The most important place to visit in Srisailam is Sri Mallikarjuna Swamy Temple. Popularly known as Srisailam Temple and Mallikarjuna Jyotirlinga, it is visited by devotees from every corner of the country. One of the 12 jyotirlinga, Sri Mallikarjuna Swamy Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. This ancient temple is situated on the top of Nallamala Hills with River Krishna flowing on its right side, presenting a breathtaking scenic beauty as well. The hill on which the temple is located is also known with the names such as Sri Parvatha, Srigiri, Srinagam, Siridhan, etc.
The main deity of this temple is Lord Mallikarjuna Swamy. The deity is said to be self manifested. Within the temple campus, another main deity is the Goddess Bhramaramba Devi, who is one of the 18 Mahasakthis. Owing to this, it is known to be both a jyotirlinga as well as a shakti peeth. Devotees visit this temple to seek blessings and atone their past sins.
History of the Sri Sailam Mallikarjuna Swamy Temple, Jyotirlinga
Sri Mallikarjuna Swamy Temple is known to be in existence since ancient times. Mentions of this temple can be found in various inscriptions and historical findings dating back to as early as 2nd century AD. Chalukyas Kingdom(AD 624-848), and Kakatiyas (AD 953-1323) are said to have contributed in the development of Mallikarjuna Temple.
Although the Mallikarjuna Jyotirlinga temple was built much earlier, its major renovations happened during Vijayanagara reign, from 1336 to 1678. During Vijayanagara rule, the Mukha Mandapam of Mallikarjuna Temple was built along with a gopuram on its southern side. During the rule of Sri Krishnadevaraya, Salu Mandapas and Rajagopuram were also built, adding a new level of grandeur to this ancient temple. Later in 1674, Maratha King Chhatrapati Shivaji also lead to various renovations of the temple as well as revival of temple festival. Later Mughals, Nawabs and then British took over the area and the administration of the temple also came under them. In 1929, a committee was established by the British to manage the temple. Later in the year of 1949, the temple was transferred under the administration of Endowments Department.
Legend behind the Sri Sailam Mallikarjuna Swamy Temple
Various ancient Hindu epics also mentioned this jyotirlinga. For instance, in Agni Purana, it has been said that Demon King Hiranyakashyap did penance here and offered his prayers to Lord Mallikarjuna Swamy. As per another sacred Hindu text, Skanda Purana, in Tretha Yuga Lord Rama and Goddess Sita have also visited this place. While in Dwapara Yuga, during their exile Arjuna and other Pandava brothers had spent some time here and offered prayers. Even in Kaliyuga, the importance of this temple hasn't diminished but has increased by many folds. Great saints and philosophers like Siddha Nagarjuna, Adisankara, Siva Sarani Akka Mahadevi, Veerashaiva Saint Allama Prabhu and others have spend a considerable amount of time here, worshipping and offering prayers to the Lord.
There are many legends behind Mallikarjuna Jyotirlinga. According to legend, once Lord Brahma, who is the God of creation and Lord Vishnu, who is the god of Harmony had a debate over the superiority of their powers. Hence, to sort this, Lord Shiva decided to test them both. Lord Shiva pierced all the three worlds with limitless pillars of light, which can be known as jyotirlinga. After this, Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma were asked to search the end of the light pillars; each has to find the end of the light at a given direction, either upward or downwards. After their failed attempts to search the end, Lord Vishnu accepted his inability to do so while Lord Brahma lied saying he has found the end. To this, Lord Shiva proclaimed that Lord Vishnu will be worshipped by devotees through all the yugas while Lord Brahma would be not remembered the same way.
As per another legend behind Sri Mallikarjuna Swamy Temple, Lord Shiva had appeared as Shivalingam at three places, one of which is Srisailam, while the other two places are Kaleshwaram and Bhimeswaram/Draksharamam. As per one more legend, son of Silada Maharshi, Parvatha had offered prayers to Lord Shiva for atonement. Please by his prayers, Lord Shiva granted his wish to live on his body. It is then Parvatha took the shape of the hill named Sri Parvatha, while Lord Shiva stayed on the hill as Sri Mallikarjuna Swamy.
Architecture of Mallikarjuna Swamy Temple
The main temple of Sri Mallikarjuna Swamy is constituted of huge complex. The temple complex has two separate shrines for Lord Mallikarjuna and Bhramaramba Devi along with mandapams, halls with majestic pillars, various other small shrines such as Vriddha Mallikarjuna, Sahasra Lingeswara, Arthanariswara, Veerabhadra, Uma Maheswara.
The inner courtyard also consists of nine temples known as Nava Brahma temples. There is a majestic wall around the temple complex which is made up of stones. These walls have four main gates, known as dwaras. The entry point on the eastern side is called as Maha Dwaram. After the Mahadwaram, there is huge mandapam with around 42 pillars and porches projected towards northern, eastern and southern sides. At the center of this mandapam, a huge sculpture of Nandi is placed; it is facing Lord Mallikarjuna. There is another mandapam named Nandi Mandapa. To its west is the Veeraiah Mandapam which is said to be built in 1378 AD.
At the center of the inner courtyard is the Sri Mallikarjuna Swamy Temple. The temple faces east and is consisted of sections such as Mukha Mandapa, Antarala and Garbhagriha. On the west side of Virasoro Mandapa, there is Mukha Mandapa, also known as Maha Mandapa. Not completely separated from this mandapa is the Antharala, which is comparatively simpler structure with pillars on both the sides, creating an entrance like structure. Garbalaya is 60 sq. feet structure with an impressive entrance while in its center is the self manifested jyotirlinga.
Festivals at Mallikarjuna Srisailam Swamy Temple
Although one can visit Mallikarjuna Jyotirlinga throughout the year, visiting during festivals adds further charm to the darshan. Seven day long festival, Maha Shivaratri Brahmotsavam is one of the most popular festival of the temple. This festival is celebrated in the month of February or March. Ugadi festival, that is celebrated for 5 days is also another popular temple festival. Dasara celebrations, Devi Sarannavaratrulu, that is celebrated for nine days is another festival to attend in the temple. Kumbhothsavam, Sankranthi Utsavams, Arudrothsavam, Kartheeka Mahothsavams, Sravananamosothsvams are a few important festivals of the temple.
Reaching Srisailam Sri Mallikarjuna Swamy Temple
Once in Srisailam, which can be reached easily by road or even by railway station (Markapur Railway Station is the nearest railway station to Srisailam), you can travel to the temple without any hassle. You can hire a local transport and reach Mallikarjuna Jyotirlinga Temple as it is known to everyone.