At Srisailam, Vishnupriya Bhandaram discovers that man-made structures blend with Nature effortlessly
Branded a devasthanam, Srisailam just happens to be one of those places, accessible and quaint enough to make for a perfect weekend getaway. At a distance of 220 km from Hyderabad it will drive out any excuse not to want to visit. Once you've meandered through the morning city traffic and made your way to the temple town located on the Nallamalla Hills in Kurnool, you'll realise that Srisailam offers more than just enlightenment; Nature and landscapes come along in bold packages.
It takes about two-and-half hours to get to Srisailam and because the route is peppered with rustic villages and nondescript towns you are often tempted to tuck into a few hot idlis or tender coconut water on the way. Sixty km ahead of Srisailam is the Mallela Teertham waterfalls, located amidst dense forest — so remember to put on your walking shoes. Climb down about 350 steps to the mild cascading water. Usually in full flow, in summer months it is just a sorry trickle. An unappealing fence takes away from the otherwise surreal view of the waterfalls. To get closer to the falls, there is a whole lot of climbing up to do, but when you weigh it against the cold rejuvenating splash of cold water against your skin, it's worth the effort.
Resuming the journey back to Srisailam, if you find yourself hungry, fear not. Small dhabas come in handy, treat yourself to some Rayalseema spices. The Nallamala forest comprises the Nagarjuna Sagar-Srisailam Tiger Reserve. Going for the tiger safari before going to Srisailam is a better bet. The safari is an hour-long ride on a rickety jeep deep into the forests. If you're lucky you'll spot sambhar and deer but the tiger might remain elusive. The ride ends at the ‘viewpoint': at the edge of a cliff opening up to a view of the region. While the view takes on a brown shade in summer, the monsoons make up for it with sparkling green.
Srisailam is situated on a hill–top. The ghat road on the way to the top offers a visual delight. The amalgamation of man-made structures and Nature as you look out of the window is evident — notice the mammoth structure of the dam in contrast to the eroding mountains, exposing their abraded exteriors. You can see the dam with the Krishna river flowing underneath. Once you're in the town, it would be a good idea to walk around. Almost everything is within walking distance.
The rope-way is rather disappointing, especially if you have been on more precarious, longer rope-ways before. Four buggies and just a five–minute stretch, the mid-air ride will end before it even begins to enchant you. That said, you do get a good view on the trip. As you slowly descend to Patalaganga, let your mind lose itself in tranquility, endless mountains and a seamless river. If you're not all that excited by the rope-way, you could always climb down 500 steps. Tea-stalls, ice–cream stands, bhelpuriwallahs, lemon-soda vendors will keep you company along the way. At Patalganga, go on a boat or a coracle and ride across the reservoir, enjoying the view of the hills receding into the horizon over the blue waters. If you are not pressed for time, you could also indulge in a four-hour trip on the river to the Akkamahadevi Caves. The trip comprises a 16-km boat ride on the river flanked by hillocks on both sides and an hour-long venture into the caves that are exemplary geological marvels.
The Brahmarambha Mallikarjuna Swamy temple at Srisailam is one of the 12 jyotirlingas in the country. The temple dates back to almost the first Century AD. On your way back from Srisailam, drop in at Paladhara Panchadhara. Another scenic part of the forest, it is believed that Adi Sankaracharya meditated at the place.
Further down soak in the vision of the Nallamalla forests, as the sun gently kisses the hill–tops. The colours of the evening fade into a distant black and you can still hear the buzz of the forest in your sleep. Before you know it, you've brought the forest back home with you.