Journey to SriSailam
Srisailam, also called Dakshina Kailasam (Kailash of the south) is considered to be one of the holiest of holy places in our country. Sri Adi Sankara Bhagavatpadal has described the twelve Jyotir lingams in his Dwadasha Linga Stotram. Amongst them, the Jyoti lingam, also called Mallikarjuna is found in Srisailam. The Sthala tree for this pilgrim center is the tree called Arjunam. The Goddess worshipped at Srisailam temple is called Bramarambika. Bramaram refers to a bee. Since Siva has the name of Mallika (Jasmine), we can sense that the Goddess in the form of bee is hovering around the jasmine flower. To reach this pilgrim center in Andhra Pradesh, one has to travel about sixty miles from Kurnool to Pethacharivu, through a road surrounded by forests on both sides. From there, a twelve mile trek up a mountainous road has to be undertaken to reach Srisailam. Every year, on the day of Sivarathri, thousands of people walk through the
path to have darshan of Mallikarjuna. A few people used to go there on Makara Sankaranthi or Ugadhi. Other than the above mentioned holy days, travelers did not travel there that often. However, now roads have been formed for cars or buses to go up the mountains.
When Adi Sankara traveled around India, he went to Srisailam and had darshan of Mallikarjuna Mahalingam and Sri Bramarambika. Proof of his visit can be seen in this slokam from the Shivanandalahari composed by Sri Adi Sankara.
“sandhayaramba vijrumbitham shruthi shirasthaanaantharaadhishtitham
saprema bramaraabhi raamamasakrut sadvaasanaa shobhitham
bhogeendraa bharanam samastha sumanaha pujyam gunaavishkrutam
seve Shree giri mallikarjuna mahaalingam shivaalingitham||”
The meaning of the above shloka is that “One who dances during the holy time of evening (sandhya), one who blossoms like a flower, one who resides in the Upanishads which are the height of Vedas, one who is adorned by Brahmarambika, who is devoted to him, one who wears the snake as an ornament, one who always has Satva guna and is worshiped by the Devas, one who is engulfed by the Ambika and called Shiva, I prostrate to that Mahalingam also called Mallikarjun and residing at Srisailam”. Our Swamigal used to often sing the above shloka in his sweet voice and worship Lord Shiva.
The Devi’s shrine is situated on the outer corridor of the Mallikarjun shrine. The holy water in this place is called ‘Padala Ganga or Krishnaveni’. In order to reach the tank, one has to climb down nine hundred steps and walk two miles. In spite of the distance, devotees trek down to take a dip in the holy waters. Appar, Sundarar and Sambandar, all three Saivite saints have sung songs on the deity of this temple, also called Thiruparuppadam. The legend is that Nandi is in the form of a hill near the temple.
During his stay at Kurnool, Swamigal enquired about the logistics of travel to Srisailam. The residents insisted that the travel can be undertaken only during Sivarathri and other holy days. They suggested that Swamigal could undertake the trip next month, on Sivarathri. However, Swamigal was in a hurry to proceed with his Ganga Yatra and did not want to postpone the Srisailam trip. He consulted others and decided on traveling by boat via the Kurnool – Cuddappa canal. Moreover, he was keen on having darshan of Mallikarjuna when there was no crowd. He took the Chandramouliswarer puja and a few men for help and started on 24-1-1934 to travel via boat from Kurnool. On the 25th, he
was at Pagadibala, on the 26th, at Atmakur, 27th, at Nagalutti and 28th, at Pethasarivu. He stopped at each place for a short time to complete his puja and then left for the next place.
From Pethasarivu, he climbed the hills by foot to reach Shuklaparvatham. From there, the climb was even steeper before he reached Srisailam. On the 29th, he had darshan of Sri Mallikarjuna and Sri Brahmarambika. The temple devasthanam officials were notified earlier of our Swamigal’s visit and had made all the necessary arrangements for his trip at such short notice. Swamigal stayed for a long time before the shrines of Siva and Ambal and sang with ecstasy, the Sivanandalahari and Bramarambika Stotram composed by Sri Adi Sankara. Swamigal went down to Padalaganga the next day as it was the day of the lunar eclipse. The eclipse started 9:30 p.m. on 31-2-1934 and ended at 10:30 p.m. The camp and Sri Chandramouliswarer puja was set up near the banks of the Padalaganga.
The mutt’s workers burned huge oil lamps throughout the night as well as bonfires. This kept the wild animals away and also kept everyone warm. Swamigal climbed up the nine hundred steps the next morning to have darshan of Sri Mallikarjuna again. He also stayed here for one more day and then left for Pethasarivu. The return journey was also undertaken via boat back to Kurnool on 6-2-1934. Swamigal was at Alamburi on 12-2- 1934 for Sivarathri. He took a dip in the holy river Tungabhadra and had darshan of Sri BalaBrahmeswarer before performing the four sessions of Chandramouliswarer puja for the occasion. He traveled to nearby villages upon the residents’ requests and arrived at Hyderabad on the 21st of the month.