Kotilingala was an early center or perhaps even capital of the Shatavahanas. It is also believed to be the town of birth of the legendary Gautamiputra Shatakarni, the greatest king of the Shatavahana dynasty. A father figure in the history of the Telugu land. The town here was occupied continually for atleast four hundred years. Hundreds of objects small and large have been identified in archaeological diggings. But the site has not been afforded the attention that it deserves. It is almost a foundational site defining the identity of the Telugu land.
Kotilingala has an archaeological site that was excavated by V. V. Krishna Sastry. The site has a mud fort with several gates and running 1054 metres long and 330 metres wide. Coins dated to 2nd and 3rd centuries BCE have been found at the site. These coins were issued by Gobhada and Samagopa, who are believed to be local pre-Satavahana rulers. Based on these discoveries, Kotilingala is believed to be a town of the ancient Assaka (also Andhra or Ashmaka) mahajanapada. The mud fortification, protected by a stream on its east and the Godavari river on its west, indicate its high political and commercial significance.
The Godavari river is bunded at many locations and in this case the Yellampali Sripada project. This barrage that is the fourth largest reservoir on the Godavari. The backwaters reach upto the Kotilingeswara temple at Koti lingala. And go beyond to some distance. The recent completion of the Yellampalli project also endangers a significant part of these findings. There is the proposal to develop a protection wall around these findings. The temple of Koteswara at Kotilingala stands by the side of the Godavari river.
The current temple at the location was constructed in 1970. But the deities have been around into the indefinite past. The temple is located at a distance of about six km from the closest village. The entire population of the old Koti lingala village has been evacuated because of the rising waters of the Godavari. Only a few of the old residents remain. A major tourism center is expected in this area.
The village of Kotilingala has fortifications on all sides. Koteswara swamy resides in the north eastern fortification. On the south east corner there is a hillock called Munla gutta (the hillock of the munis). On the hillock there is a cave. The cave housed many munis. They would bathe in the Godavari and go back into the cave to continue with their tapasya. On a certain day they thought that it would be very auspicious if they could install a Shiva linga and worship the mahadeva.
And so they remained in thought upon the banks of the Godavari. Hanuman was passing by through the forest and discovered the munis so lost in thought. He found them lost in thought and asked what he could do to help them. The munis prayed with that Hanuman that he must go to Kashi and bring a Shiva linga for them. So they prayed Hanuman for a shiva linga but did not specify an exact moment by which this task must be done.
Hanuman had to travel through forests, rivers and cross mountains to get to Kashi and back. He reached Kashi, identified a proper Shiva linga and started back. But the appointed moment for the prana pratistha was passing. So the Munis each picked up a fistful of sand from the river, and in the north eastern corner of the village, installed these several heaps of sand into one large heap. Into this heap they invoked the Prana of Shiva. Because this linga was made of sand, it came to be called the Saikata Lingam. It had a crore (koti) of sand grains. Each of these grains equal to a shiva linga in itself. So this linga was called the koti iswara / Koteswara linga.
Now Hanuman returned with a lingam from Kashi. But he saw the munis making their offerings to the saikata lingam. He was puzzled and disappointed. In a fit of rage, he tossed the shiva linga onto a rock. And so this linga from kashi was mildly damaged by the impact. The munis rushed to assuage Hanuman’s feelings. And explained that the saikata linga had to be installed to match the proper time for Prana Pratishtha. The linga from Kashi ofcourse would be worshipped with even greater reverence. And it would be incumbent upon all devotees to worship the Kashi linga before they made offerings to the saikata linga.
The Shatavahanas / Sadavahanas were a very long ruling dynasty of Central India. Their first capital being Prathisthana pura – present day Paithan in Maharashtra. The most successful of the dynasty was Gautamiputra Shatakarni. There is strongly suggestive evidence to suggest that Gautamiputra was born or lived in this town. Gautamiputra Shatakarni ruled from Amaravati, the present capital of Andhra Pradesh. It may also be possible to consider this location as a major administrative center of his empire. To describe the history of the Shatavahanas is a substantial activity and it must be taken up in a separate page.
There are many other locations within the Telugu region and also across southern India where Shiva is named Kotiswara / Koteswara. And in most cases it has to do with the location having a very large number of shiva lingas.