The December of 2015 saw us driving along East Godavari, undoubtedly one of the most culturally rich, picturesque locations in the country. A very close friend’s wedding in the adjacent district, right in time for our annual road trip ritual, it did not take us a minute extra to get started with all the planning. 🙂 Dad and Mom agreed to join us too, and so did my sister, even if just for a day! MIL had to drop out at the last minute because some guests decided to surprise her; a day later and the surprise would be their’s. 😀
Anyway, an early start on Day 1, a sumptuous lunch at Komala Vilas, Nellore (one which we never miss anytime we cross the place) and 849 kms later, we reached the place where River Godavari is at her mighty and majestic best – the ancient town of Rajamahendravaram, now known as Rajahmundry.
Day 2 started with Darshan of Lord Satyanarayana at Annavaram, highlighted further by the delicious Goduma Halwa (wheat pudding!?) and Dadyojanam (curd rice) for the Prasadam.
Our next halt was at Pithapuram, one of the 18 Shaktipeethas, the birthplace of Sripada Vallabha Swamy, and the place where Lord Shiva in the form of Kukkuteswara (“kukkuta” = cock) killed the demon Gayasura.
My favourite stretch among the whole trip, and that’s saying something because it was entirely beautiful, was the drive to the weaving kingdom Uppada.
My love for handloom ensured that this could not be let off the list, and the drive along the scenic route only added to the excitement! The fact that so many young girls have taken to weaving, in contrast to most of the nextgen in other such clusters giving up on the traditional skill, was definitely the cherry on the cake. 🙂 Both Mom and I bought a saree each, straight from the weavers, and I even wore it for the friend’s wedding the very next day. 😀
This whole trip was filled with such mythoglogical wonders, transporting you to another era altogether – the places where the incidents we had heard right from our childhood had actually taken place were right there, in front of our eyes! One such was Muramalla – place where the Daksha Yagna took place, and Lord Shiva’s famous Tandava following the same. This ritual is believed to be the origin of all the Shaktipeethas – the temples of the Divine Mother.
In brief, it was a ritual organized by King Daksha whose daughter Sati was married to Shiva. The king is supposed to have invited all the gods and goddesses, but not Lord Shiva. Sati immolated herself unable to bear the rejection she faced, and Shiva broke into the Tandava following the same. It is also the prelude to the story of Parvati, Sati’s reincarnation, who later married Lord Shiva.
Our final destination for the day was Vijayawada, and the last Darshan for the day was at Draksharama – another of the 18 Shaktipeethas, with the form of the goddess known as Manikyamba. The Shivalinga here (a Swayambhu Spatika Linga 14feet in height!!!!, housed in a two-storeyed structure) is one of the Trailingas (the other two being Srisailam and Sri KaLahasti, giving Andhra Pradesh the name of “Trailinga Desa“.
This place was bursting with lores, with it being one of the Pancha Aramas (five shrines of Lord Shiva believed to have originated from a large Shiva Linga that was worn by a demon named Tarakasura), and also associated with the Daksha Yagna, may be because of it’s proximity to Muramalla. The place is also known as ‘Dakshina Kashi’ (the Kashi of the South).
18th December – the day of the wedding in the friend’s hometown near Guntur-Vijayawada. Interestingly, her elder sister had also got married on the same date, some years ago. Oh yes, a whole bunch of us friends had attended that too!
If you are in Vijayawada, there are two things you don’t miss:
We also visited the Amaralingeswara temple, another of the Pancha Aramas, at Amaravati – the planned capital of Andhra Pradesh.
When you are around Vijayawada, and a handloom lover, you don’t miss dashing to the handloom heaven Mangalagiri. And we are good that way. 😉 We utilized the free day we had, before the friend’s reception in the evening, to visit Mangalagiri.
Mangalagiri offered us a lot more, with two very unique, ancient temples, both dedicated to Lord Narasimha, that left us in awe.
The first – Sri Lakshmi Narasimhaswami temple, with a 153-feet tall Gopuram that was leaning to one side, had the problem fixed by constructing a 153-feet deep tank in the shape of the inverted Gopuram, to balance the same!
The second – Sri Panakala Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy temple – The idol of the deity here has his mouth wide open. Devotees can offer Panaka (juice!?), a part of which is offered to the Lord, and the rest given back to the devotee as ‘Prasada‘. On asking where the Panaka goes, they said ‘the entire konda (hill) is the Swamy’s ‘garbha‘.
And that was 5 days, 2323 kms, and loads of fun, and learning too! You like? 🙂