Monday, December 26, 2011

Spice Girl Caravan To Srisailam India

Some friends and I decided to set off on a journey to Srisailam, an overnight destination nearly 480 kilometers from Hyderabad. This was my first getaway since arriving in India and I was jazzed. We had the maps, plus our driver assured us he knew the place we wanted to go. It was 5 in the morning, so the road was pretty empty.

About 80 kilometers into our trip, we saw a restaurant hut. Our group sipped tea and ate the local delicacy of dosas. The sun rose on a remote village with nothing but fields and people staring at us as if we were an edible delicacy.

After another half hour driving the topsy-turvy road, we stopped at Nagarjunsagar Dam, the world's largest reservoir. The view was breathtaking. According to our driver, the reservoir is sometimes half full and the dam gates closed, making it not much fun to see. We were lucky to find water gushing out of the open gates with roaring force.

Our next destination was Ethipothala falls. The narrow, hilly access route (called Ghat road) isn't easy. Ethipothala falls, meaning "lift and pour" in local language, is unquestionably a sight you wouldn't want to miss. The cascade is about 70 feet, forming a small lake at the foot and rejoining Krishna River in 3-4 kilometers.

The waterfall is also famous as a breeding place for crocodiles. Sadly, we didn't spot any. We did see small caves at the foot of the hills where the lake forms. We wanted to explore the caves and check out two temples situated close to the waterfall. However, our driver said it was too dangerous despite no crocodiles in view.

Once again, we were driving up the hill, this time through thick forest grove filled with sounds of grunting and growling. Some turns were quite steep. After an hour, we reached Srisailam and visited Lord Shiva's temple in the evening. The town had many such magnificent shrines with heroic legends from the Mahabharata and Ramayana (sacred epics of the Hindu community) sculpted on stone walls. The village held little else except a local market at the foot of the temples.

Next Morning at 7:00, we went to Akka Mahadev Caves. Akka Maha Devi is believed to be an incarnation of Parvathi, who lived naked yet without physical desire. She performed ritual devotions in these caverns. The boat journey to the caves was exciting, because hills surrounded the Krishna River and animal noises abounded. After exploring the caves, we returned to the cottage, packed our things and started the journey home.

Yet, there was one place left to discover. Mallalathirtham or Mallela theertham is in the Nallamalai forest, around 60 kilometers from Srisailam. We got there by noon, after a bumpy drive on the muddy road. Had it been the rainy season, this excursion would have been impossible. Rumor has it that tigers frequently come there to drink. I put on a courageous mask but was really freaked out about being tiger lunch.

After descending 360 steps, we finally reached the place. It looked quite mysterious with a green lake and huge rocks. This is a beautiful, mystical location, where sages worshipping Lord Shiva perform rituals. I wanted the enchantment to linger on my skin for a while. No tigers invited us to join them for lunch, so we got back around 10:30 at night. For me, this was more than a trip, learning the ancient stories of Hindu culture, which India freely lends to other parts of the world but sometimes forgets here at home.

Evelyn Hills is a spicy Indian girl who loves to sing or dance and play guitar or piano. Unlike the famous British Spice Girls, she's not a ho and speaks comprehendible English. She's the author of the book Ivana and the Secret Lake Adventures: Magic vs. Love.

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