While the whole country curses the scorching summer, Bangalore people find themselves to be blessed with a more-or-less bearable summer. Over the last couple of days, the city experienced cool drizzles and rains. But this pleasant weather change was causing me some serious travel-pangs. And then as if the universe decided to grant me a wish, mom called to tell me that she was travelling to Srisailam and whether I'd like to join her.
And so, I quickly looked up for information on Srisailam. Essentially a temple town, Srisailam did have a lot of interesting places that could be visited. So I quickly decided to join my parents on their spiritual journey to Srisailam. I booked an Andhra Pradesh State Road Transportation Corporation (APSRTC) bus from Bangalore to Srisailam for a Friday night, which dropped me at my destination by 9 AM on Saturday.
Located in Kurnool district in Andhra Pradesh, Srisailam is a temple town that holds a great religious significance for the Hindus. One of the 12 Jyotirlinga temples of Lord Shiva, Srisailam Mallikarjuna Swamy, is located here. The unique fact about the temple is that it is dedicated to both Shiva and Parvati (Shiva and Shakti), and therefore is also one of the Shaktipeethas of Goddess Parvati, along with being a Jyotirlinga temple of Shiva.
Situated on the Nallamala Hill Range of the Eastern Ghats and on the banks of the Krishna River, the place is extremely scenic. The road leading to the town winds up at numerous curves and bends running along the Nallamala Forests. After sunrise, I saw a peacock and a few deer as the bus slowly drove up the sloping road. I remembered reading somewhere that the Eastern Ghats are believed to be as old as the Earth itself.
Best Time To Visit
I visited Srisailam in June, which was hotter than I had anticipated. Since Srisailam experiences a typical tropical weather, it is best visited during the cooler months of October through February. Monsoon months of June to September are good too, but a lot of activities that you can otherwise do, won't be possible during that time.
If you happen to visit Srisailam around the hot months, do carry umbrella, caps, sunscreen, etc., to safeguard yourself from the scorching heat and sip on plenty of water to stay hydrated.
How To Reach Srisailam
Srisailam is at a distance of 533 km from Bangalore; and because I had made up my mind for the visit at an nth moment, I decided to travel by bus, which takes around 10 hrs. My parents were travelling from Mumbai, which is 877 km away from Srisailam, so the train was a convenient option for them.
Kurnool, which is 178 km away from Srisailam, is the nearest city that is well connected by road and railways with major places like Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Tirupati, Nellore, Guntur and Vijaywada. Another railhead at Markapur is at 85 km from Srisailam, which is connected with some major stations of Andhra Pradesh. There's a no airport in Srisailam; Hyderabad (213 km) is the nearest airport.
Where To Stay
Since a lot of devotees and travellers from across the country visit Srisailam, there are a lot of options for a comfortable accommodation for all budgets. There are numerous lodges and dormitories set up by the Andhra Pradesh Government, some of them can be availed for as low as Rs. 50-100 per bed/day with locker facilities. There're numerous stay options and cloakroom facilities in the temple premises as well.
PC: AP Tourism Department
Places To Visit In Srisailam
As I mentioned earlier, Srisailam is predominantly a temple town, so there's no dearth of temples that one can visit. Those who are interested can visit many other temples apart from the main Mallikarjun Shiva temple. Only 6-seater autos are found for getting around the place. You can hire one of those for Rs. 300 and you will be taken to 5 temples - Sakshi Ganpati, Hatakeshwara, Lalitha Devi, Paladhara, and Shikharam.
Apart from these, there are other interesting places that you can visit too. You can go for a jungle safari in the Nallamala forest or visit the Srisailam Tiger Reserve, which is the only tiger reserve in Andhra Pradesh. There's a Shivaji Sphoorti Kendram, which is a museum that showcases exhibits on Shivaji Maharaj - a Maratha ruler. Here are the places I visited and things I did while in Srisailam.
Srisailam Mallikarjun Temple
A mention of this temple and region is found in many ancient scriptures dating it back to about 30,000-40,000 years ago. Inscriptional evidence, engineering and architectural features also talk about the legacy that was passed on from the several empires and kingdoms, including Pallavas, Kadambas, Chalukyas, Marathas and Mughals.
The temple has huge premises and 4 Gopurams or gates in the 4 directions. Entry to the temple is free. However, there's a fee of about Rs. 100 for a fast track darshan, for the elderly or those with a time constraint. Architecture enthusiasts will find the architecture of the temple complex to be extremely beautiful. There's a beautifully designed golden shikhara or spire above the sanctum, where the main deity is worshiped.
PC: Nishant Jajoo
Srisailam is perched on the hills and on the banks of the Krishna river. The place where the river flows by the foothills is called Patalganga. It is believed that the water here is in its purest form; many devotees take a holy dip here and it's a beautiful place to visit, if only everyone travelling there and taking a holy dip acted responsible enough.
Some 500 odd stone steps lead to Patalganga. Alternatively, you can ride on the ropeway to cover half the distance and then climb down the flight of the remaining stairs. There's an old stone structure at the bottom just by the river. Small shops are set up, where one can have tea, coffee or buttermilk.
Ropeway And Boating
The ropeway is operated between the hilltop (where the Srisailam town is) and Patalganga. You must ride on the ropeway when in Srisailam, the sight is breathtakingly beautiful! It is operated by the state's tourism department and is very well-organised. While riding down the hill, beautiful views of the sprawling Nallamala hills and the Krishna river can be seen. The ropeway timing is 6 AM to 6 PM.
Ropeway is often combined with boating in the Krishna river, near Patalganga. It's a short, leisurely boat ride, that not all may want to opt for. Tickets are, therefore, available for the activities separately as well as combined, depending on people's preferences. Those opting for boating activity are ferried across the river up to the Srisailam dam and powerhouse and back to Patalganga.
Nestled in the deep gorge of the Nallmala hills, the Srisailam dam built over the gushing Krishna river is one of the 12 largest hydroelectric projects in India. The surrounding landscape of the dam is a treat to the eyes with expansive emerald forests that stretch as far as one can see.
When the water levels are high, the dam with its gushing water is a majestic sight to witness. While boating, you can get a closer look of the dam and the two powerhouses on the river's left and right banks.
These natural caves, along with its huge rock arch, are geological marvels. The only way to reach the caves from Srisailam is by boating over the Krishna river for a little over an hour. A guided tour to the caves is arranged by the state's tourism department. It is advisable to start early, as the tickets to the caves are issued only up to 12 PM.
Buy a combo ticket that includes a downhill ropeway ride, boating to and fro the Akkamahadevi caves, and uphill ropeway ride. It takes around 1 hr to comfortably explore the caves. The caves are pitch dark with several bat colonies, so do carry a torch. Some people experience claustrophobia and breathing problems, as the caves are around 80-feet deep.
There's a naturally formed Shivalinga deep inside the cave, which can be reached by crawling and walking sideways as the path narrows at the end. The caves get their name from a famous 12th century philosopher and lyricist Akkamahadevi who meditated in these caves.