THE PRETTY TEMPLE TOWN of Srisailam, situated in the thickly wooded Nallamalai Hills, overlooking the deep Krishna Gorge, is a popular pilgrimage spot. Dominating the town is the Mallikarjuna-swainy Temple, whose white tiered gopuras, standing atop fortress-like walls, are visible from a great distance. The temple, which houses one of the 12 jyotirlingas (naturally formed lingas said to contain the light of Shiva), is believed to date to pre-Vedic times, though the present structure was built in the 15th century.The carvings on the walls represent Shiva in his many forms. A pillared hallway leads to the inner shrine, guarded by a monolithic Nandi bull.
Further up the hill is the Hatakesvarain Temple, said to he the spot where the philosopher- saint Shankaracharya wrote one of his celebrated treatises. A small Shiva temple at the summit, Sikharam, offers breathtaking views of the valley.
The dammed waters of the Krishna power a huge hydroelectric project at Srisailam. When the waters are high enough, a luxury launch, the Zaria, ferries visitors from the reservoir at Nagarjuna Sagar to Srisailam Dam. For almost half the distance between the reservoir and Srisailam Darn, the river passes through a thick forest reserve, habitat of the tiger, panther and hyena. The river, which runs very deep at Srisailam, is known here as the Patal Ganga (“Underground Ganges”) – according to legend, it springs from an underground tributary of the Ganges. On the ghats close to the darn, boatmen offer enchanting rides on their basin-shaped reed and bamboo boats.