Krishna & Godavari Delta

Dairy Entry
Our day started at Vizianagaram, a quiet town in Andhra's coastal arm bordering Orissa, with a fort at the heart of the city. After freshening up in a local lodge, we proceeded to our first stop - The temple of sun god at Arasavalli. The temple supposed to be ancient is shrouded in layers of newly erected concrete structures and tiled walls and is best avoided. Our next stop was another ancient shrine decicated to 'Kurmavatara' or Vishnu in the form of a tortise in a tiny village called Srikurmam. The temple tower and structures, a few hundred years old, clearly betrayed the Kalinga link. Although the temple rituals followed the 'aagama' traditions of the south (possibly following the consecration by Saint Ramanuja in the 12th century), it seemed to belong more to the vaishnavite traditions of Kalinga/Orissa. We halted for lunch at Srikakulam and from there proceeded towards Srimukhalingam, an anicent shiva temple. On the way we took multiple stops to admire the rural landscape and also to shop at the weekly market in a tiny village, that had brilliant homemade jaggery.

(Weekly Market near Narasannapeta)


The Mukhalingeshwara temple is reached through a number of small roads cutting through tiny villages and hamlets. Maintained by the Archeological society of India the temple is a rare gem in the middle of nowhere. A number of small and large towers, extremely typical Kalinga style  sandstone architecture that reminded one of the Konark temple, wide range of murals on the walls that have withstood the test of time - the place was a treat to watch. By sunset we were out of the temple and proceeded towards Vizag to spend the night there. Our morning started much before everyone else as I decided to visit the Tenneti beach park at 5 AM in the morning to set my tripod and wait to witness the magnificence of the vizag sunrise.

(Sunrise at Vishakapatnam)


Our first temple for the day was the hill shrine of Simhachalam. It was refreshing to see hill roads and dense forests so close to the city. The lion headed lord Narasimha here is seen along with 'Varaha' and this 'svayambhu' (self manifested) form is always kept covered in a thick layer of sandalwood paste. Immediately after that, we also decided to visit the extremely popular local shrine of goddess 'Kanakamahalakshmi' in the center of the city, braving the tough Friday crowd. From there we proceeded towards Annavaram a small town to the south that houses the famous shrine of Satyanarayana. The temple sees huge crowds throughout the year and the entire village looked like one that solely thrived on tourism. The temple administration maintained a number of guesthouses and lodges and stay wasn't an issue. Although claimed as ancient, the temple structures appeared rather new and there wasn't anything worth seeing in the place.

The next morning we started early and continued traveling south towards Samarlakota. We crossed Uppada, a small coastal village famous for its hand woven silk sarees and visited the houses of few villagers who weaved them. On the way we stopped at Pithapuram, a lesser known nonetheless ancient temple. Shiva here is in the form of Kukkteshwara or one in the form of a cock (The linga washed by repeated floods in godavari does not retain its original form). The site is where Gayasura's feet rested when he was vanquished (For the story of Gayasura and why siva assumed the form of a cock please refer the internet) and hence like Gaya in Bihar, this is also a site where Hindus offer prayers to their ancestors. Of course, beyond these the most important feature of the temple is the shrine of Goddess Puruhuthika one of the 52 shaktipeethas of devi and also one the 18 shaktipeethas mentioned by Adi shankara. This is site where the goddess's buttocks from Sati's corpse are said to have fallen (refer internet for details).

From there, our next stop was Samarlakota, one of the Pancharama Kshetras. The temple is where Lord Kumara is said to have prayed and hence the deity called Kumararama Bhineshwara. The temple had two tiers like most Pancharama temples with a very long Limestone linga. The inner stone temple is over 1100 years old, from the period of Chalukyas around the 9th or 10th century. The Pancharama kshetras contrary to how the name sounds are not temples of Rama, but of Siva and here is the legend. The name derives from 'Pancha' and 'aaramu', five places where pieces of the atmalinga were rested and worshiped. For example, the name Draksharamam, derives from 'Daksha' and aarama', as the King Daksha worshiped Shiva here. This is where we stopped next. The tall outer towers of Vijayanagara style welcomed us in to the granite temple inside of the Chalukyan style. The temple was quite large. Being the day of Amavasya free lunch was provided in the temple in the noon. After a patient wait for an hour we were treated to excellent food with bearable spice and chillies - atypical of the region.

 (Temple towers at Palakollu)

After lunch we left for Palakollu, another temple town in the Godavari delta. While waiting for the temple to open at 4 PM, we roamed the busy market streets. The best delicacy of the town was 'Bhajji' or bhajia made with small round chillies that looked like tiny capsicum and stuffed with a sour & spicypowder inside. The temple here was completely of the Vijayanara style with a very tall temple tower. From there our next stop was the Somarama temple at Bhimavaram, another popular town and trade post of the west godavari delta. Due to paucity of time, we couldn't stop at Antarvedi on the way. The place is said to have an ancient temple of Narasimha and a beautiful beach wherein Godavari river merges. By night we reached Dwaraka Tirumala for lodging.There is nothing great to say about Dwarak Tirumala. A very popular one in the region, the temple looked rather recent.


Itinerary

A rather luxurious trip this was. I traveled with my family and engaged cabs to most places through a relative

Day 1: Started in the evening from Chennai and boarded a train to reach Vizianagaram before 7 AM in the morning next day.

Day 2: Took bath in a hotel in Vizianagaram and after breakfast visited Arasavalli (60 KM, 1.5 hrs). Soon after that went to Srikurmam (15 KM). Stopped for lunch at Srikakulam and then proceeded towards Srimukhalingam (50 KM). Returned for night stay at Vishakapatnam


(Temple tower at Srikurmam)


(Mukhalingeshwara temple)


(Murals on the temple wall)

Day 3: Early morning visit to Tenneti beach park for sunrise, followed by the 20 KM drive to the Simhachalam temple. Then was the time to visit teh shrine of Kanakamahalakshmi inside the city. In the afternoon departed for Annavaram (110 KM, 2.5 hrs). Had darshan and lodged at the temple guesthouse.

(Moonlit beach)

Day 4: After darshan at Annavaram, visited Pithapuram through Uppada. Then visited the temple at Samarlakota. All were within half an hour reach. Then came to Draksharama. Relaxed for a couple of hours in the temple. After lunch at the temple went to Palakollu via Ravulapalem (125 KM, 3 hrs). Then to Bhimavaram (30 mins) and finally to Dwaraka tiruamala via tadepallegudam (80 KM, 2 hrs) for lodging.

(Temple at Draksharama)

(Main tower, Palakollu)

Tips:
Annavaram has ample options for stay. Contact the temple in advance to arrange. Dwaraka temple hardly has any. Lodges available are very poorly maintained.

On the way to Annavaram is the a small village called Eetikoppa. Craftsmen here make exquisite wooden dolls that are created by 'churning' cylinders of a particular kind of wood. We bought dozens of dolls at annavaram and bhadrachalam but wished we had visited the village on the way. Uppada is know for its silk sarees like Kanchipuram.
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