Spiritual, secular

Print edition : July 16, 2010

The Bara Shaheeddargah, a martyrs' memorial, on the banks of the Nellore tank.-R. SRINIVAS

THE Sri Talpagiri Ranganathaswamy temple on the banks of the Pennar (Pinakini) in Ranganayakulapeta stands as an undeclared insignia of anything and everything related to Sri Potti Sriramulu Nellore district.

The temple is dedicated to Ranganatha, the presiding deity of the famous Vaishnavite shrine in Srirangam, on the banks of the Cauvery in Tamil Nadu. Hence many revere it as uttara Srirangam. The centuries-old temple has a lot of history and mythology attached to it.

The canopy above the sanctum sanctorum is called Anantha Nilaya Vimanam. The Raja Gopuram (main tower) was built in 1781. Seven golden kalasams were erected atop the gopuram in 1949.

Traditional rituals and temple-related ceremonies are conducted in the Addala Mandapam (hall of mirrors), which was built in 1929. A colourful fresco of Vatapatra Sayee (child Krishna sleeping on a leaf) adorns the ceiling.

The temple has received huge endowments from several kings. At present it has 800 acres of land and deposits worth Rs.18 crore in its exchequer, besides rare ornaments weighing 30 kg. According to the chief priest, Kidambi Jagannathacharya, the temple receives an annual income of Rs.50 lakh from lessee farmers.

The Jain temple at Kakuturu on the outskirts of Nellore city.-R. SRINIVAS

The Nadadur Kesavacharya Desantharam Charities, a trust formed about 80 years ago, provides food free of cost to the devotees. The temple was almost submerged in December 1946 when floods of the Pennar inundated the town.

The second major temple in the district is the Sri Mallikharjunaswamy Kamakshithayi Devasthanam at Jannawada near Buchireddypalem, which has found mention in Brahmanda Purana, Skanda Purana and other scriptures. Adi Sankara is said to have visited the temple and offered prayers to Kamakshi (Siva's consort). After his visit, the temple came to be known as uttara Kanchi. The annual brahmotsavam is conducted in May/June.

Dargahs

There are two pilgrim centres in the district for the Muslim community. One is the Syed Mastanvali dargah, commonly known as the Kasumuru Dargah, a famous shrine where Muslims and Hindus pay homage with equal reverence. The other is Kasmur Shareef, located 25 km from Nellore on the Chennai-Kolkata highway. It is dedicated to Hazrath Syed Kareemulla Shah Qadri, locally called the As Kale Shah Mastan Baba, or Kasmur Masthanayya.

The Bara Shaheed dargah, located on the banks of the Nellore tank, is a martyrs' memorial. According to local legend, the heads of 12 soldiers killed and beheaded in a battle were brought to this tank by their horses, and buried here. Devotees believe that the martyrs possess vast mystical powers and offer prayers at their tombs.

Rottela Panduga (festival of bread) is celebrated for five days every year at the tank. Devotees make a vow and exchange the bread with fellow devotees, including strangers. Bread is sold at the venue under names such as health bread', education bread', employment bread', house bread' and even visa bread' according to the devotees' prayer and requirement. Three to four lakh people from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Orissa and Tamil Nadu attend the festival. At times, Hindu pilgrims outnumber Muslims.

Gandhotsavam (sandal ritual) is performed on the third day of the festival. The tombs are cleaned and a rich sandal paste is smeared on them by the priests. The dried-up sandal flakes are taken home and consumed as prasadam, as it is believed to rid one of all sins.

The general practice for a pilgrim family is to stay near the tank for two days and offer prayers. The district administration arranges special accommodation, security, medical camps, and transport for the crowds that throng the place every year.

Jain temple

The 10,000-strong Jain community of Nellore hailing from Rajasthan has built a mammoth temple for Mahaveera in Kakuturu on the outskirts of the city. It is considered an architectural masterpiece. Pratishta Mahotsavam is performed every year at the temple.

The Raja Rajeshwari temple in Durgamitta is another important shrine in Nellore. The foundation stone for the temple was laid by the erstwhile pontiff of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam, Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi. Jayendra Saraswathi and the Pushpagiri seer consecrated the deity in 1975.

A letter from the Editor


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