Sometime back, we made a list of places to visit in Andhra Pradesh based on the APTDC website and realized that for all the travel that we think we do, we had covered only a half of the state. If this was the case with AP alone, God knows if our dream of traveling through the whole of India will ever be fulfilled in this lifetime, we literally have miles and miles to go! So, when Gandhi Jayanthi came up, we had to hit the road.
Since it was in the mid-week, we could get only 2 days off including the National Holiday. Going too far was not a great idea because post-monsoon roads were bad, we couldn’t venture into the “Andhra” part of Andhra Pradesh, either, thanks to the united state agitations. The best option, therefore, was to go around the “Telangana” side, who knows, we could be pioneers of promoting tourism in the newly announced state !!
Building a model town
Our trip began on Monday afternoon around 3.30 PM, it felt great to be going on a holiday just as the week started ! Our first destination was Vemulawada, famous for Raja Rajeshwara Temple, around 180 kms from Hyderabad. We set off on the NH7 though the State Highway 1 takes a shorter route, the reason? We wanted to stop for tea at the Haritha Restaurant in Kamareddy, well that is reason enough, ain’t it?
There was lot of traffic till Kamareddy which meant it took us more than 2 hours to cover the 120 kms distance, that on NH7 is a rarity. We only wanted to stop for Chai but we gave in when the restaurant in charge tempted us with Pakoras, by the time we resumed our journey, it was slowly getting dark.
It was 7 PM by the time we reached Sircilla, a small town in Karimnagar district, popular for handloom industries. We had to stop here for a quick visit to the ATM, parked our car and walked on the roads of Sircilla, you could drive through a town but walking gives you a real “feel” of the town. As we were returning to the car, we spotted a municipal garbage tractor which, through a public announcement system, was asking people to keep the roads clean, not to litter the roads and even threatened the shopkeepers with canceling their licenses if they threw garbage on the road, they asked people to come together and make Sircilla a model town !
We were mightily impressed ! You don’t see such things even in the metros, it was heartwarming and inspiring that a small town was at least making an effort to improve their town. May be the other towns should take a lesson or two from Sircilla.
Vemulawada Sri Raja Rajeshwara Swamy Temple
If you are looking for the most popular Shiva Temple in Telangana, then it has to be the Sri Raja Rajeshwara Swamy Temple in Vemulawada.
We reached Vemulawada around 8 PM. The town is centered around the famous temple and crowded with shops, pilgrims, vehicles and pigs ! Not a very pleasant sight for a pilgrim center. We found it difficult to reach the reservation office through the narrow lanes, overflowing with people. This was actually the off season, if you dare to visit Vemulawada during Shiva Ratri or the Karthika month, forget going back in one piece !
Our friend back in Hyderabad had arranged accommodation for us at one of the temple cottages. We checked in, freshened up and went to the temple.
The temple has its history going back to the era of the Vemulawada Chalukyas, a lesser known branch of the Chalukyas, who ruled these parts between the 9th and 10th Centuries A.D. Vemulawada was their capital. The temple was not as crowded as the roads outside because it was closing time. Our Darshan didn’t take too long, we prayed to Lord Shiva, known here as Raja Rajeshwara and fondly referred to as Rajanna. The temple is believed to have been built around the 9th-10th Centuries during the reign of Narasimha I of the Vemulawada Chalukyas. The place is also associated with the 11th Century Telugu poet, Vemulawada Bheemakavi.
There is also a temple tank adjacent to the temple which is believed to have healing powers. We could not understand the temple structure in the darkness and decided to visit it again the next morning.
Rajanna – the Lord behind everything !
As we stepped out of the temple, we realized that this writer’s shoes were stolen ! Entirely our mistake, we left them outside the temple instead of leaving them at the temple shoe stand. While leaving them outside the temple, we did get a premonition that something was going to happen to them and it did !
Walking barefoot on the streets of Vemulawada, we checked out shoe shops that seemed to sell shoes only with bright, flashy colours. We finally found a pair that was the only decent looking one in the whole of Vemulawada ! We narrated our story to the shopkeeper, he simply smiled and told us that Rajanna wanted us to buy something at Vemulawada and that everything happened according to Rajanna’s will ! They say, even an ant wouldn’t bite without Lord Shiva’s orders, the shopkeeper reminded us of this simple, yet important lesson in philosophy. Now, everyday when the writer steps out wearing those shoes, it brings on a big smile !
For dinner, we stopped at a Udipi Hotel. We wanted to have a proper meal but heard someone complain about stale Sambhar and decided to just stick to Dosa. Before heading back to our room, we bought a towel at one of the shops when they told us that the towels were woven at Sircilla out of our new found respect for the place !
An early morning visit to the temple
At 6 AM the next morning we walked up to the temple again, this time to seek blessings of the Lord on the occasion of Mr.and Mrs.This writer’s wedding anniversary. The roads were empty and Vemulawada looked a much better place without the chaos of the evening.
The temple structure as it exists today has been renovated, the antiquity of the temple is hardly visible except in a few places around the main shrine.
We had a much more peaceful darshan of the Deity, early mornings are always a great time to visit any temple. The serenity is at its best at this time.
The temple has shrines for various other Gods. There is a shrine for Lord Rama and Lord Krishna, you wouldn’t find Vaishnava Gods in a Shiva Temple, usually but we are talking about a temple built by the Chalukyas who didn’t seem to believe in such differences. What is more interesting is that there is a mosque located inside the temple and almost everybody who visits the temple offers their prayers at the mosque, a perfect example of peaceful co-existence.
Another practice unique to Vemulawada is the “Kode Mokkubadi” where you thank the Lord for fulfilling your wishes by performing Puja to a bull. We found people taking bulls around the temple while doing the “pradakshina”. Also, there didn’t seem to be any restriction on people bringing water from the temple tank and performing “abhishekam” to the Siva Linga by themselves.
Take your proverbs seriously, people !
We then walked to the temple tank. With due respects to the people’s beliefs, we have to say that the temple tank is one messy place, people taking a holy dip in the tank have dirtied its water and the steps leading to it, the sanctity of the tank has been ruined with people shouting, having a swim, throwing coconuts, spitting – you don’t want to describe all that. Be the greatest devotee in the world but do have some concern for cleanliness, after all it is next only to Godliness ! You owe that much to your fellow pilgrims.
We wound up our visit with the Laddu prasadam and more picture of the main entrance of the Raja Rajeshwara Temple because photography is not allowed inside.
There was some more to explore in Vemulawada.
– The Temple is open from 4 AM to 9 PM, there are various sevas/pujas which are conducted at specific timings. One can check the information from the temple website http://www.vemulawadatemple.org/
– If you are traveling from Hyderabad, you can plan a day trip to Vemulawada unless you believe in staying there for the night as is a common practice when you visit a pilgrim place. Vemulawada is connected by bus from Hyderabad, Karimnagar (33 kms) and other important nearby towns.
– Accommodation is easily available in the off season. You can check the website for details of accommodation. The Nandiswara Complex is a new one and a good place to stay. Most of the other choultries looked very old. Advisable to stay at the Temple run cottages, there are hardly any good private hotels.
– Hard to find too many good restaurants in Vemulawada, there is a decent one close to main entrance, the rest are just small stalls. The temple run canteen also offers meals, we didn’t get a chance to go there.
– The temple is thronged by lakhs of people during Shiva Ratri and Karthika month, you may want to plan your visit keeping that in mind.
– Bhimeswara Swamy temple is another must visit temple at Vemulawada.
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