Long walk through woodland to God
It is Maha Shivaratri and thousands of ardent devotees are all set to reach Srisailam to have darshan of Goddess Bhramaramba and Mallikarjuna Swamy on foot through the dense forests of Nallamala. This age-old ritual of trekking to the abode of God has been practiced for the last 400 years.
Thousands of devotees have begun their journey to Srisailam temple from Kurnool and other regions on foot through Nallamala forests on the occasion of Maha Shivaratri
Atmakur (Kurnool): It is Maha Shivaratri and thousands of ardent devotees are all set to reach Srisailam to have darshan of Goddess Bhramaramba and Mallikarjuna Swamy on foot through the dense forests of Nallamala. This age-old ritual of trekking to the abode of God has been practiced for the last 400 years.
Several lakhs of devotes are resort to trekking from Kurnool and other areas of the State and also from Karnataka and Maharashtra. About three lakh devotees trekked through the Atmakur-Nallamala forest area this year, it is estimated. En route, they visit the Siva devotional centres, climbing the steps said to have been built by one of the Reddy kings, Prolaya Vema Reddy in 1326 CE. Devotees on the way to Srisailam also worship Gods of several temples before reaching Srisailam.
The pilgrims, ranging from young boys to 70-year-olds, pass through the Nallamala hilly areas and waterfalls to reach Srisailam, covering a distance of 50 km. They trek through the forest for 48 hours, taking rest when tired on the way wherever possible. These devotees reach Venkatapuram from Atmakur and travel 10 km to reach the Veerabhadra temple.
After the night stay there, they resume their journey to the Pedda Cheruvu Tiger Sanctuary and stay overnight there. The next day, the pilgrims travel 13 kms to reach the Bheemuni Kolanu (a tank believed to be built by Bhima during his forest sojourn) where they take rest. From there, they reach the Srisailam Dwaram, 850 ft above sea level, thus completing 90 per cent of the journey on foot. Later, they move to Hatakeswaram and Sakshi Ganapathi temples in Srisailam.
For the benefit of lakhs of devotees, a resident of Pedda Devalapuram in Bandi in Atmakur mandal, Bala Sankar Reddy, has been organising free ‘anna danam’ camps for the last 23 years. He has a group of 50 followers to assist him in providing food throughout the day. Reddy had faced hardship in getting food and water as a devotee way back in 1993 while going to Srisailam.
In what began by feeding 5,000 persons, he is now able to cater to the food needs of about three lakh devotees. Several other philanthropists are also conducting similar camps in Peddacheruvu, Venkatapuram and Bheemuni Kolanu forest areas. Meanwhile, various Siva temples in the district have been tastefully decorated.
By:M Satya Peter