- By Prof. P.V.Parabrhma Sastry
Traditions as well as epigraphical sources inform us that the inaccessible shrine of Srisailam is approachable through four places on the plains, generally called the gateways of Srisailam on its four-cordinal directions. They are Tripurantakam in the Prakasam district, in the East, Siddhavatam in the Cuddapah district, in the South, Alampuram in the Mahaboobnagar district, in the west and Umamahesvaram in the same district, in the North. Beside these main gates four secondary gateways in the four corner directions are also popularly known. They are Elesvaram, now submerged in the Nagarjunasagar dam, in the Northeast, Somasila on the Penna River, in Southeast, Pushpagiri again on the Penna River, in the Southwest and Sangamesvara at the confluence of the rivers Krishna and Tungabhadra on the Northwest. The concept of the gateways of Srisailam is traceable from 8th –9th centuries AD. All these places, particularly the four main places developed as centers of pilgrimage.
1. TRIPURANTAKAM: The presiding deity here is called Tripurantakadeva, with Goddess Tripurasundaridevi. This place is also called Kumaragiri. Before the construction of Guntur-Guntakal Railway, pilgrims from coastal Andhra used to pass through this place in their journey to Srisailam.If they go by foot they need not go to Dornala. They can directly go from Erragondapalm, Telugurayacheruvu and reach Chukkalaparvatam, climbing which they can reach Srisailam. Now the bus goes through Dornala. Tripurantakama is historically an important place. There are more than a hundred inscriptions incised on the walls and loose stone slabs in the temple compound. Most of these records belong to the medieval period from eleventh to sixteenth century that is from the period of the western Chalukyas to the Kakatiya period. Several local chiefs like the Velanati Chodas, Kota chiefs, and the Kakatiya rulers and their subordinates endowed the temple of Tripurantakadeva with numerous gifts. The Kayastha chiefs were the great worshippers of this God. Ambadeva of that family having revolted against the Kakatiya Queen Rudramadevi, proclaimed independence in A.D. 1289, to which effect he set up a lengthy record in Sanskrit at this temple. The ground plan of the main temple at Tripurantakam is in star shape with a spacious interior garbhagriha and mandapa. It is datable to the early part of the Western Chalukyas. Pasupata Saivism seems to be the main religion that prevailed here for a long period. The Aradhya Saivas came into prominence from fourteenth century.
2. SIDDHHAVATAM: It is a taluk town in the Cuddapah District. The presiding deity here is Jyoti Siddhavatesvara. Jyothi is another holy place very near to this and its god is called Jyothisvara or jyothinath. These two places are on the bank of Pinakini or Penna River. Pilgrims from South visit this place and proceed to Srisailam. We do not find many inscriptions in this temple.
Pushpagiri is also on the bank of the river Pinakini. It is about 12km. from Cuddapah, its district headquarters. The presiding deity here is Vaidyanathasvami. Indranathasvami and Chennakesava are also popularly worshipped here. The antiquity of the place seems to be early as the Ikshvaku period. An inscription at Nagarjunakonda refers to Pushpagiri, where certain Bodhisri is said to have built here a stone pavilion, i.e. silamandapa. The earliest extant epigraphical record at Pushpagiri is datable to the time of the Rashtrakuta king Krishna II (A.D. 878-914) or III (A.D. 939-967). Therein, it is clearly stated that the place is the southern gateway of Srisailam. Inscriptions of other dynasties like the Western Chalukyas, the Kakatiyas, the later Vaidumbas and the Vijayanagara are noticeable here. The main temple here is a double shrine structure for the deities Chennakesava and Umamaheshvara.
3. ALAMPURAM: On the left bank of Tungabhadra in the Mahaboobnagar district is the Western gateway of Srisailam. It is also called Halampura in early inscriptions. God Blalabrahmesvara is the presiding deity here. The Goddess Jogulamba, the main female deity here, is considered to be one of the eighteen Sakthis and hence the place is a Saktipitha like Srisailam. There are nine early temples dedicated to nine Brahmesvaras, namely Bala-Brahma, the main deity, Arka-Brahma, Visva-Brahma, Padma-Brahma, Garuda-Brahma, Kumara-Brahma, Vira-Brahma, Svarga-Brahma and Taraka-Brahma. All these temples are early Chalukya structures with uniform curvilinear vimanas, except the sixth one, which is in Dravidian style. The temples are very important study of early temple architecture in the middle Deccan. There are more than fifty inscriptions in these temples, the earliest being that of Chalukya Vikramaditya I (A.D. 657 – 678) and the latest being those of Krishnadevaraya. Of all the four gateways of Srisailam, Alampuram is the richest in ancient structures and epigraphical records. The main school of Saivism that flourished here is kalamukha and later Pasupata. The influence of Siddha cult at Amalapura in the early period is much said in the local tradition.
4. UMAMAHESHVARAM: The Fourth gateway is Umamaheshvaram about 6 km from Achampeta in Mahaboobnagar District. It is situated on the edge of a hill forming the vast plateau, generally called Sri Parvata. God Umamaeshara is the presiding deity. Pilgrims from Telangana region in the former days had generally to pass through this temple. The present bus route does not touch this place; it goes two miles away from the temple. According to the inscriptions preserved in the temple the history of the place starts from the Kakatiya period and its references at other places are traceable to the later Chalukya period, from Trailokyamalla Somesvarai I (A.D. 1042 – 68). The Velama king Madanayaka constructed for the benefit of pilgrims a paved footpath with steps from this place up to Jatararevu covering nearly 50 km up to river Krishna. After crossing river at this ferry point known as Jatararevu they have to climb up the Chukkala-parvatam and walk about 4 km to reach Srisailam.
Secondary Gate Ways
Beside the main gateways four more Secondary Gateways in the four corner directions are also popularly known.
EleswaramIn Mahaboobnagar District now submerged in the Nagarjuna Sagar Dam in the North – East with Eleswara Swamy and Katyani as presiding Deities.
SomasilaOn the bank of the river Penna in South – East with Skanda Someswara as the presiding Deity.
PushpagiriIn Kadapa District in the Southwest with Santhana Malleswara as Presiding Deity.
SangameswaramAt the confluence of the River Krishna and Tungabhadra in Kurnool District on the North-West and submerged in Srisailam Dam with Sangameswara as presiding Deity. This temple has been re-built at Alampur.