This article has been originally published here at Quora Godavari.. RajahmundryI am reproducing the same.
“Vedamlaa ghoshinche godaavari
amara dhamanlaa sobhille raajamahendri”
The lines from a well-known Telugu song mean “The Godavari that roars with the sound of the Vedas, and Rajamahendri that radiates splendor like an immortal abode”. Some of the world’s greatest cities have also grown along the great rivers, so much that we can’t imagine those cities without them. Those rivers have not just contributed in the growth of those cities, they have become an integral part of their psyche, their culture, and their tradition. Could we imagine Varanasi without Ganga? Or Ahmedabad without the Sabarmati? What would New York, Paris and London be if we take away the Hudson, Seine and Thames from them. It is for this reason, that some of the world’s greatest civilizations have grown in river valleys, the Nile, the Tigris, the Yangtze, Ganga, Indus. And down South, some of the greatest empires and civilizations have prospered in these river valleys and deltas again, Tungabhadra was host to the mighty Vijayanagara Empire, the Kavery delta was where the Cholas built up one of the most glorious empires ever.
Rajahmundry or as it has been called in the past Rajahamahendravaram or Rajamahendri at various times is also the major center for the Godavari Pushkarams. The river reaches to its maximum width at Rajahmundry, and I must have traveled across those railway bridges umpteen times. Yet every time, felt the goose bumps, looking out at the wide expanse of the river, from the comfort of my rail coaches. It is not just those three rail bridges, the identification of Godavari with the city is in many other ways too. For people who can’t make the trip to Benares, to immerse the ashes of their near and dear ones in the Ganga, the Godavari here serves the same purpose. Regarded as the Dakshin Ganga, a dip in the river, is often equivalent to a dip in the Ganges.
Though Kakinada is technically the capital of East Godavari district, Rajahmundry is its largest city, as well as a business and commercial hub. It also happens to be one of the oldest cities in Andhra Pradesh, with a history dating back to 1022 A.D, when it was founded by Raja Raja Narendra, the Eastern Chalukya ruler. It was originally named as Rajamahendravaram and later Rajamahendri, in due course of time, the name was changed to Rajahmundry during British rule. However some state, that the city was established much earlier by Ammaraja Vishnuvardhana, who was also called as Rajamahendra Varma. Over the due course of time, the city passed through various rulers from the Kakatiyas to the Reddy Rajulu to the Gajapathis, Vijayanagara, before it became part of the Nizam’s kingdom, and was later given over to the British.
Under the Madras Presidency, Rajahmundry was created as a separate district in 1823 that included both the Godavari and Krishna delta region. In 1859, it was further bifurcated, into Godavari and Krishna districts with Rajahmundry being the Headquarters. In 1925, the British split up Godavari district into East and West, and moved the Headquarters of East Godavari to Kakinada, however Rajahmundry still remained the major city. During the Freedom movement the city was one of the major centers, with protests, rallies breaking out against the British rule. Many nationalist leaders like Bipin Chandra Pal, Mahatma Gandhi visited the city, while Annie Beasant laid the foundation for the Divya Gyan Samaj building here.
Rajahmundry has often been called the cultural capital of Andhra Pradesh, it is considered the birth place of Telugu literature. Adi Kavi Nanayya, was the first to translate the Mahabharata into Telugu, and also set a literary style and grammar that was followed by other authors in due course. Kavi Sarvabhouma Srinatha, was another resident of Rajahmundry, and while he was the court poet for the Reddy Rajulu of Kondavidu, he later served in the court of Deva Raya II, the Vijayanagara monarch. Srinatha was the author of many epic works like Palanati Veeracharitra( History of the heroes of Palnadu), Harivilasam, Sringara Naishadham to note a few. It is not for nothing that the city has been called an adobe of scholars, poets and writers.
It was not just ancient times, modern Telugu literature too took root in Rajahmundry. Kandukuri Veeresalingam, wrote the first modern Telugu novel, Rajashekara Charitamu, based on the Vicar of Wakefield, introducing a new style. Veeresalingam in fact, was one of the great social reformers, he was to Andhra Pradesh what Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was to Bengal, striving for widow remarriage, women’s education, and setting up a school for girls at Dhavaleswaram. He also started a monthly magazine called Vivekavardhini, while his associate Nyayapati Subba Rao, and was one of the 6 founders of The Hindu magazine. Veeresalingam also built the Town Hall here in 1890, while the city had a fort from Dutch era, which was converted into a prison by the British in 1864.
One of the striking aspects of Rajahmundry are the 3 rail bridges across the Godavari that are a prominent part of its landscape. The first Godavari bridge was built in 1897, and opened for traffic in 1900, and is named as Havelock’s Bridge after the then Governor of Madras. Frederick Walton who built the Dufferin Bridge over the Ganga at Varanasi( now renamed as Malaviya Bridge) was the chief engineer. With a length of 2.754 KM and having 56 spans, each of 45.7 m, Havelock’s Bridge remained in use till 1997, after which it was decommissioned.
The 2nd bridge was the Road cum Rail bridge, with a length of 4.7 km, and inaugurated in 1972 by the then President of India, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed. In a way this bridge remains the major link between the East and West Godavari districts, connecting Rajahmundry to Kovvur. The 3rd bridge is the Godavari arch bridge built by Hindustan Construction Company and designed by Bureau BBR, Switzerland. The bridge was finished in 1997 and became fully operational for running trains from 2003 onwards. These 3 bridges, form a prominent landmark of the city, and have been the backdrop for many a movie.
One of the attractions at Rajahmundry is the Sir Arthur Cotton Barrage on the banks of the Godavari, at Dhavaleswaram, a suburb around 4 km from it. This barrage built on the Godavari in 1852 is a magnificent piece of civil engineering, that has played a major role in turning the Godavari delta region into one of the most fertile and prosperous areas. Dhavaleswaram has two ghats on the Godavari one of them is called Ramapadala Revu, it is believed that the footprints of Lord Rama are visible here. The Sir Arthur Cotton Museum here is worth a visit, showing the history of the barrage as well as the material used to construct it, along with rare photographs of the man himself.
Apart from the numerous temples in Rajahmundry, one place that is a must visit is the ISKCON temple here located at the Gautami Ghat, as also the huge Shivalinga by the banks of the Godavari. The lake at Kotagummam is a nice spot to relax during evenings, and the Ramakrishna Mutt here is one of the older ones in Andhra Pradesh. The city is also host to the Gautami Library which has ancient manuscripts. The city is also famous for its unique cuisine, the spicy pickles called Avaya, the sweets Pootharekulu, the banana variety Chakkarakeli. And if you love fish try out the river fish here called as Pulasa this apart from the carts selling Mirchi Bajji and Masala. The city is also a center for textile trading, with many major outlets having set up shop here, as well as for wholesale trade in fruits and vegetables.
The city can also be used as a base to visit other well-known places around like Ryali, Draksharamam, Kotipalli, as well as the beautiful Konaseema region. It is also the starting point for the Rajahmundry-Bhadrachalam cruise along the Godavari, which passes through some of the most spectacular scenery. The city boasts of many other famous luminaries too, Durgabhai Deshmukh, Social worker, freedom fighter, Voleti Venkateswarlu, classical musician, Adurthi Subbarao, old time Telugu director. Apart from that many well known actresses hail from Rajahmundry- Jayaprada, Waheeda Rehman, Sameera Reddy and Telugu actors Ali, Harshvardhan Rane, old time music director T.V.Raju.
With its mix of history, culture, tradition and natural beauty, Rajahmundry for sure is worth a visit.