Srisailam - The holy town
Srisailam is one of the well known places to visit in South India. The ones who are religious visit it to pay homage to number of temples in the town while the tourists visit it for the dam, lake and a break. Its location in Kurnool district of #AndhraPradesh, India makes it easy to reach from major cities of Telangana-Andhra such as Hyderabad and Vijayawada. Nestled in the Nallamala forest which also happens to be India's largest Tiger reserve in terms of area, the temple town of Srisailam is definitely the 2nd most holiest place in the state after Tirupati. We were planning for a trip to Srisailam since long but were waiting for the right moment. A long weekend around Dussehra (a hindu festival) was perfect for our plan - to club Srisailam with Gandikota (India's Grand Canyon) in the same trip over a long weekend from Hyderabad. We visited Mallela Theertham on our way to Srisailam and this travelogue we will detail our experience of visiting Srisailam, especially during Dussehra festival.
We started early in morning from Hyderabad in Telangana state of India and visited Dindi reservoir and Mallela Theertham waterfalls on our way. The river Krishna separates 2 hills and also forms the boundary that divides the states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Srisailam dam built post independence across these hills is India's 2nd largest hydroelectric station and a major irrigation hub for surrounding areas. One will not miss this dam enroute to Srisailam as road goes downhill towards a bridge across the river before going uphill again to reach the town. There are 2-3 viewpoints on the road from where you can witness the grandeur of this dam. Unfortunately the gates of the dam were not open when we were there but we had a good time clicking some photographs. We checked into our hotel late in the noon and had lunch before resting for an hour.
In the evening, we explored the town and visited a tribal museum. We didn't know what to expect here as most reviews we had read said it's a fun place for kids. The place has a small circular museum depicting various tribes of South India - their cultures, their attire, their homes, tools and occupations. While nothing impressive, we were surprised to know there are so many tribes in the region. It also has a small shop which sells artifacts and organic products made by some of these tribes. Apart from this, there is a park which might interest kids, but definitely not us.
It was almost dark and we decided to take a stroll around the temple area. The main temple in Srisailam is dedicated to Lord Mallikarjuna and is one of the 12 jyotirlingas dedicated to lord Shiva and one of the 18 shakti peethas as per Hindu religion. If one is visiting Srisailam for religious purposes, there is enough material on internet about fees, line, laddus and rules so we would not get into those details. You can also get all these details and even book poojas on their official website - www.srisailamonline.com. In Fact most of us didn't even visit the temple as we were more fascinated by things around the temple.
The hindu festival - Dussehra was in a day so the decorations and a shopping street opposite the main temple was a photographer's heaven. The street was bustling with all sorts of people and shops. We saw a man embossing a trishul (3 spears) shaped tilak on forehead of passersby and asking for money. A kid painted in silver was standing as a mannequin on street dressed as Gandhi hoping to get paid. Sadhus or religious ascetics with long beards and dressed in saffron were common and so were bangle shops glittering in light. Srisailam was probably the best place for street photography ever. But we didn't know what was in store for us that night. We were in for a shock as we started hearing loud drums beating in distance.
The town was suddenly alive with excitement and people were rushing towards the main temple. At the same time a lot of people were walking out of the temple. Before we could ask anyone what was happening, we saw 2 huge mascots walking out of the main Srisailam temple with their hands joined to greet Namaste. This was followed by people dancing in traditional styles, the holy cow, people dressed as hindu mythological characters such as Shiva and Ganesh, ascetics chanting hymns, men playing drums to their loudest, a man spitting fire, tribals playing their own musical instruments and at last 2 huge chariots housing idols of Hindu gods draped in colorful flowers and clothes. It soon turned into a carnival of sorts where organizers pulled up ropes on both sides of road to keep onlookers at bay and policemen were everywhere trying to control the chaos. Some people were busy praying to the main lord idols while few wanted to touch the holy cow for blessings. We on the other hand were completely taken aback by this sudden turn of events and were taken over by our camera. For next couple of hours it seemed our camera was controlling us as a sea of incredible faces put us in trance. Hunger, thirst, sweat, tiredness, all numbed by the drug of colors, costumes, cultures and chaos.
Couple of hours later when Srisailam's Dussehra carnival was all over, we came back to our senses. One of us drank 3 cold drinks to quench the thirst, while someone quickly ordered food before they faint while someone just went to sleep. Such was the trance. We woke up next morning and visited APTDC (Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation) ropeway - a small ropeway which takes you to foot of the lake and takes you for a boat ride. Though nothing great, it was a fresh start to the morning and we were all looking forward to what other surprises were in store for us. One can also go to Akkamahadevi caves through a separate boat from the same point. We did not choose this because neither did we have time nor were we interested in seeing them as reviews we read about it were quite okayish. We then went to Sikharam which is supposedly the highest peak of this area and gives a good view of the whole temple town of Srisailam.
We then left Srisailam and traveled to our next destination Gandikota - The Grand canyon of India. Srisailam turned out to be quite an experience and felt like a good weekend destination for those traveling from Hyderabad or Vijayawada. Srisailam gave us way more richer experience than what we had expected and hope the rest of the trip does so too. Stay tuned to see how our journey unfolds.
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Have you visited Srisailam? Is it your type of place? Did our travelogue make you want to visit it? Have you witnessed such carnival before? Let us know your thoughts in comment section below.