For the third day in a row, coastal AP looked like a hill station. Winding up our quick trip to Rajamundry, we started back to Hyderabad post-noon, the lovely weather adding to the excitement of yet another long drive.
Lifeline of Telugu culture
Before leaving Rajamundry, we stopped near the Godavari bank to see the mighty river in flood.
You should experience the feeling of standing on the banks of one of India’s longest rivers, with the heavy winds howling around you ! When you see rivers flood, you somehow feel all will be well with the world !
As we drove on the Rail-cum-road bridge, a thrilling experience as always, we caught a glimpse of the Rajamahendravaram city on the banks of the Godavari. An ancient city, as old as the Telugu culture, the capital city of Raja Raja Narendra, the city where Adi Kavi Nannayya lived and gave shape to the Telugu language.
At the other end of the rail-cum-road bridge, you enter into West Godavari district. Here is a click of East Godavari, taken from West Godavari !
While crossing the bridge, a crazy idea cropped up. Instead of taking the Vijayawada highway, we decided to venture into the Rajamundry-Aswaraopet-Hyderabad route, a road we had not looked at for the last 4 years because this route is famed for terrible roads. We decided to take a chance, fully aware that the rains must have damaged the roads further.
Monsoon surprise !
We took the Aswaraopet road cautiously, preparing ourselves for a strenuous journey on bad roads but surprise, surprise ! Most part of the road was good in Andhra Pradesh, except for a few stretches of potholes and one stretch of really bad road near Aswarao pet, which felt like a Himalayan Rally. It was still nothing compared to the nightmarish drive on the same route a few years ago. Other than that, the road was newly laid, had lesser traffic and above all no tolls !
A little distance after Aswaraopet, we crossed into Telangana !
The road got even better once we entered Telangana, freshly laid and super smooth. Then, it struck us – all this was in preparation for the Godavari Pushkaralu festivities. Each state trying to beat out the other with good roads ! Good news for travelers !
It was a pleasant drive throughout, we stopped at Haritha Restaurant at Wyra for a cup of tea. The name Wyra sounded familiar and we realised, we must have seen the name from the trains going on the Khammam-Vijayawada route. Not having looked at this road even on Google Maps for the last 4 years, we were surprised to know that we would actually pass through Khammam city on this route, we couldn’t recall passing through this city during our previous trips on this route.
Just before reaching Khammam, we had to cross the Munneru River, a tributary of Krishna. The river was red and raging in flood, people had stopped on the bridge to see the swollen river. Standing on the bridge and trying to click a picture of the ferociously gushing river was a slightly scary feeling !
We read in the newspaper the following day that the river crossed danger levels a few hours after we crossed the bridge !
While checking the route maps, we hit upon the idea of stopping for a quick visit to the ancient Kakatiya temples at Kusumanchi, 22 kms from Khammam enroute Suryapet.
We drove into the small village of Kusumanchi, the temples are located at the end of the village, in the middle of fields. There are two temples in close vicinity. The first temple, called the Ganapeswaralayam, is a near replica of the Pillalamarri temple at Suryapet 46 kms away.
Every time we visit such temples in villages as offbeat as these, we always wonder why were these villages chosen? What was the criteria for choosing a location for building temples? Fascinating questions !
The Ganapeswaralayam has all the features that define a Kakatiya Temple, a elevated platform over which the main shrine is built – Ramappa, Ghanpur, Pillalamarri, it’s the same in all the temples. Even the designs bordering the platforms have the same precision and style, including this row of elephants.
There was only one guard sitting outside the temple who allowed us to go inside the Garbhalayam and offer our prayers to the huge, powerful looking Siva Linga. The main shrine seems to have been repaired and whitewashed, the rest of the structure has been bent by the centuries that have passed since the temple was built.
A short distance away from the Ganapeswaralayam is the Mukkanteswaralayam, standing silently in the middle of an open field surrounded by overgrowth.
We approached it a little hesitantly, wondering if we were trespassing onto somebody’s fields. Restoration works seemed to be on near the temple and finally when we reached closer, we were taken aback by the architectural elegance of the ruined temple.
The Mukkanteswaralayam complex has three shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple was deserted and we assumed it to be one of those ancient temples devoid of the main idol but as we went near the Garbhalayam, we were in for a surprise, shock even, as we came face to face with the Siva Lingam. Imagine strolling into an ancient, ruined, deserted temple not expecting to find anything and suddenly finding the idol in the dark interiors ! Some experience that was !
We did not want to click pictures of the Garbhalaya, respecting the tradition of not taking pictures of the main Deity. There was too much beauty around anyway, like the Mukha mandapa, with pillars lined up with perfect alignment.
86 kms from Kusumanchi, you will find another Kakatiya Temple, the Chaya Someswara temple at Panagal near Nalgonda, where the temple architects have used similarly arranged pillars to achieve an astonishing architectural feat. We had visited that temple in 2010 and haven’t written about it till date, we will do it some day. What is more interesting is that when plotted on a map, the temples at Kusumanchi, Pillalamarri and Panagal are almost on a straight line and a distance of about 46 kms between Kusumanchi and Pillalamarri and the same distance between the latter two temples. Was there some predefined plan behind building these temples at such specific distance or was it all mere coincidence?
A pillar with some inscriptions lay on the ground nearby, what could it be saying?
May be ASI should start putting up translations of such inscriptions so people can know the story of these temples.
When you walk to the backside of the temple, you will find that the three chambers that you find in front are actually three separate structures.
It was a small, simple temple complex, technically speaking, but what is it about these temples that makes you want to look at them again and again?
Today, these temples are forgotten and so is the story of the great craftsmen who built these temples but what were they like in their heydays? Can we just build a time machine?
It was 6 PM by the time we took leave of Kusumanchi and got on to the Suryapet highway. We stopped at our regular place, Hotel Vivera at Narketpally for an early dinner before heading home to Hyderabad. A trip that started on an impulse turned out to be totally fulfilling one.
- When you travel from Rajamundry to Hyderabad on the Aswaraopet route, you will pass by Kusumanchi, the temples are short distance into the village.
- You may find a few buses to Kusumanchi, especially from Khammam and nearby towns but as always, take your own vehicle because you will have to walk to the temples from the village main road.
- We don’t think there are specific timings or pujas performed at the temples, you may not find anyone or the priest after 5 PM.
- If you want to go somewhere on a day trip from Hyderabad and wouldn’t mind a heritage drive, visit the temples at Kusumanchi, Pillalamarri and Panagal. You could catch a bite at Khammam, Suryapet or Narketpally. Roads are good throughout.
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