The famous pilgrimage site of Mallikarjuna Swami is the second jyotirlinga shrine that is located in Andhra Pradesh.
History Behind the Srisailam Temple
Perched atop the pious peaks of the Shri Shaila Mountain, a magnificent abode of two supreme deities reigns over an adoring local populace. The Mallikarjuna Temple based in Srisailam is a grand celebration of the Shaivism and Shaktism worship in India.
When Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati decided to marry their two adoring sons, Lord Ganesha and Kartikeya, they were in a dilemma who should be married first. Lord Shiva and Parvati then devised a competition for their sons. Shiva decided that whoever circumambulates the earth first wins and will be married first.
Kartikeya set out on his flying peacock mount, thinking there was no chance that his brother could win on his mount which was Mouse Mushaka. But Ganesha was clever and devised a strategy that would ensure his success.
He went around Shiva and Parvati seven times, arguing that parents were equivalent to the world according to the Shashtra scriptures. The Shastras are a set of rules that have been a part of Hinduism since the conception of the religion. This feat much impressed Shiva and Parvati, and they married Lord Ganesha to the embodiment of intellect (Goddess Buddhi), prosperity (Goddess Riddhi) and spiritual dexterity (Goddess Siddhi).
However, the celebration was short-lived because when Kartikeya returned, he was furious that he lost. Feeling dejected, he flew away to Mount Krauncha to spend his days as Kumar Brahmachari. Shiva and Parvati then followed after their son to appease him and presided on the Mountain as Mallika and Arjuna. They became patrons of the mountain and lived there with Kartikeya. The site was then called Mallikarjuna and became a holy place of worship for both Shiva and Parvati disciples.
The Significance of the Temple
The temple holds very high religious and archaeological significance to the Hindus. It is both a Jyotirlinga and Shakti Peeth, and also a Paadal Petra Sthalam. The Sthalams are 275 temples that were celebrated in the verses of Saiva Nayanars in the 6th-9th century CE. The Nayanars were a group of 63 saints living in Tamil Nadu who composed hymns to honor Lord Shiva. Hindus consider Padal Petra Sthalams to be amongst the most significant Shiva temples of the continent.
The Goddess Shakti is worshipped as Bramarambha in the temple and has a shrine dedicated to her. The temple rests on the banks of the holy Krishna River which takes the name of Patal Ganga in the temple’s vicinity. The Krishna River is one of the seven most sacred rivers in India and takes its name from Lord Krishna, an avatar of supreme deity Lord Vishnu.
Even the path that leads to the temple hosts the famous Shikreshwar temple. According to local lore, visiting the Shikreshwar temple absolves you of your sins and liberates you from the cycle of rebirth.
The Mallikarujna temple, with its vibrant architecture and numerous shrines, has a massive significance to archaeologists. It is an ancient monument which reveals enormous bouts of culture and history about the era of god-kings. The temple complex is plush with religious halls, mandaps and intricately carved pillars.
The shrine dedicated to Mallikarjuna is the oldest in the temple. Archaeologists believe that it dates as far back as the 7th Century. The temple also connects with the two marvelous epics emerging from Hindu literature, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Legend states that Lord Rama commissioned the Sahasra Linga in the temple while the five Pandava brothers commissioned five other pillars.
History of the Temple
The temple has stood through the reign of many rulers and dynasties. Many kings made additions to its architecture, making it the architectural marvel that it is today. The temple has been protected and worshipped by many ruling dynasties including the Satvahanas, Ikshavakus, Pallavas, Vishnukundis, Chalukyas, and Kakatiyas.
Prehistoric studies reveal that the Satvahansa were the first ones to commission the Mallikarjuna Temple. It was the first empire that consolidated South India and built several shrines dedicated to Hindu deities.
The earliest known mention of the Srisailam Hill is traced in Puluvami’s Nasik inscription of 2nd Century AD. However, people believe that the Srisailam religion first started during the reign of the Pallavas and continued to flourish during the rule of the Reddy Kings. Prolay Vemma and Anavema Reddy constructed pathways and Mandaps in the temple. The modern additions to the temple were made during the reign of Harihara I of the Vijayanagara Empire.
The temple was finally conquered by the invading Mughal Emperors and given as a Jagir to the Nawabs of Kurnool. After the fall of the Mughal Empire, the temple came under the control of the Nizams of Hyderabad. Finally, the administration of the temple was overtaken by the British Empire and eventually ceded to the Indian Government at the time of India’s independence in 1947.
The temple has also been home to many sages who take care of the temple and reside there. It is said that Swami Dattaraya meditated under the Triphala Vriksha Tree situated in the temple. A revered sage of the 8th Century, Adi Shankaracharya, visited the temple in 800 CE.
Enchanting Stories About the Srisailam Temple
• The Chenchu Mallayya Belief
The local tale of the tribal Chenchus says that Lord Shiva came to Srisailam forest in the form of a hunter, fell in love with a Chenchu girl and married her. They started believing this incarnation of Lord Shiva to be their relative and referred to him Chenchu Mallayya.
• Story of a Princess
A story goes that a princess called Chandravati started living on the Hill after running away from her father. She once noticed a cow shedding its milk over rocks resembling a Sivalinga. She, believing the rock formation was Lord Shiva himself began worshipping it and garlanded it every day with Jasmines also known locally as Malle. This gave the temple its name Mallikarjuna.
• The Mystic Buzzing Sound
Bees are always associated with the temple, both in lore and reality. The temple is still abuzz with the sound of bees that have made home behind the granite walls of the building. And these bees have never harmed even a single devotee.
• The Goddess’ Wrath
Legend has it that Goddess Adya Shakti, the supreme form of energy, once transformed into a bee to kill the cruel demon Arunasura. She followed the beast to Srisailam, settling there once she killed him. She resided there and came to be known as Bharambha Devi. ‘Bharambha’ means bee in the regional language.
• The Wailing Princess
There is a linga in the temple known as the Vrudha Mallikarjuna Swamy Linga which symbolizes Lord Shiva as an older man.
The origin story behind this linga follows a princess who was in love with Shiva. She worshipped Shiva with unparalleled devotion until one day Shiva appeared in her dream, asking her to pursue a bee. When she woke up, there was indeed a bee before her.
The princess followed the bee to Mount Srisailam where it settled on a Jasmine flower. After that, the princess stayed there and worshipped Shiva for a long time. Impressed by her courage, Shiva appeared before her as an older man with a wrinkled face and greying hair.
To everyone’s surprise, the princess agreed to marry him. However, once the celebrations began, Shiva left the princess never to return. This infuriated the devoted princess and she cursed Lord Shiva to become a stone and be worshipped as an old man for eternity.
Interesting Facts of the Srisailam Temple
- The Mallikarjuna Temple is one of the only three temples in India that are dedicated to both Jyotirlinga and Shakti Peeth.
- Shakti Peeths are the places where the parts of Goddess Sati, Shiva’s first consort, fell after being carried by Lord Shiva post her sacrifice. Her upper lip is believed to have fallen in the Mallikarjuna temple.
- Every morning, a long line of sages forms in front of the temple. Here, random devotees sponsor breakfast and tea for the pious men.
- Unlike most temples, Mallikarjuna temple allows devotees to touch the Sivalinga while bathing it with milk.
- The Srisailam Hill is reputed as the ‘Kailash of the South’. Mount Kailash is Shiva and Parvati’s home according to ancient scriptures.