Visit to Sri Mallikarjuna Swamy (Jyothirlingam) and Brhamaramba Devi (Ashtadasa Maha Sakthi-peetam) Temple at SriSailam
Srisailam is situated on a flat top of Nallamalai hills by the side of the river Krishna in Kurnool District of Andhra Pradesh.
There is a straight bus from Chennai (Koyamped). About 500 kms of overnight journey for 13 hrs through Thirupathi, Cudappah and Nandhyal
Markapur, which is 91 K.M. from Srisailam in Guntur – Hubli line on South Central Railway is the closest railway station, from where buses are available to Srisailam. But there is no straight train to Markapur from Chennai.
The shortest and fastest route from Chennai is Chennai-Ongole-Srisailam. Ongole, about 300 kms from Chennai is in the Vijayawada train route and takes about 4 hrs 15 mins journey through train and then the bus journey from Ongole to Sri Sailam takes about 5 hrs 30 mins for 190 kms.
For a complete road travel, you have to take NH-5 through
Chennai – Tada – Gudur – Nellore – Kavali – Ongole;
and at Ongole, you need to turn left and take the
Ongole – Podile – Markapur – Dornala – Srisailam route
The forest road at Dornala opens only at 6 AM (sure) and closes by 7 PM (not sure). So you need to plan your trip accordingly.
- There is a common belief that this Holy Kshetram exists from times immemorial. The antiquity and origin of God Mallikarjuna Swamy and Goddess Bhramaramba Devi is not known.
- Srisailam plays a dominant role in our religious, cultural and social history from ancient times. The prominence of Srisailam is highlighted by the fact that in the sankalpa mantra of our today’s homams we specify the location of our place with reference to Srisailam only. The epigraphical evidence reveals that the history of Srisailam begins with the Sathavahanas who were the first empire builders in South India. The earliest known historical mention of the Hill – Srisailam, can be traced in Pulumavi’s Nasik inscription of 1st Century A.D.
- The presiding deities are Lord Mallikarjuna Swamy, one of the twelve Jyothirlingas and Goddess Bhramaramba Devi one of the eighteen Mahasakthis and both are self-manifested. The unique feature of this kshetram is the combination of Jyothirlingam and Mahasakthi in one campus, which is only one of its kind.
- The Dwadasa Jyotirlinga shrines or the 12 shrines enshrining Shiva in the form of a Jyotirlingam, have been held in reverence since time immemorial in the Indian system of beliefs. These temples are closely linked with legends from the puranas and are rich in history and tradition. They are more ancient than Chidambaram, Thiruvannamalai etc., Vedas say that the dharshan of SriSailam will wash away all the sins of the previous births and brings salvation.
- Only one of the Jyothirlingams, Rameswaram and only one of the Mahasakthi peetams, Kanchipuram are in Tamilnadu.
- Thanks to Mr.Sankaranarayanan for sending this note: Yesterday I came across an article by Paramacharya. Shiva told that whoever visits Srisailam will reach Kailash after the end of this birth. Ganesha told Him “You are an asutoshi and hence people will tell you that they have visited Srisailam without visiting and hence I will reside there as Sakshi Ganapathi. Whoever visits Srisailam, after the dharshan, should visit me also, so that I will note down”. Hence the Srisailam visit is complete only after having a dharshan of Sakshi Ganapathi. (Unfortunately we didn’t know this important piece of information beforehand and we didn’t visit – we didn’t have time as well).
- It is said that Shiva told Paravathi that He considers SriSailam as his most favourite place, more than Kailasam, and the place reflects His full power
- 3 of the Jyothirlingas – Rameswaram, Sri Sailam and Kedarnath – have been sung by Thevarams – they are part of the 275 Thevara temples. Sambhandar and Sundarar have sung about Srisailam from Kalahasthi itself; Thirunavukkarasar, on return from Kailasam, worshipped here.
- Maha Bharatham, Ramayanam, Siva Puranam, Mathsya Puranam, Agni Puranam and Vayu Puranama have mentioned this temple.
- Arunagirinathar and Vallalar have sung on this temple
- Marutha tree (Arjuna tree) has been Sthla Vruksham only in 3 temples and they are:
a) Thiruppudai maruthur near Ambasamudhram in Trinelveli – Kadaimaruthur or Pudarjunam
b) Thiruvidai maruthur near Kumbakonam where Sri Mahalinga Swamy is present – Idaimarudhur or Madhyarjunam
c) SriSailam – Thalai marudhur or Mathyarjunam
Arjunam also has a meaning of Parameswaran
We came here after Hampi/Nava Brindhavan and Manthralayam. We started off from Manthralayam by a KSRTC bus by 10 PM and reached the base of the hills by 5 AM. We were stopped in front of a very beautiful, big and new Ayyappan Temple. Nice bakthi songs were emanating from the temple and it was wonderful to be in front of that temple in that early morning hour in half sleep in the backdrop of those bakthi songs. I thought we were stopped just for a tea and didn’t wake up but learnt only later that we were waiting for the forest road to open. Finally it was opened by 5:45 AM and took us a solid 1hr 50 min to climb the hill and reach the top.
We took the lodging at Chandeeswara Sadanam, reserved previously through internet (details towards the end). The room was big and ok, typical of what can be expected of a Government maintained lodging at a pilgrimage center.
We had booked for the abhisheham through internet for the 10-11:30 timing. As we entered the temple, we could see lot of people going into the temple and so expected a big crowd and actually it was massive since it was the Navarathri time and it was a Gandhi Jayanthi public holiday.
Luckily, since we had booked for the Abhisheham, we could get into the temple very easily and when we entered the outside mandapam where Abhisheha ubayathars were waiting, a rude shock was waiting for us. Before this, I was thinking that we will be along with a few more families, the abhisheham will take about an hour and we will be watching it from the front like a normal temple. But here, there was a very big crowd waiting at the mandapam and the man at the entrance got our ticket and gave some serial number in 200+ and said it will take about 2-3 hours as per the sequence. Further, we were told that only the couple will be allowed inside and not even son and daughter! (we were a group of 7). We didn’t know what to do and we were totally helpless. Except we 3 (I, my wife and son), the others then went out to have dharshan through some other means.
Then we were just roaming around and luckily met with a senior Gurukkal who was really “God sent” for us. Knowing that we were from Chennai and we had to return the same day, he arranged a man to take care of us who took us through some special gates to the sanctum sanctorum. We waited there for about 30 mins to finally being called for the abhisheham. To our dismay, strictly only the couples were allowed inside and my son was stopped.
For the abhisheha booking, we were given a packet with few abhisheha items like Vibhoothi, milk, rose water, etc., and inside the garbhagraham, by sitting behind the lingam, and through the guidance of the priest, we did the abhisheham ourselves. The lingam is very tiny with the Avudai (base) at the floor level itself with only the top portion protruding just for about half a feet. We were cramped inside along with 3 more couples and the abhisheham was done in a hurry. All in all it took just about 10 minutes and that itself was a big bonus considering the rush there. Luckily, when we were coming out after the abhisheham, my son was also entering the sanctum to touch the lingam and worship.
It was not the usual calm, peaceful and long abhisheham as I was expecting but it was a fantastic feeling that (a) we could, first of all, enter inside the garbagraha of such a puranic and sacred temple; (b) then we could actually touch the linga, one of the 12 jyothirlingas; and (c) finally do the abhisheham ourselves. It was totally an unexpected sweet and beautiful experience (after that initial rude shock, of course). I didn’t know any of these procedures and customs beforehand and just when I booked the rooms through the internet, I just saw a big list of temple sevas and their fees. The abhisheham was the lowest in the list and I just booked it, that’s all. It finally ended up in a beautiful experience.
The temple is a real beauty and the vimanam of the Shiva shrine is given a Gold cover. There are plenty of shrines inside with many lingams and beautiful sculptures.
Shrines inside the Mallikarjuna Swamy Temple:
1. Vrudhamallikarjuna Swamy:
This lingam is said to be oldest than the present Mallikarjuna swamy lingam. There is no Nandhi in front of it. The lingam is uneven on its outer face indicating its ancientness and it was worshipped by Chandravathi. Hence it is called Vrudha Mallikarjuna swamy.
This oldest idol is in the northern side of the temple and its period is unknown.
3. Lingas installed by Pandavas:
Five temple are situated beside the Ardhanareseswara temple.
4. Mallika Gundam (water well):
According to mythology, this Gundam was part of the Saraswathi river, which flows in the inner of the Krishna river. This Saraswathi river is called ‘Antaarvahine’ which means it is flowing along with other rivers i.e. Krishna. Many devotees used this Mallika Gundam water to heal their diseases. Another important aspect being that the shade of the Mallikarjuna shrine/ Gopuram is being reflected in this ‘Gundam’.
5. Veerabhadra Swamy Temple:
This north facing idol is guarding the Lord Mallikarjuna swamy.
It is situated in front of the Verasiro mandapam, known as “Nandi mandapam”. This Nandi is called Nandeeswara (Baswanna).
7. Addala (Mirror) Mandapam:
Place for Swamy where he takes rest in the nights.
8. Tri fruit tree (Triphala Vruksham):
Juvvi, Ravi and Medi plants together grown as one tree. It was said that Acharya Nagarjuna and others were given deeksha under this tree. There is a belief that childless couples will be blessed with child by doing pradakshina here.
9. Nithyakalyana mandapam (marriage hall):
Daily Marriage function of the Mallikarjuna Swamy and Bramaramkika ammawaru is done here in the evening times.
10. Sri Rama and Sita Devi’s Sahasralingams:
Sahasra meaning thousand and 1000 lingas are carved in one linga. Sri Rama’s linga is situated in Mallikarjuna Swamy temple whereas Sita Devi’s is in Ammn temple.
Sabda madhas, Brahma Kundam (well), Vishnu Kundam, Manohara Kundam, Yudhdha Mallikarjunar, Uma Maheswarar, Kumaraswamy (Murugan) temple, Chandramba, Pancha Nandeeswarar, Sidhdhi Vinayahar, Pancha lingeswarar, Raja Rajeswari
Ashtadasa Maha Sakthi-peetas
Sathidevi (Parvathi) went to an Yagna conducted by Her father Dakshan without invitation and was humiliated by Her parents and sisters. So She immolated herself. Lord Shiva came there, collected Her body and was roaming here and there with it in angry. Lord Vishnu noticed this and on the request of Goddesses, He cut the body of Sathidevi into pieces with His Sudharshan Chakra. In the process, the body was cut in to 18 pieces and thrown in different directions and became as “Asthadasa (18) Sakthi Peethas” as follows:
|Part of the body fallen||Place||Name of Sakthi|
|2.Back Part||Kanchi(Tamilnadu)||Kamakshi devi|
|3.Stomach part||Praddyumnam(Gujarat)||Sri srunkala devi|
|4.Head hairs||Mysore(Karnataka)||Chamundeswari devi|
|5.Upper teeth rows||Alampur(Andhra Pradesh)||Jogulamba devi|
|6.Neck part||Srisailam(Andhra Pradesh)||Bhramramba devi|
|8.Right hand||Nanded(Maharastra)||Ekavenika devi|
|9.Upper lip||Ujjain(Madya pradesh)||Mahakalai devi|
|10.Left hand||Pithapuram(Andhra Pradesh)||Puruhutika devi|
|12.Left cheek||Draksharamam(A.P)||Manikyamba devi|
|14.Fingers(hand)||Prayaga(Uttar Pradesh)||Madhaveswari devi|
|15.Head part||Jwala(Himaclapradesh)||Vaishnavi devi|
|16.Breast part||Gaya(Bihar)||Sarvamangala devi|
|17.Wrist||Varanasi(Uttar Pradesh)||Visalaksi devi|
|18.Right Hand||Kashmir||Saraswathi devi|
We then went to the Amman temple which by itself is a completely independent and big temple. There was a big crowd there also but lucky again for us, the same Gurukkal was present there also and he, again, sent another person to take care of us. He took us inside through some special gates again and we had a very peaceful and calm dharshan here.
A rare sculpture of Lopa Mudhra, wife of Agasthya Maharshi can be seen the sala mandapam of devi temple. The outside walls of the temple have many beautiful sculptures.
While coming out, we were then worried about the other group. They were just waiting for us outside and we learnt that they also had a very good dharshan with the help of the same Gurukkal. But for him, it could have been a testing time for us. We all, then went to his house to give big ‘thank you’. His help didn’t end there. He arranged for somebody to take us to a mutt where free meals are being provided to Brahmins.
Here again, we had a different experience. We had to remove the shirts first and then had to wait till ‘all’ the items are served for ‘all’ the people. No one should start eating till then. Then a man gave us the instructions and we have to do the Parishesanam with mantras and then only start. All in all, it took more than 10 minutes to start eating finally!. A nice way to kindle the hunger. It didn’t end there. After finished eating, we should not get up just like that. We had to wait till everyone completes eating and again, the man instructed for the closing Parishesana mantras to complete the process. Then people have to get up row by row and go for washing. What an experience!
I had some wrong information through internet that SriSailam to Ongole is 2 hours but understood there that it is actually about 6 hrs. We had the train at Ongole for 10 PM and so we could not do anything else. After the meals, we just vacated the lodge and boarded the bus at 3:30 PM. It took full 2 hrs just to climb down to the base and from there it was a further 3hrs 30 mins to Ongole. It was a very tiring journey especially after the 5 hectic days and finally when we landed at the Ongole railway station at 9:30 PM, it was a big relief. The train at Ongole was scheduled for 10:40 PM but actually came at 12 midnight but it didn’t bother us much since the station and the waiting room were very clean with granite flooring and in fact we could munch on the happy memories of the trip. Everyone was woken up from deep sleep when the train approached Perambur. It was 4:15 AM when we finally landed at Central.
Festival: Like Karthigai deepam of Thiruvannamalai and Brhmosthavam of Thirupathi, Maha Sivarathri day is the most auspicious here and the Kalayana Utsavam on that day is the most famous festival
- A number of legends have grown round Srisailam and its principal deities. Among them the most significant one is that Parvatha, son of Silada Maharshi is said to have performed penance, pleased Siva and made him agree to live on his body. This Parvatha assumed the shape of big Hill -‘ Sriparvatha’ and Siva lived on it’s top as Mallikarjuna Swamy.
- There is a legend involving Murugar similar to Palani. Murugar came and sat in an adjacent hill here in angry over Shiva and Parvathi since they favoured Vinayagar. Shiva and Parvathi came to Srisailam only to cool down Murugar
- Arjunan got the weapon of Pasupatha Asthram only here after a long penance
- Hirnaya Kasibu worshipped during Grutha yuga
Ramar installed a lingam here, after killing Ravana during the Dhretha yuga
Panadavas installed a lingam here after finishing their 12 years of stay at forests during the Dhwabara yuga
Aadhi Sankarar, Nagarjunacharyar, Chathrapathi Shivaji, Krishna deva raya visited during this kali yuga; Shivaji stayed here for some time, worshipped Brahmarambigai and constructed one of the towers, Uthara Gopura, also called, the Shivaji Gopuram
- The importance of the temple was revealed to Vedha vyasar by Sanath Kumarar, the son of Lord Brahma.
- Sage Bringi (Chennai’s Parangi malai is named only after him) once came in pradhikshnam around Shiva neglecting Paravathi Devi in the form of a bee. She got angry and cursed him first but later blessed him at the behest of Shiva. Devi is called Brhmarambigai since She blessed Bringi (Brahmaram means bee). It is said that one can hear the buzzing sound of bee in a hole behind the Sanctum of Ambal (we came to know about it only later and so could not check it out).
- Shiva gave dharshan as Ardha Nareewarar to Sage Bringi
Places of interest in Srisailam and surroundings
There are many other sacred places, ancient temples around Srisailam and the details can be found in the official site. There are also many pleasure places like Project tiger – Trekking in jeeps through forest road and finally a view point; Water falls – you have to get down 350 steps to reach the falls; Boating at Krishna river and the rope car. You have to have atleast two days for Srisailam to see it in full and preferable to come by own transport atleast from the base of the hill to enjoy all the places at your own pace. We could not see any other place than the main temple since we planned just for a day. We would definitely like to visit again peacefully on a 2 days trip, possibly on a working day.
Nava Nandhi kshetrams:
There are nine (nava) Nandhi kshetrams around Srisailam. Brahma Nandhi, Naga Nandhi, Vinaya Nandhi, Garuda Nandhi, Shiva Nandhi, Maha Nandhi, Surya Nandhi, Vishnu Nandhi and Soma Nandhi – most of them are around Nadhyal.
Chandeeswara Sadanam where we stayed:
Srisailam websites (both are almost the same):