With the changing weather patterns, episodes of sudden increase in temperature followed by untimely (but pleasant) rains are not surprising anymore. Over the last couple of days, Bangalore experienced cool drizzles and rains but is now experiencing hot weather again, as should be in March.
This pleasant weather change is causing me some serious travel-pangs and I remember the time (it was very similar situation) I had travelled to Srisailam with my parents.
That hot evening I was craving to travel somewhere, not just to escape heat but also to experience something different than the humdrum routine life. And then as if the universe decided to grant me a wish, mom called to tell me that she and dad were travelling to Srisailam and whether I’d like to join them. After confirming I looked up for information about Srisailam. Essentially a temple town, Srisailam did have a few interesting places that could be visited. So, even though I was joining my parents on their spiritual journey to Srisailam, I was also kind of excited to see a new place. I booked an Andhra Pradesh State Road Transportation Corporation (APSRTC) bus from Bangalore to Srisailam for a Friday night, that dropped me at my destination by 9 AM on Saturday. My parents had already reached there a day before.
Located in Kurnool district in Andhra Pradesh, Srisailam is a temple town that holds a great religious significance for the Hindus. One of the 12 Jyotirlinga temples of Lord Shiva, Srisailam Mallikarjuna Swamy, is located in Srisailam. The unique fact about the temple is that it is dedicated to both Shiva and Parvati (Shiva and Shakti), and therefore is also one of the Shaktipeetha of goddess Parvati along with being a Jyotirlinga temple of Shiva.
Situated in the Nallamala Hill Range of the Eastern Ghats and on the banks of Krishna River, the place is extremely scenic. The road leading to the town winds up at numerous curves and bends running along the Nallamala Forests. It was an overnight bus journey, and soon after sunrise, I saw a peacock and a few deer as the bus slowly drove up the sloping road. While looking out of the window at the stunning, ancient-looking hills, I remembered I had read somewhere that the Eastern Ghats are believed to be as old as the Earth itself. I made a mental note to read more about the Eastern Ghats later on.
Places To Visit In Srisailam
As I mentioned earlier, Srisailam is predominantly a temple town so there’s no dearth of temples that one can visit. Those who are interested can visit many other temples apart from the main Mallikarjun Shiva temple. Only 6-seater autos are found for getting around the place. You can hire one of those for Rs.300 and you will be taken to 5 temples – Sakshi Ganpati, Hatakeshwara, Lalitha Devi, Paladhara, and Shikharam. I’m sure there are more than these 5 temples, but these were the ones we went to, so I can only speak about these.
Apart from the temples, there are other interesting places that you can visit in Srisailam. You can go for a jungle safari in the Nallamala forest or visit the Srisailam Tiger Reserve which is the only tiger reserve in Andhra Pradesh. There’s a Shivaji Sphoorti Kendram which is a museum that showcases exhibits on Shivaji Maharaj – a Maratha ruler. I did not do those, but these were suggested by some shop-owners/auto-drivers when I spoke to them. The following are the places I visited and activities I actually did while in Srisailam.
Srisailam Mallikarjun Temple
A mention of the Srisailam Mallikarjun Temple and the region of Srisailam is found in many ancient scriptures dating it back to about 30,000-40,000 years ago. Inscriptional evidence, engineering and architectural features also talk about the legacy that was passed on from the several empires and kingdoms including Pallavas, Kadambas, Chalukyas, Marathas and Mughals.
The Mallikarjun Temple has huge premises and 4 Gopurams or gates in the 4 directions, as is for most South-Indian temple architecture. Entry to the temple is free. However, there’s a fee of about Rs. 100 for a fast track darshan, for the elderly who cannot wait in queue or those with a time constraint. Architecture enthusiasts will find the architecture of temple complex to be extremely beautiful. There’s a beautifully designed golden shikhara or spire above the sanctum where the main deity is worshiped.
Srisailam is perched on the hills and on the banks of the Krishna river. The place where the river flows by the foothills is called Patalganga. It is believed that the water here is in its purest form, many devotees take a holy dip here. If only everyone travelling there and taking a holy dip acted responsible enough it would have been a beautiful spot.
Some 500 odd stone steps lead to Patalganga. Alternatively, you can ride on the ropeway to cover half the distance and then climb down the flight of remaining stairs. There’s an old stone structure at the bottom just by the river. A few small shops are set up here, where one can have tea, coffee or buttermilk.
Ropeway And Boating in Srisailam
The ropeway is operated between the hilltop (where the Srisailam town is) and Patalganga. You must ride on the ropeway when in Srisailam, the sight is breathtakingly beautiful! It is operated by the state’s tourism department and is very well-organised. While riding down the hill, beautiful views of the sprawling Nallamala hills and the Krishna river can be seen. The ropeway timing is 6 AM to 6 PM. And I’m sure the ropeway ride around sunrise and sunset must be beautiful.
Ropeway is often combined with boating in the Krishna river, near Patalganga. It’s a short, leisurely boat ride, not all may want to opt for. Tickets are, therefore, available for the activities separately as well as combined, depending on people’s preferences. Those opting for boating activity are ferried across the river up to the Srisailam Dam and powerhouse and back to Patalganga.
Nestled in the deep gorge of the Nallamala hills, the Srisailam Dam built over the gushing Krishna river is one of 12 largest hydroelectric projects in India. The surrounding landscape of the dam is a treat to eyes with expansive emerald forests that stretch as far as one can see.
When the water levels are high, the dam with its gushing water is a majestic sight to witness. While boating, you can get a closer look of the dam and the two powerhouses on the river’s left and right banks, respectively.
Akkamahadevi Caves in Srisailam are natural caves and a geological marvels with its huge rock arch. The only way to reach the caves from Srisailam is by boating over the Krishna River for a little over an hour. A guided tour to the caves is arranged by the state’s tourism department. It is advisable to start early as the tickets to the caves are issued only up to 12 PM.
Buy a combo ticket that includes a downhill ropeway ride, boating to and fro the Akkamahadevi caves, and uphill ropeway ride. It takes around 1 hr to comfortably explore the caves. So plan the visit to Akkamahadevi Caves keeping in mind the time needed to get tickets (ticket queue can be long sometimes), the ropeway ride (the ride in itself isn’t long, but again depends on the queue that’s waiting to ride on the ropeway) the boat ride (little over an hour) and walking to the caves (maybe a 15-20 minutes) and all the way back.
The Akkamahadevi Caves are pitch dark and have several bat colonies, as caves normally do, so do carry a torch. Some people experience claustrophobia and breathing problems as the caves are around 80 feet deep and some may also be allergic to the smell in caves (remember, large bat colonies means big stink).
There’s a naturally formed Shivalinga deep inside the cave, which can be reached by crawling and walking sideways as the path narrows at the end. The caves get their name from a famous 12th -century philosopher and lyricist Akkamahadevi who meditated in these caves.
Best Time To Visit Srisailam
I visited Srisailam in June, which was hotter than I had anticipated. Since Srisailam experiences a typical tropical weather, it is best visited during the cooler months of October through February. Monsoon months of June to September are good too, but a lot of activities that you can otherwise do, won’t be possible during that time.
If you happen to visit Srisailam around the hot months, do carry umbrella, caps, and sunscreen to safeguard from the scorching heat and sip on plenty of water to stay hydrated.
How To Reach Srisailam
Srisailam is at a distance of 533 km from Bangalore and because I had made up my mind for the visit at an nth moment, I decided to travel by bus which takes around 10 hrs. My parents were travelling from Mumbai, which is 877 km away from Srisailam, so the train was a convenient option for them.
Kurnool, which is 178 km away from Srisailam, is the nearest city that is well connected by road and railways with major places like Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Tirupati, Nellore, Guntur and Vijaywada. Another railhead at Markapur is at 85 km from Srisailam, which is connected with some major stations of Andhra Pradesh. There’s a no airport in Srisailam, Hyderabad (213 km) is the nearest airport.
Where To Stay in Srisailam
Since a lot of devotees and travellers from across the country visit Srisailam, there are a lot of options for comfortable accommodation for all budgets. There are numerous lodges and dormitories set up by the Andhra Pradesh Government, some of them can be availed for as low as Rs. 50 – Rs. 100 per bed/day with locker facilities. There’re numerous stay options and cloakroom facilities in the temple premises as well.