Wednesday, 22 December 2010

A Journey to the hinterland of Rayala Seema

"All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveller is unaware.” – Martin Buber
 I am not sure but this particular journey was somewhat like the quote!  Sometimes the journeys you don’t expect much results being memorable. One such trip was to the hinterland of Rayala Seema in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh – Tadipatri, Mahanandi, Bellum Caves and Ahobilam.
It all started as a sudden decision to go to Mantralaya, the pilgrimage center of Saint Raghavendra Swamy. It was then we thought of taking a detour to these fairly unknown places on our way back. To me, it was more exciting to see these places than pilgrimage having been to Mantralaya with family many times.
Rock formations in Oravakallu
Having had darshan and lunch at Mantralaya, we started on our journey to explore. The drive from Kurnool to Nandyal was good. A freshly topped road was an invitation to a good drive. Half hour drive after Kurnool, we were awestruck by amazing formation of stones. It was in the afternoon and these places in Rayalaseema are known for the dry and hot days even in winter. It was fascinating to see these unusual formations. A board on the road side said it was part of Oravakallu sanctuary.  As we reached Nandyal, it was around 4 PM. Checked in, freshened up and after a quick coffee we were ready to go to Mahanandi.
Mahanandi is an important pilgrimage centre. A drive of 10 KMs and we arrived at the place. A quiet place n the middle of fields with a small hill in the background, the setting looked very serene. The temple tank in the middle was filled with pilgrims taking a dip and young boys swimming. I came to know that that a spring keeps the water level in the tank full. After a quick round of temple we came to an interesting spot. Here was a live bull – Nandi – and people were passing under its belly!! I asked the priest as to what was the significance. The priest told me that if you pass under, your wishes will get fulfilled. Brinda and my Mother –in-law were game for it and I was indifferent. They passed under it though skeptical that that the bull may kick them off!! Hope their wishes were granted.... The setting, the serenity and quietude makes visit to Mahanandi  worthwhile.
Beautiful setting at Ahobilam
Though Ahobilam was close by, we could not go there as we had to return back to Bangalore the next day. Ahobilam is a beautiful place located amidst the Nallamalla forests – especially the upper Ahobilam is which has a waterfall as backdrop for the famous Narasimha temple. There are two temples dedicated to Lord Narasimha. The intricate sculptures on the temples make this place worth visiting. Possibly next time around.
As we left Nandyal and drove towards Bangalore, our next stop was Tadipatri. The road from Nandyal to Tadipatri was good. For the first time I happened to see the mosambi – sweet lime – farms on the way. Another interesting aspect of this drive is that it passes through the Kadapa stone quarries. These are slate stones and it is amazing to see naturally layered stone slabs in these quarries. As we stopped, looked at these formations and proceeded, we were greeted by another hot spot – Bellum caves!!. These are stalactite caves with lovely formations. Anyway, we could not stop over as we had to reach Bangalore. As we drove along, we came across a gem of a reservoir which was pristine blue in colour after Vobalapuram. When we reached Tadipatri it was 11 AM.
Bugga Ramalingeswra temple - notice the huge base of incomplete
gopuram in background
A small town, this is known for two beautiful temples built by Vijayanagar kings. Located next to Pennar River, Bugga Ramalingeshwara temple is an interesting place. It has an unfinished gopuram at the entrance. The girth of the edifice of gopuram is so big that archaeologists opine that had it been built, it would have been the largest in India. The edifice is also most ornate in grey-green granite you can come across anywhere in India The deity is a small Shiva linga set in a pedestal filled with water perpetually fed by a small spring.  
Sculpted pillars in Chintala Venkataramanaswamy temple
Chintala Venkataramanaswamy temple in the town is more elaborate in sculptural grandeur. A combination of Hoysala and Dravidian architecture, the stone pillars of the temple is adorned by beautiful figures.
As we left Tadipatri in the afternoon, we were filled with mixed feelings………happy to see some exquisite temples ……..but regrets of not having kept another day or two to cover Ahobilam and Bellum caves. To some extent, that was a boon in disguise as we can go back to these places again leisurely.
Reaching there
By Road
Tadipatri is at a distance of 50 KMs from Anantpur and Nandyal is another 50 KMs from there
Bangalore – Devanahalli – Chikkaballapur – Penukonda – Anantapur – Tadipatri – Nandyal
The road till Anantapur is top class and beyond Anantapur is good.
By Bus
Catch any KSRTC/APSRTC bus going to Anantpur and then change over to Tadipatri and Nandyal
By Train
There are two trains from Bangalore to Nandyal

a) Machilipatnam - Bangalore Express
b) Bangalore - Vijayawada passenger

Dharmavaram Junction which falls on Bangalore – Hyderabad route is a good place to change over for more options.
Places to stay
There are no luxury resorts at these places and have to make do with decent lodges. We stayed in Shashi residency in Nandyal which was decent.
Travel tips
a)    A good option for long weekend trip from Bangalore.
b)    Best season to Visit is in winter – Oct till February. Summers in these places are really hot.
c)    A good circuit will be Bangalore – Gooty – Sri Sailam – Alampur - Oravakallu - Mahanandi – Ahobilam – Bellum caves - Tadipatri – Bangalore. Sri Satya Sai Baba devotees can include Puttaparthi in this itinerary after Anantapur on the way back.
d)    You need at least four days to cover the above circuit.
e)    Better to make Kurnool and Nandyal as bases for exploring the area.
f)     Most of the places have good hotels. AP Tourism also has chain of motels in these places.
g)   Driving down from Bangalore is the best option.
Post Script – The snaps are not taken by me but down loaded from Web. I am impressed with the picture of Ahobilam. It reminded me of Badami. The trip was done sometime in 2003 ......
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