The Godavari pushkaralu, is a festival celebrated every 12 years( hence the name Pushkaram) usually in the month of July-August, which is equivalent to the Kumbh Mela in it’s scope, organization and the rush of pilgrims. Keeping this in mind, I would be covering the history of the places along Godavari, it’s temples, it’s religious spots in a series of posts, that would look at each place in detail. How exactly do I describe the Godavari? While it originates in Maharashtra, to people in both the Telugu speaking states- Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, it is more than just a river. To many Telugu speaking people, who are unable to visit the Ganges, it is the Dakshina Ganga, that offers them the spiritual bliss they need. For those who cannot afford to visit Kashi to immerse the ashes of their departed ones, doing the same in Godavari offers the same salvation. To people living on it’s banks, it is a way of life, right from the launches that carry them from one end to another, to it’s waters that irrigate their fields. To many Telugu poets, artistes, directors, movie makers it has been their source of creative inspiration, as they cast their stories, their characters based on it’s banks. The Godavari to put it has been a central part of the identity of Telugu people, both in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
Rising at Triambakeshwar near Nasik in Maharashtra, the Godavari courses through Nashik, Paithan and Nanded, before it enters Telangana at a small village called Kandakurthi in Nizamabad district.Cutting through the rocky Deccan terrain, amidst thick forests, valleys and gorges, it traverses upwards in an arc, across Adilabad, Nizamabad, Karimnagar, Warangal and Khammam districts, before it takes a south easterly course into Andhra Pradesh, along the vast fertile plains of the East and West Godavari districts, rising to it’s full majesty at Rajahmundry. As it crosses Rajahmundry, the river splits into two branches, the Vriddha Gautami or the Gautami Godavari and the Vashishta Godavari. The Gautami further splits into Gautami and Nilarevu, while the Vashishta splits into Vashishta and Vainateya, creating a huge delta with canals, tributaries interlinked with each other, making this one of the most fertile areas in India. The Godavari delta along with the adjoining Krishna delta is what has given Andhra Pradesh it’s reputation of being the Rice Granary of South.
The Godavari in a way is symbolic of the culture of both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. While the two Telugu speaking states, have their own differences, in some ways they have a lot in common, and one of them is the Godavari. The river forms a common bond between both the states, with people having their own religious, personal, spiritual interconnection with it. Basara in Adilabad district, has one of the few temples dedicated to Goddess Saraswati, where many parents bring their new borns for Akshara Bhashyam, basically a naming ritual where the child is given the name, and made to write in rice. Dharmapuri in Karimnagar district is noted for it’s Narasimha temple, Kaleswaram in Karimnagar district is famous for it’s Shiva temple, unique in the fact that both Lord Shiva and Lord Yama are worshiped on single pedestal here. Godavari Khani in Karimnagar is famous for it’s coal mines, while Eturunagaram in Warangal is visited for it’s thick forests and wildlife sanctuary. And above all you have Bhadrachalam, where a certain Kancharla Gopanna, built a temple to Lord Ram and became famous as Ramadasu. Cutting through the deep gorges and thick forests of the Papikonda hills, the Godavari takes a relatively flat detour, in Andhra Pradesh, where it becomes wider, creating many small islands in it’s midst, called Lankas. The motor launches cruising along here, offer a source of livelihood to many be it the boat owners, the drivers, small time vendors, farmers carrying their produce, it creates a virtual ecosystem out here. The fertile plains of the Godavari and it’s numerous tributaries form one of the most beautiful areas in India, Konaseema, with it’s lush green paddy fields, coconut groves, winding canals, narrow roads and quaint small towns, villages. This entire region has it’s own sub culture, ranging from the dialect to the cuisine to traditions. On the other side, you have the equally picturesque Pattiseema with it’s river side villages, small islands, and the river flanked by hills. After Rajahmundry and Kovvur, noted for it’s huge railway bridge, come various holy spots, Kotipalli, noted for it’s Shiva temple, Draksharamam, one of the Pancharamas in Andhra Pradesh-5 temples dedicated to Lord Shiva, Dhavaleswaram, which has one of the oldest barrages in India, named after Sir Arthur Cotton, Razole, Ravulapalem. While the Gautami Godavari joins the Bay of Bengal near to Yanam( in Pondicherry) and creating the vast mangrove forest at Coringa, the Vashista Godavari flows through Razole and Narasapuram, before it merges with the sea at Antarvedi, known for it’s Narasimha Temple.
The river has been a witness to history too, battles fought on it’s banks, kings passed by it’s side, kingdoms were built, poets wrote on it’s banks. The Kakatiyas, the Chalukyas, the Reddy Rajulu, the Vijayanagara rulers to the Nizam, the British all ruled over it at one point of time or other. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the great Hindu preacher had a dip in it’s holy water. Adi Kavi Nanayya wrote the Telugu version of Mahabharat on it’s banks at Rajahmundry, while in the modern era another great son of India, Kandukuri Veerasalingam in Rajahmundry, fought for women’s empowerment and widow remarriage. Nyayapati Subba Rao, one of the founders of the Hindu Samaj in Rajahmundry, was also one of the 6 founders of the Hindu newspaper. During the freedom movement, Rajahmundry used to reverberate with the sounds of Vande Mataram, and many national leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Bipin Chandra Pal visited it. From social workers like Durgabai Deshmukh to actresses like Jayaprada, Waheeda Rehman to some of Telugu cinema industry’s renowned directors like Bapu,Vamsi( whose movies reflected the Godavari culture), Dasari Narayan Rao to some of Telugu cinema’s leading stars like Chiranjeevi, Krishnam Raju all hailed from the Godavari region. It still continues with many well known actors, directors, writers in Telugu film industry hailing from the Godavari region.
It is hard for me to capture all the beauty, the romance, the history, the traditions of the Godavari, in one single post. Keeping in mind the Godavari Pushkarams that will start in July, this is the first in a series, that will look at the places along the river in more detail. Keep watching the space.