It is a baffling question among the historians
regarding Srisailam to which part of the Nallamalla hills
the term actually applies. Though the range extends pretty a long distance covering
Tirumala and Ahobilam in the South and Nagarjunakonda and Srisailam in
the north, the name Srisailam is popularly attributed to the
last mentioned hill. It is variously called as Srisaila, Sriparvatha,
Srigiri and Srinaga. One of the hills near Nagarjunakonda, according to
some of inscriptions found there, is called Siri parvata. The Ikshvaku king
Virapurshadatta of the third century A.D. is attributed as Siriparvatadhipati
in one of his records; and this particular hill is said to be lying to the east
of his capital Vijayapuri. The actual Srisaila the abode of
the God Mallikarjuna and Goddess Bhramaramba is
located at a distance of about 60 km to the west of Sriparvata of
the Ikshvaku records. So scholars are inclined to identify the whole range of
hills extending over nearly 150 km as Sriparvata.
Some etymologists believe that the Prakrit or
Sanskrit term Sriparvata has its origin in the desi word Nallamalai itself
(Nalla =sacred or good = sri; malai = hill = parvata). Similarly, Tirumalai is also called Srisaila. They also contend that the name
of the god Mallikarjuna is the Sanskrit form of the original
name Mullaikkarasar (Mallikarjuna), like Mallaipperumal for god of
Tirumala is also Venkateswara, which was in vogue in the medieval times. Even today,Mallayya or
Chenchu Mallayya is an alternative in Telugu for Mallikarjuna.
It seems that sometime in early centuries of the Christian era, when
Sanskritisation of several place names started, the names Srisaila and Mallikarjuna come
into vogue, for the desi terms Nallamalai and Mallaikkararsar respectively.
Although the term Sriparvatha and Srisaila are
synonymous, it is noticeable that the former term was in popular usage in the
early inscriptions whereas the latter gained frequency from the medieval times.
The villagers in the neighborhood of this place call it Parvatam and
after which several personal names also can be generally noticed. While
performing prayers, people specify their existing location with reference
to Srisaila, e.g., east, northeast, etc .the origin of this
practice, thought quite ancient, cannot be ascribed to any precise date or
legend of Chandragupta and his daughter Chandravati and the cow shedding milk
in a particular place where a self emanated stone revealed Itself as God shiva
and so on, indicate that the deity was originally a hill God obtaining non-ritualistic
worship by the cowherds and tribals. Its names at that time were perhaps
Malaikkarasar as suggested by its present name Mallayya or Mallanna.
This latter form cannot be the Telugu rendering of the Sanskrit name Mallikarjuna,
because there is no component like Malla in it, or even Malli cannot be
detached from Mallika. The argument, however, need not go against the
early origin of the deity, but it is to say that the originally tribal deity
might have been admitted into brahmanical order of Shiva worship sometime in the
early centuries of the Christian era with the Sanskrit name Mallikarjuna.
This is also evident from the fact that the local Chenchus claiming Mallikarjuna
as their God Mallayya worship this God and the Goddess Bhramaramba
on a particular occasion.
earliest epigraphical allusion to Srisailam according to some scholars
is noticeable in Nasik inscription of Vasisthiputra Pulumavi, later Satavahana
king, wherein Saritana and Seda (ta) giri are said to have been included in the
kingdom of his father, Gautamiputra SriSatakarini. In this context, Setagiri
has been identified with a hillock of that name near Nagarjunakonda. The
occurrence of that word in the Nagarjunakonda inscription of Abhira Vasusena-3
representing a mountain in the Nagarjunakonda valley conforms to the aforesaid
identification. But the identification of Siritana with Srisaila
proper, suggested by R.G.Bhandakar4 and Buhler5 cannot be accepted as it
represents more reasonably modern. Thane in Western Maharashtra, where Buddhist
caves are located, some epigraphs of the medieval period at Umamaheshvaram and
other places mention the Amarabad range lying opposite to Srisailam also
as Sriparvatha, thereby applying the term to the whole range of Nallmalai,
skirting the river Krishna on both sides of Siddhesvaram-Somasila on the west
of Nagarjunakonda Vijayapuri on east, extending for about 150 km. It was called
Siriparvata or Sriparvata. During the time of the Satavahanas, Setagiri
near Vijayapuri in the east was prominent and that spot was specified in the
said Nasik inscription although the entire range was intended as one of the
great hills in their kingdom.
scholars identify the Sriparvatiyas of the Puranas with the Chutus who
were ruling at the foot of Srisaila, but not the “Ikshvaakus”. Ikshvaku
Virapurushadatta is described as Siriparvatadhipathi in one of his
records, Siriparvata in its yogika sense being the sacred hill near Vijayapuri.
They also contend that the Ikshvakus cannot be called the Sriparvatiyas
as that appellation more appropriately applies to the Chutus alone who were
also called Andhras and ruling at the foot of the Srisaila or on the
other side of the river Krishna at Chandragupta nagara as subordinates under
the later Satavahanas. Several coins of these rulers are found in the Kurnool
and Mahaboobnagar districts. Instead of admitting two different views for the
same word it is more reasonable to assume that Sriparvata like Nallmalai
represents the whole range of nearly 150 km length along the river Krishna
the founder of the kadamba dynasty according to the Talagunda inscription of
the fifth century A.D., claims to have extended his independent principality up
to the gates of Sriparvata, defeating the border rulers of the Pallava
territory. As the Ikshvaku records refer to the eastern part of Sriparvata,
this Kadamba record refers likely to its western part in the present
Nandikotkur taluk of the Kurnool district.
to Srisailam in the Puranas and other literary works of the early period
can be brought together as follows:
Andhras are mentioned in more than one Puranas as semi-independent rulers
during the later Satavahana rule. They are identifiable with the Chutus.
Goddess Bhramaramba is stated to be one of the 18 Saktis
- The Matsya
– Puranas described it as a seat of the mother Goddess Madhavi.
Agni-puruna states that Srisaila is Siddhakshetra where the god
Shiva and Parvathi always reside.
the Advaita philosopher who is believed to have lived in the fifth-sixth
century A.D. includes Srisaila among the 12 jyotirilinga
places in his jyotirilinga – stotra. Two verses in his
Sivanandalahari praise the Mahalinga of Mallikarjuna of Srigiri.
The goddess of eight verses on the Goddess Bhramaramba is also
attributed to him. Above all, Sankara is stated to have resided at Srisaila
for some time, when his disciple Padmapadaacharya had an encounter with
Kathasaritsagara narrates a story about a Kasmirian performing penance at Srisaila,
seeking boons from the God Siva.
in his Vasavadatta described Sriparvata as the abode of Mallikarjuna.
is stated in the Mahabharata as one of the holy places.
Skanda-Purana contains a separate section called Srisaila Khanda.
- The Vayu –
purana prescribes the performance of Sraddha ceremony to the manes at Srisaila.
in his Malatimadhva alludes to a Siddha of Srisaila named
Aghoraghanta, obviously a Kapalika Saiva, who is stated to have captured
the heroine Malati.
of Kanouj (A.D. 604-640) alludes in his Ratnavali to a Siddha named
Srikanthadasa of Sriparvata who is said to have taught udayana, the
hero of the play, the art of jalandharavidya.
of the above literary works had their origin in the fifth-sixth centuries A.D.
though not earlier. Now theories are coming forward to date Sankaracharya in
the fifth-sixth century A.D. Similarly, the Puranas such as Vayu, Agni, and
Matsya are generally believed to have been compiled during the Gupta period,
i.e., before the middle of the fifth century A.D. So is the case with
Vasubandhu the author of Svapna Vasavadatta. Therefore it is quite reasonable
to believe that this Saiva centre, Srisaila took at least three
centuries duration to gain such popularity before finding place in then said
literary works and to attract great ascetics, like the Siddhas. The name Mallikarjuna
of the God is also probably an innovation made by the Siddhas, imitating the
name of Siddha Nagarjuna;
on any reasonable account the antiquity of this Shaiva centre Srisailam
as the abode of a hill God, Mallikarjuna cannot be earlier than the
second century.A.D. And as the abode of hill god, worshipped by the tribals,
the reminiscence of which still remains, its antiquity can be pushed back by
some more centuries. Beyond this, we lack proper historical evidence regarding