Abode of gods

Print edition : January 04, 2008

The SRI KODANDARAMA temple at Vontimitta is known for its intricate carvings. -

Each one of Kadapa districts many temples, mosques and churches has a unique history.


Kadapa district is home to many temples, mosques and churches, each with a unique history of its own. Unexposed to the outside world, these religious places, dating back to several centuries, remain testimony to a glorious past.

Kadapa derives its name from Gadapa meaning threshold. It has historically been known as the gateway to the temple of Venkateswara, the presiding deity of Tirumala. Pilgrims visit the Sri Lakshmi Venkateswara temple at Devunikadapa in Kadapa city either on their way to Tirumala or on their return. The belief is that only then will their visit to Tirumala be complete.

A masterpiece of Vijayanagar architecture, the Lakshmi Venkateswara temple is popularly known as a Hanumath kshetram in view of the presence of an Anjaneya idol behind that of Venkateswara in the sanctum sanctorum. People believe that the sage Kripacharya installed the idol of the presiding deity.

The main mandapam, built by the Vijayanagar kings, has a dancing Vigneswara. Saint-poet Tallapaka Annamacharya is said to have visited the place and sung in praise of the deity in his keerthanas. All the Sankaracharyas of the Advaita Mutts, heads of Ahobila Mutts and Mahakavi Kshetrayya have visited the temple, which was recently taken over by the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD). The Sri Kodandarama temple at Vontimitta, 28 km from Kadapa en route to Chennai, is said to be the only Rama temple in the country without Anjaneya beside the main deity.

It has idols of Rama, Sita and Lakshmana carved on a single rock. The idol is said to have been installed by Jambavantha. The walls and pillars of the temple are embellished with intricate carvings. Near the temple is a Rama theertham, a Lakshmana theertham and a meditation hall. It is said that Rama and Lakshmana struck the earth with arrows to bring out the Pathalaganga to quench the thirst of living creatures.

Mahakavi Bammera Pothana spent his life at Vontimitta and dedicated his Mahabhagavatham to the deity. Vavilakolanu Subba Rao, known as Andhra Valmiki for translating Valmikis Ramayana into Telugu, is immortalised in the annals of Andhra Pradesh. He has dedicated his work to the deity in Vontimitta.

Tallapaka, six kilometres from Rajampet town, is the birthplace of Annamacharya who wrote 32,000 keerthanas in praise of Venkateswara. The place has Chennakesava and Siddheswara temples, a Srichakra, an idol of Eka Tatayya, an ardent disciple of Parasurama, and the Annamayya Dhyana Mandiram.

The TTD has adopted Tallapaka for development on the lines of Tiruvayaru. It holds the Annamacharya jayanthi celebrations and has proposed the setting up of a 100 feet Annamacharya statue at Tallapaka. Sri Pothuluri Veerabrahmendra Swamys samadhi at Brahmamgari Matham is 70 km from Kadapa. He is the author of Kalagnanam. The place, where the Brahmamsagar reservoir under the Telugu Ganga Project is situated, also has the mutts of Easwari Devi and his ardent disciple Siddhaiah.

Pushpagiri on the banks of the Pennar in Vallur mandal, 16 km from Kadapa, has 16 temples with exquisite sculptural beauty. Pushpagiri boasts of the only Advaita mutt established in what is now Andhra Pradesh by Adi Sankara. The mutt is called the Pushpagiri Peetham.

The Lakshmi Venkateswara temple at Devunikadapa is a masterpiece of Vijayanagar architecture.-

The Lakshmi Venkateswara

Pushpagiri is known as the second Hampi. The largest temple here is the Chennakesava temple, which dates back to A.D. 1298, according to inscriptions found in the temple complex. The images of a dancing Ganapati and Krishna preaching the Bhagvad Gita to Arjuna are notable pieces of art in the temple.

Amrit Sarovar, a sacred pool here, is believed to have the magical property to reverse ageing. Legend has it that when Garuda was carrying nectar from Indraloka, a drop fell down and turned the pool sacred.

An aged and distressed peasant who jumped into the pool to commit suicide found himself turned into a young man. The astonished farmer made his wife and oxen too to dip in the pool and they too regained their youth. As the news of the pool reached Satya Loka, Brahma sought the help of Vishnu and Siva and they instructed Anjaneya to fill the pool. Anjaneya dropped a hill into the pool, but instead of sinking it floated. Vishnu and Siva then clamped their feet at its sides and the imprint of the foot of Siva became famous as Rudrapada and that of Vishnu as Vishnupada. A large two-storeyed Bhairaveswara temple on Mohanagiri hillock at Mopur on the Kadapa-Pulivendula road has an 18-foot Siva linga and attracts many devotees from Karnataka and Maharashtra.

The temple is a veritable storehouse of inscriptions and memorial stones called Veeragallus, dating back from A.D. 1309 to A.D. 1531. Mahakavi Kshetrayya is said to have spent his early childhood in the area and written keerthanas praising Venkateswara of Inagalur and Chennakesava Swamy of Palagiri.

At Nandalur, 38 km from Kadapa on the way to Chennai, is the Sowmyanatha temple (A.D. 1200), a replica of the temple at Tiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu. Almost three-fourths of the inscriptions at the temple are in Tamil.

A rare idol of Surya (sun god) in the standing posture and temples of Vinayaka and Sage Agastya dating back to A.D. 1442 catch ones attention at Chilamakur in Yerraguntla mandal, 40 km from Kadapa on the way to Tadpatri in Anantapur district. The temple has a tradition of offering mahaarathi in golden plates.

The Sri Anjaneya Swamy temple at Gandi, 55 km from Kadapa, is amid picturesque surroundings on the banks of the Papaghni river near Vempalle. Legend has it that Rama, who was returning from Lanka, stayed there for some time attracted by its beauty. Vayu, the father of Anjaneya, hung a wreath of golden flowers across a ravine to welcome Rama.

The belief is that it is visible to sacred souls nearing the time of their death. It is said the British Governor Sir Thomas Munro saw it while passing by and died shortly thereafter. The TTD has taken over the temple for development.

Situated on the banks of the Cheyyeru river, Attirala is a sacred place where Parasurama atoned for his sin of matricide. Likhita, brother of Sage Sankha, regained his severed hands after bathing in the river. The temple is frequented by people of the transgender community who come to atone for their sins and to pray to make them normal human beings in the next birth. It has a Parasurama temple, and two more temples of Gadadhara standing on one leg and one of Threteswara.

The Siddavattam fort on the banks of the Pennar, dating back to A.D. 1303.-

The Siddavattam fort

The carvings depicting an artistic exuberance on the outer wall of the Parasurama temple have women in dancing postures and images of Vishnu, Parasurama and Krishna. A jyothi (lamp) lit on a jyothistambha atop a hill on Mahasivarathri day is said to be visible from a distance of 30 km. An idol of Eka Tatayya faces that of Parasurama.

An ancient Siva temple on the banks of the Papaghni river in Veerapunayunipalle mandal where Sage Agastya is said to have installed a two-foot Siva linga has Sangameswara, Chowdeswari Devi and a large Nandi carved in the Vijayanagar style. The temple has exquisite stone carvings of Hanuman conversing with Rama, and that of Arjuna with his pasupathastram, Siva in disguise as a sanyasi, Varuna the rain god, Chaturmukha Brahma, Vishnu resting on Adisesha and Lakshmi seated on a lotus, dancing postures of Nataraja and Vinayaka, gopika vastrapaharanam and Gandharva women.

It is believed that Rama installed Sivas atmalingam in addition to that of Siva at Mukti Rameswaram in Proddatur town.

When Hanuman, who had been to Kailash to fetch Sivas atmalingam, did not return at the auspicious time, Rama prepared an atmalingam from sand and installed it. He installed the atmalingam brought by Hanuman also but ordered that the first puja be performed to that created by him.

The history of Kanyaka Parameswari temple, also called Ammavarisala, in Proddatur town can be traced to the eighth century. It is considered to be the biggest temple of the presiding deity in the State.

The town also has temples of Veeranjaneyaswamy and Chennakesava.

The Asthana-e-Magdoom Ilahi Dargah in the heart of Kadapa is also called Pedda Dargah or Ameen Peer Dargah. Hazrath Khwaja Syed Shaw Peerulla Mohammed-ul-Hussaini of Bidar attained jeeva samadhi here in the 17th century. Popularly known as second Ajmer, the dargah was in the news recently when film stars Jaya Bachchan, son Abhishek Bachchan and daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai came to offer special prayers. Music director A.R. Rahman is a frequent visitor to the dargah. An annual urs celebrated here during the Islamic month of Madhar is said to be the biggest of its kind in South India. Masjid-e-Azam is an impressive mosque with Persian inscriptions. It dates back to A.D. 1691 and was built during the reign of Aurangazeb.

The imposing and sprawling St. Marys Cathedral in Kadapa is famous for the statue of Mother Mary, which was brought all the way from Italy.

The Tourism Department has drawn up plans to develop the ancient temples, mosques and churches into places of tourist importance by providing amenities such as rest houses, restaurants and parks.

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