Srisailam, a unique combination of forest sanctuary
and pilgrimage town, makes a refreshing weekend break
from Hyderabad. The River Krishna carves a deep gorge
through the woods of the Nallamalai Hills, and leaves
in its wake a lush forest that is home to India's largest
tiger reserve. The reserve is huge - 3568 sq km - spread
over five districts in Andhra Pradesh.
shelters blackbuck, panthers, chinkara, spotted deer,
nilgai, pangolins, leopards, soft-shelled turtles, porcupines,
crocodiles and a variety of other animals, birds and
snakes, in addition to the tiger. There is a successful
crocodile reintroduction programme in Ethipothala, a
cataract close to Srisailam. Nearby, the 512 m long from
Srisailam Dam on the River Krishna is set amidst beautiful
natural scenery - ghats, cliffs, craggy ridges, plateaus
and dense forests.
forests have attracted human visitors for centuries,
not only because of the ecological systems that it supports,
but also as a pilgrimage centre. Pilgrims bathe in the
Pathalaganga - the local name for the River Krishna -
before visiting the sacred shrines of Brahmaramba, Mallikarjunaswamy,
Uma-Maheshwara and Saraswati.
sacred bull Vrishabha is said to have performed penance
at the Mahakali temple till Shiva and Parvati appeared
before him as Mallikarjuna and Brahmaramba. The temple
is one of the 12 hallowed jyotirlingas; Lord Rama himself
installed the Sahasralinga, while the Pandavas lodged
the Panchapandava lingas in the temple courtyard. Heroic
legends from the Mahabharata and Ramayana are sculpted
in stone on the temple walls and the Mahabharata epic
refers to Srisailam as Sri Parvata - the blessed hill.
There also hear the buzzing of a bee through a tiny hole
in the Brahmaramba temple, where Parvati, in the form
of a bee, slew the demon Mahisasura.
of the nicest aspects of these temples is that everyone
is allowed to pray here and touch the Lord's feet, unlike
some other ancient temples. So come to Srisailam for
that interesting holiday you've always wanted - it's
a different world altogether.