Frontline Volume 21 - Issue 18, Aug. 28 - Sep. 10, 2004
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FOCUS: KRISHNA PUSHKARAM

Steeped in history

RAMESH SUSARLA
in Guntur

The Krishna Pushkaram offers an opportunity for Guntur district to showcase its historical and religious attractions.

IN a country where tourism is predominantly religion-centric, the Krishna Pushkaram in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh is a special attraction as the region is rich in structures of historical and religious importance. Some of the attractions along the course of the river from Nalgonda district to the delta region are the Nagarjunasagar dam, the Buddhist relics at Nagarjunakonda, the Ethipothala waterfalls, the Dattatreya Swamy temple at Ethipothala, the Amareswara temple and the Buddhist museum at Amaravathi, the Ashram of Chinna Jeeyar Swamy at Seethanagaram, the Sri Lakshminarayana temple and the hill-top temple of Panakala Swamy at Mangalagiri on the banks of the Krishna.

RAMESH SUSARLA

The Undavalli caves, close to Mangalagiri in Guntur district.

The major places of tourist interest in Guntur district include the cenotaphs at Amaravathi, Bhattiprolu and Kesanapally, the caves at Undavalli, the beach at Bapatla, and the Kotappakonda shrine of Lord Trikuteswara near Narsaraopet.

The State government has invested Rs.37.9 crores in Guntur district alone for the Pushkaram to ensure the safety of pilgrims along the river bank, to provide them with clean, protected water, to renovate some temples, and so on. In addition to the regular trains, about 360 special trains and 772 special buses are being run for the Pushkaram in the district.

A notable feature of the Krishna at Amaravathi is that it changes its course from north to south. Earlier known as Dhanyakataka, Amaravathi got its present name after Amareswara Swamy. The Mahachaitya stupa, built in the 2nd Century B.C. in Amaravathi, is richly adorned with carvings depicting the life and teachings of the Buddha. The stupa houses a small museum with a collection of old monuments, and a pictorial depiction of the Buddha's life and teachings and terracotta antiquities. The temple walls have a number of inscriptions that throw light on the different dynasties that reigned over this place, including Krishnadevaraya and the Reddis of Kondaveedu.

The Ethipothala waterfalls on the Chandravanka, a tributary of the Krishna, is 11 km. from the Nagarjunasagar dam. Amidst scenic surroundings one can marvel at the shimmering water as it cascades down 70 feet (21 metres) into a lagoon. Ethipothala also boasts of a crocodile breeding centre. Close to the waterfalls on the bank is the temple of Dattatreya Swami. People from Nalgonda and Khammam districts visit this temple, which is also a popular picnic spot.

RAMESH SUSARLA

Newly constructed bathing ghats at Amaravathi in Guntur district, adjacent to the Amareswara temple.

The Nagarjunasagar dam, a massive irrigation project on the Krishna, about 110 km from Guntur, has a rich and interesting past. It was built in a valley in the Nallamala forest range of the Eastern Ghats, which carries evidence of civilisations dating back to thousands of years. Recorded history, however, assigns the first signs of civilisation to the later Satavahanas and subsequently the Ikshvakus of the third century A.D. The discovery of the site in 1926 by A.R. Saraswathi, and the subsequent excavation brought to light a number of Buddhist monuments. Sriparvata and Vijayapuri were temples where the Buddhist philosopher Acharya Nagarjuna preached the Buddha's teachings.

As the area was threatened with submergence by the reservior, an Archaeological Survey of India team translocated nine monuments from the valley to Nagarjunakonda, 4 km away. The Nagarjunakonda stands as an island in the middle of the reservoir. A museum there contains Buddhist relics excavated from the valley.

Mangalagiri, located 12 km from Vijayawada, is another prominent pilgrimage centre. It is known for the Panakala Swamy temple built on a volcanic hill and the galigopuram of the Laxminarasimha Swamy temple built in 1807 in Mangalgiri town.

Undavalli lies on the south bank of the Krishna close to the Prakasam Barrage on the way to Amaravathi from Mangalagiri, along the river bank. The Undavalli caves, associated with the Vishnukundin kings of A.D. 420 to 620, are dedicated to Anantapadmanabha Swamy and Narisimha Swamy.

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