Annavaram: Distant by 80 km from Rajamundry and 125 km from Vishakhapatnam on Ratna giri hills on the banks of Pampa River, ‘Anna varam’ literally meaning ‘The Boon of whatever one wishes for’ is the Tempe of Veera Venkata Satya Narayana and Devi Ananta Lakshmi Satyavati- both as the Symbols of the Supreme Deity of Satya or Truth. To reach the Temple up by the hill are some 428 steps and it was conceived as of the form of a Chariot with four wheels at the corners; in front of the entrance there is a Kalyana Mandapa leading to the Sanctum up by stairs is the Main Idol and the two shrines of Vana Durga and Kanaka Durga. While the ground level presents ‘Pada darshana’ or the vision of the Feet of the Lord, the upper portion is the upper part of body part of the Lord with an impressive moustache. The legendary background of the Temple is that both Meru the tallest mountain in the Universe and his wife Menaka performed unusual penance to Lord Vishnu and the latter was pleased and granted the benediction of two sons viz. Bhadra and Ratnakara. Both the sons in turn performed Tapasya and by the grace of Bhagavan Vishnu Bharda took the form of Bhadrachalam as the personification of Shri Rama and Ratnakara as Satya Narayana. To day Annavaram has come to pick up ever growing visitorship with year round Kalyanas, Special Kalyanas in May, Devi Navaratra Festival in Septermber, Shravana Shuddha Ekadashi celebrations, Prabha and Teppa Utsavas, and Jala torana festivity.
Pithapura: Nearly 8km from Annavaram is Pithapuram which is famed for two reasons – as Pada Gaya and as Shakti Peetha; as Pada Gaya this is enlisted as Bharat’s Five noted Pitru Tirthas viz. Gaya shira Kshetra in Bihar, Yajapura Vaitarini in Odisha, Siddapur in Gajarat’s Matru Gaya Kshetra, Badari’s Brahma Kapala and this Paada Gaya Kshetra at Pithapura. The Shakti Peetha is at Puruhuta Devi Mandir where the left hand of Sati Devi’s body fell in the Temple of Kukkuteshwara Shiva and Raja Rajeswari Devi. Ryali: Connected with the legend of ‘Kshira Sagara Mathana’the Temple of Jagan Mohini Keshava Swami at Ryali some 25km from Rajamandry which is well known for bestowing the devotees various boons of promotions and instant transfers of employment in Service. Right opposite the Temple of Jaganmohini is the Temple of Uma Maheswara Swami which is also related to the legend of Samudra mathana as Maha Deva retained the ‘halahala’ in his throat! Pancharamas: The legendary background of the Pancha-Aaramaas is Unique: Pursuant to Daksha Yagna which basically was performed out of hatred and envy of Daksha Prajapati for Parama Shiva who was indeed his son-in-law being the husband of Sati Devi, the latter unfortunately was uninvited but still attended the Yagna despite Shiva’s reluctance. As Daksha ignored her presence and worse still critised her dear husband by her own father openly, Sati Devi could not bear it and immolated herself in the homa kunda. On knowing about this disaster, Maha Deva went in such rage that he instantly threw a piece of his ‘jatajuta’ and created Veerabhadra and asked him to accompany Chandika Devi to totally devastate Daksha Yagna and kill Daksha too; he made his appearance later at the scene of havoc and having pulled out the body remains of Sati Devi danced in dreadful frenzy when Vishnu realised that there would then be Pralaya or the Great Termination of the Universe, pulled up his Sudarshana Chakra and sliced pieces of the body to ensure that the pieces are scattered all over in indiscriminate direction far and wide. All the Devas, Dikpatis, Rishis and so on then endeavoured to calm down Maha Deva by intense prayers to him. Time had healed his anger and he left for Tapasya for many, many gaps of years. Meanwhile a very dangerous Asura named Taraka secured a Shiva Linga that he always carried and meditated to it so passionately that he secured magnificent powers of invincibility.As the Asura intensified his tragic destruction of Devas and Maharshis, they approached Lord Vishnu who felt that only a son of Maha Deva could annihilate and this could happen only with his remarriage of Devi Parvati. Indra and Devas created several situations of their wedding possible including the efforts of Manmatha and Rati Devi but all failed and most fortunately finally the wedding suceeded and Kumara Swami was born and eventually attacked Tarakasura. Kumara used his Shakti weapon and as per the continued counsel of Vishnu broke the body of the Asura into pieces. But each time Kumara did so, the pieces kept on grouping together and the Asura came alive again and again. Vishnu then advised that the Shiva Linga which the Asura carried round his neck would have to be broken into pieces too. As Kumara did accordingly by using ‘Agneyastra’, the Shiva Linga no doubt went into pieces but they got together by making loud sounds of ‘Namassivaya’. Kumara got frustrated and Vishnu asked him for forbearance; he then instructed Indra, Surya, Chandra and Kumara too to collect the pieces of the Shiva Linga so broken again in four directions at once and straightaway and install them at the same places as they would fall so that the Asura would lose all his powers of invincibility! That was the origin of ‘Panchaaraamas’ as follows:1)Amareshwara installed by Indra at Amaravati in Guntur on the banks of River Krishna- all others being on the banks of River Godavari- as Amareshwara Linga with Bala Chamundika as Devi Parvati; 2)Daksharama installed by Surya as Bhimeshwara Linga is one of the largest Shiva Lingas of as muh as 2.5 mtrs. height and Manikyamba a (East Godavari Dt. here Godavari is called as Sapta Godavari Tirtha). Manikyamaba is also stated as one of the 108 Shakti Peethas . It was at this Daksharama where Surya and Indra prayed at this doubly famed Tirtha. Telugu Poet Vemulawada Bheema kavi prayed too. 3)Somarama was installed by Chandra Deva as Someswara Linga as Devi Rajarajeswari his consort at Bhimavaram (W.Godavari Dt.); the Shiva Linga here turns white on Pournamis and black on Amavasyas. 4)Ksheeranama was installed by Lord Vishnu himself as Ksheera Rama Lingeshwara and Devi Parvati at Palakol (W.Godavari Dt.) where Upamanyu Muni did Abhishekas here with milk and hence this name. 5)Bhimarama was set up by Kumara Swami himself as Kumara Bhimeshwara Linga and Bala Tripura Sundari at Samalkota (East Godavari Dt.), some 20 km. from Kakinada the Port Town.
Rajamandry: Hailed as the Cultural Capital of Andhra Pradesh with the Adi Kavis of Nannaya, Tikkana and Yerrana who translated the massive Maha Bharata from Sanksrit into Telugu, Rajamandry is also a City of Three Long Bridges across River Godavari. It is a Punya Kshetra celebrating Godavari Pushkaras, reputed as the Koti Linga Tirtha, Sapta Godavari Tirtha being the merging Point of Tulyabhaga, Atreyi,Goutami, Vriddha Gautami, Bharadwaja, Koushiki, and Vasishtha. This is a Key City for Political Movements before and after Independence, the city of Fine Arts, Dance, Drama, Films well connected by road, Railways, Airways and Waterways with Kakinada as the near by harbor.
Ryali: Connected with the legend of ‘Kshira Sagara Mathana’ of securing Amrit, the Avatar of JaganMohini is well known; the Temple of Jagan Mohini Keshava Swami at this place near Kakinada and Rajamandry is popular for bestowing promotions and instant transfers in Service. On one side of the Vigraha is the romantic face of Keshawa and on the rear side is the enchanting countenance and profile of Devi Jagan Mohini!
p style=”text-align: justify;”>Mandapalli Shaneshwara: The famed Mandeshwara ( Shaneshwara) Temple which is 24 km from Rajamandri is quite popular in Andhra Pradesh and several groups arrive here to ward off the ill-effects of Saturn Period passing through the astrological phases of the Seven Year retrograde period in one’s life. Mandeswara Shiva Linga is appeased by ‘Tailaabhishekas’ or Til Oil Abhishekas accompanied by Namaka-Chamaka Paraayanas with Shuchi and Shradha or Cleanliness and Faith; after the Abhishakas are over and recieving the blessings, the devotees are normally advised to discard the clothes to ensure that the traces of ‘Shani’are left behind as the Mandeswara Linga absorbs the ill-effects and washes the karta back to the stages of purity. The legend of this Mandeshwara Linga is traced back to Sage Dadhichi’s unique sactifice of donating his own backbone with which Indra materialised ‘Vajyayudha’to kill Vritrasura and subsequently Kartabha daitya of this area. To avenge their father’s death the demon sons of Kartabha , viz. Aswartha and Pippala tormented the residents of the area especially the Sages engaged in Tapasya and yagnas on the banks of Godavari who approached Agastya Maharshi; the Maharshi in turn worshipped Mandeshwara Shaneshwara; the latter hesitated as his own powers were perhaps might fall short of the combined strength of the densed up evil forces of all the Daityas. Agastya readily agreed to supplement the Taposhakti of the Sages and thus Shani spearheaded the battle and desroyed the enemies what is more continues til date the warding off of the obstacles of his own devotees! Bhadrachalam: Based on a dream by a female devotee of Lord Shri Rama named Pokala Dammakka that three Swayambhu or self manifested Vigrahas of Shri Rama, Devi Sita and Lakshmana were lying in the jungles of Bhadragiri hills, Bhakta Rama Das viz. Kancherla Gopanna- the nephew of Akkanna the Financial Controller of the Court of Nawab Tanisha-built a Grand Temple in 1620 AD patly financed by donations and largely out of a loan from the Treasury of Tanisha which could be repaid and thus got imprisoned and subsequently repaid to Tanisha by two youthful Princes presumed as Rama and Lakshmana themselves. The Temple faces west to the banks of River Godavari at Bhadrachalam, some 35 km from Kottagudem, 120 km from Khammam, 160 km from Rajamandry and 325 km from Hyderabad in theTelangana Region of Andhra Pradesh.The Deity is seated in Padmasana posture with legs crossed carrying in four arms the Shankha-Chakra-Gada-Sarangas with Devi Sita and Lakshmana on either side. The Temple stands on a three pillar structure with inscriptions from Ramayana written by Ramadas. There are two Kshetra Palakas of the Temple viz. Yogananda Jwala Lakshmi Narasimha and Anna Purna sahita Vishweshwara Shiva. There are also the Shrines of Vinayaka and of Nava Grahas.Annual Kalyanotsavas on the eve of Shri Rama Navami in March-April and Vaikuntha Ekadashi Mukkoti celebrations in Dec- Jan when the darshan is through ‘Vaikuntha dwaara’ are such huge draws of visitor-ship comparable only at Tirupati-Tirumala. In Bhadrachala itself are the other important Temples of Abhaya Anjaneya, Raja Rajeswari, Ayyappa, Sai Baba, Harnath Baba, Venkateswara and Govinda Raja. At Places nearby by a distance of 35 km is the Parna shala where Maricha enticed Devi Sita asking Rama to follow and Ravanasura kidnapped her. Two other Places to visit are Jataayu paaka some 2km away where the giant bird Jatayu recognised Sita being abducted and Rekka palli some 55 km far where Ravana killed Jatayu in a fierce fight.In essence, Bhadrachala is as significant a Kshetra of Shri Rama as Tirumala is for Lord Vekateshwara in terms of crowd pulling and Temple prosperity