(Aadi Shankaracharya in "Shivananda Lahari")
ShriShailam or SriSailam as it is populary known is one of the twelve Jyotirlinga of Shiva.This is an ancient temple with fort like walls, towers and a rich endowment of sculptural work. This huge temple built in the Dravidian style with lofty towers and sprawling courtyards is one of the finest specimens of Vijayanagar architecture. The Gopuram of the temple was built by Chhatrapati Shivaji, the Maratha Ruler.
The Satavahanas of the 2nd century AD have referred to it and the Saivite Tamil Saints have sung its glory. The Kakatiyas and the Vijayanagar kings (esp Krishnadevaraya) have made several endowments here. This temple is of immense religious, historical and architectural significance.
The great religious leader Aadi Sankara is said to have visited this shrine and composed his immortal Shivananda Lahiri here.
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. This was also known as Kraunch Parvata.
The shrine dedicated to Mother Goddess Bhramaramba is considered to be of great significance. Legend says that Mother Durga is said to have assumed the shape of a bee and worshipped Shiva here, and chose this place as her abode. It is believed to be one of the Shaktipeethas of Mother.
This Temple complex is one of the very auspicios places in India having both Jyotirlinga as well as Shaktipeetha in the same complex. Also there are Lingam installed by five Pandava brothers and also Sahastra Linga Installed by Lord Rama in Treta Yuga.
I had visited SriSailam once on Ugadi occasion in 2007 with friend Anil MS.
One week back Kenny proposed me to visit SriSailam. Initially I was a little hesitent as on friday, I had to conduct one training program in my organisation, Aricent. But on Tuesday itself, the training Co-ordinator Dhavala Shekhar called me and asked to postpone the training to next Wednesday. I assumed this to be an order by Shiva for me to come to his Sacred Abode.
I decided not to visit along with my wife as our daughter Alaknanda is still very young to take such journey.
So Kenny. Jagadeesh, RaviShankar and I started on Friday (11-June-2008) evening for the SriSailam.
Besides Temple of Mallikarjun Swamy and BhramarAmba mother, there are also a few more good places to visit at SriSailam. These are IshtaKaameshwari Temple, Saakshi Ganapati, Hatakeswaram and Lalitha Peetham, Shikharam, AkkaMahadevi Cave and Kadali Vanam. Except Kadali Vanam, all were at our list.
IshtaKaameshwari Temple is in deep forest in a settlement of tribals. It is about 12 KMs from main road. Only Mahindra Jeep can go there. Similarly to go to AkkaMahadevi Cave, one has to take the Motorboat from APSTDC. This can be taken from PatalGanga.
PatalGanga is the ghat on River Krishna. It is very near to the Dam.
From Bangalore there is only one direct link to SriSailam, and that is APSRTC bus. It starts at 1720 from Bangalore and scheduled time to reach SriSailam is 7 AM, though it reached at 930 AM. The route is Bangalore-ChikBallapur-Anantpur-Atmakur-Doranala-SriSailam. The road from Atmakur onwards is through dense forests which comes under Nagarjuna Tiger Reserve and is one of the biggest Tiger reserves in the country.
We took room at Ganga Sadan. Ganga Sadan and Gauri Sadan are Lodges run by Temple Devsthanam Trust. The room was quite clean and good. Another advantage is that if we take room there the lunch and the dinner prasadam prepared by Temple authorities can be taken here free of cost.
After taking bath, we went to have a darshna of Mallikarjun Swamy and Mother BhramarAmba.
Blissful Lord and the Merciful Mother blessed us with the darshan.
We took Lunch then and hired a Jeep to go to IshtaKaameshwari Temple. It is about 21 KMs from Srisailam, out of which about 12 KMs is in deep forest away the main road. 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.
We hired a Mahindra Jeep for four of us, though Jeeps were available in sharing basis also. That would have been cheaper option but still we went ahead in a hired jeep. We negotiated the price to be Rs. 1100/- though the driver Ravi was asking for 1300/- later he told that, Sir, after we come back, you yourself will give me Rs. 100/- more. And he was true!!
The route is through deep forest. The path is horrible and only Mahindra Jeeps can dare to go there. I feel that elderly people, the kids and ladies particularly if pregnent should avoid going there.
At many places the Jeep was just about toppling and slipping. At one place its silencer came out. Finally we covered the distance. Then a walk for about 250 Mts., took us to the temple of Mother IshtaKaameshwari.
The temple is surrounded by tribal settlement. It is a very small temle and there is no as such any big temple structure. One has to crawl down to go inside. The idol of mother is very good and the smiling face of the mother deprived us of all our tiredness.
It is required to carry a torch, because inside light is not sufficient.
After having darshan of Mother Goddess, I came out and was looking into tribal way of life. Two drunken ones were fighting to each other. After some time, one of them went into hut and came out with Bow and Arrows. I was a little surprised that just 12-15 KMs away from the so called civilised people, there are people, who still uses bows and arrows. I approched him and he showed me his Bow and Arrows. It was quite tough and arrows were having iron tips. Through Kenny, I talked with him and he told that he hunts rabbits, deers and rats. When I asked about if he is not fearful of Tigers in the Jungle, he replied proudly that he can shoot down the tiger in a single shot of arrow!!
After visiting IshtaKaameshwari temple, we went to Shikharam. This is said to be the highest peak in the surrounding Nallamalai Hills. It is said that from here Lord Rama had a view of Lord Mallikarjuna Swamy. As per Skanda Puraan, he who has a darshan of Shikhrama is deprived of all his/her sins.
Next destination was PhalaDhaara/PanchaDhaara. This is a very beautiful spot and is that Aadi Shankara did meditation here and wrote the famous "Shivananda Lahari". 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 Shiva the Phaladhara (Phala = fore head, dhara = Stream) and denote the five aspects of Shiva, the Panchadhara (Pancha = five, dhara = Stream). The water from this stream flows uninterrupted at all seasons.
Then we proceeded to Hatakeswaram. Tradition hopes that at this place God Shiva appeared to a potter devotee in Atika (Piece of Pot) and hence named as Atikeswaram and later it became as Hatakeswaram. In front of this temple there is a temple of Lalitha Devi and Shani Maharaj. It was a saturday, and we were fortunate to be there on that day.
Next and the last destination of our first day was Sakshi Ganapati. This shrine is located about 3 Kms from Srisailam 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 Srisailam.
All the places above are in one line and can be visited togeather by hiring a Jeep or Auto.
Next day early in the Morning Kenny went to have "Abhishekam" of Lord. He came back at around 8 AM. Our plan was to visit AkkaMahadevi Caves on Sunday before taking the APSRTC Bus at 1500 Hrs for Bangalore.
Akkamahadevi Cave is a naturally formed cave just above the flow of the river Krishna upstream and is about at a distance of 10 Km from SriSailam. This cave is endowed with a geological marvel of natural Rock Arch measuring nearly 200 x 16 x 4 feet which stands majestically without any support.
The wind weathered rock in and around the cave keeps the visitor spellbound.
The surrounding of the cave and its journey through the river Krishna from Srisailam provides a wonderful experience to one and all. Exploring the meandering cave to 150 meters deep is also very adventurous.
We went to the Ticket counter above PataalGanga. APSTDC has constructed a ropeway to go below to PataalGanga. We took the ticket. The motorBoat was scheduled for 10:30 AM. We went hurriedly to "Ganga Restaurent" nearby and had Plain Dosa as our breakfast.
The MotorBoat started at about 10:45 AM. The plan was that to and fro journey will take 2 Hrs. Then One hour at Cave so total three hours. As our return Bus was at 1500 Hrs. so we were a little worried about that.
The drive upstream took about 80 minutes and then a walk of about 250 Mts. took us to the ancient cave.
This cave was the seat of many violent and secret Saiva sects such as the Kapalikas about whom is mentioned in ancient medieval literature. During 12th Century A.D. this cave appears to have attained it’s present name Akkamahadevi caves after the famous ascetic, lyricist and philosopher, Akkamahadevi who hailed from Shimoga, Karnataka. It is known that Akkamahadevi did penance in this cave and worshipped the Sivalinga naturally existed in the deep and dark end of the cave.
To go till Shiva Lingam in the cave is a good excercise. The Cave is full of Bats and the floor was stinking. As we approached to the end, the cave becomes narrower and in the end one has to crawl to go and have the darshan. Inside the cave it is totally dark and the APSTDC people provided us with Candles. But I was carrying torch, so things were fine with me, except that we all were sweating completely.
We came out of the cave, It was about 1230 Hrs. we rushed to the boat, but other people took a longer time to come and finally the boat started at about 2 PM on the return journey.
We had the intution that we will miss our 3 PM bus. Meanwhile Kenny arranged the telephone number of Bus stand and request people there to postpone thedeparture of bus by 10 minutes, he said that it will be done.
We reached Pataal Ganga at around 3:10 PM and rushed towards an auto. To reach there we had to run about 300 Mts upward and then take the ropeway. We all were sweating with fast breathing. We got the auto and Kenny again called the Bus Stand and then we come to know the Bus is already left, but still we can catch that at the "Arch".
This place is about 10-12 KMs from SriSailam. At this place the Bus goes towards Damsite 5 KMs away and then comes back to take the road. That was our last chance to get the Bus. Driver Shyamulu and his Bajaj Auto were at the peak of their performance. We reached there and waited for the Bus. Then One bus arrived and its driver informed us that Bus to Bangalore is still there and will come soon.
We were quite happy and I gave 150 Rs. to Shyamulu as asked by him.
Finally the Bus arrived, I waved the tickets to the Driver. Initially he did not stopped but stopped a few moments later. we rushed and so got the Bus.
We were finally back to Bangalore at about 6 AM on Monday morning. The trip was
quite tiring but very exciting, adventures as well as blissful.
I pray with all my heart,
(Aadi Shankaracharya in "Shivananda Lahari")