Our pilgrimage to Bhadrachalam and near by places

Swamy's picture



Average: 3.8 (5 votes)

Sai Ram. At the request of a friend, I am sharing with the readers my experiences of a recent pilgrimage to Bhadrachalam.

15th November

We (myself, my wife Sarala, my friend Arjun, his wife Shobha Rani and his brother Nageshwara Rao) set off in my friend’s car, a Ford Fiesta. We left his house in Old Bowenpally area of Secunderabad around 8:30 AM on 15th November 2008. My friend, who is 62, was driving. Though I used to drive a car earlier, I gave up driving around 6 or 7 years ago. Though I took the wheel of his car for a few minutes a couple of years ago, in general we were either going by his car with himself or his son or a driver at the wheel and if there were more people, we were borrowing a bigger vehicle or hiring or traveling by train. Thus, though he is about 2 years elder to me, he had to drive the total distance in this case too.

Bhadrachalam is about 325 kilometers (200+ miles) from Hyderabad/Secunderabad. One can go by road as we did or take a train and get down at Bhadrachalam Road railway station and travel by road about 35 km (22 miles). The best route to take by road is this:

Hyderabad – Suryapet – Khammam – Kothagudem – Paloncha – Bhadrachalam

We took the NH9 (National Highway) to Vijayawada. A few kilometers into the journey, we had a flat tyre, but luckily for us, we were still in the outskirts of the city and hence we could get it fixed by a mechanic at a petrol station (gas station for those of you in US). By the way, the vehicle runs on diesel, not petrol. And the National Highway is not all that broad at many places and the traffic is not all that ruly. So, the average speed will be about 50 to 65 kmph (35 or 40 mph!) and the journey was expected to take about 8 to 10 hours. We left the city by about 9:30 AM.

While we carried some eatables and water with us, we still had to stop for a belated breakfast and also to give my friend some rest. So, we were looking for a decent place. We did not find any decent looking restaurant till a little before Suryapet, which is 140 km (90 miles) from Hyderabad. A few kilometers before that town, we found a place, Hotel Vivera, which doubles up as a Udipi Restaurant (Tiffin Section) and after 11:30 AM as a Punjabi Restaurant! There are some roadside Dhabas but the hygiene is somewhat suspect and the dhabas serve mixed fare (vegetarian and non-vegetarian), thus we were not keen on them (we are vegetarians).

After having dosa (a batter of rice and lentils sprit was late and nothing else was available) and tea/coffee, we set off again. We stopped again after passing Khammam around 1:30 PM. Oh, yes, we need to take a left turn at Suryapet to go to Khammam and since the road signs are less than perfect and the car is not equipped with a navigation system, we had to ask at a few places by slowing down and or stopping. All these affect your time to reach your destination. That is India for you. Now days, some mobile phones are equipped with Navigation systems and some cars are being fitted with such systems.

We stopped by the roadside, put the parking lights (flashers) on and we went into a small field adjacent. We spread out mats (earlier the mats were being made out of reeds, but now plastic is being used) and spread out the fare of rice, puris (wheat pancakes fried in oil). I took only curd rice (rice mixed with curd / yoghurt) since the other rice preparation was spicy and hence not suited for me (I have GERD and cannot take spicy food).

We left after a break of half an hour or so at 2:15 PM. We reached Bhadrachalam around 5 PM. We asked my friend’s cousin, who works and stays there to book two rooms for us. So, we phoned him when we reached and he gave us directions to a place (Ravisai Hotel), which is very near the temple. However, we found that the two decent rooms are upstairs and the staircase was not all that friendly. The rooms at the ground floor were not good at all. When we asked him (all over phone, we did not meet him as it turns out) to try some other place, he was expressing some difficulty and asked us to wait. We waited a few minutes and then my friend and his brother set out to find some place on their own. They were successful and hence we went there, which was a big room with a divider wall in between. The room had only one double bed and so others had to sleep on floor! However, on weekends (Saturday and Sunday), the hotels are heavily booked and thus one has to settle for what one can get, unless the rooms are booked in advance.

Well, we settled into the room, got freshened up and went to the temple for darshan. It was raining at that time and hence we had to use an autorickshaw (a three wheeled motorized contraption with a top but the sides are open. And we had to adjust three in the rear and three in the front, including the driver, which is illegal, but these things are common in many places. We got somewhat drenched, which was good but because we did not take bath, which is the normal custom when we visit a temple (purification of the body is the first step in the long and arduous journey for purification of the mind and in a hot country like India, it is physically soothing and relaxing). In this case, we felt that the God is cleansing us with rain water and thus felt happy. We had to buy the ticket for darshan since the que for free darshan was a little more. We paid ten rupees each (about 20 cents in US currency) and we were happier when we realized that we were a few feet closer to the inner temple that way. We also found that if we buy ticket for 100 rupees a couple will be allowed and a short puja will also be done, and thus we get closer still to the inner temple, which is beyond bounds to us because we are not in the traditional dress and we are not considered pure enough to touch the idols of Lord Rama, Sita and Lakshmana etc. Any way, we were happy to get this darshan and after a few minutes (due to the rain, the crowd was somewhat less it appeared), we were ushered out. We took the teertham (sacred water) etc., and then went around the temple. There is a separate temple within the same compound to Goddess Lakshmi, the Divine Consort of Sri Vishnu, of whom Sri Rama was an Avatar, an incarnation. We went there and also to the museum where the ornaments that were prepared about 400 years ago by Sri Bhakta Ramadasu, the Tehsildar of that area, who was a great devotee of Sri Rama and who was imprisoned by Tanisha, the Muslim ruler of Golconda, under whose jurisdiction that area fell at that time. When Sri Ramadasu could not pay the money spent for the renovation of the temple, it is said that Sri Rama and Sri Lakshmana went in disguise to the Tanisha and paid the money and got the devotee released.

We also visited the other Gods and Goddesses and Alwars (Sri Vaishnava Saints) in the temple complex and returned to the hotel room. We finished dinner and went to sleep.

16th November

In the morning, we left by the car to Kunavaram and from there to Ramagiri, where a temple of Sri Rama is located atop a small hillock. But we did not visit that temple due to lack of time and went to the motorized launches which can accommodate about 100 people. Our program for that day was to take the boat ride in the river Godavari upto Papi Kondalu, a group of hills about 40 km away. There was a stop in between at a place called Perantalapalli where an Ashram built by a Sadhu (Sri Balananda Swami, a disciple of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa) was the place to be visited. A few yards away from the river bank, up a slippery slope, we went and got refreshed by washing our feet and hands from the sparkling clear water from a brook that is perennial. The water was very sweet because of its passing over several rocks. The atmosphere inside and outside the Ashram is very serene. I sat down for a few minutes of meditation and my usually restless mind felt very peaceful there and I felt a lot of energy going through the body, esp. the upper half into the hands and palms.

From that place, the launch took us a few more miles and then stopped at a place, where lunch was served. Rice, a few curries etc. and a sweet (pasta) were the main items and I had to stick to that sweet, plain rice and curd. Since all the travelers were Indians and that too mostly from Andhra Pradesh, there was no problem with that sort of food. North Indians and foreigners would find it difficult to eat that sort of food, unless they are habituated. It is better to carry your own food and water for the day with you and enjoy the scenic beauty of the river and the hills between which the river flows.

After lunch, the launch started back the return journey and reached the starting spot by about 5 PM. It was already getting dark and hence we left back for Bhadrachalam without a visit to the temple there. If we had a younger professional driver, we would have spent a few more hours and visited the temple. Night driving is difficult for my friend because of the glare from the oncoming vehicles and the absence of a road divider.

17th November:

As per our original plan, we were scheduled to return to Hyderabad, but we postponed our return journey by a day. We went to the main temple again and got the puja performed by paying the 100 rupees ticket. One advantage is that we were able to see the God from very close quarters and received Harathi, a camphor flame offered to the Deities and then to us as a blessing from them.

We then saw another temple for Shri Ganesha and Shri Anjaneya (this particular temple is for Abhaya Anjaneya, Abhaya meaning without fear and He is fearless and He also makes us fearless when we worship Him. This temple is about a kilometer or a mile at the most. From there we went to Parnashala, about 35 km (22 miles) from Bhadrachalam. That place is supposed to be where Sri Rama, Sita and Sri Lakshmana stayed during their Vanavas (stay in forest) and from where Ravana abducted Sri Sita. The whole place was a thick forest in Ramayan time but sadly it is all inhabited now and even that particular place is not afforested. Though I did get some good vibrations there because of my deep faith, at the ego level, that place is disappointing.

We returned to Bhadrachalam and had our lunch at a fairly decent restaurant (Bhavani Hotel on the main road near the Bus Station. The hotel has a few rooms also and it may be worthwhile to check it out next time.

After lunch we went back to our place of stay and took rest for a while. In the evening, we went to a Siva temple near the Rama Temple and paid our respects to Sri Siva there. The temple was crowded because of the devotees who came to light oil lamps, this being Kartik month as per the lunar calendar and being Monday, a day dear to Sri Siva.

From Siva temple, we again went to Sri Rama’s temple and had a darshan again.

18th November

We left Bhadrachalam in the morning and returned to Hyderabad by about 5 PM in the evening, the return journey taking more time because of heavy traffic in the last 30 or 40 miles.

All in all it was a spiritually uplifting pilgrimage. Sri Rama willing, we will go again.

Swamy



dora's picture

fascinating

Hey swami, the way you write it is fascinating!!!

I have been in some of the places you mention and it gives the urge to do it again.

dora | Sat, 11/29/2008 - 08:56
Swamy's picture

Your comment on my blog

Sai Ram. Thanks for the kind words.

Blessings.

Swamy

Swamy | Sat, 11/29/2008 - 11:42
solo's picture

anecdotes of India

To westerners who have never been in India this blog may seem too detailed (and btw, these SHOULD travel to there ASAP).

But for those who were there, this is a celebration of memories and typical anecdotes of this addictive country.

Here are some annotations relating the blog for those who have never been in India:

flat type - in every long drive you have at least flat tire :) If you are in a long bus drive then at least 2 flat tires that mean that a 10 hours trip may become a 20 hours (because the first flat tire was not taken care on the way... shanti shanti...) but you are in such a state of acceptance that you don't mind...

"hotel" if I'm not mistaken actually means a restaurant on the way, the place to sleep in is called dharamsala.

Tifin is snacks that you usually eat in breakfast or until lunch. The most popular is dosa but there are also idli, utapam, apam...

dhaba is a side stall in the street with basic simple food. I think that the best food and the best people are found in these dhabas.

For lunch you eat a tali - which is a combination of many veg dishes - this is what swamy and his relatives are at the roadside.

what you are told in the telephone by hotel owner is never reality. You understand this when you arrive at the place.

maybe having 3 people in the back of a riksha is illegal, but also driving in red lights - india in action has different rules than the official ones. You will see many times 5 and 6 and even more in a driving riksha.

Small money (in western terms) can buy time: skipping the line in the entrance of a temple, buying tatkal (emergency) tickets for trains, paying extras here and there...

Swami - what was the city of origin from which you started the journey?

solo | Sat, 01/03/2009 - 20:30