Srisailam is a town located in the Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh. It is one of the sought tourist destinations in Andhra Pradesh and is regarded as one of the most important pilgrimage centers of Lord Shiva. Srisailam is very ancient and no historical evidence as such is available about the origin of Srisailam. Much like any other town of the state of Andhra, Srisailam is also rich in history and boasts of its religious heritage and traditions.
The temple located at Srisailam is a sacred and ancient place in South India. This is an ancient temple including fort-like walls, towers, and a rich inheritance of sculptural work. This enormous temple is constructed in the Dravidian style with soaring towers and sprawling courtyards and is one of the finest specimens of Vijayanagar architecture.
The acclaimed deity of the place is Brahmaramba Mallikarjuna Swamy. The temple is believed to be constructed in the 14th century. When Goddess Parvati asked Lord Shiva about his most desired place apart from Kailasa in the universe created by him, he chose the eternally beautiful place, the avatar of Sri Chakra, the Holy Srisailam. In such a significant location, Shiva-Shakti takes the form of Sri Mallikarjuna Swamy and Bhramarambha to bless all their devotees.
As proven in Puranas, Srisailam has great ancient significance. Among 12 Jyotirlingas, the 2nd is the Mallikarjuna Swamy Lingham; among the 18 Maha Shakti Peethas, the 6th is Sri Bhramarambha Devi temple. Srisailam is the only temple where two such icons exist under one temple premise; such is its significance. The temple comprises of the main Jyotirlinga besides an idol of Goddess Shakti and several other Linga like – Surya Linga, Chandra Linga, Akash Linga, Jal Linga, Prithvi Linga, Agni Linga, etc.
While en route to Srisailam, you will come across the great Krishna River that geographically divides the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. River Krishna here is in the form of Patalaganga (underground spring). Lakhs of faithful first take a holy dip here and then go for the Darshan of the JyotirLinga.
Prior to knowing about the special shrines, first, you must learn what is a Jyotirlinga or Jyotirlinagam. A Jyotirlinga is a shrine where Lord Shiva is praised in the form of a blazing column of light. ‘Jyoti’ here means ‘radiance’ and the Shiva Lingam- ‘the mark or sign’ of the Almighty. Therefore, Jyotirlingam means the radiant sign of the Almighty. There are twelve traditional Jyotirlinga shrines in India.
As mentioned in Shiva Mahapurana, once Brahma (the god of creation) and Vishnu (the form of God during preservation) had a dispute over the supremacy of creation. To resolve this controversy, Supreme God Shiva pierced the three worlds appearing as a huge infinite pillar of light, the Jyotirlinga which later cooled into the holy mountain Annamalai (on which the Temple of Arunachaleshwara is located).
Vishnu and Brahma parted their ways and rushed towards the opposite poles respectively to find the end of the light in either direction. Brahma lied and tried to deceive Him by saying that he found out the end, while Vishnu accepted his defeat honestly. This lie of Brahma aggravated Shiva making him curse Brahma that although he is the creator of the universe but he would not be worshipped. The jyotirlinga is the Supreme Shiva himself, partless reality, out of which Shiva appeared in another form, Lingodbhava. The jyotirlinga shrines are temples where Shiva made his appearance as a fiery column of light.
The temple is ringed by lush green dense forests in the Nallamala forest creating a picturesque outlook of it and the devotional atmosphere here makes it conducive for the devotees to worship Lord Shiva. Nallamala is a combination of the words ‘nalla’ meaning beautiful and ‘mala’ which means hill. The Nallamala forest is permeated with a multitude of flora and fauna which lie in close proximity to the Srisailam hills.
Why is Lord Shiva known as Mallikarjuna Swamy?
According to classical sources, Chandravathi the daughter of the ruler of Chandraguptha Pattana, situated near Srisailam ran away from her father’s kingdom who made ardent advances to her, due to which she fled to the hill and settled there with few servants.
One morning, she saw that one of her cows was standing above a natural rock resembling the Shiva Linga and was showering its milk over it. The princess has enlightened in the dream that the piece of the stone was a self-manifested Linga of Lord Sriparvatha Swamy and started to worship it. During her worship, Chandravathi urged Lord Shiva to wear the jasmine garland on his head forever. From that day forward Sriparvatha Swamy came to be recognized as Mallikarjuna Swamy.
Let’s take a small peek into some of the cultural festivals that are celebrated here:-
This festival is celebrated in grandiosity to proclaim the divine appearance day of lord shiva. This is celebrated in the 11th month of the Vedic Lunar Calendar i.e. the magham month which generally falls in the month of February/March. During the course of the festival, the temple compound is adorned with Pagalankarana, a unique decoration feature found only in Srisailam. In this decoration, Paga- turban is tied by Devananga (weaver) starting from the top of the Vitmana Gopuram passing around the Nandis seated on the Mukhamandap of the temple. The cloth used in this alankara is hand-woven by the weavers. The pagas woven are decorated by a single weaver and offered by thirty weavers as a vow.
Ugadi festival is celebrated with great splendor for a span of 5 days. The festival starts three days prior to the Ugadi day i.e. Telugu New Year Day which usually falls in March/April. This festival commemorates deities of their Lordships Mallikarjuna Swamy and Bhramarambha Devi.
Khumbhotsavam is a significant festival of the temple in which numerous offerings are made to Bhramarambha Devi. The festival is celebrated on the first Tuesday or Friday after the full moon day of Chaitram, the beginning month of the Vedic calendar. It is believed that on this day Devi is ravenous and various poojas are performed to pacify her.
Other than this many other festivals are also celebrated with great zeal and fervor. Some of which are Dasara festival, Sankranti festival, Karthika mahotsavam and Arudrotsavam. Devotees from every nook and corner of the country assemble here to worship and pay their homage and return with loads of blessings from the sacred deity making their experience wholesome. This place thus is a must-watch for all the religious people out there, make sure you add it to your list.