Friday, January 5, 2007

Our road trip to Srisailam

On the 2nd of January, Mahi & I drove down to Srisailam for a day or two. Srisailam has one of India's largest reservoirs, as well as the largest tiger sanctuary. Srisailam is a temple town located on a 452 meters high hill in the Nallamalais. The hill itself is called Rishabagiri and used to be on the southern bank of the River Krishna. Thanks to a 512 meters dam across the Krishna, Srisailam now overlooks a huge reservoir.

The drive was amazing. We left early in the morning by around 5 - 5:30 am, and went via Charminar. It was a dream to zip by those roads with virtually no traffic!! Crossed Faluknama and then hit the highway. The outside temperature was between 8 to 10 degrees centigrade, quite chilly.

Srisailam is about 232 kms from Hyderabad. The road to Srisailam is peppered with small towns and villages. You do need to slow down as you approach any town, lest you come across chickens, cows, buffaloes and even human beings crossing the road, oblivious of the oncoming traffic.

We made our first halt just short of the dam, where we had breakfast (sandwiches & chana batana). Washed this down with some Gatorade - lemon flavored. For those who aren't acquainted with this drink - it's really good, tangy and refreshing. I personally like it a lot.

Anyhow, we continued down the winding ghat roads to the lower bridge and then back up the ghat roads on the other side. The Srisailam town is about 16 kilometers from the dam. We finally reached the APTDC (Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation) Punnami Hotel at about 9:30 am. Checked into the rooms, freshened up and then walked around a bit.

We visited the main temple - the Brahmarambha Mallikarjuna Swamy temple. This is a Shiva temple of antiquity, which may be traced back to the Buddhist period and perhaps even earlier to the Mahayana school of the Buddhism, which is known to have flourished during the 1st century A.D. The temple is located inside a fort with stone walls which in turn had motifs sculpted on the walls. The entrance to the temple is flanked by two gaily colored guardians.

All around the main temple are a number of small shrines venerating the various Avatars of Lord Shiva, like Jalalinga, Vayulinga, etc. A bit away and beyond two flights of stairs is the temple where Brahmarambha Devi is worshipped. The temple complex also has a number of other shrines like the Panchapandava shrine and a number of Matts, prominent among them being one established by the great Adi Sankaracharya himself.

This is primarily a Shiva temple and is one of the 12 Jyothirlangas across the country. As a result, there are hordes of people who come to seek the blessing of the lord here. We bought the Rs. 100/- VIP ticket (which entitles us to a free laddoo) and made our way in. What was really disheartening was the amount of commercialism. People assume that just because they have bought the Rs. 100 ticket, they have a right to get in and shove their way through. It is quite sad to see that people are fighting and jostling amongst themselves to get into the temple. At the end of it all, when you do get to see the deity, it's for a matter of seconds only. Makes you wonder if it was worth all the effort! After the temple we went to Canteen number 1 which is just outside the temple for food. They had quite good food, simple and nice. Quite cost effective too.

After that we decided to walk down to the ropeway and Pathalganga. This is a good 2 kilometer walk from the hotel. There are about 500 steps which lead you to Patalaganga. The Patalaganga Ghat comprises of a series of steep, irregularly cut steps, which according to an inscription in the temple were build by a Reddi King of the Kondaveedu Reddi dynasty between the 15th and 16th century. This place is where in the good old days, people used to carry out pujas etc. In case you do not wish to climb down, you can also use the rope way. We used the rope way primarily as it gives you a great view of the reservoir. Also, at the base you can opt for a boat ride till the dam and back. There are two distinct shades to the water - Dark green (towards the center) and light Green (towards the edges). While the APTDC has powered boats, one can also venture out into the waters in a Coracle. These are round, Bamboo baskets- as big as beach umbrellas, tarred to be waterproof.

We chose one of the powerboats which needed a minimum of 15 persons. Thankfully there were a couple of other people around, owing to which the ride was possible. Post the ride, we walked back to the rope way, and that’s where we say their communication device. This is an old wind-up solenoid based phone, which they use in the event that the walkie-talkies are not operational. They kind of reminded me of one of the field phones used by the army.

Once we came back on the top, we walked back to the hotel, and then took the car and went out to see the tribal museum. The museum building is shaped like a huge Shivlinga and is completely circular on the outside. Inside, they have life-sized models of the different tribal villagers, their implements, apparel, pets etc. The guide spoke in Telugu, though it would have been great if they also had an English and Hindi translator too.

Post the tribal museum, we drove up to the Shikaram. This is a small temple located on a hill, which has a Nandi bull right at the top. According to the local lore, if once is able to spot the trident on the spire of the main temple (that I had mentioned in the beginning of the article) from here, then that person's life is blessed and he/she would be free from rebirth. The fact of the matter is that spotting the temple itself is quite difficult owing to the distance, hilly areas and the clouds and fog. Everyone was trying their level best to spot it, but to no avail. This place also has a huge outline of the shivling made from iron, which has bulbs on it. This is lit up at night, and is said to be quite beautiful. While we were there, it was broad daylight, and as such couldn't see the structure lit up.

While driving back we also stopped at Paladhara Panchadhara, a place where it is said that Adi Sankaracharya meditated for a year. This place has beautiful banyan trees all around, and is right next to the forest. In fact there is a path leading down to the forest too. The roots of the banyan trees can be seen breaking the cement surface, and some of them which are growing down, have in turn touched the ground and become as hard as trees themselves. When we came back to the road, we chanced upon a street entertainer and his monkey. Mahi had a great time feeding the monkey some chana batana, while the entertainer was gracious enough to pose for a couple of photographs. He was a very genial chap and didn't ask us for any money. We took a couple of snaps here and then drove back to the hotel (a distance of about 6 kms) and crashed out for the night.

The next day in the morning, we left back for Hyderabad with plans of visiting one of civilizations' untouched waterfalls. About 50 kilometers out of Srisailam, we took a diversion (right turn) at a village called Vaduvarapalli. Our destination was Mallelatheertham (the waterfalls). This diversion is for a distance of 6 kilometers and passes through the village of about 20 huts. Electricity has touched this village only last year, and the road has no tar on it - in true terms a Kaccha Road. We actually drove through the fields, and all we could see in the rear view mirror was the tons of dust that kept rising as a result of our journey.

At the end of 6 kms we came to an abrupt drop, where we had to park their car and walk down multiple flights of stairs. These would easily number over 250. At the base of the steps we met this fascinating gentleman who was a sage (sadhu). He originally hailed from Bangalore and was a Yoga teacher. A couple of years back, he had decided to give up everything, and that’s when he chanced upon this place and decided to settle down here. The only company that he has is the 200 odd monkeys here, and the occasional tourist (like us) who chances upon this place. He doesn't ask for money, loves to talk and converse. Apparently, a lot of people just bring rice / grain and gift it to him. He in turn cooks the same for himself as well as the monkeys. He is fluent in Telugu as well as Hindi. We had a nice time talking to him.

About this place - it is rumored that as per Hindu mythology, when the Pandavas were in exile, they spent one year here. There are a couple of idols on one side in this area. While three of them are recent and have been there only for the last couple of years, one of them is really ancient and is supposed to be from the time of the Pandavas. There is a natural waterfall on one side, the source for which cannot be seen. The water comes from the rocks only, and falls down into the pool below. The waterfall is there all year long, and even during peak summer owing to the water and dense foliage, the place is quite cool. Also there is a Shivlinga at the base of the waterfall, on which the water falls constantly. This too is supposed to be really old.There are huge trees the roots of which are gnarled and thick. We took a couple of snaps here too. In fact one of the trees had its roots all over a rock and had cracked the rock into pieces. This place has also been one of the shooting locales for a Telugu movie called Chakram. As I had mentioned earlier on, this place is virtually unknown and it is only now that AP tourism is sitting up and noticing it.

We left from Mallelatheertham in about an hour and then drove back to Hyderabad through the tiger reserve. All in all, it was a nice short trip.

17 comments:

Mahi said...

Oh god, what would Ramesh do without me??? Here I pitch in again to fill in some blanks.

Firstly, Srisailam has the largest tiger sanctuary but guess what we spotted...A FOX!!! It ran across the road while we were driving along the ghats and dense forests.

Secondly, the Sadhu at Mallelatheertham told us that over 200 monkeys reside in the forest around those waterfalls. Apparently they are always on the look out for food coz they hardly get any. He also mentioned that people who come there regularly actually bring about 5-6 kgs of rice, cook it under a small shed, which is setup there and feed all the monkeys.

Lastly, I must admit the chanas / batanas, "monkeys" and "cattle (cows, buffaloes)" were good companions through out the trip.

It feels great to come so close to nature once in a while. It actually reminded me of the Panchatantra and the Jataka tales!!!

Gulshan Aunty. said...

Good descriptive powers, Bachha! Enjoyed it all!

Ramesh Ramakrishnan said...

Thank you aunty.

Ramesh Ramakrishnan said...

Thank you Mahi...i should update the text with your inputs then.:)

OrangeJammies said...

Lovely pictures, descriptions and details... I felt like I was on the journey myself! How were the free laddoos, by the way? lol!

Ramesh Ramakrishnan said...

Thanks orangejammies. I guess till date this has ben my longest post -not that I've posted that much ;)

The free (or rather not so free)laddoos were thankfully good!!!

OrangeJammies said...

:0)Glad to hear it...about the laddoos, I mean!

Sriram said...

I came to your blog through my search for "Srisailam + forests" in google.
As we are planning to go to Srisailam this weekend, this description would definitely be very useful for us.

Thank you,
Sriram

Vivek Krishna said...

How do I make the hotel reservation

ilight said...

thanks a lot for the info on the trip. actually we are planning to go on a road trip. this wud help a lot i hope :)

Ramesh Ramakrishnan said...

Good to hear that....have a great trip!

sim said...

hii , ive been to this waterfalls sometime back with my friends and am planning to go there again but hav no route map etc any help would be really great

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Anonymous said...

Genial fill someone in on and this fill someone in on helped me alot in my college assignement. Thanks you seeking your information.

Bairam said...

Hi, My name is sunil kumar from hyd.
I have gone thru your description its very nice, I am planning to go for a trip like yours by car, what do & don't or suggestion you would suggest for me. Do reply me on bairamsunil@gmail.com.

Thanks
Sunil Kumar

Vick... said...

Hi
This is Vignesh from Chennai. I have been planning to go to Srisailam with my bike and I was searching for some blogs in the internet. I came through yours and its been extremely useful. Now I can easily sum up your experience with Google Maps and I am extremely hopeful that I can visit all the Places. The reason why I am saying this is, I don't know Telugu and I was skeptical about how am I going to make it. But, Its all easy now with your blog and once again many thanks for sharing this. I am going to start within few hours and will share the experience with you. Thanks Much.

sathya said...



Great thoughts you got there, believe I may possibly try just some of it throughout my daily life.




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