What does one say of a language and a region, that takes it’s name from a belief that Shiva descended on three mountains there? The ancient name of the Telugu states is Trilinga Desa, meaning the “Land of the 3 Lingas”. It is believed that the Telugu language gets it’s name from this too. It’s believed that Shiva descended in the form of 3 Lingas located at Kaleswaram in Telangana, Srisailam in Rayalaseema and Draksharamam in Coastal Andhra, which made up the Trilinga Desa. The belief apart both the Telugu states, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have had a close connect with Shaivism. This is a place, where you have the Pancharamas, the 5 Temples dedicated to Shiva, as well as one of the Dwadasa Jyotirlingas at Sri Sailam and one of the Panchabhuta Lingams at Sri Kalahasti.
Pancharama Kshetras are so called, after the 5 temples dedicated to Shiva, in Coastal Andhra. All the Shivalingas at the five temples were derived from a single Linga. Apparently this massive Shiva Linga, was owned by the Asura ruler Tarakasura, which made him practically invincible. It was finally Kumara Swamy who attacked Tarakasura and used his Shakti to kill him. However Kumara Swamy discovered that the torn apart pieces of Tarakasura’s body, would rejoin again and again, frustrating his efforts. It was then Vishnu advised him to break the Shiva Lingam, which Taraka was wearing into 5 pieces.He also cautioned Kumara Swamy, that the pieces of the Linga would again reunite, so they should be fixed to the spot.
Soon Kumara Swamy, used the Aagnesthra, the fire weapon, to break the Shiva Linga, and then Surya fixed those pieces, by fastening them with nails and building temples over them. If one notices the five Shivalingas here have scaly markings, believed to be due to the Agneshtra. Now the five different temples are collectively called as Pancharamas( 5 places of rest).
Amararamam, is located at Amaravati, in Guntur district, and the reigning deity is Amaralingeswara Swamy. The name comes from the fact that Amarendra installed the Shiva Linga here. Located on the Southern bank of the Krishna River, Bala Chamundika is the consort of Amaralingeswara Swamy. The temple is noted for it’s massive Shiva Linga, that covers two floors.
The temple was developed by Vasireddy Venkatadri Naidu, the ruler of Dharanikota, and a devotee of Amaralingeswara. It was also a penace for him, to atone for his act of massacring the Chenchus, in order to put down a revolt. He not only renovated the temple, but also appointed 9 Archakas, provided them with the means of livelihood.
Draksharama located in East Godavari district, near the town of Ramachandrapuram, is also the most picturesque, surrounded by lush green paddy fields.
Shiva here is called as Bhimeswara Swamy, and the Shiva Linga was believed to be installed by Surya himself here.It is believed that Draksharama was where the infamous Daksha Yagna took place, and that is the reason no yagna happens at this temple. It is also called as Dakshina Kasi, and Shakti here is Manikyamba Ammavaru. The pond here is believed to contain the waters of the Sapta Godavari.
The Shiva Linga at Draksharama again is quite tall, and one part of it lies in the basement floor, only the top part is seen.Another legend of Draksharama goes that the outer wall could not be completed in time, to date it still remains incomplete.The Draksharama Temple is one of the oldest in Andhra, dating back to 10th century, built by Bhima, the Eastern Chalukya king of Vengi.
Somarama located at Bhimavaram, is the 3rd of the Pancharamas, and the Shiva Linga here is believed to be installed by Chandra. The front of the temple has a pond called Chandrakundam covered with flowers.It’s believed that Chandra, got rid of his sins by worshipping Shiva here, and hence the name Somaramam one of the Pancharamas.The unique aspect about the Shivalinga at Somarama, is that it keeps changing it’s color, based on the phases of the moon.During Pournami, the Shivlinga at Somarama turns full white in color, and during Amavasya, it turns a shade of black.A very unique aspect of this temple is that the temple of Annapurna, is built on top of the Shiva temple, which you do not find anywhere. Shakti is worshiped here as Sri Rajarajeswari Ammavaru.
Ksheerarama Temple at Palakollu in West Godavari,is where Shiva is worshipped as Ksheera Ramalingeswara Swamy.It is believed that Upamanyu, son of Kaushika, requested Shiva for desired quantity of milk for ritual, and the Pushkarni overflowed with milk, which also accounts for name of Palakollu(Palu is the Telugu word for Milk).
It is believed that Vishnu installed the Shiva Linga here, and Shakti is worshipped as Parvati Ammavaru. It is noted for it’s tall gopuram, and the temple itself covers around nine floors. The Shiva Linga here itself is milky white, and the mandapa with 72 black pillars is worth a visit. Palakollu is located on the Gosthani, one of the tributaries of Godavari river, surrounded by lush green paddy fields.
The Kumara Rama temple at Samarlakota, in E.Godavari dist, is the last of the Pancharamas, Shiva Linga here was installed by Karthikeya. Shiva is worshipped as Kumara Bhimeswara Swamy here and his consort is Bala Tripura Sundari. The temple was built during the time of the Chalukya ruler Bhima, hence the name too.The Shiva Linga at Kumara Rama is around 16 ft tall, rises to two floors and is made entirely of limestone.Again the temple is famous for it’s 100 pillar mandapa and an Ekasila Nandi at the entrance.
Kotappa Konda in Guntur dist, is one of the more well known Shaivite temples, the Tirunallu(Jatara) on Shivratri here draws massive crowds. Kotappakonda contains one of the older Saivite temples, dating back to around 1172 AD, located a hill at a height of 1587 feet.Located close to Narasaraopeta in Guntur dist, the Kotappakonda temple received regular grants during Krishnadeva Raya’s time.Surrounded by 3 peaks, Shiva at the Kotappakonda temple is referred to as Trikooteshwara Swamy.
The Kotappakonda temple is surrounded by 3 major peaks,which one can see from any angle, when you climb the hill.It is believed that Shiva imparted the knowledge of Brahman to the other Gods in the form of Dakshina Murthy at Kotappakonda. As Dakshina Murthy had observed strict celibacy during his stay here, no marriages are conducted to date at the Kotappakonda temple. Trikutaparvam is another name for this place, as it is surrounded by 3 peaks, but people generally prefer to call it as Kotappakonda.
During the Shivratri festival at Kotappakonda, huge rectangular frames called Prabhas are carried in a procession.The temple can be reached through a long trek, that goes to a height of 1587 ft, though a ghat road has been laid too.While many devotees at Kotappakonda still prefer the trek, ghat road has been constructed for benefit of those who can’t walk all the way up.
Bugga Ramalingeswara Temple in Tadipatri, Anantapur is one of the ancient Shaivite temples in Andhra Pradesh.This was built during the 13th century, by Pemmasani Ramalinga Nayaka, the chieftain of Gandikota, and also the military commander of Vijayanagara Empire.
The temple here is known for it’s architectural excellence. The Shiva Linga here is surrounded by water always, which in a way accounts for it’s name too, Bugga being the Telugu word for water drop. The ceilings of the temple are richly decorated with carvings.
Srikalahasti located near Tirupati, gets it”s name from the fact that a Spider(Sri), Snake(Kala) and Elephant(Hasti) worshiped Shiva here. The temple is one of the Panchabhuta Kshetras, others being Tiruvannamalai(Fire), Kanchi(Earth), Chidambaram(Sky), Jambukeshwara(Water). Shiva is worshiped here as Vayu Linga, representing the Wind.While the Pallavas built the initial part of Srikalahasti, it was developed in later years by the Cholas and the Vijayanagar rulers.Srikalahasti also contains a shrine in honor of Kannappa, the tribal devotee of Lord Shiva, who had offered his eyes.
Vemulawada in Karimnagar dist of Telangana has one of the older Shiva temples, dating back to the time of Chalukya rulers. The Rajarajeswara Temple at Vemulawada, Karimnagar is one of the older Shiva temples, dating centuries back. Shiva is worshiped as Raja Rajeshwara Swamy at Vemulawada, also more popularly referred to here as Rajanna, while the tank here is called as Dharmagundam.
Another well known Shaivitie Kshetra in Karimnagar dist is Kaleswaram, where Lord Shiva is worshiped along with Yama here. It is believed to be one of the Trilinga Kshetras , other two being Draksharama and Srisailam.
Here you have Shiva and Yama on the same platform as Kaleshwara(Yama) and Muktheshwara(Shiva).
While Kurnool is well known for Srisailam, another equally famous Shiva Temple is at Mahanandi. Located amidst the Nallamalla hills, Mahanandi is also famous for it’s huge Nandi statue.
One of the main features of the Mahanandi Temple are the fresh water pools, Pushkarni dotting it.The pushkarnis are perennially filled with water, thanks to the springs here.
Alampur is also called as Dakshina Kasi and is noted for it’s Navabrahma Temples. Surrounded by the Nallamala hills, Alampur is a noted Shaivite center down South, and it’s temples constructed in the Chalukyan style of architecture, are worth a visit.
The Navabrahma temples are primarily 9 temples dedicated to Shiva, dating back to the 7th century AD, built during the rule of the Badami Chalukyas. The Swarga Brahma temple is the most prominent of the lot, noted for it’s very ornate sculptures.
Alampur is also home to one of the 18 Shakti Peethas. These shrines are dedicated to Shakti. Apparently when a grief stricken Shiva, was walking around with the corpse of Sati on his back, the Gods appealed to Vishnu to save them from his wrath. Vishnu cut the corpse into pieces with his Sudarshana Chakra, and the places where different parts of the body fell are revered as Shakti Peethas. Alampur is where the teeth are believed to have fallen and Shakti is worshipped here as Jogulamba. Incidentally another Shaktipeetha is also located on Krishna river at Srisailam, where the neck is believed to have fallen, and she is worshipped as Brahmaramba there.
And from Alampur, the Krishna traverses through some of the thickest forests and valleys, touching the sacred place of Srisailam, one of the Dwadasa Jyotirlingas. Shiva is worshiped here as Mallikarjuna, while Shakti is worshiped as Brahmaramba. Incidentally Alampur is also believed to be one of the 4 gateways to Srisailam, the others being Tripurantakam( Prakasam dt, AP), Siddhavatam( near Kadapa), Umamaheswaram( Mahboobnagar dt, Telangana). Adi Shankar’s famous Sivananda Lahiri was composed here at Srisailam.
Srisailam is also famous for it’s huge dam and hydro electric project, that is one of the main sources of power for the Telugu states.
Srimukhalingam in Srikakulam dist, has the Shiva temples built in a Kalinga style of architecture, on the banks of the Vamsadhara River.