Rajamundry is synonymous with the river Godavari. It is impossible not to have images of the huge bridge across Godavari flash across the mind at the mention of Rajamundry. The river seems most prominent almost in the last leg of it's journey to the Bay of Bengal. Contained in a small dam in Dhawaleswaram the river forms a delightful delta and irrigates the plains of the Godavari districts giving it the title The Rice bowl of Andhra Pradesh. The region is not just rich in agriculture, it is also a nursery of Indian culture with several Vedic pundits of great repute hailing from here. The banks of the river at this place are also famous for performing obsequies to the departed souls. The river absorbs the mortal remains of people of the area. So it is natural that Godavari evokes melancholy, philosophy, hope, life. Originating at Nasik, the land of Shiva in Maharashtra, the river enters Telangana at Adilabad before touching the feet of Goddess Saraswathi in Basara. Then it flows into the forests of Dandakaranya where it is sanctified further by the presence of Lord Rama at Bhadrachalam. This region sees the convergence of four states, Telangana, AndhraPradesh, Odisha and Chattisgarh. Thick forests and high hills are the mark of this territory. It is in these forests that Sri Rama is said to have lived during His years in exile prior to the abduction of Seetha. Godavari meanders through the hills of this area generating many a scenic beauty and supporting a wonderful ecosystem. Many a tributary pour into Godavari around here and contribute substantially to enable life downstream.
On such a holy and full of life Godavari when there is a boat that takes you to the abode of Lord SriRama at Bhadrachalam, can the excitement be contained? No. We looked forward to this trip ever since we finalized this trip a few days before. Punnami travels was our agent for the trip. We boarded bus at Rajahmundry at 8:00 AM and drove nearly 50km to Polavaram. The dock yard was full of double decked boats with the ground floor air conditioned and the first floor providing a nice view of all around, Our boat had nearly 200 people. I must admit to being a bit nervous as the date of sail approached. But as we boarded at 09:30 AM all that was forgotten and eyes feasted on the vast expanse of the river. Just as we started the guide called attention to a water tank atop a hill. This was part of the Sri Sathya Sai drinking water project for east Godavari district. This was the elixir of life that Swami has gifted to the poor of this area.
As we relished the nature all around us, with birds flying by the waters, hills majestically looking over the river, the breakfast quietly went in. Soon shutter bugs got busy. Every scene looked photogenic! This confluence of the blue, several shades of green, brown hues didn't allow our cameras to hibernate.
The first stop was in less than an hour at the temple of Goddess Gandi Pasamma. We had darshan and the boat proceeded on to the much talked about destination of papidikondalu, a.k.a, papikondalu a.k.a. papi hills which was about 50 km upstream. We motored against the current at a good pace and while some looked around, clicked around, others were engrossed in some on board entertainment provided by some professionals. The beat rich songs played and people gyrated and threw their limbs in the air calling it dance! sure . It surely helped provide a good mood on board.
Lunch was served by 12:30 PM and soon it was time to brace for the view of the papidikondalu where Godavari flows in between two hills making it both narrow and deep. The hills are so named as the river appears like the hairline of a traditional Indian woman cutting through the hills that appear almost black due to the dark green cover of the thick forests.
In between the hills, the current takes a right and a left turn and the whole experience even if nothing out of the world is pretty pleasing. Within a few minutes of passing this landmark, we reach Perantalapalli. A small village in the east Godavari district that houses an ashram of the celebrated Sri Ramakrishna. This really gives you an idea of how deeply spirituality has seeped in this country making it a holy land. There is also the temple of Lord Visweswara in the ashram. We had to check out of the current boat here at 3:00 PM. After praising the lord with chants of Namakam and chamakam we boarded another boat and reached Kosavaram after a one hour ride.
It was almost a 70km drive by road from Kosavaram to Bhadrachalam. The tour operator doesn't provide you with anything luxurious. 11 of us got into Tata magic and squeezed in warmly in the fast approaching dusk that lowered mercury considerably. Spirited bhajan singing from each of us ensured that the discomforts were not felt and kept our mind focused on the Lord of Bhadrachalam. Finally Bhadrachalam was reached around 8:30 PM. We retired for the night and next morning hastened to have the darshan of the Lord.
The temple at Bhadrachalam was built by Kancherla Gopanna a little over 300 years ago. He built the Rama temple with tax money that was collected and was imprisoned by the King Tanisha. He sat in the prison and pleaded with Rama in spontaneous outpouring of devotion, praising, pleading, coaxing, cajoling alternating between bliss and desperation and composed songs. Pleased with this devotion, Rama and Lakshmana came to the King and returned the money spent for the construction of the temple thus releasing the dear devotee. He came to be known as Ramadasu and the songs are popular among musicians and commoners of Andhra Pradesh alike.
The Lord was decked in the SriRama avataram. Mother Seetha seated on the left lap and Lakshmana to his right, both holding their mighty bows and an arrow to symbolize their readiness of offering refuge to the one who has surrendered. We felt blessed to be in the temple paid for by the Lord himself, in the region where he spent in exile centuries ago and lead such a life full of righteousness and moral conduct centuries ago that he continues to be revered as a very dear friend and Lord by almost every one.
After the blessed darshan, we started journey back to Rajahmundry by road through the ghats. We stopped at a clear water stream and admired nature further.
Even though we didn't spend more time at the temple it was a fulfilling trip, thoughts saturated by Rama and the often reviving thought of he having graced this land centuries ago. If you are a nature lover, this trip is for you. If you love Rama, then you cannot do without this trip!
Sri Rama Raksha Sarva Jagadraksha - May the protection of the Lord Rama be upon the entire universe.