October 10, 2017: Chita Karthe, Ghotaka Panchami
October 12, 2017: Start of Guru Moodami, Jithastami
October 15, 2017: Rama Ekadasi
One of the most important and religious shrine of Lord Shiva is situated on the Rishabhagiri hill on the south bank of sacred river Krishna. It is situated in Srisailam in the thick and inaccessible forests of Nallamalai hills, the north eastern portion of the Nandikotkur taluk of Kurnool district in Andhra Pradesh, India. One can reach the temple via Pedda Cheruvu and across the hills and through dense forests by foot path and the other from Dornakal and from Dornakal to Srisailam by ghat road. Srisailam is a sacred place of pilgrimage that has been known from ancient times in India.
According to legends, at Sriparvata on the Srisailam mountain, the resplendent Lord Shiva 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 Asvamdha sacrifice. Not only the pilgrim is benefited but his entire race is also liberated. On the top of Srisaila hill, is the famous temple of Lord Shiva known as Mallikarjuna which is one of the twelve Jyothirlingas. 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 Shiva and there is a great Shakti peetha of the Goddess here. Sri Adi Sankacharya, 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, he composed those exquisite verses in praise of Mallikarjuna Swamy in his celebrated work Sivanandalahari. It was also during his stay here that he sang in praise of Goddess Brahamramba, in Brahamramba Ashtaka. Sri Sri Sankara has sung in praise of Lord Mallikarjuna in his Dwadasalingastora.
According to a 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 Chencu tribes, Lord Shiva came once to Srisailam on a hunting expedition and fell in love with a beautiful Chenchu women whom he married, and who used to accompany him in his hunting expeditions to the neighboring forests. Hence, even today Lord Mallikarjuna is known among these tribes as 'Chenchu Malliah'. The prakara of the temple in which a tiger is shown as being killed by Lord Shiva with a thrust of His trident. In this Lord Shiva is shown as being followed by Parvathi dressed as a forest women with arrows and four dogs. It is interesting to note that Chencus have free permission even today to go into any part of the temple including Garbha Griha, enshrining the sacred Linga. In fact, these tribal people that help to drag the car in the big ratha festival of the temple and also at other services within the temple. During Shiva Ratri festival, when thousands of people congregate here, to bathe in the sacred waters of the Pathalaganga and worship Lord Mallikarjuna, the Chencus also go and worship inside the Grabha 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 Abhishekam 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 Pradesh except at Srisailam and this custom probably dates back to the Buddist period when caste rules were not so rigid.
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 Lord Mallikarjuna stands in the centre of the inner courtyard and is surrounded by a number of minor shrines. The temple of Brahamramba or the Amman temple as it is popularly known in a separate enclosure west of the inner countryard. 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, is exquisitely carved Mukha mantapa hall built by the Vijanagara King Harihara the second in 1404-1405AD according to ancient texts. 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 Shiva 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 countryard 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 Lord Mallikarjuna and according to legends say that this shrine contains the original Linga over which the black cow of the princess Chandravati gave its milk. On the Northern side of the pillared mukhamantapa, is a little Shiva temple containing a carved stone Linga called the Sahasra Linga. This famous representation of the Lord is made by the stone being divided into 25 facets each of the latter having a representation of 40 Lingas thus making a total of one thousand Lingas. The three headed Naga is coiled round the breast of the Linga and is mounted on a beautiful stone pedestal. A remarkable feature of this temple is that originally the stepped tower over the shrine chamber, the door frames and the caves of the pillared hall in front of it and the figure of the bulls etc., were all engraved in copper gilt plates and ornaments.
Srisailam with its ancient and holy tradition is a very important and ancient temple of Andhra Pradesh and to this day attracts large number of pilgrims. Its sanctity dates back from the days of Mahabharata. Even the Puranas declare this as the place where Vrushaba or the sacred bull of the Lord Shiva himself performed penance and that to please him Lord Shiva appeared in the form of Mallikarjuna with his consort of Bhramaramba. This temple with its wonderful bas-reliefs containing many Saivaite stories and legends attracts the archaeologist, the sculptor and the devotee in an equal measure. The Srisailam Devastanam has provided excellent choultries in which poor pilgrims can stay free of cost. Cottages with all amenities are also provided. The Devastanam has provided protected drinking water supply and the place is also served electricity. All facilities are extended to the pilgrims who come here in large numbers by the Srisailam Devastanam. After Lord Venkateswara Swamy, Tirupati it is considered as the most second important shrine in Andhra Pradesh.