Time flies, November 2015, we lost a parent in a road accident and before we knew it, a year had passed and it was time to take care of the first year ceremonies in October last year. Since we wanted it to be meaningful instead of making it family get-together as such event turn out to be now a days, the traveller in us decided to make a trip to Pithapuram also known as Pada Gaya Kshetra, considered sacred for such religious ceremonies for the departed.
Kukkuteswara Swamy Temple, Pithapuram
Pithapuram is around 12 kms from Kakinada. The main temple is the Kukkuteswara Swamy Temple which also houses the Shakti Peetham of Goddess Puruhutika Devi, one of the Ashtadasa Shakti Peethas. It is also believed that Pithapuram is the birth place of Dattatreya Swamy. Pithapuram is also the centre for the Sripadha Srivallabha Mahasamsthanam.
Pithapuram is part of the 3 Gayas associated with the story of the Demon Gayasura killed by the Trimurthies. Look up the internet for this interesting mythological story. When Gayasura was killed, his head became Gaya at Bihar, his middle portion came to be called Nabhi Gaya at is located in Orissa, his feet became Pada Gaya, which is now Pithapuram. As per the boon obtained by Gayasura when he was killed, people whose death rituals are performed at these Gaya Kshetras are believed to obtain Moksha !
Since this was not exactly a sight seeing trip, we did not take our car or camera, instead, we travelled by Godavari Express, that directly drops you off at Pithapuram and used our mobile phones for clicking pictures. After 3 days of performing the rituals, we were free to go around Pithapuram.
The place’s history is lost in mythology as it finds a mention in the Puranas as well. The existing temples do not showcase the antiquity of the place. The modern day town is dusty as any other pilgrim town. A few structures like this Mandapa in the middle of the town’s temple tank give you a glimpse of the old world.
The Kukkuteswara Swamy Temple is an unassuming temple. At the entrance is the temple tank with a statue of Gayasura. This is where people immerse the ritual offering for the departed souls.
Since photography is not allowed inside the temple, we can only give you this view.
The temple is not crowded on normal days, Siva Ratri is probably when people throng the temple. The shrines for Kukkuteswara Swamy, Puruhutika Devi and Dattatreya Swamy are all located within the temple complex.
It was calm and quiet in the temple premises. We were visiting a temple after 1 year and though we are not exactly believers, a temple visit is always refreshing.
Kunti Madhava Swamy temple
One of the interesting things of our pilgrimages is the series of temples dedicated to a particular Deity, like 12 Jyotirlingas, Ashtadasa Shakti Peethas, Pancha Bhoota Lingas, Aarupadai Veedu dedicated to Lord Muruga, Pancharama Kshetras. Similar to them, we also have the Pancha Madhava Kshetras, 5 temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu located in Varanasi, Prayaga, Rameswaram, Thiruvananthapuram and Pithapuram.
The temple at Pithapuram is called Kunti Madhava Swamy temple, named after the legend that Kunti Devi of Mahabharata had worshipped the Deity at Pithapuram. Here is a picture of the entrance to the temple as photography is not allowed beyond.
We hadn’t heard about the Pancha Madhava Kshetras until we visited this temple. When you travel to new places, you realise how little we actually know about the world around us !
This small temple looks like a local shrine, an inscription from the 12th Century A.D, on the wall of the temple serves as a proof of its antiquity.
Pithapuram is one of the many pilgrim towns in India whose canvas is painted with mythology, legends, history, devotion and culture – it is amazing how all this has remained unbroken for thousands of years !
Annavaram – The abode of Satyanarayana Vratam
Done with our work at Pithapuram, we headed to Annavaram, 20 kms away to perform the Sathyanarayana Swamy Vratam.
Annavaram is the abode of Lord Veera Venkata Sathyanarayana Swamy. The temple’s history is about 150 years old built in the late 1800s A.D but the temple has become an integral part of our culture with the Sathyanarayana Vratam considered the most auspicious religious event.
We reached Annavaram around 8PM and checked into the temple cottage at Prakash Sadan. We had visited Annaravaram 7 years ago as a newly married couple to perform the Vratam, somehow, the place didn’t seem to have the sanctity of a pilgrim centre, those were times when the priests and Trustees of Annavaram were notorious for being very commercial and money minded. This time, there was a marked difference with notices everywhere asking people not to pay any money to the priests/agents. We had a very peaceful darshan, the last one for the day and followed it with a scrumptious meal in one of the canteens near our cottage.
Early next morning, we set out for a walk around Annavaram. The temple is located on top of a small hill called Ratnagiri, which overlooks the town of Annavaram on one side and the National Highway 5 and green fields on the other. From the hill top Were very impressed with the cleanliness and peaceful environs. Now, it looked and felt like the pilgrim centre that it is famous for !
This is the main temple of Annavaram.
We performed the Vratam at 11 AM which took about an hour and a half and then headed for Annaprasadam as part of the temple run Annadanam. When you visit such pilgrim centres, make it a point to have atleast one meal at the Annadanam centres, if you can. The simple meal that you have with 100s of other people from different walks of life is an experience in itself.
Just as we walked out of the Annadanam complex, it thundered and rained heavily for about 30 minutes, goes to show, when people like us perform Vratams, it is bound to bring down the sky !
Our train back to Hyderabad was at 7 PM, so we had all afternoon to explore Annavaram. We decided to walk down the hill. Just near the temple entrance, you can see the serene Pampa River flowing below.
We took the steps down the hill to Annavaram town. Telugu movie buffs will be able to recall the place where scenes from the famous film “Sankarabharanam” were shot at Annavaram.
Lazing on the Annavaram roads, trying to get a feel of the town, we stopped for tea at one of the stalls, had some Bajjis and went to visit the Pampa River. We then walked up the hill back to the temple, this time instead of the steps, we took the road way. It was only a few hours after the heavy rain and the road side trees and shrubs were fresh and green, the weather was lovely with a cool, after rain breeze.
Throughout the 15 minutes walk, you can see beautiful views of the river. Along with the views, we could also hear the Carnatic music played in the temple through the loud speakers installed along the road. It was pure bliss, walking along the greenery, feeling the breeze with the music in the background ! We tried capturing a bit of it in this video.
When we returned to our cottage room, we had enough time to pack and head to the railway station. Godavari Express arrived on time but it was past the dinner ordering time, we had to make do with some terrible rotis and curry at Rajamundry railway station. Of late, the standard of food in railway stations has improved a lot but this was a huge let down. Lesson learnt, don’t count on Rajamundry railway station for good food !
Whatever the reason for your travel, you always return with lessons for life and the place you travel to becomes a part of you.
- Pithapuram and Annavaram are well connected by road and trains from Hyderabad, Vijaywada, Rajamundry, Kakinada and Vizag.
- Pithapuram doesn’t have too many good hotels, the best accommodation option is the Sripadha Vallabha Samsthanam cottages. You can find information on their website. There are a couple of hotels near the railway station but they are not too great, we had stayed in one of them during an earlier trip and couldn’t wait to check out ! The other option is staying in Kakinada which is only 12 kms away.
- One can also make a day trip to Pithapuram from Rajamundry or Kakinada.
- Annavaram has good accommodation options, you can check the same at the temple website.
- You may want to avoid Annavaram during the wedding season, the place is highly crowded then with hundreds of weddings and Vratams performed there. The rest of the year, the place is quiet.
- Sathyanarayana Vratam is performed throughout the day from 6 AM to 6 PM. The ticket costs vary from Rs.100/- to Rs.2000/-, the higher the ticket, the more exclusive the Vratam. The Rs.2000/- ticket is an AC vratam, the puja is performed in an AC room !!
- Annavaram can also be covered in a day from Kakinada, Rajamundry and Vishakhapatnam.
- If you take the train both Pithapuram and Annavaram can be covered in a weekend from Hyderabad. If you want to take the road, plan it on a long weekend.
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