Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Srisailam Temple

This important and religious shrine is situated, on what is called the
Rishabhagiri hill, on the southern bank of the sacred river Krishna,
and is famous as Srisailam or Sri-parvata, which is one of the several
aspects of the Lord Shiva. The sanctity of this place is claimed both
by the Hindus as well as by the Buddhists.In the samkalpas, i.e., the
recitations on the occasion of religious baths, the name of this
sacred place is mentioned along with the other holy places of India.
In almost all the Hindu puranas, mention is made of this ancient
place.Srisailam is a sacred place of pilgrimage, which has been known
from ancient times in India.
A reference to this place in Mahabharata in the Vanaparva is as follows:

"At Sriparvata on the Srisailam Mountain, the resplendent Lord Siva
abides with his consort Parvati, immersed in divine delight. Brahma
also stays there along with other Gods. One bath in the sacred lake,
with purity and self-control of mind, has the same efficacy as the
performance of an Asvamedha sacrifice. Not only the pilgrim is
benefited, but his entire race is also liberated." On the top of the
Srisailam hill, is the famous temple of Lord Siva, known as
Mallikarjuna which is one of the twelve Jyotirlinga. The Lingapurana
also refers to the Jyotirlinga here. The Goddess is known by the name
of Bhramaramba. The place is one of the eight main sthanas of Lord
Siva and there is a great Sakti peetha of the Goddess here.

Sri Adi Sankara, the great Advita teacher who reestablished the Hindu
religion in this land, has during his pilgrimage all over India,
visited Srisailam and stayed at this spot for some time. It was during
his stay here, that Adisankara composed those exquisite verses in
praise of Mallikarjunaswamy in his celebrated work Sivanandalahari. It
was also during his stay here that he sang in praise of Goddess
Bhramaramba, in his Bhramaramba Ashtaka. Sri Sankara has sung in
praise of Lord Mallikarjuna in his Dwadasalingastotra as follows:

"I bow before Lord Mallikarjuna, who helps men to get over, as if by a
bridge, the great ocean of Samsara, and who always resides on the
Srisailam hill and the Seshadri hill."

The Sthalamahatmyam of the temple has a very interesting story,
regarding the origin of the temple, where a princess called
Chandravati who was the daughter of a Gupta King called Chandragupta,
is said to have offered daily a garland of Jasmine flowers to the God
in Srisailam and eventually married him. This legend embodied in the
Sthalamahatmyam is partly represented in detail in one of the stone
records of the 16th century in this temple.

"Years ago, there lived a princes named Chandravati who was the
daughter of a rajah who ruled from the Chandragupta patnam, on the
northern bank of the Krishna River. Her father was a valiant warrior
who used to be absents from his courting quite often due to his other
pre-occupations. The Princes Chandravati grew up into a beautiful
maiden. She was very pious and devoted by nature and due to a domestic
calamity, she went to the forest of Srisailam on the southern side of
the river for prayer and penance. She took nothing with her except
faithful herdsmen and some cattle.

The princess was living with the herdsman and the cattle, and living
mainly on the forest produce, and upon the milk produced from the
cows. She noticed that, one black cow out of her herd, was not giving
any milk at all. She thereupon instructed the herdsman to find out the
reason for this, and to watch the cow. The herdsman hid himself behind
the cow, and watched its movements and came back and reported, that it
Was not yielding any milk, because it gave up all its milk during the
course of its wanderings, form of a Linga. The princess also witnessed
the scene. That night Lord Siva appeared in a dream before her and
told her, that the black stone lying in the forest was nothing but a
manifestation of the Lord Himself. He enjoined upon the princess, the
necessity for building a temple round his own linga. This is said to
be the origin of the first temple in Srisailam.

Among the numerous bas-reliefs that were built on the outer side of
the courtyard there are two panels, which illustrate this legend in

There is another legend concerning the origin of this temple, among
the tribal population, called Chenchus, who live in this part of the
hills. According to this legend prevalent among the Chenchu tribes,
Lord Siva came once to Srisailam on a hunting expedition, and fell in
love with a beautiful Chenchu woman, whom he married, and who used to
accompany him in his hunting expeditions to the neigh boring forests.
Hence even today Lord Mallikarjuna is known among these tribes as
"Chenchu Malliah." This tribal legend is beautifully borne out by an
interesting bas-relief, on the prakara of the temple, in which a tiger
is shown as being killed by Lord Siva with a thrust of his trident. In
this Lord Siva is shown as being followed by Parvati dressed as a
forest woman with arrows and four dogs. It is Interesting to note,
that the Chenchus have free permission, even today, to go into any
part of the temple, Including the Garbha Griha, enshrining the sacred
Linga. It is in fact this tribal people, which help to drag the car in
the big ratha festival of the temple and also at other minor services
within the temple.

During the great Sivarathri festival, when thousands of people
congregate to bathe in the sacred waters of the Pathalaganga and
worship Lord Mallikarjuna, the Chenchus also go and worship inside the
Garbha Griha independent of all the Priests'. To this day, caste,
creed or sex does not prohibit any one, providing he or she is a
Hindu, from doing Abhisheka to the Lord from the waters of the
Pathalaganga or to do Archana with flowers directly. Such a catholic
form of worship is unknown anywhere else in Andhra, except at
Srisailam and this custom probably dates back to the Buddhist period
when caste rules were not so rigid.

Srisailam may be traced back to the Buddhist period and perhaps even
earlier than to the Mahayana school of the Buddhism, which is known to
have flourished during the 1st century A.D. The Buddhist pilgrims,
Fahiyan and Hieuntsang have made references to the Sriparvata hill,
which is in the Nagarjunakonda valley of the same river Krishna.

After the decline of Buddhism, the Hindu religion would appear to have
re-established its authority, probably due to the efforts of Adi
Sankara and Srisailam, which is a seat of Hinduism, is now counted as
one of the sacred Kshetras with an important seat for Sakti in the
name of Madhavi which later an came to be called as Bhramaramba.
Srisailam is also a principal seat of the Jangams and is one of the
five main mathas of the Veera saivas. Both the Brahmins and the
Lingayats called as Jangams worship the 'Swayambu Linga' of
Mallikarjuna calling it as Linga Chakravarti. The Jangams have one of
their five important monasteries on the Srisailani hill, the most
prominent of' which appears to have been the Veerasaiva Siddhi or
Bhikshatana vrithi monastery mentioned in the inscriptions. Even
today, the Lingayats wear around their necks, the Linga stones
obtained from the bed of the Pathalaganga at Srisailam, preserving
them in little caskets made of wood or silver.

The lithic records, preserved in the temple, however, do not take us
back earlier t4an the 14th century A.D. when the Kakathiya king,
Prataparudra was ruling at Warangal. The earliest inscriptions of the
temple refer only to his reign. The Vijayanagar kings greatly improved
the temple, and Harihara the second in, 1405 A.D., constructed the
Mukhamantapa in front of the shrine chamber. Proudhadeva Raya of the
same dynasty also visited the temple. The Saluva line of kings built
some tanks in the temple. Krishnadeva Raya, the famous Vijayanagar
king visited the temple, and built a row of houses on either side of
the Car street, and presented tax-free villages to the temple and also
remitted the toll on horses, bullocks and asses. His subordinate,
Chandrasekhara Raya presented golden images of Nandi and Bhringi to
the shrine and a certain chief named Santhalinga constructed a water
channel for the benefit of the pilgrims and also bestowed many
villages to the Jangam Brahmins. He also repaired with gold the caves
of the Much mantapa and also repaired the door at the gateways.

The main festivals of the temple last from February to the end of May
and during this period, the temple is under the management of the
Pushpagiri Math of Cuddapah district, whereas on the other days, the
management is left to a Jangam priest assisted by the local Chenchus.
The festivities of Sivarathri as at present conducted, are not, as is
seen from the inscriptions that are available, as magnificent the
festival night, a big piece of unbleached cloth over a hundred yards
in length is wrapped round the prominent figure of the Nandi along the
roof line and the pinnacle of the temple, unobserved by the expectant
crowds. The Chenchus take the leading part in the festivals both
before and after Sivarathri. Goddess Bhramaramba whose festivals come
a month or two after Sivarathri attracts even larger crowds consisting
of Lingayats. Goddess Bhramarambika is really a form of Kali and is
said to be one of the eighteen leading Sakthis of India.

The temple stands in the little hollow on the top of Srisailam hill
overlooking the sacred river Krishna and surrounded on all sides by
beautiful forest. On the eastern side of the temple, the causeway from
Nagaluti is carried straight on, down the hill, to the bed of river
Krishna, which is here known as Pathalaganga, and is regarded as a
very sacred river for pilgrims. The river Pathalaganga is about two
miles from the temple, with a flight of stone steps leading to it. An
inscription in the temple records shows that these steps were built by
a Reddi king of the Kondaveedu Reddi dynasty which ruled in Andhra
Desa in the 15th and 16th centuries A.D.

As Srisailam is one of the most famous and important of all the
temples in Andhra, it will be worthwhile to study its structure and
formation in detail.
The site plan of the Srisailam temple is given.

The enclosure to the temple forms roughly a square measuring five
hundred feet from east to west and six hundred feet from north to
south. On the northern, southern and eastern sides are lofty gateways.
In the centre of the outer enclosure, is a stone enclosure containing
the main temple. The main temple of Lord Mallikarjuna stands in the
centre of this inner courtyard and is surrounded by a number of minor,
shrines. The temple of Bhramaramba or the Amman temple as it is
popularly known is in a separate enclosure west of the inner

The main temple is a little structure, consisting of a cell enshrining
the Lord in the form of a Linga and with a small pillared porch
attached to the front. The main temple of Mallikarjuna is a
stone-built structure, and in front of the shrine, does the
Vijayanagar king Harihara build the exquisitely carved Mukha mantapa
or the pillared hall the second in 1404-1405 A.D. It contains several
beautifully sculptured stone pillars and ornamental stone eaves. The
most valuable and sacred object within the temple is an exquisitely
carved bronze image of Lord Siva, in the form of Nataraja. The idol is
a masterpiece of craftsmanship, and induces Bhakti and devotion by its
mere presence.

Between the Mallikarjuna temple and the eastern gateway of the
courtyard are two handsome pillared halls one of which contains the
Nandi. On the northern side of the temple under the shade of a 'Vata
vriksha' is another shrine dedicated to Mallikarjuna, and local
legends say that this shrine contains the original linga over which
the black cow of the princess Chandravati gave its milk.

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