SRIKAKULAM, described as "poor man's Ooty" and "common man's summer resort", is fast emerging as a chosen destination of tourists. Besides being blessed with natural beauty, it has several temples with unique architectural features and Buddhist relics of great antiquity. The district, which borders Orissa, has something to offer to every kind of tourist.
The Sri Suryanarayana Swami temple in Arasavilli, 2 km from Srikakulam town, was constructed by the Ganga kings in the seventh century A.D. Dedicated to the sun god, the temple is constructed in such a way that even when all the main entrances are closed, the rays of the early morning sun fall at the feet of the deity twice a year, in February and June.
The Srimukhalingeswara Swami temple (dedicated to Siva) on the bank of the Vamsadhara river and the Srikurmanadha Swami temple (dedicated to Vishnu) in Srikurmam too draw large numbers of devotees and tourists. Built by the eastern Ganga kings in the ninth century, the Srimukhalingeswara Swami temple, with its elegant sculptures, is considered to be among the finest examples of Kalinga-style architecture. The Srikurmanadha Swami temple has 200 pillars and many inscriptions in the Devnagari script dating back to the 11th century.
Sangam, reminiscent of the Triveni Sangam in Allahabad, is another centre of tourist attraction in the district. The confluence of the Nagavali, the Suvarnamukhi and the Vegavathi, is located about 55 km from Srikakulam. Pilgrims throng the scenic place on Mahasivarathri day. The Sangameswara temple is located here.
Salihundam, located on the bank of the Vamsadhara, 18 km from Srikakulam, shot into prominence when excavations revealed the existence of an ancient Buddhist settlement there. A maha stupa, a votive stupa, platforms and viharas, with inscriptions dating back to the second century A.D., were unearthed from the site. It is believed that it was from Salihundam that Buddhism spread to Sumatra and other eastern countries. Dantapuram, a small village in Saribujjili mandal, is another important Buddhist centre.
For the ornithologist, there are pelicans and painted storks in Telineelapuram, a small, sleepy village about 60 km from Srikakulam. Telukinchi in Ichapuram mandal is the other well-known bird sanctuary in the district. The birds from Siberia migrate to these sanctuaries every year for nesting and breeding. Normally these birds arrive in October and stay on until April.
The Kalingapatnam beach, 30 km from Srikakulam, has an ancient seaport. European merchants resided there during the regime of the East India Company.
Another spot known for its scenic beauty is the coconut gardens, spread over thousands of acres along the coast, in the Uddanam area. Often compared with the lush green `Konaseema' area in East Godavari district, these coconut plantations, which are the source of income of people in six mandals that constitute the Uddanam area, are a visual treat.
However, much needs to be done to attract tourists to the district. Srikakulam, the district headquarters, is not linked to other major centres by air or rail. The nearest railway station is at Amadalavalasa, about 15 km from the town. Only few hotels provide decent accommodation to tourists. The ancient temples at Srikurmam and Srimukhalinga badly need to be renovated.
According to District Collector N. Nageswara Rao, the Tirumala-Tirupati Devasthanam has agreed to provide Rs.70 lakhs for the construction and maintenance of temples. He said that plans were afoot for constructing guest houses at Baruva, the Bhavanapadu minor port, the Kalingapatnam beach and other places.