On Adi Sankara’s trail – I – Srisailam – Where Sivanandalahari overflowed

Travel blogging is all about recording memories from the journeys you make. Some of those journeys take you to the same place again and again but with new experiences every time and through your travel blog, you tell stories of those journeys. For two consecutive weekends in September 2014, we undertook two such journeys. The first one to our evergreen favourite – Srisailam ! We were accompanying family who wanted to follow Adi Sankara’s footsteps to places that are believed to have been visited by him, Srisailam is one of those sacred places.

Our trip began from Hyderabad with a scrumptious breakfast at Chutneys. A delicious, heavy breakfast makes your day and we cruised all the way to Srisailam.

Spotted Deer spotted !

Have we told you how awesome a drive to Srisailam is? About a million times, yes ! We will tell you one more time, the Hyderabad – Srisailam drive simply rocks ! This time, the drive was made even more memorable by a group of Spotted Deer that wandered near the road for a quick lunch, it seemed.

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We also stopped for a Brownie break by the roadside and walked a little into the forest, the silence of the forest made us realise, how lucky we are to be able to see and feel the beauty around us.

Krishna unleashed !

Some 3 days before our trip, we had read that the Srisailam Dam gates were open in view of the heavy inflows. On the day that we travelled, we had no idea if the gates were open but only wished they were. And lo ! Some wishes do come true ! Just as we took the turning in the ghat from where the dam appears, we could see 2 gates open and the Krishna River gushing out of the dam in glee !

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The excitement kicked in ! The ghat road goes quite close to the dam site and at one particular point, when we got down to click pictures, we could see nothing !

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The force of the river rushing out of the dam created a dense mist covering the entire view of the dam ! We could only hear the mighty roar of the river. This was the case with only 2 dam gates open, imagine the scene if all the 12 gates were open !

A few bends down the ghat road, we stopped again, this time, it was so close to the dam that the water rising up sprayed onto the highway drenching all of us. It was like standing in a heavy downpour, we even had to hold an umbrella, which was broken within minutes by the dangerously strong winds ! It was chaotic, goes to show the uncontrollable force of the river ! That was an experience for a lifetime !

We managed to click a few pictures though. The cloud of mist surrounding the dam in this one gave it a very “mystic” feel !

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This picture was clicked by fluke, the camera lens was covered with droplets and the photographer could see nothing, it was just a random click, the droplets of water will tell you the story better !

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You have to stand there and see the river bursting out in full force, it is overwhelming, frightening and the effect could move you to tears because your mind cannot fathom the sheer power of nature unleashed !

Over to Andhra 

There was a time when you crossed the Krishna Bridge opposite the Dam, you simply entered into another district in Andhra Pradesh. Today, the bridge technically marks the beginning a different state, from Telangana, you cross over to Andhra. Here is a picture of the dam taken from the bridge, the border point !

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Downstream, it was business time for fishermen. When the dam gates are closed, there is hardly any water on the other side of the reservoir, so these fishermen were making the best use of the river in spate.

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The Andhra side offered some breathtaking views of the dam and the river behind it. Since the ghat road is away from the dam, you could click pictures at leisure without running for cover from the water spray !

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Here is a view of Telangana as seen from Andhra Pradesh ! Check out the mist rising up till the ghat road.

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A short drive from the dam, we arrived at Srisailam, quickly checked into our rooms at Pathaleeshwara Sadan and set off for Harathi darshan.

Trance that blacks out the mind !

The Harathi darshan starts at 5.30 PM. People are allowed inside the temple starting from 4.30 PM, we waited in the chamber outside the Sanctum Sanctorum for the Harathi to begin. We were talking amongst ourselves when suddenly the lights were switched off and loud drums began playing, it jolted all of us up ! Then the curtains were drawn open and what a sight it was ! There was total darkness inside the temple and the only light came from the oil lamps lit around the Jyotirlinga Mallikarjuna Swamy and the Maha Harathi lamps. Your heartbeat seems to match with the sound of the drums and you cannot take your eyes off the lamps and the Shiva Linga. The Harathi went on for about 10 minutes and for the entire time, our mind was devoid of any thoughts, we just started at the Harathi as if in a state of hypnotism. There is something about the scene that seems to takes you away from the material world into the realms of the Unknown !

After the Harathi, we were allowed inside the Garbha Griha for the Sparsa darshan where you can touch the Shiva Linga and pray. We then visited the Goddess’ shrine and went around the temple praying at the other small shrines. Our temple visit wound up around 7 PM and we immediately headed for dinner. The Chutney’s breakfast that we had at 9 AM held fort till dinner time !

Shivananadalahari took shape here !

Early next morning, we were up and ready for a short tour of Srisailam. As we stepped outside our room, we could see the backside of the dam. All was quiet on the reservoir side except for traces of a faint mist in the distance. If you looked at it from here, you wouldn’t imagine that the river was raging on the other side !

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A nice breakfast later, we drove to Shikaram, the highest point of Srisailam range and from where you can get a view of the temple and the Nallamala Hills. If you ever manage to view the Shikaram of the temple from the distance, Moksham will be yours, so goes the belief !

Our next stop and the sole purpose of this trip was Phaladhara-Panchadhara, the location of the twin waterfalls, where Adi Sankara is believed to have meditated during his stay in Srisailam and written the Sivanandalahari, a composition of hymns in praise of Lord Shiva. Travelling with family who reveres Adi Sankara as their Guru, a visit to Phaladhara-Panchadhara became a spiritual experience.

To reach the spot, one has to climb down atleast 200 hundred steps, the climb down and up is not very tough but beware of monkeys.

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Phaladhara-Panchadhara is a serene place surrounded by lush green forest and valley. When you are in a place like this, your mind automatically moves into a state of meditation.

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Today, you can hardly find any water at the waterfalls but go back in time to the days of Adi Sankara, meditating here must have been heavenly bliss !

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There is a small shrine dedicated to Adi Sankara and a board that tells you about the significance of the place.

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A place of such spiritual importance has, sadly, been reduced to a picnic spot and you can see litter everywhere. Even the priest had locked himself up in the shrine and busy talking over the phone instead of performing the pujas and allowing people to pray. But then, one learns to push all this away and focus on feeling one with the nature around, that is the core of the Advaita philosophy propounded by Adi Sankara. When you do that, you find within you, Sivanandalahari, the wave of bliss in celebrating Lord Shiva !

Welcome back to Telangana !

Winding up our visit, we checked out of our cottage and headed back to Hyderabad. The Krishna river was still roaring her way out of the Srisailam dam and we crossed into Telangana with this pink board welcoming us ! Pink – the state colour of Telangana !

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For some reason, we have a fancy for state borders and the “Welcome to” sign boards !

We reached home wondering what is it about Srisailam that seems to give us a new experience every single time even after visiting the place almost every year for over a decade.

Info tidbit

– The tickets for the Harathi drashan are Rs.300/- on weekdays and Rs.600/- on weekends. The tickets are issued at the main ticket counter. Tickets are issued from 4.30 PM on first come first serve basis. On weekends, if you want to have a Sparsa darshan, this seems to be the only option.

– Srisailam Dam view is possible on the Hyderabad-Srisailam route. The dam gates are open during the monsoon season when there are heavy inflows into the Krishna river. Check local news to know when the dam gates are open but be prepared for large crowds if you go on a weekend.

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Categories: Andhra Pradesh | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “On Adi Sankara’s trail – I – Srisailam – Where Sivanandalahari overflowed

  1. Ravishankar Gundlapalli

    Wonderful description of your spiritual journey to Srisailam. Really inspiring and well-written, thank you for sharing. We live in California and have already started planning to take this trip from Hyd to Srisailam, after reading your travel log.

  2. V T Badari Narayanan

    Nice post, pictures

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