Srisailam is the abode of Lor Mallikarjuna Swamy and Goddess Brahmaramba, Shiva and Parvati respectively. According to the Srisailakandam, this place was earlier known as Mantharaparvatam. Later, a female sage, Vasumati, did penance on Brahma here. She came to be known as Sri Devata. Srisailam is a derivative of this legend. Incidentally, Srisailam, along with Draksharamam (Coastal Andhra) and Kaleswaram (Telengana), gave the name Trilinga Desam to ancient Andhra Pradesh, Tilinga is said to be the origin of the word, Telugu.
Srisailam is one of the most popular Shaivaite shrine in India. It is one of the 12 Jyothir Lingas, while Goddess Brahmaramba Devi is one of the 18 Maha Shaktis, a rare combination, indeed. Both the idols are said to be swayambhu. Srisailam is said to be the first of the Astha Dasa Peetas, while the lingam here is known as the Dwadasa Jyotirlinga. This powerful combination was made possible, it is said as the Divine couple came down to earth in search of their son, Sri Subramanya Swamy, who was angry with Them over the fruit episode. Srisailam was the place where the Divine couple stayed, it is said.
That apart, Srisailam's habitational history dates back to about 40,000 years, as testified by stone tools recovered from the site. The historical earliest mention of Srisailam dates back to the 2nd century, during the Satavahana period. Their successors, the Ikshvakus, ruled from Vijayapuri, an area just 50 km from Srisailam. The Puranic account predates the historical mention by a long way. According to the Agni Purana, in the Krita Yuga (hundreds of thousands years ago), the demon king, Hiranyakasipu a great devote of Lord Shiva did penance here. The asura king ruled from Ahobilam, and was slain there by Lord Narasimha. The Skanda Purana mentions that Lord Rama consecrated the Sahasra (one thousand) Lingas after killing Ravana. Beginning from the Vishnukundins ( 4th to 7th century), the temple has been patronized by the Pallavas, Kadambas, Kakatiyas, the Reddy and Velamarulers. The Reddy period (1325-1448) is regarded as the golden age of Srisailam, as they cut the pathway ad built several Mandapams, here. The other major contributions came, as usual, from the Vijayanagar emperors.
The original structure was built in the 12th century by the Western Chalukyas of Kalyani. The outer walls, which resemble a fort, were constructed in 1412, during the Vijayanagar period. They are 2.7 metres (nearly six feet) wide and six metres (over 20 feet ) tall.
Sri Krishnadeva Raya visited the shrine in 1516, on his way back to Hampi from his triumphant war with the Gajapatis of Kalinga (Orissa). He constructed the mandapas on both sides of Car Street. The Rajagopuram, in the east, was also built by him. The temple's fortunes suffered a setback after the fall of Vijayanagar in 1565. However, the great Maratha Emperor, Chatrapati Shivaji, who visited the shrine in 1674, restored some of its lost glory by paying for some of its festivals. He also built the north gopuram. The present shrine is one of the biggest temple complexes in Andhra Pradesh.
The popular shrine is tucked away in the Nallamala Hill ranges, 476 metres above sea level. The sanctum of Sri Mallikarjuna Swamy is preceded by a Nandi Mandapam, in which sites a medium sized bull of the Lord. Over the sanctum is th fuly gold-plated vimanam. The Lingam, in th main shrine, is fairly small. A flight of steps in the rear courtyard leads to the shrine of Sri Brahmaramba. The Goddess has a separate dwaja stambham in front of Her shrine.
There are many stories associated with the temple, one of which is about Shiva marrying a girl from the local Chenchu tribe. He is then said to have left her, upon which she cursed Him to turn into a stone. Anguished at this, Parvati, His consort, transformed the girl into a bee (Brahmaram), giving Her (Parvati) the name Brahmaramba, Sri Vruddha Mallikarjuna Swamy shrine, next to the sanctum, is said to contain the aforesaid stone Lingam. It is said to be the oldest structure in the temple complex, dating back to 80,000 years.
Next to the sanctum is Sri Rama Pratishta Sahasra Lingeswara Swamy. Behind the sanctum are a series of shrines, in each of which are Shiva Lingams installed by the five Pandava brothers. There are also shrines for Sri Veerabhadra and Sri Ardhanaareeswara, embodying the concept of Shiva and Shakti as one. Among the shrines flanking the main entrance are that of Sri Rajarajeswara Swamy and Sri Rajarajeswari Devi.
So scared is Srisilam regarded that a mere look at the temple from one of the peaks (Sikaram), a few kms from the temple, is said to absolve one of all sins and release him/her from the bondage of birth and death. There are many shrines and places of tourist interest in Srisailam. The massive multi-purpose Srisailam Dam, located in a deep gorge, at an altitude of 300 metres, is one of them.
How to Reach Srisailam
Atmakur is the nearest town to pilgrims from south and west, while those coming from the east would find Dornala (49km) convenient. In fact, even buses from Atmakur have to take the V turn at Dornala. All vehicles from the west cross over from Kurnool district to Dornala in neighbouring Prakasam district, before straying back to Kurnool district, at whose northeast corner Srisailam is located. This road cuts through the Srisilam Wildlife Sanctuary, and is closed between 9 pm and 6 am. Those coming from Hyderabad (230km) and other northern areas can come via the dam. APSRTC bused connect Srisailam with all major towns in the state, and also with Chennai in Tamil Nadu, while KSRTC bused ferry passengers from Karnataka. Hyderabad is the nearest airport, while Markapur (91km), on the Guntur-Hubli line is the nearest railway station.
The Devasthanam runs cottages, guest housed (both AC and Non-AC) and choultries. Private lodges are also available.