The Mallikarjuna Jyotir Lingam Temple,
Sri Sailam, Andhra Pradesh




The Mallikarjuna Jyotir Lingam




The Mallikarjuna Temple top,
crowning the Mallikarjuna Jyotir Lingam



Sri Sailam

Sri Sailam is populary known as “The Kailash of the south” and it is one of the most ancient and sacred places in South India, situated on the banks of the holy River Krishna.

Sri Sailam is a small pilgrimage town in the thick and quite inaccessible forests of the Nallamalai Hills, in the northeastern part of the Nandikotkur Taluk of Kurnool District in Andhra Pradesh, 201 km from Hyderabad. This very important wildlife area is the largest of the States wildlife sanctuaries and you find tigers, leopard, a large colony of Indian pangolins, panther, wild dogs, civet, hyena, jackals, wolves, giant squirrels, crocodiles, lizards, python, vipers, kraits and over 150 species of birds.

At times the area is disturbed due to political activists and can be very difficult to get permission to visit.

Sri Sailam is one of the three “Shiva-Shakti Peetahs” in India, with the temples of the Mallikarjuna Jyotir Linga and the Goddess Bhramaramba. The other Shiva-Shakti Peethas are the Vishwanatha Temple in Kasi or Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh), and the Mahakaleswara Temple in Ujjain (Madhya Pradesh).

Scholars have stated in epichs of India that three holy places offer instant salvation. They are Kasi, Arunachalam and Sri Sailam.

Shiva and Parvati appered here as “Arjuna” and “Mallika”, hence the name “Mallikarjuna”. The mount is famous as “Sri Sailam” meaning “The Esteemed Mount”

Sri Sailam has been prevailing from the times of the Vedas even before the Arya and Dravidian culture. In the 32nd chapter of the Srikhanda article in the Scanda Purana, Veda Vyasa asks Sanat Kumara to explain about Sri Sailam. Sri Sailam is mentioned in several other texts and Puranas and is also called “Sri Giri”, “Sri Parvata”, “Sri Nagara”, “Rudra Parvata” and “Seshachalam”.

Sri Sailam city has grown around the Temple area. There are several possiblities for lodging near the temple, especially out of the big festival times as Maha Shivaratri (Feb/March) or Shrawan Poornima.

All life in the city evolves around the famous temple and Vedic chanting from the morning and evening rituals is heard all over the city. The rest of the day “Om Namah Shivaya” is transmitted, to awaken the spirit and tune the minds towards God.

How to get there
Sri Sailam can be reached by bus or taxi, driving 7 hours (220 km) from Hyderabad or 5 hours (aprox. 175 km) from Kurnool. After 4½ hours drive from Hyderabad the road goes through the dense Nallamalai Forest and a harsh mountaindrive where u-turns begins. The forest is a wildlife sanctuary, with restricted access mainly because of the tiger population. It is advisable to go by daylight as the roads are in poor condition. From Sri Sailam to Kurnool the road is onetracked for aproximately two hours drive through the hilly forest.


The Mallikaarjuna Shrine

The Bharmaramba Devi Shrine


The Mallikarjuna Temple

The Mallikarjuna Temple with the Bhramaramba Temple in the background

The Mallikarjuna temple is situated at the top of the 456 m high Rishabhagiri Hill (Rishab = bull) on the southern bank of the river Krishna in the midst of the Nallamallai Forest. About two miles down the hill flows the ancient river River Krishna. Since it runs underground during parts of its journey, it is known as “Paatala Ganga”.

The presiding deities of Sri Sailam is Lord Sri Mallikarjunaswamy and Goddess Sri Bhramaramba Devi.

Mallika = A kind of Jasmine

It is believed that a princess fell in love with a deity at mount Sri Saila and
offered him a garland of Mallika every day; Jasmine symbolizes perfection and purity.

The temple

The temple is constructed in the traditional Dravidian style and it was famous even in the 1st century.

The origin of Sri Sailam is obscure and the present Mallikarjuna Temple, originally circa second century AD, dates back to 14th century. It has often been attacked and damaged because of its richness and political importance..

The temple abounds in sculptural beauty and there are about 116 inscriptions in and around it. This sthalam, along with Thiruppudaimarudur near Ambasamudram and Thiruvidaimarudur is considered an Arjuna Ksetram.

Other shrines in the tempel compound

Behind or to the North of the shrine is a seperate temple of Parvati, known as the Temple of Mallika Devi. Near about are the famous pilgrimcenters of Ambaji, the Vilvavana and the Mahanadi. There is also a Shakti Peetha of the Goddess Bhramaramba, the consort of Lord Mallikarjunaswami, in the form of Goddess Kali. Ambal's Sannadhi is to the west of Iswaran Sannadhi. 

It is said the “Vrishabha”, the sacred bull of Lord Shiva performed penance here. Lord Shiva appeared before him, with his consort Parvati in the forms of Mallikarjuna and Bharamaramba.

Other shrines within the temple include the “Sahasra Linga”, “Panchapandava Temples” and “Vata Vriksha”.


Main gate to the tempelarea

Seva board at main entrance telling about the
Pujas, Homas and other Sevas that are offered in the temple

The east Gopuram, the main entrance to the temple compound


The 300m long outer temple wall is 6m high and is richly decorated
with carved figures depicting stories from the epics.


The top of the Gopuram

Entrance at the gate tower

The silver plated entrance

A beautiful gate facing East welcome the visitor inside to the road leading up to the temple ground. The silver plated entrance of the temple grounds leads to the centre Mandapam, with several pillars and a huge idol of Nadikeswarar (Nandi bull). Pilgrims are lead to the Mallikarjuna shrine through several banisters that regulates the “traffic” of the thousands of visitors. Just before the entrance of the Sanctum Santorum is as always a smaller Ganapati shrine.

Dwarapalaka, the guardian deity
of Lord Shiva at the entrance


Silver plated doorstep at the east tower



Entrance to the Mallikarjuna shrine with a TV screen, so the devotees can
over look the activities in the inner shrine while waiting in queue

Top of the flagpole


The Mallikarjuna Shiva Lingam

The Mallikarjuna Shiva Lingam

Two Lingams are actually called “Mallikarjuna Lingam”.

The “new” Mallikarjuna Lingam is placed in a silverplated Mantapam in the main Mallikarjuna shrine. It is aproximately 15 x 20 cm and 12 cm high. It is placed in a square formed Yoni apr. 75 x 75 cm and 8 -10 cm high. The main worship takes place here and thousands of pilgrims have the darshan of Lord Mallikarjuna here every day.

The “old” Mallikarjuna Lingam is placed in a smaller shrine in the temple south of the main Mallikarjuna shrine. This is the only Lingam in the temple which has no Nandi bull in front. The Lingam is big, about 20-25 cm high and 30 cm in diameter. It is marked by time and looks like the stub of a tree. It is said that this Linga is older than the main Mallikarjuna Linga.

Several other Lingams are placed in separate shrines southwest of the main temple.


Darshan of Lord Mallikarjuna

It is said, that those who worship Lord Mallikarjuna recieve instant good fortune and all their poverties are washed away. Devotees prevail with astral powers and after death they attain “Moksha” - enlightenment.

The most appealing feature of this temple is that anyone of any cast and creed, can touch the deity and worship here, a custom not found anywhere in Andhra Pradesh.

Worship of Lord Shiva at this shrine gives the effect equivalent to one’s performing an “Ashwamedha Yagya”, a great horse sacrifice performed in ancient times.

In Sri Sailam the Krishna river is known as “Pathala Ganga”, and is a very sacred river for pilgrims. It is about two miles from the temple, with a flight of 500 stone steps leading to it. People bathe in this river before going for the darshan of the Lord.


The collonade leading to the shrine in evening light

The Mallikarjuna Shrine on a full moon evening

Evening life in the temple premises on a fullmoon night

The main gate in the October full moon 2004

The Gopurams of the Bhramaramba & Mallika Devi (Parvati) shrines
The Mallikarjuna Shrine to the right


The Gopurams of the Bhramaramba and Mallika Devi (Parvati) shrine

Temple top crowning
the Mallikarjuna Jyotir Lingam

Dancing Shiva adorning a doorframe

Entrance to a sacred well

Sapta Matajis - "de syv mødre"

Collonade with several highly revered Shiva Lingams


Carved bords depicting the 12 Jyotir Lingams in India






Sri Sailam

“Kaasyanatu Maranaanmuktihi Smarana Darunachale
Darsana Deva Sri Saile Punarjanma Na Vidyate”

By facing death in Kasi, reciting Bhagavannama in Arunachalam
and just visiting Sri Saila Ksetra, men are attaining salvation or Mukti.

 “Sri Saila Sikharam Drushtwa Punarjanma Na Vidyate”



Another of the innumerous depictions of the 12 Jyotir Lingams

The Mallikaarjuna Shrine

The Bharambara Devi Shrine



Mahabharata, Shiv Purana and other holy texts describe the importance of this shrine. It was to this mount Kartikeya/Muruga had exiled himself when estranged from his parents on account of their declaring Ganesh as the winner in the contest of circunambulating the world to decide who should marry first, Kartikeya/Muruga or Ganesh. To placate the frayed temper of their son, Shiva and Parvati appeared here as Arjuna and Mallika, hence the name.
When Siva and Parvathi decided to find suitable brides for their sons, Ganesha and Muruga argued as to who is to get wedded first. Lord Shiva bade that the one who goes round the world in Pradakshinam could get married first. By the time Lord Muruga could go round the world on his vahana, Lord Ganesha went round his parents 7 times (for according to Sastras, going in pradakshina round one's parents is equivalent to going once round the world (Boopradakshinam). Lord Shiva got Siddhi and Buddhi, the daughters of Viswaroopan got married to Lord Ganesha. 

Muruga on his return was enraged and went away to stay alone on Mount Kravunja in the name of Kumarabrahmachari. On seeing his father coming over to pacify him, he tried to move to another place, but on the request of the Devas, stayed close by. The place where Lord Siva and Parvathi stayed came to be known as Sri Sailam. Lord Shiva visits Lord Muruga on Amavasai day and Parvathi Devi on Pournami. (from Sthala Purana) 


A place for saints ...

Sri Sailam is associated historically with great rulers as the Chalukyan kings, Krishna Devaraya of Vijayanagara, Chatrapati Shivaji and many others. They came here and performed Puja and Abishekam to Lord Mallikarjuna, constructed free lodgings and buildings and performed charitable activities.

Lord Shiva surrounded by saints throughout all ages

Several famous saints, sadhus, poets and seekers have visited this place. Traditions says that the sacred Lingam has been worshipped by Hiranya Kasipa in Kritha Yuga, Lord Sri Hari in Tretha Yuga after the assasination of Ravana. The Pandavas came to Sri Sailam in Dwapara Yuga and constructed many temples. Lord Dattatreya Siddha Nagarjuna performed penance under the “Triple beneficial tree” besides the Mallikarjuna shrine.

The three Saivaite saints Thirugnanasambandar, Thirunavukkarasar and Sundarar have sung in praise of the Lord at this place.  

Shankaracharya shrine in the pilgrim shelters outside the temple compound

The sanctity of this place is claimed both by the Hindus as well as by the Buddhists, as Sri Sailam had great importance in the Buddhist era. Acharya Nagarjuna resided on the Sri Sailam mountain and history tells that the mountain was called, “Nagarjuna Konda”. Tamil poets from 7th-8th century praised Lord Mallikarjuna in the book “Tevaram” as “Paruppadam”, hence the Theertham is known as “Paruppada Theertham”. Adi Shankara is said to have worshipped the deity at the temple and to have composed the “Sivananda Lahari” at this Sthalam. “Dwadasa Jyotirlinga sthrotra” of Adi Shankaracharya also mention Sri Sailam.


Experience in the Sanctum Santorum

My first Darshan of Lord Mallikarjuna, Tuesday the 26/19-2003, was an elevating experience. You can have a “quick” Darshan for 30 rupees and larger rituals are offered to suit the purpose of the pilgrimage.

The next morning I went to the temple in the early morning before sunrise and bought a 400 rupee “Abishekam”. An Abishekam is a Vedic offering ritual of pouring water and other substances on the idol. The perform the Puja, I received two coconuts, a Vastram (cloth), holy water, rock sugar, flowers and Bilva leaves, which is very dear to Lord Shiva. I had brought water from the Ganga river from my recent visit in Kasi and Vibhuti from the Homakunda from the newly celebrated Navatri in Hyderabad.

Inside the Sanctum Santorum it felt as if thousands of stars exploded in my head. I have been very happy visiting the Jyotir Lingams in Varanasi, Devgad and Rameshwaram and this most sacred place was no exception. Inside we sat down besides the Mantapam with the Lingam, the priest recited Vedic Mantras and the Abishekam began. We poured milk over the Lingam, the coconuts were broken and coconut milk was poured over. Next we poured water over the Lingam with a small spoon, to the recitation of Vedic mantras. After the ritual the people present there were allowed to put our foreheads on the Shiva Lingam and it was a very blissful experience. The priest anointed us with a large amount of Vibhuti on the forehead. The rest of the Pujamaterial, Vastram, sugar and the coconuts we kept as Prasadam (as a gift from the God).

After this most elevating experience I felt light as if a lot of weight had disappeared and was almost flowing around at the temple ground.


Excurtions in the surroundings of Sri Sailam

Shiva Temple

There are several smaller temples in the vicinity of Sri Sailam city worth visiting. The local drivers will happily take you to a small Gayatri Temple with a beautiful flagpole, a snake pit in the temple ground of another small temple, a spring where the water tastes sweet like milk aso.

Flagpole in a Devi Temple

Snakepit in the Shiva Temple

The Sri Sailam area covers an area of 384 x 384 km. As a hilly river and forest area lots of waterbanks are formed by nature. Old bathing ghatts have been constructed as early as in the beginning of the 14th century. The area has nine cities, nine caves, nine banana gardens, nine Nandi bulls, medicinal plants, forests of meditation etc..

The well where water tasting sweet like milk


Sri Saila Sikaram & Sikareswara Temple

Stairs to the wievpoint of
the whole area of Sri Sailam and ...

... where it is considered highly auspicious
and a great blessing to ...

... look through your fingers and see Sri Sailam between the horns of the Nandi bull

Devotees take great importance in a darshan of the the Sri Saila Sikaram from the top of the highest hill in the Sri Sailam area. The hill is six miles from Sri Sailam and the Sikareswara Swami Temple is situated on top of the hill. This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Another temple is also there, dedicated to Lord Ganesh. The temple hill is easily accessible with autorichshaw.

One of the features is a small Nandi Bull on the top of the temple hill facing Sri Sailam and the Mallikarjuna Temple. It is custom to hold two fingers on the horns of the small bull and look at the Sri Sailam through the small peephole thus formed. 


Happy Gods and Godesses at Sri Saila Sikhara

Krishna River 2 miles from the temple area with the lift to the bathing ghatts.
The Sri Sailam Dam is in the back ground.


Mountain lift to Krishna River


In Sri Sailam the Krishna river is known as "Pathala Ganga", and is regarded as a very sacred river for pilgrims. About two miles from the Mallikarjuna Temple is the bathing ghatt with the 500 steps leading to the river Krishna. People bathe in this river before going for darshan of Lord Shiva in the temple.

The bathing Ghatts are quite inaccessible. In October 2004 a mountain lift was under construction, which makes it easier for disabled to reach the riverside. A hotel has been constructed at this site in 2004.


The Sri Sailam Dam


An attraction of a more mundane character is the huge Sri Sailam Dam, inaugurated by Navahal Nehru in July 1963. The dam is the pride of the area, delivering electricity to several bigger and smaller cities in Andhra Pradesh.


Sun setting over Sri Sailam



OM Namah Shivaya  ► created by BP