Charm of Chicacole

Print edition : March 13, 2009

This Chaitya in Salihundam is one of the Buddhist sites found in 1990 near the banks of the Vamsadhara river. It was from here that Buddhism spread to Sumatra and other eastern countries.-BENOY K. BEHL

CHICACOLE, as Srikakulam district was once known, is a land of beautiful hills and valleys. The coconut plantations of Uddanam, and the lush green cashew plantations of Barua beckon nature lovers to feast on the scenic beauty of the district, described as mini-Kerala. The picturesque and golden beaches of Kalingapatnam, Shivasagar and Barua leave tourists mesmerised.

The Kalingapatnam beach was once a seaport for the East India Company. It has a lighthouse of yesteryear, which is still used. The place is also endowed with rivers and a beautiful coastline and is home to ancient temples and heritage buildings of the French and the British. Srikakulam was once part of the Kalinga dynasty, and a large number of people from Orissa and West Bengal visit the district. Buddhist sites at Salihundam and Danthapuram attract the devout from Japan, China and Korea every year. Srikurmam, Srimukhalingam, Arasavalli and Ravivalasa are among the famous Hindu pilgrim centres in Andhra Pradesh.

Ponduru village, famous for its khadi products, shot into prominence after Mahatma Gandhi appreciated the work of the Ponduru weavers during his visit to the region. Gandhi ordered dhotis from Ponduru for his personal use. He even mentioned the virtues of Ponduru khadi in Young India, a national weekly he edited. The place has since become a tourist destination and khadi lovers. Khadi products from Ponduru are exported to various countries, including the United States, Japan, Sweden and Denmark.

In Budithi village, artisans create medals, mementos, idols and other utility articles out of bronze and other alloys. Thousands of artisans are engaged in the Budithi craft, which has created a niche for itself in the national and international market. Another delight for nature lovers is the Telineelapuram village, the seasonal resort for painted storks from Siberia. The villagers protect them from poachers.

The sun god is worshipped in the Suryanarayana Swamy temple at Arasavalli. It is 3.5 km from Srikakulam town. The temple dates back to the 7th century A.D. and a Kalinga king is said to have constructed it. It is built in such a way that the early morning rays of the sun fall on the feet of the deity twice a year, in February and June even when the five entrance gates are closed. The idol depicts the sun god on a chariot. The image, made of black granite, flanked by Usha and Chhaya, is 5 feet tall. Padmapani is the name of this deity padma stands for wisdom and Usha and Chhaya represent eternity. The head is crowned by the serpent Adisesha.

At the Srikurmam temple, the image of a tortoise as an incarnation of Vishnu is worshipped. Famed for its architectural beauty, the temple has over 200 pillars and many inscriptions in Devanagiri script dating from the 11th century A.D. to the 19th century A.D. It has huge five-storeyed gopurams built in the South Indian style.

The paintings on the wall resemble those at the Ajanta caves. Interestingly, within the temple complex is a small shrine where the footprints of Chaitanya, a social reformer of Bengal, are worshipped.

Salihundam village, 18 km from Srikakulam on the banks of the river Vamsadhara, became famous when excavations unearthed stupas, chaityas, platforms and viharas dating back to the 2nd century A.D. They throw light on the existence of an ancient Buddhist settlement. It was from Salihundam that the message of Buddhism spread to Sumatra and other eastern countries. Srimukhalingam, also located on the banks of the Vamsadhara, is the site of the Srimukhalingeswara (Siva) temple. Built in the 9th century A.D. by the Eastern Ganga kings, it is considered one of the finest examples of Kalinga architecture.

The Sangam temple, 56 km from Srikakulam, is at the confluence of the Nagavalli, the Swarnamukhi and the Vegavati rivers and hence its name. One of the five lingas of Sangameswara is here. On the day of Maha Sivaratri, thousands of devotees throng the temple. Mahasivaratri is celebrated with fanfare every year also at the Mahendragiri temple at Mandasa, which is 26 km from Sompet.

Barua, a fishing and coastal port about 109 km from Srikakulam, is set amidst lush coconut groves and paddy fields. The famous Kotilingeswara Swamy and Janardanaswamy temples are in Barua.

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