Srisailam is located in Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh. Located 210 kms from Hyderbad. The shrine of Lord Mallikarjuna situated picturesqely on a flat top of Nallamalai Hills, Srisailam is reputed to be one of the most ancient Kshetras in India. The presiding deities of this ksheteam Lord Mallikarjuna Swamy is one of the twelve Jyothirlingas and Goddess Bhramaramba Devi is one of the eighteen Maha Sakthi's and both are self manifested.
The hill temple looks like a large fort and is known for its wealth of sculptures. The temple is situated facing East. The centre mandapam has sveral pillars, with a huge idol of Nadikeswarar. There are rows of sculptures on the walls, giving one the impression of a gallery. Then there are a large number of bass reliefs, which are a symbolic representation of the various legends. A sculpture of sage Bringi standing on three legs is noteworthy. The sage was cursed by Goddess Parvathi to become a skeleton because he was worshipping only Shiva. The Lord pacified Parvathi and gave the sage one more leg to stand.
Early inscriptions speak of how rulers of different dynasties like the Satavahanas, Vakatakas, Kakatiyas and Vijayanagar rulers were ardent devotees of Lord Mallikarjuna and enriched the shrine in terms of construction and other gifts. In later years, Maratha ruler Chatrapati Shivaji is known to have constructed a gopuram of the shrine.
The sanctum enshrining Lord Mallikarjuna is a shell-like structure. The Mukhamandapa is a well-sculptured pillared hall in Vijayanagar style. Nandi, Shiva’s mount, is enshrined in a separate mandapa. There are smaller shrines for Nataraja and Sahasra Linga. The Sahasra Linga is an interesting aspect . The main Linga is divided into 25 facets, each of them again representing 40 Lingas, making a total of 1,000 Lingas. A three-hooded cobra is carved as entwined round the Linga. Another Linga of Mallikarjuna under a Vata vriksha (tree) is considered the original Linga.
Slightly away from these shrines is the sanctum of Goddess Bhramarambika, the consort of Mallikarjuna. The Goddess is believed to have assumed the form of a bee and worshipped Shiva here. Adi Shankara had visited the temple and sung in praise of Lord Mallikarjuna in his famous hymn Shivananda Lahari and of the Goddess in Bhramarambika Ashtakam.
THE PANCHAMATHAMS : These are popular as the Panchamathas namely Ghantha Matham, Bheemasankara Matham, Vibhoothi Matham, Rudraksha Matham and Sarangadhara Matham.
SIKHARAM: This most sacred spot is located at about 8 Km from the main temple at a height of 2830 feet above the mean sea level. It is the highest peak of Srisailam Hills. The Skanda Purana proclains that a mere glance of this Sikharam frees the human soul from the fitters of rebirth. (Srisaila Sikharam Drustva Punarjanma Na Vidyathe). The Sikhareswaram temple is an ancient stone structure consisting of Garbhagriha, Antaralaya and 16 pillered Mukhamanda. The deity here is named as Veera Sankara Swamy and locally popularized as Sikhareswara Swamy.
HATAKESWARAM: This picturesque spot is on the way to Srisailam of about 5 Km away in a serine atmosphere. Tradition hopes that at this place God Siva appeared to a potter devotee in Atika (Piece of Pot) and hence named as Atikeswaram and later it became as Hatakeswaram. Another tradition gives the name to this place from a particular yogic school known as Hatayoga, one of the form of Astangayogas (the eight yogas). Some historians located a laboratory of Akhemy (Rasayoga) at this place during medieval times. The present temple dedicated to Hatakeswara Swamy is stone structure datable to 11th – 13th century A.D. and is consists of a Garbhagriha and opened pillered Mukhamandapa.
PHALADHARA – PANCHADHARA: This most beautiful scene spot in surroundings of Srisailam is located about 4 Km from the main temple. Tradition records that Bhagavan Adisankara performed penance at this place and composed the famous Sivanandalahari here. His Holiness Kanchi Paramacharya confirmed this and marble statues of Sarada Devi and Sankaracharya installed there. According to local folk these streams are known as Phaladhara Panchadhara and these two signify their origin from the fore head of God Siva the Phaladhara (Phala = fore head, dhara = Stream) and denote the five aspects of Siva, the Panchadhara (Pancha = five, dhara = Stream). The water from this stream flows in interrupted at all seasons. The Skanda Purana describes the flow as ‘Bhogavathi’ and it joins in the river Krishna.
SAKSHI GANAPATHI: This small shrine located about 3 Kms from Srisailam and is one of the sacred spots frequented by pilgrims since times immemorial. The traditional belief is that the Ganapathi in this temple keeps regular account of all the pilgrims to tender ‘Sakshyam’ (evidence) of their visit to this Kshetram and so named as Sakshi Ganapathi. The sculpture of this deity is exquisitely made holding a book in the left hand and a pen in the right hand in such a way as noting down the names of devotees. It is in practice that devotees during their return had the darshan of this Ganapathi and informed their name and gotra to him. Srinatha the renowed poet of 14th Century A.D. in his Kasikhandam states that this Sakshi Ganapathi is visualized by sage Agasthya during his pilgrimage to Srisailam.
KAILASADWARAM : Kailasadwaram is about 5 K.M from Srisailam to the South-West of Hatakeswaram which is the dwaram (entrance) of path-way leading to Srisailam. In present days also people of Karnataka and Maharastra and Sivadeeksha Devotees are reached Srisailam on foot through this Kailasadwaram.
BHEEMUNI KOLANU: This is one of the most important and historical spot through which the ancient foot path of Srisailam from the southern and western sides pass. Located between two steep hills this rock ledge endowed with spectacular water falls, particularly in rainy. It is at an attitude of 585 meters above the Sea level at attitude of 160031 north and longitude of 780511 east. Traditionally this place is said to have acquired its name through an epic episode. During the exile of Pandavas, Bheema while passing through this place was said to have broken the sheet rock with his mace and brought this spring water, and hence its name Bheemunikolanu (Kolanu = Pond). Pleased by this flow of water Bheema is said to have consecrated a Sivalinga at this place which was later referred to the Srisaila Khanda of Skanda Purana as Bheema Linga and the Spring as Bheema Kunda.
THE TEMPLE OF ISTAKAMESWARI : The ancient temple of Istakameswari is located in a dense and picturesque forest environment about 21 Km to the east of Srisailam. Datable to the 8th – 9th Centuries A.D, this small shrine appears to have wide popular significance during medieval times. The sculpture of the deity is very unique and have no parallel anywhere in India. The Goddess has a serene and beautiful smiling face which at once captures the attention of one and all.
AKKAMAHADEVI CAVES : The Nallamalai Hill ranges are studded with innumerable natural caves and caverns which were known to human beings since the prehistoric times, some of them became more famous and played a role in the significance of Srisailam. One such among them is the Akkamahadevi Caves. This naturally formed cave just above the flow of the river Krishna upstream is of about at a distance of 10 Km from Srisailam.
KADALIVANAM : This spiritually and historically famous sacred spot is endowed with many exclusive and interesting features. There is a huge cave like natural rock shelter which can accommodate nearly 500 persons comfortably at a time. Near the rock shelter flows a perennial stream close to which evidences of prehistoric man in the form of stone tools were discovered. The place derived its name dell to wild plantain grooves. This excellent spot is considered to be extremely sacred by devotees. The people of Karnataka and Maharastra make it a point of visit in their pilgrimage of Srisailam. It is said that Bhagavan Dattatreya and his other incarnations is believed to have dwelling at this place. Akkamahadevi is said to have breathend her last at this place. After reaching to Akkamaha Devi caves through A.P. Tourism Motor Boat and there on there is a foot path to reach the said place.
NAGALOOTY : Nagalooty, where a complex of temples are located is of about 28 Km from Srisailam. In historical inscriptions of medieval period, this place is referred as ‘Longalooty’. It is the place from which the ancient foot path to Srisailam begins and is the most popular route to Srisailam as it connects the region of Karnataka, the strong hold of Veerasaiva Cult. Pilgrims from south and western sides to Srisailam, particularly Kannada people use this pathway even today. Located in a dense forest setting Nagalooty stands as a testimony to the ravages of time and man. Many dilapidated temples, Gopuras, Pushkarinis, and broken idols speaks about it’s once glorious past. On architectural grounds and iconographical features the temple and sculpture of this place can be dated to a period between 13th – 15th Centuries.
BHRAMARAMBA CHERUVU : This place is of about 70 Km from Srisailam and located in the ancient northern pathway to Srisailam from Umamaheswaram. This place houses one of the most beautiful man made huge water storage tank amidst wild and beautiful forest environment. The tank appears to have been enlarged and renovated in 16th Century A.D. the historical remains at this place consist of a temple dedicated to Siva, Devi Shrine, and a hero stone. The temples of this place have a huge compound wall probably constructed in 16th – 17th Centuries A.D. Those who are interested in observing the ethnographic present can not miss the place where a small group of Chenchus, the local tribal still leading a primitive way of life.
SARVESWARAM : Variously known as Saleswaram and Saileswaram this place is one of the sacret spots of Nallamalais, nearly of about 90 Km from Srisailam. This place is popular not only in folk tradition but also in the puranic lore also. The Sriparvatha Purana, a celebrated literary work of Seshanatha in 16th Century about Srisailam speaks glorifyingly with regard to this place. It is endowed with a cave temple dedicated to God Siva and two ponds named as Sarvesa theertham and Pushkara theertham. This temple seems to be datable to 6th – 7th Centuries A.D., and constructed within the shallow cave with bricks and mortor. Infront of the temple there is a huge water fall from a height of about 200 meters cascade down the hill holding the visitor spellbound with its raw beauty. This place is the most beautiful one which has natural picturesque locales and it is a sight to be seen.
GUPTHA MALLIKARJUNAM: This place known to the local folk as ‘Loddi’ is one of the most beautiful picturesque and treacherous spot which gives immorable pleasant and happiness at the sight of tremendous water fall located there. It is of about 36 Km from Srisailam. The sacred complex of Srisailam during medieval times provided shelter to many secret saivaite sects who performed their ritual acts in such inaccessible spots such as this. Hence such places derived the name such as ‘Guptha’ meaning secret. This place contain a small shrine of Siva in a shallow cave along with a broken idol of Ganapathi. The Srisaila Khanda of Skanda Purana speaks about this place and named it as Guptha Mallikarjunam. It is said that by mere seeing this place one can get free off from his sins.
Tradition, literature as well as epigraphical sources states that the sacred Hill of Srisailam has four GATE WAYS in the four cardinal directions –
Tripuranthakam: in Prakasam District in the East where God Tripuranthakeswara Swamy and Goddess Tripurasundari Devi are Presiding Deities.
Siddhavatam : on the bank of the river Penna in Kadapa District in the south where Jyothisideswara Swamy and Goddess Kamakshi Devi are the presiding Deities.
Alampur: on the bank of the river Tungabhadra in Mahaboobnagar District in the west where Navabrahma Alayas – A group of nine temples of Chalukya period are situated. This Kshetram is also the seat of Goddess Jogulamba, the one of the Eighteen Mahasakthis.
Umamaheswaram: of Mahaboobnagar District in the North where God Umamaheswara Swamy and Goddess Umamaheswari Devi are the presiding deities.
Beside the main gateways four more Secondary Gateways in the four corner directions are also popularly known.
Eleswaram: in Mahaboobnagar District now submerged in the Nagarjuna Sagar Dam in the North – East with Eleswara Swamy and Katyani as presiding Deities.
Somasila: on the bank of the river Penna in South – East with Skanda Someswara as the presiding Deity.
Pushpagiri: in Kadapa District in the South-West with Santhana Malleswara as Presiding Deity.
Sangameswaram: at the confluence of the River Krishna and Tungabhadra in Kurnool District on the North-West and submerged at Srisailam Dam with Sangameswara as presiding Deity. This temple has been re-built at Alampur.