KONASEEMA, A BEAUTY WAIT­ING TO BE EX­PLORED

Airports India - - CONTENTS - TEXT & PHO­TOS: CHI­TRA RAMASWAMY

Atryst with the Go­davari in Konaseema sounds in­ter­est­ing. A travel buff with wheels for feet, the urge to ex­plore this hith­erto lit­tle­known tourist re­gion in Andhra Pradesh was com­pelling. The de­ci­sion made, my hus­band and I board Prashanti Ex­press, on our way to Ra­jah­mundry. It is from here that the Go­davari branches to give form to the is­lands of Konaseema in East Go­davari district.

A two-hour drive from Ra­jah­mundry Rail­way Sta­tion brings us to Dindi’s Haritha Co­conut Re­sort, nes­tled sceni­cally in the midst of dense co­conut groves, over­look­ing the mighty river. We make Dindi, a pic­turesque vil­lage on the banks of the Va­sishta, a branch of the Go­davari, as the base for our ex­plo­rations. We in­stantly warm to our sur­round­ingss and the view from our room is breath­tak­ing. The Chinchi­nada Bridge that sep­a­rates East Go­davari and West Go­davari looms sceni­cally over our re­sort, punc­tu­ated in places by arch­ing palm trees.

We are happy with our choice of Konaseema, aptly nick­named as “the Ker­ala of Andhra Pradesh” as our hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion. This serene and scenic clus­ter of is­land vil­lages with lakes, la­goons, streams and palm-fringed canals, is re­plete with sights - from the spir­i­tual to the scenic. It is a cul­tural trea­sure chest that also of­fers the in­trepid trav­eller, ad­ven­tures ga­lore. Konaseema is one of the most fer­tile re­gions on the Coro­man­dal Coast formed by the Gau­tami and Va­sisht trib­u­taries of the Go­davari on the one side, and the Bay of Ben­gal on the other.

Once the call of our rum­bling stom­achs is sated with a sim­ple veg­e­tar­ian thali lunch at the re­sort, we set out for our date with the

Go­davari. Our boat weaves in and out of the labyrinthine wa­ter­way, cross­ing sev­eral is­lands that dot the river. Though most of the is­lands of Konaseema - Shivakodi­lanka, Ay­o­d­hyalanka, Kanakay­alanka, Ra­jole – wear a de­serted look, they are lush and dense with co­conut plan­ta­tions and sandy beaches. As our boat am­bles by, do­ing 5 knots per hour, some­times even slower, we see con­gre­ga­tions of feath­ered crea­tures atop trees and along the shores of the river­bank.

To eardrums tuned to the thrums and toots of city life, the quiet of our en­vi­rons is mu­sic to us. As a re­tir­ing sun splashes its red-or­ange hue across the sky, the river mir­rors the shades, adding a wavy glit­ter to the aque­ous sprawl. Fish­er­men on boats get busy once again as they cast their nets for a hand­some catch of piscine species. While on fishes, we learn from our guide San­tosh that the plump and hand­some pu­lasa fish is Konaseema’s culi­nary pièce de ré­sis­tance, a del­i­cacy that comes at a fairly high price. The species nes­tles in the lap of the Go­davari and make its way up­stream to lay eggs dur­ing the mon­soons in Au­gust­septem­ber, when the river brings fresh wa­ter to the sea.

We are fas­ci­nated by the gen­tle gi­ant, the Go­davari, In­dia’s sec­ond long­est river. “But she is not al­ways as calm and in­nocu­ous as she now ap­pears”, says San­tosh. There have been oc­ca­sions when she has turned de­monic and treach­er­ous, swelling to mam­moth pro­por­tions, bring­ing death and de­struc­tion to those who live around her.

His­tor­i­cally speak­ing, the river

turn­ing tyran­ni­cal, was once a dreaded an­nual event. In the mid 1840s, upon the sug­ges­tion of Arthur Cot­ton, a Su­per­in­tend­ing En­gi­neer in the Pub­lic Works De­part­ment, a slew of mea­sures were un­der­taken by the Bri­tish Raj to tem­per her wrath. The Dowleswaram bar­rage at the en­trance to Ra­jah­mundhry, and a sys­tem of canals for nav­i­ga­tion and ir­ri­ga­tion were con­structed. The re­gion wit­nessed a mag­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion. It be­came one of Andhra’s most fer­tile and flour­ish­ing belts. En route from Ra­jah­mundry to Dindi, we pass the statue of Arthur Cot­ton who was in­stru­men­tal in build­ing the coun­try’s then long­est an­i­cut that stretched over 4 miles.

From life­style to in­dus­try, re­li­gion and lit­er­a­ture, ev­ery­thing in Konaseema re­volves around the Go­davari which is its nerve cen­tre and heart. It abounds in shrimp breed­ing farms and has a thriv­ing coir trade with sev­eral cot­tage in­dus­tries churn­ing out com­pressed sheets which are mar­keted through­out In­dia. While Konaseema is rich in co­conut, ba­nana, teak­wood and cane plan­ta­tions, paddy cul­ti­va­tion is the main­stay and is har­vested bian­nu­ally. An­other in­ter­est­ing as­pect of trade in the re­gion is the auc­tion­ing of raw ba­nana bunches or gelas as they are called in lo­cal par­lance. Men from var­i­ous ham­lets cy­cle down with their gelas to

the ba­nana mar­ket at Ravu­la­palem, the Gate­way of Konaseema, to sell their pro­duce.

Dindi and its sur­rounds are abuzz with the morn­ing rit­u­als as we make our way to An­tarvedi in the early hours of dawn. Stoves and chul­has hiss un­der teapots while tele­vi­sion sets crackle, re­lay­ing news, play mu­sic and broad­cast an as­sort­ment of pro­grammes. We wind our way through nar­row but well paved vil­lage roads that are flanked by ver­dant fields of crops which are veined with braided path­ways and wa­ter con­duits.

An­tarvedi, the Mukti Kshetra or place of sal­va­tion, is where the Go­davari meets the sea, and is there­fore known as Sa­gara Sangam. It is a hid­den gem that is home to the Va­sishta ashram and a cou­ple of an­cient tem­ples, one each ded­i­cated to Lak­shmi Narasimha and Shiva. Af­ter pay­ing due obei­sance to these deities, we head to the beach which is a stone’s throw away. A lone, tilted light­house in ru­ins is lashed by the rush­ing waves and a new light­house stands

a few hun­dred me­ters away. Quiet ac­tiv­ity is tak­ing place on its shores and wa­ters. A priest is con­duct­ing some cer­e­mo­nial rit­ual for a cou­ple of men seated be­fore him, while rafts and boats deftly nav­i­gate their sails out at sea.

In be­tween our so­journ through idyl­lic forests and ro­manc­ing the Go­davari in sev­eral stretches, we also visit the Bud­dhist site at Aduru, the an­cient tem­ples of Sid­hdhi Vi­nayaka in Ay­navelli and the unique Ja­gan­mo­hini Ke­shava Tem­ple at Ryali. We are par­tic­u­larly fas­ci­nated by the lat­ter tem­ple and its his­tory.

Ryali, mean­ing “fall­ing” in the Tel­ugu lan­guage, is a non­de­script vil­lage sit­u­ated be­tween the Va­sishta and Gau­tami trib­u­taries of the Go­davari river, 40 km from Ra­jah­mundry. Leg­end has it that Lord Vishnu ap­peared in the guise of the beau­ti­ful damsel Mo­hini, in or­der to help the de­v­tas ac­quire the pot of Divine Nec­tar against the war­ring rak­shasas. Shiva, who was struck by Mo­hini’s beauty, chased her. In the process, the flower that adorned Mo­hini’s tresses, fell to the ground. Thus Ryali came to be the place where the blos­som fell. As Shiva smelt the flower, he re­alised that Mo­hini was none other than Lord Vishnu!

Thus the tem­ple here boasts a 5 feet tall and 3 feet wide idol of the pre­sid­ing de­ity sculpted out of a sin­gle black saligrama stone. It por­trays Vishnu in the form Ke­shava on the front and Ja­gan­mo­hini on its back. Lord Vishnu is shown hold­ing in his four hands, the conch, disc, the mace and the Man­thara moun­tain.

As we pro­ceed to the port town of Kak­i­nada, we en­joy a boat ride through the Coringa Man­grove and Wildlife Sanc­tu­ary which is part of the Go­davari. The ex­pe­ri­ence is in­tox­i­cat­ing and re­ju­ve­nat­ing as the tran­quil am­bi­ence of our sur­rounds cloaks us in its com­fort­ing em­brace. Apart from a cou­ple of boats, the only move­ment is the arc and pa­rade of plumaged be­ings as they hover around trees and per­form their ac­ro­bat­ics in the air.

It is past twi­light as we check in to

Haritha Beach Re­sort in Kak­i­nada city. A wispy fog that veils ev­ery­thing be­fore us, grad­u­ally dis­si­pates and al­lows the fiery gi­ant to emerges on the hori­zon as we take off on yet an­other cruise the fol­low­ing morn­ing. This time it is to Kak­i­nada’s Hope Is­land. The sea is rid­den with cargo ships as we sail to­wards the is­land, a nar­row stretch of sandy for­ma­tion in the mighty Bay of Ben­gal. The 500-year-old is­land which is a 715 acre sprawl is famed for the Olive Ri­d­ley Tur­tles that lay eggs in its sandy beaches.

One of the high­lights of our trip is a visit to three of the five Pan­chara­mam tem­ples of Andhra, ded­i­cated to Shiva at Palakollu, Drak­shara­mam and Sa­malkota. We are held spell­bound by the sheer mag­ni­tude of the tem­ples, and by their sculp­tural and ar­chi­tec­tural grandeur. They re­ver­ber­ate with the spir­i­tual en­ergy that pal­pa­bly per­me­ates the very fab­ric of rou­tine life among the peo­ple of the re­gion. The tem­ple at Drak­shara­mam hon­our­ing Shiva as Bhimesh­wara, in ad­di­tion to be­ing a Pan­chara­mam tem­ple, is also revered as one of the Sak­tipeeths. It houses one of the three Jy­otir­lin­gas, the other two be­ing in Sri­sailam and Kala­hasti, thus giv­ing Andhra its an­cient name of Trilinga De­sha.

We leave be­hind the streets of Kak­i­nada which are res­o­nant with the squeak of bi­cy­cles and the blare of horns, to get back to Dindi. The view from our room, of the sandy shores of the beach, adorned by palm and ca­sua­r­ina trees com­ple­ment­ing the nu­mer­ous crys­tal clear rivulets, now im­preg­nated with si­lence, is en­chant­ing. The mild in­ces­sant flow of its wa­ters and a gusty breeze are in har­mony with the gib­bous moon that plays peek-a-boo with tufts of clouds above. With the sights and smell of the Go­davari tan­ta­liz­ing our spir­i­tual senses, we fall into a well of bliss­ful sleep, promis­ing our­selves an­other trip to this hos­pitable land.

REACH­ING THERE

Air: Ra­jah­mundry is the only air­port clos­est to Konaseema (80 km from Dindi).

Rail: Near­est Rail Head is Palakollu, 15 Kms from Dindi.

Road: Buses ply to var­i­ous parts of Konaseema from Ra­jah­mundry, Hy­der­abad, Visakha­p­at­nam and Vijayawada to Dindi. Near­est Bus Point is Ra­zole. Ac­com­mo­da­tion: APTDC’S Haritha Co­conut Coun­try Re­sort, Ster­ling Re­sorts at Dindi and Haritha Beach Re­sort in Kak­i­nada.

Re­sorts and is­lands dot the Go­davari

Brisk ac­tiv­ity on the canals of Konaseema

Over­view of Bhimeswara Tem­ple, Drak­shara­mam

Chinchi­nada Bridge over the Go­davari

Vil­lage roads, flanked by ver­dure

An over­view of one side of Ryali’s Ja­gan­mo­hini tem­ple

Bud­dhist ru­ins at Adurru

Cargo laden ves­sels sail the Bay of Ben­gal from Kak­i­nada

Shiva Tem­ple, An­tarvedi

Shiva wel­comes devo­tees to Ksheer­ara­mam at Palakollu

Than­dava Gana­p­a­thy, Drak­shara­mam Tem­ple

Lakes fringed by palm trees are a com­mon sight in Konaseema

Cy­cling his way to the Raula­palem Ba­nana Mar­ket

Mo­tor­boats cruise along the Go­davari

Bridge over the back­wa­ters, Kak­i­nada

Dowleswaram Bar­rage

Ver­dant fields and palm groves in Konaseema

Avian drama un­folds at Coringa Man­groves

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