Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Road Trip #2 - - Part One - Srisailam

(Intended to be a TWO-PARTER...but ya never know!)  Wow.  Where do I start??  There was still another week to go before Amy gets home from her trip back to the there was time for at least one more Road Trip.  This time, Caretaker Krishna picked the destination.  We would head out south of Hyderabad about 260 Km to the town of Srisailam.  He told me that it was something I just needed to see....a lovely drive (that my dear reader, is a relative term!!) up into the mountains and the forest (now that I have an idea about the difference between a "village", a "town" and a "city" - I need to figure out when a forest ceases being a "forest...and becomes a "jungle" - - it was pretty amazing (over)growth) see one of India's most famous dams, the Srisailam Dam on the Krishna River - and finally, at the top of the hill, the temple-town of Srisailam.

I call Srisailam a "temple-town" - because that's what it is...the temple is the center of the town...and virtually all of the businesses there have something to do with the temple or pilgrims or devotees or tourism!

A little more about this fascinating town:

Srisailam is a renowned hill town located on a majestic natural setting on the banks of the River Krishna in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Srisailam is known for many ancient temples, a wildlife sanctuary and a dam. Srisailam hills are very rich in scenic attractions, breathtaking wild life and this hill offers panoramic views of the surroundings.

Sikharam, the highest spot in the undulated hilly regions of Srisailam, is known for its majestic natural beauty, eye catching scenarios and a marvelous temple. The temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is renowned as Sikhareswara Swamy temple. The idol is believed to be the Lord of Sikharam. There is a temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha in Sikharam.

The famous Bhramaramba Mallikarjunaswamy Temple located at height of about 457 meters on the southern bank of River Krishna is a major pilgrim spot in Srisailam hill town. This temple is one of the 12 Jyotirlinga temples in the country. Srisailam is one of the most holy places of Andhra Pradesh. It enshrines one of the twelve Jyothirlingas of India, the only Jyothirlinga of Andhra Pradesh. The Jyothirlinga temple is dedicated to Lord Mallikarjuna Swamy and his consort Bhramaramba Devi.  (N.B.  Please do check out the Wiki link about the Jyothirlinga - - there will be lots of references to it later on!!)

The Nallamala forest ranges with densely wooded trees and diverse flora and fauna (i.e., monkeys as far as the eye can see!!) lies in the proximity to the Srisailam hills. These lusting green forest regions are ideal for adventurous trekking, hill climbing and forest exploration and research. Srisailam is the base camp for Nallamala explorations. It was in this Nallamala forest ranges, that the extremely popular Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh Dr. Rajasekhara Reddy was killed in a helicopter crash in September of 2009.

When we plan these trips, we generally try to leave the house at around 6:30 A.M. in order to beat the traffic...and as usual, we didn't hit the road for Road Trip #2 until around 7:00.  This time it really didn't matter, because - unlike the trip to Warangal...this route took us to the south, using the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport flyovers and NOT through the heart of rush-hour traffic.  The roads, overall, were much better going toward guess is this is because the temple at Srisailam is a major pilgrim and tourist destination (judging by the number of buses along the route!!) and the roads need to be kept in fairly good condition.

The first couple of hours (it took about 5.5 hours to get to Srisailam) were pretty nondescript - -long stretches of not much to look at, punctuated by several small villages and the occasional water buffalo herd walking down the middle of the highway.  The topography began to change as we were gaining first there were BEAUTIFUL areas of Andhra Pradesh boulders (similar, as I have said - and Deacon John Yeager had pointed out - to the area of Chatsworth, CA by Stoney Point and north of the 118 Freeway) - - then, the road turns and gains noticeable elevation gain as you enter the forest.  The National Forest is also the Rajiv Gandhi (if it seems as if a lot of stuff is named after him in India - you are right!!) Tiger Sanctuary - but we saw no tigers.  The forest is really, really thick with trees and growth and vines.  Like I's more what I would call a "jungle" than a forest.  Especially when you see the number of monkeys that inhabit the place.  There are many signs posted that clearly state "Do not feed the monkeys" - - but - obviously people break this rule all of the time, because the little devils are keenly aware of automobile traffic and the goodies that get thrown out the windows of cars.  And besides, there are street-vendors along the side of the road selling little newspaper cones of "monkey food" for a couple of rupees each.

There are more buses than cars as you keep heading up the mountain-side...and more monkeys than buses.  Finally, as we reached the crest, we turned sharply to the right and began descending on a road that switchbacks down to the northern bank of the River Krishna...and the very impressive Srisailam Dam.  There are pictures of the dam on my Facebook Photo Album - along with pics of the entire trip!

As we paused at a lookout point to take a few snaps (Indiaspeak for "photographs") - we got soaked from the spray coming up from the two spillway gates along the front of the dam which were opened to release some of the incredible overflow from this years record monsoon rains.  The photos from the far (south) bank of the Krishna River are much clearer and much drier!!!

It's probably only another 7-10 Km. up some winding road to get to Srisailam.  Just outside of the city gate, there is a pilgrim's stop where the dutiful devotee can pick up flowers and bangles and colorful thread-bracelets (tied all over the temple fencing as puja offerings) and coconuts for offering to Lord Shiva.  Also, there is a small shrine/temple in honor of Lord Ganesha - - the elephant-headed god (and son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati) - - where devout Hindus stop first to pray before entering.  I have learned, after a time, and I'm not exactly sure of "why" this is - that you always pray to Ganesha first...then whatever God you are going to visit.  Since Ganesha is Shiva's's kind of like stopping to quickly say: "Hello, Ganesha...I'm going up to see your Dad now...please tell him I'm coming".  The same thing goes for the idols/statues of Nandi, the sacred bull - who serves as both Shiva's vehicle and the guardian of Shiva's temples and his abode in the heavenly realm.  Devotees will stop and ask permission and blessing from Nandi before proceeding into Lord Shiva's Presence.

We got inside the city and stopped to take a few more snaps.  We drove as far as the temple gates themselves (where large signs indicated that "puja vehicles only" are allowed past a certain point) - -and here we pulled over and waited for Sangamesh (our security man) to call his nephew - - who just happens to be one of the senior pujaris (Shiva Priests) at the temple.  When he showed up, it was hard not to notice that he was a very young man (barely 30, if that!) - - he had the distinguishing marks of a Shiva devotee (the three-horizontal-line clay tilaka on his forehead.  His English skills were very few...and he greets you, instead of the standard "Namaste" or "Namaskara" - - with "Om Namah Shivayah". 

It is hard to get an exact translation of Om Namah Shivaya(m)  Thanks to Volume One of The Ancient Power of Sanskrit Mantra and Ceremony for this semi-helpful description:

"This mantra has no approximate translation. The sounds related directly to the principles which govern each of the first six chakras on the spine...Earth, water, fire, air, ether. Notice that this does not refer to the chakras themselves which have a different set of seed sounds, but rather the principles which govern those chakras in their place. A very rough, non-literal translation could be something like, 'Om and salutations to that which I am capable of becoming.' This mantra will start one out on the path of subtle development of spiritual attainments. It is the beginning on the path of Siddha Yoga, or the Yoga of Perfection of the Divine Vehicle."

The sounds of the chanted "Om Namah Shivaya" mantra (and many others) can be heard coming out of loudspeakers all over the city, and non-stop throughout the day, as long as the temple is open.  That means from 4:30 A.M. until 3:30 P.M. - - when it closes for an hour...and then opens once again for evening pooja and darshan at 4:30 P.M. and closes again at around 10:30 P.M. (with much drumming and fanfare!!)

For a taste of something very much like what we heard virtually everywhere we went that first day...check out this very cool YouTube video.

Since it was now approaching the closing was time to find a place to lay our heads (many of the "hotels" in Srisailam are government-run) for the night...and catch a quick nap before going into the temple for for "Shiva Vespers" (I just made that up....)

To Bee Continued.... "Part Two - The Temples of Srisailam"


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Wonderful post of your trip.great to come across your blog.Thank you for sharing the information.Book tickets in Meghana Travels and enjoy your travel.