Srisailam for the nth time – II – Divine Srisailam

Srisailam has been one of India’s holiest places since time immemorial. The Puranas talk about Srisailam and according to the Mahabharata, the Pandavas visited Srisailam during their exile, the holy place has always held importance in India’s religious history and why not? Srisailam is the abode of the one of the 12 Jyotirlingas, believed to be the manifestations of fiery Lord Shiva.

At Srisailam, Lord Mallikarjuna and his consort Goddess Brahmaramba are the presiding deities. There are several temples in and around Srisailam, you might need more than a weekend if you want to visit all of them.

Phaladhara-Panchadhara

4 kms before you reach Srisailam, you arrive at Phaladhara-Panchadhara, two small streams of water flowing down a cliff which is believed to be the place where Adi Sankara meditated and wrote the Sivananda Lahari. One has to climb down 200 steps to reach the place. Except during the monsoon season, it is very unlikely that you will find any water. In recent times, pipes have been fitted from the streams for convenience of devotees, it has taken away the beauty of the Phaladhara-Panchadhara. Several years back, on our first visit to the streams, we were completely lost in the serenity and greenery of the valley below, the calmness all around and to imagine that the great saint Adi Sankara set his foot at this very place.

Still, we recommend a visit to Phaladhara-Panchadhara for the scenic beauty and for a visit to the small shrine dedicated to Adi Sankara.

Hatakeshwaram

Hatakeshwaram is an ancient temple, exactly opposite to Pahaladhara-Panchadhara, dedicated to Lord Shiva. Nestled in the woods, the temple, there is total peace and calm inside the temple and around it, if you can ignore the monkeys !

We gave these two places a miss this time round.

Sakshi Ganapathi Temple

Just before you reach Srisailam, you have to make an important stop – Sakshi Ganapathi Temple. Lord Ganesha, here, is believed to be the record keeper at Srisailam. People give their Gothra and name and Sakshi Ganapathi records them, the belief is that your visit to Srisailam will go unrecorded, if you don’t stop and visit this temple first. The temple is a small shrine on the highway.

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Following the traditions, we stopped here for a quick darshan.

As you enter Srisailam, you can hear the Shiva Panchakshari mantra resounding from the temple, the mantra seems to give the surroundings an ethereal feel. We headed straight to the Central Reservation Office to check in to our rooms.

Srisailam on the net

Srisailam temple has turned tech-savvy with their online booking system, one can book accommodation, poojas, seva and darshan at their website www.srisailamonline.com, the system is very efficient.

The Srisailam temple website www.srisailamtemple.com has all the information regarding darshan timings, sevas, poojas etc.

If you book accommodation through the internet, you will have to go to the CRO, record your entry for the accommodation booked by you. The only disadvantage of internet booking is that the room is available only from 8 AM to 8 AM the next day, for normal room allotment, the check out time is usually 24 hours.

Lord Mallikarjuna and Goddess Brahmaramba temple

By the time we reached Srisailam, our family hadn’t arrived. The plan was to wait for them at our rooms and then visit the temple. However, it turned out that we had to pay an advance for the rooms and had to go the ATM right next to the temple. Luckily for us, the temple was still open and we decided to first complete our darshan.

The exact history of the Srisailam temple is not recorded, so we do not know when it was built. There are historical references which say that the temple structure, as it stands today, is atleast a 1000 years old. Various dynasties have from time to time expanded the temple. There are four gopurams built at various time periods, the latest being the one built by Shivaji in 1600s A.D. Here is a picture from the Shivaji Gopuram side of the temple.

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The walls are high like fort walls and are very ancient.

IMG_9768Miniature sculpture depicting stories from Indian mythology fills up the walls. Every block of the wall showcases some story, mythological event, wars and lifestyle.

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For most part of the week, the temple is not crowded. The crowd begins to swell by Saturday evening, Sunday and Monday morning. The rest of the time, the temple is most peaceful. It was 12.45 PM when we entered the temple and it was almost empty. We got into the Dharma Darshan (Free Darshan) queue and our darshan was complete in 15 minutes !

When the temple is crowded, one can opt for the quick darshan by purchasing a Rs.100/- ticket apart from other Sevas. The details of the Sevas can be viewed at the main ticket counter inside the temple.

Mallanna Darshanam

Inside the ancient sanctum sanctorum, Lord Mallikarjuna, fondly called “Mallanna”, presides over Srisailam in the form a tiny Siva Linga. If you don’t concentrate while viewing the Siva Linga, you might even miss it. In contrast to the tiny Lingam, the Nandi outside the Garbha Griha is huge !

A few years back, people were allowed a “Sparsa Darshan”, where they could touch the idol and offer their prayers. Now, the Sparsa Darshan has been limited to a specific time after the Harathi at 6 PM or on normal weekdays when there is no crowd. Nobody knew when exactly the Sparsa Darshan would be allowed. For Harathi tickets, one has to stand in the queue by 4.30 PM, this is what we were understood after checking with several people who gave us information in bits and pieces !

Other interesting shrines inside the temple

The courtyard of the temple is very spacious and there are several shrines inside. There is a shrine for Vrudda (Old) Mallikarjuna, Veerabhadra Swamy, 5 Siva Lingas believed to be installed by the Pandavas.

There is also a small tank where River Saraswathi is believed to be flowing as “Antarvahini” (Underground river). From this tank, one can view the reflection of the golden Kalasam on top of the temple tower in the water below. What is interesting about this reflection is that, there are several structures in between the tower and the tank, there seems to be no way the reflection of the Kalasam could fall on the water, yet it does. The tank has been built at such an angle that the reflection of the Kalasam passes through all the obstructions and falls on the water ! The geometric perfection of the ancient builders leaves you baffled !

Photography is not allowed inside the temple premises, so we do not have pictures to show.

Shakti Peetha – Goddess Brahmaramba temple

If Lord Mallikarjuna is a Jyotirlinga, a powerful form of Lord Shiva, his consort, Goddess Brahmaramba is an equally powerful form of Goddess Parvathi, a Shakti Peetha, (Seat of Divine Power). There are 18 such Shakti Peethas in India, as recorded by Adi Sankara in his shloka. The key feature of these Shakti Peethas is the presence of Sri Chakra.

Shikaram

That Saturday afternoon, we completed darshans of both the deities in a short time, had lunch and waited for our family’s call. They reached Srisailam around 3.30 PM and asked us to meet them at Shikaram on the Dornala-Srisailam Ghat road.

Shikaram, is the highest point in the hill range at Srisailam and from here one can get a view of the entire range of hills and also a view of the Srisailam temple.

There is a very interesting belief associated with Shikaram. At the highest point of the peak, there is a miniature Nandi statue, it is believed that when you look between the ears of the Nandi and can spot the Srisailam Shikara or Temple tower and the golden Kalasham, you are sure to attain Moksha within 6 months ! Here is a picture of the Nandi who could give you an easy, one way ticket to heaven !

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Till a few years back, the Nandi used to be smaller and mounted on an ancient stone grain mill, the direction of the Nandi could be adjusted for a better view. It has now been replaced with a new one and the grain mill has been removed.

It was a cloudy, hazy day and so we were “lucky” not to spot the temple Shikaram, we turned our attention towards the lovely view of the Nallamala hill range. Hills and forests is all you can see for miles together !

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As you stand and take in the greenery and the view of hills and the horizon beyond, it feels like you really have attained Moksha, for what is Moksha, if not inner peace, a feeling of oneness with the cosmic power?

At 7 PM, we went for another round of darshan to the main temple, this time with family and buying the Rs.100/- ticket. The temple was packed with people, the usual commotion, pushing, hustle-bustle, common in Indian temples. If only people would realise, Lord Mallikarjuna resides not only in the stone Siva Linga but within the flesh and blood of all living beings !

We ended the day with dinner at a nearby hotel, catching up with family banter and with a happy feeling that pilgrim places bring, it is all about the positive vibes.

Info tidbit

– Srisailam temple timings: 4 AM to 3.30 PM and 5 PM to 10 PM.

– Sparsha darshan of the Jyotirlinga where you can touch the Shiva Linga and pray is allowed during the evening Harathi time of 5 PM. There is no provision for buying tickets for this online, you can buy them at the main ticket counter near the temple. On weekdays, when there is no crowd, Sparsha darshan may be allowed even during normal darshan time. You can check the temple website for any other details on poojas and sevas or contact numbers.

 

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