The weekend saw us travelling to Rajahmundry on a personal work for a day. The personal work was only an excuse, the actual intention was to visit Draksharamam and Kumararamam.
We reached Rajahmundry early in the morning, freshened up a bit at home, hired an ancient looking Ambassador and set out to explore the Pancharama Kshetras.
Pancharama Kshetras are 5 important Shiva Temples in Andhra Pradesh, each of these temples are over 1000 years old and have been considered very sacred Shiva temples for centuries. The 5 temples are: Draksharamam, 40 kms from Rajahmundry, Kumararamam at Samarlakota in East Godavari district, Ksheeraramam at Palakollu, Somaramam at Bhimavaram in West Godavari and Amararamam at Amaravathi near Guntur.
In the puranic texts, there is a reference to Trilinga Desa, which has been deduced as referring to the country located between 3 Shiva Lingas – Srisailam, Kaleshwaram and Draksharamam. This Trilinga Desa forms a major part of modern Andhra Pradesh. If you plot the three points on the map, they form a triangle with an area of almost 900 kms ! Draksharamam is the eastern boundary of the Trilinga Desam. Draksharamam is 47 kms from Rajahmundry by road.
The drive takes you through a part of Konaseema,one of the most scenic locales of Andhra Pradesh. Lush green fields bordered by water canals and coconut trees.
Sri Bhakta Anjaneya Sweets – A holy place for Tapeswaram Kaja
Enroute to Draksharam from Rajahmundry, you will pass through Tapeswaram, a small village that has given its name to the famous sweet delicacy Tapeswaram Kaja. The Kaja is a sweet unique to this part of Andhra Pradesh, there are different varieties of it, the Kakinada Kaja, Tapeswaram Kaja and Malai Kaja down south in Nellore. You could say people on this side of the state consider the Kaja, the Raja of sweets !
If you worship food, then you must visit the sacred place for Tapeswaram Kaja, Sri Bhakta Anjaneya Sweets. Located in the village of Tapeswaram, this sweet shop has been in business for several decades and is synonymous with the sweet it specializes in. The shop smells of Kaja, there are Kajas of various sizes, starting from those as small as your little finger to as big as your fore-arm ! The Bhakta Anjaneya sweet shop is a family business, the shop itself is a part of the ancestral home of the owners. The current owners seems to be an old lady, the rows of gold necklaces and bangles that adorn her wrists, is an indication of their roaring business ! We were amazed that she had the patience to wear all that jewellery at 9 AM on an ordinary day – another slice of incredible India !
It took us about an hour and a half to reach Draksharamam, normally it should take an hour but we had an Ambassador that belonged to BCE and a driver who was as old as the car !
The current structure of the Draksharamam temple dates back to the 10th Century AD and the most famous of the Pancharama Kshetras followed by the one at Amaravathi.
The 9 feet high Shiva Linga
The Draksharamam temple is a two storied temple.
This is because, the Shiva Linga here is 9 feet tall. The darshan is in two parts, at the ground level, you see the lower part of the Shiva Linga, then you climb a few steps to reach the next floor for a darshan of the upper part of the Shiva Linga. This is the entrance to the upper floor.
This kind of darshan is probably unique to Draksharamam. You wouldn’t find this anywhere else in India.
The temple is very crowded during festivals but on an ordinary day, it is very serene. You could sit in these ancient, quiet corridors and think about spirituality.
Or, you could think about the material aspects of life, like we discovered, looking down from the first floor corridor -the temple Hundi collections being counted !
Unlike the grand South Indian temples, there is very minimal sculpture. The temple is spread over a very wide area and its outer walls are like fort walls. It was a hot day, nearing noon time and we literally had to run the distance in the temple courtyard to avoid burns to our feet !
Behind the temple, there is a water canal that also doubles up as the temple tank.
The tiny mandapa in the middle of the canal surrounded by coconut trees presents such a soothing sight that you even forget the heat and the humidity.
It was almost closing time when we left the temple. We asked for information about the other Pancharama temple nearby and were told it would close by 11.30 AM. We decided to head for lunch and took leave of Draksharamam, a temple whose simplicity and serenity makes you feel close to the divine.
Draksharamam is 47 kms from Rajahmundry and 42 kms from Samarlakota, the nearest railway junctions. You will find several buses from both these places. Because we talk about highway, being the only way, we suggest you hire a cab or even better, take your own vehicle.
The temple is open from 6 AM to 11.30 AM and from 4 PM to around 8 AM. On normal days, the crowd is very less and the temple could close even before scheduled time. During important festivals like Shiva Ratri and during Karthika month, it is very crowded and you may not find it as peaceful place unless you are on a pilgrimage.
For foodies, don’t miss the Tapeswaram Kaja. You will find the Kaja in any sweet shop in Andhra Pradesh but to relish it in it’s home ground is something special.