Vikramasimhapuri, how cool is the name ! We are, of course, talking about Nellore, as the city is known today. As we normally tend to do with our hometowns, we had taken it for granted all our lives, this time though, we wanted to give it its due and for our year end vacation, we decided to explore tourism in and around Nellore (it is a different story that none of our other plans worked out and Nellore was the only option left !)
Happy journey !
The journey between Hyderabad and Nellore is always a pleasure. There are 3 routes to Nellore, the one via Nagarjuna Sagar is the popular one, it is lot of fun to stop by at Sagar enroute. The 3rd and the longest route is the one via Vijayawada through NH9 and NH5, take this route if you have time and want to visit a few places around Vijayawada. The shortest route is the State Highway 2 route through Nalgonda, Miryalguda, this route had bad roads for several years, now, the roads are super cool ! It has added to joy of driving home ! If you are driving from Hyderabad to Chennai, this is the best route.
There is a lot of excitement when you just start a week long vacation with a long drive and great roads. SH2 is soon becoming a cool place to hangout too, stop at Narketpally for a good breakfast, try the Vivera Hotel, the food is always great. We also discovered a new hotel near Ongole on NH5, they call it Hi5, we liked the creative name, Highway 5 and Hi-fi ! This road didn’t have good options for lunch, there are eating joints coming up in recent times like this one. Good roads means good business too ! Overall, our trip began on a happy note.
Picnicking by an ancient lake
After cooling our heels at home for 2 days, it was time to hit the road. We zeroed in on visiting the Somasila Dam, the main source of irrigation for the Nellore/Penna Delta. Since we started around lunch time, we packed food from home and decided to stop somewhere on the way for lunch. From Nellore, Somasila Dam is around 81 kms, via Podalakur road. We took another route through Buchireddypalem, Sangam and Ananthasagaram Lake.
The road is decent enough for most part of the 80 kms journey, as you reach closer to Somasila, the Eastern Ghats make their appearance. 15 kms before you reach Somasila is Ananthasagaram Lake. The road goes very close to the lake and what a refreshing sight it is !
Ananthasagaram Lake is man made lake dug up sometime in the 16th Century A.D, during the reign of Sri Krishna Deva Raya. The lake served as a means of irrigation and water supply in those days and even 500 years later, it continues to serve the purpose. What does that say about the vision of the kings of yore?
The lake is very picturesque surrounded by hills. We stopped by the road side near a small temple and spread out our picnic lunch under a tree. The cool breeze and the surrounding seemed to enhance the taste of the food !
Just a few meters from where we had our lunch, we spotted a rock pillar on the wayside, decorated with vermilion and flowers. We thought it was some local deity, it was only after returning home did we learn that it was a rock edict from the times of Sri Krishna Deva Raya, when the lake was built ! We regretted not having stopped to take a picture.
An agriculturist’s pilgrimage
We reached Somasila Dam around 3.30 PM. Somasila is a small village on the banks of the Penna River, the Dam was built in the 1980s, today it is the major source of irrigation for agricultural lands in the entire Penna delta. Hailing from a family of agriculturalists, visiting the Somasila Dam was like a pilgrimage, paying our respects to the source of our family’s livelihood !
As we drove close to the dam, we were greeted by the sound of gushing water, one of the 12 dam gates was open. We were surprised to find a gate open in December when most dams are already closed for the year.
When you look at the dam from the front, it looks like half the dam is underground !
To know where the rest of the dam has disappeared, one has to climb up the dam. There are steps leading all the way up, you also get some lovely views of the surrounding hills along the way.
Half way up, you realize that the dam is not covered underground but gates end in a pool and then there is a massive platform leading to a wall and then there is a bridge. How the water flows downstream over the platform seemed a mystery to us ! Water from only gate that was open flowed into a stream under a bridge, we still haven’t been able to figure out how the rest of this dam works !
Once you reach the top of the dam, the river is a sight to behold ! The River Penna was shimmering under the 4 PM sun, fisherfolk had just set out in search of their evening catch.
On the other side, the water rushed out from the dam gates, when you look from above, the view is sure to give you a dizzy feeling !
Imagine if all the gates were open !
Penna-Krishna joint venture !
This is probably one of the very few places through the course of the Penna river where you can see the river full to the brim ! The poor river is a seasonal one and dams have been built left, right and center on it, so, by the time the river reaches the plains, there is hardly any water left. We almost had tears of joy to see the river full to the brim at Somasila ! Sometimes it makes us think if building dams is detrimental to the environment and eco-system but then, for agriculture to thrive, we need dams. One of those debates that cannot be resolved.
Vehicles are not allowed onto the dam but you can take a long, pleasant walk, soaking in the scenery around.
The river continues its flow downstream through the hills towards Nellore before it meets the sea at Uttukuru. Full or empty, there is something beautiful about a river meandering its way through the hills.
The sun cast its long evening rays and lit up the river below, as we got down from the dam. See if you can find enough words to describe such scenes, we just couldn’t !
We met a few people who work here and asked them why the dam gates were open in this season. They told us that since the agriculture season was still on in some parts of the Penna delta, water was being released. We also got to know that the water was not entirely from the Penna, it seems a part of the water is also contributed by canals from the Nagarjuna Sagar Dam, so technically, the reservoir contained both the Penna and Krishna waters !
Somalingeswara Swamy Temple
The Somasila Dam gets its name from the ancient Somalingeswara Swamy temple located on the banks of the Penna river, very close to the dam. The area around the temple is very quiet, gives you the kind of peace you look for in a temple. At the entrance there is a banyan tree where you can sit and enjoy the bliss of silence.
The temple dates back to the 7th Century A.D, if the internet is to be believed but as it stands today, the entire structure has been rebuilt.
A works of sculpture like these, scattered here and there are the only proofs of that the temple had its date with history.
The temple was closed when we visited it, there were only a few old people who were having their evening “Satsang” at the temple. The Garbhalaya looks like it has sunk into the ground, it is actually lower than the ground level, again a sign of the antiquity of the temple as the ground around has been raised and leveled over the years. If you have the enter the main shrine, you will have to bend down through the entrance.
Since the shrine was closed, we could only peek in through the grill and offer our prayers.
We left the temple and binged on some tasteless ice cream bought from one of the several ice cream carts near the dam. There is a nice park just opposite the temple, AP Tourism has built some shelters here where you can simply hang about and relax with the hills as a backdrop.
The park is decently maintained and as we were appreciating AP Tourism’s work, we met a lady who was in charge of the maintenance. She wanted to borrow our phone to make a call to the contractor of the park because she hadn’t been paid salary for a few months now ! We felt sorry for her, for all her hard work in that remote place, it was sad that she wasn’t getting her due. Wish the government did something to take care of such people and not leave them at the mercy of contractors.
It was past 5 PM when we decided it was time to head back but scenes like these near the bridge forced us to stop and take pictures. There is no railing at the edge of the bridge and you feel like you would fall off if you inch any more closer, the water flow seems to sweep you off your feet !
Despite knowing we were getting late and our camera battery almost giving up, we had to take just that one more picture, you can’t have enough of these views, can you?
Finally, we left Somasila with one last picture of the dam around sun set and just in time before our camera battery shut shop for the day. How would you like sitting here and gaze into eternity?
Somasila is a perfect picnic spot for those visiting/living in Nellore. If you ever visit or plan to visit Nellore, don’t miss this place !
– It takes close to 2 hours to reach Somasila from Nellore. Buses ply from the city and nearby towns like Podalakur, Buchireddypalem and Sangam.
– It is advisable to carry your own food, there are no hotels nearby except for the ice cream carts.
– There is no way you can stay anywhere here, the nearest accommodation is Nellore city.
– We found an information board talking about a wildlife sanctuary nearby. Also, there is a trekking spot and waterfall some 9 kms away called Panchalingala Kona. We couldn’t go to both the places due to lack of time, that gives us one more reason to visit Somasila again.
– If you take the route via Sangam, visit the ancient Sangam temple, located at the confluence of Penna and one of its tributaries. Also stop by at the Kanigiri Reservoir enroute to Sangam. We didn’t have the time, so gave these two places a miss but then, we’ve been visiting them since childhood, anyway !
– You can spend close to 2 hours at the dam site alone so if you plan to visit all the above places, you will need a whole day, plan your trip accordingly. If you don’t have your vehicle, try to get back by 5 PM, you may find it a little difficult to find buses or autos after dark.
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