towards PataalGanga.
In my both the previos trips, I had taken the ropeway to go down to the ghaat. This time I thought of going through steps.
Soon I realized that while going down is so tiring, going up will be a little more tough!!
I went down till waters. Touched it and prayed silently. Then come up a few steps and started enjoying the vast beauty of nature spread all over.
Rays of Almighty Lord Vivasvaan were playing with waters of Mother Krishna. The scintillating effect was like stars in the waters. Nature is complete in itself. It does not search for pleasure outside. Thiose who dive deep inside themselves get the perl of bliss, but those who remain searching pleasure outside, have to remain content with the pearl shell.
The faithful were taking bath below. Many round boats were there. Perhaps the boatmen were there to make sure that nothing wrong happens.
I was there for more than an hour, then started back towards temple. It was about 9 AM now. The intensity of Lord Sun had increased.
To cover 660 steps upwards was a big task indeed. With my bag on shoulder and a 2 liter water bottle in my hand, I had to take rest 5-6 times in between to finally reach the main road.
Then I took a breakfast of Idly Vada.
Now my destination was ChechuLakshmi Tribal Museum. It is at the entrance of ShriShailam town. I walked there. It was about 1 KM or so from main temple.
Some artifacts and some photograps are there along with weapons, paintings and music/dance equipments. But I wish, it needs a better management. There should be something to give introduction about these tribes, there past etc.
I was back to Bangalore at about 5:45 AM.
By road the distance from Bangalore is about 550 KMs and from Hyderabad about 230 KMs.
The nearest railway stations are Markapur(85KM) and Vinukonda(120km) on the Guntur-Hubli Section and Kurnool (190KM).