Srisailam, the Jyotir Lingam of compassion

Srisailam is a temple situated on a flat top of Nallamalai Hills and it is reputed to be one of the most ancient ‘ shetras’ or pilgrimages in India. It is the home of Lord Mallikarjuna, one of the twelve Jyotir lingams or ‘lingams of light’ and Goddess Bhramaramba Devi, which is one of the eighteen Maha Shakti peeth.This unique combination of major god and goddess shrines at the same site makes Srisailam one of India’s most holy sites.

In the traditional Hindu mythology, this pilgrimage is identified as the ‘Kailasa on the earth’ and named as ILA – KAILASAM. Besides its mythical antiquity, Srisailam is also having a hoary historical antiquity. Starting from the Satavahanas who were the earliest rulers of Andhradesa. The earliest known historical mention of the Hill – Srisailam, can be traced in Pulumavis Nasik inscription of 1st Century A.D.

Jyotir lingam and Shakti Peeth

A Shiva-lingam (fort of Orchha)

The lingam is the symbol of the Hindu god Shiva. There are numerous lingams throughout India, but the twelve Jyotir lingams or ‘lingams of light’ are the holiest and most worshipped of all. Jyoti means ‘light’ and lingam means ‘mark’ or ‘sign’. According to Hindu tradition, the Jyotirlingams pilgrimage washed off bad karma and makes the soul and body pure.


The Shakti personified by the goddess Durga

The Shakti Peethas are places (peetha) of worship dedicated to Shakti. Shakti means ‘power’ or ‘energy’. It is often associated with the feminine principal and personified by Devi, Hinduism’s primordial goddess.

There are Shakti Peethas scattered all over India. The exact number is uncertain but some say there are 51 in all. Eighteen are unanimously accepted as Maha Shakti Peethas. Four Shakti Peethas, called Adi Shakti Peethas, are considered the most sacred of all the Peethas.


The legend of Srisailam

Sri Sailam Temple | Photo credit:

A number of legends have grown round Srisailam and its principal deities. According to one of the legends mentioned in the Skanda Purana, the Jyotirlinga was discovered by a princess named Chandravathi. 

This princess took refuge in the mountains of Sri Sailam to escape her father’s improper advances. One day, she saw in the forest a cow pouring its milk on a rock in the shape of a Shiva-lingam.

Shiva effigy at the entrance to Sri Sailam temple

The next night, Shiva appeared to the princess in a dream and told her that this rock was the manifestation of his presence. A temple was later erected there. From that time Chandravathi led daily worship to the Shiva lingam with flowers of Jasmin (Mallika).

One day Shiva appeared and Chandravathi begged him to constantly wear a jasmine garland on his head. She also asked him to become his consort. He agreed and said he would be known here as Mallikarnuja and gave her the name of Brahmaramba.

Replica of the Jyotir lingam Mallikarjunadu temple Sri Sailam

To be able to have the Darshan of the jyotir lingam, you will need to be patient! Like in all the high places of pilgrimage in India, you have to wait for a long time. I waited four hours, among a compact crowd, but the game is worth the effort!

The endless queue to access the holy of holies, but it’s worth the effort

About accommodation

Hindu devotee on pilgrimage to Sri Sailam

There are plenty of accommodations around the temple but if you are traveling alone as it was my case, you must first register at the police station otherwise hotels will not accept you. After being refused room at hotels in Sri sailam I was eventually said that as it is a sacred many single persons come to Srisailam to end their life… so hotels managers don’t take any risks. At the police station you will be asked about your motivation and you will be given an official approval paper to stay in Srisailam.


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