Our family loves travelling together, every six months, we make sure, the entire family goes on a trip, as they say, the family that travels together, stays together. This year, with the head of the family wishing to visit Simhachalam, we planned a leisure trip to one of our favourite places, the city of Vishakapatnam (Vizag in short). We had been to Vizag on a few occasions in the last few years, mostly on some work and hardly spent 24 hours there. This was planned like almost a repeat of our Vizag trip in 2009, just that our family has expanded by a generation since then !
Since Vizag is atleast a 10 hours drive away from our respective cities and we had only 3 days for the trip, we took a train to Vizag. Our family joined us from Nellore and we took the one and only Godavari Express for the two of us from Hyderabad. After a very long time, we spent the entire journey talking to co-passengers, back in time when there were no mobile phones to keep people entertained on a journey, talking to co-passengers was the only thing one did on a train journey. As kids, we hated it when our parents indulged in small talk and random strangers chipped in advice. Now, close to the 40s, though we still do not open conversations, the odd political, economic, social discussions are no longer annoying. We met people from Andhra University, a Sales Manager of a renowned automobile company and shared some engaging conversations. Over the years, one realises that talking to people from everyday lives will give you a better idea of the ground reality than a whatsapp forward. In other words, it simply means we are the new middle aged !
Our trains reached Vizag on time and it was some fun family time. We freshened up at Heritage Inn, a budget hotel within the railway station premises. In the meantime, our Tata Hexa Zoom Car arrived, we had booked it so the family of 8 could travel together in one car.
Many Avatars, One God
We began our trip with a visit to the Sri Varaha Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy temple at Simhachalam. Considered one of the most important temples dedicated to Lord Narasimha Swamy, this temple’s history goes back to the times of Sri Ramanuja i.e.10th-11th Century A.D.
Simhachalam temple is located on a small hill of the Eastern Ghats range, 16 kms from Vizag and can be accessed by a ghat road.
We had been to this temple twice before and were quite surprised to see the constructions that have come since our last visit in 2010.
Back in 2009, when we visited the temple for the first time, none of the buildings in the above picture existed, the place has been expanded and new pilgrim amenities have come up.
Here is a picture of the temple gopuram. Earlier, one could click pictures of the temple except the Sanctum, now cameras or mobile phones are not allowed inside.
The temple architecture is typical of Kalinga style that one can find in the North Andhra and Orissa. The sculpture is rich and one will be amazed at how every inch of the temple structure has been filled with sculpture. You can see images of the Dasavatara sculpted on the walls, most striking of them is the Narasimha Avatara sculpture, where Lord Narasimha is killing Hiranyakasipu.
The temple was not very crowded and we bought a ticket for entry into the inner Sanctum. The idol of Varaha Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy is covered with layers of sandal paste throughout the year and looks like a yellow Siva Lingam. Only once a year on Akshaya Tritiya day, the sandal cover is removed and one can see the original idol in the form of half Varaha and half Narasimha. The belief is that, the sandal paste will keep the ferocious Lord Narasimha cool.
The idol is a combination of the Varaha Avatara and Narasimha Avatara of Lord Vishnu. On the one day that the main idol is made visible to public, lakhs of people throng the temple. So, technically, an average person would never be able to view the idol of Varaha Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy in their lifetime. As a consolation, the temple authorities have built a shrine and installed a replica of the idol at the entrance of the road leading to Simhachalam hill.
After our darshan, we walked around admiring the sculpture. Shelters have been built around the temple for pilgrim’s convenience but it has taken away the beauty of the temple and also makes it difficult to even the sculpture properly. When will we realise that there is more to visiting a temple than just getting darshan of the deity? Temples were meant to be centres of art and culture and it is important to spend time in appreciating them.
We visited the other smaller shrines and then wound up our visit to Simhachalam. As we were leaving and turned back one more time to look at the temple, we could see the magnificent Kalinga architecture of the temple. Wish they had not painted the Vimana and other structures and left its ancient beauty intact !
Haritha Beach Resort, Rushikonda
After a short visit to a family friend’s place near Simhachalam, it was time to head to the sea. We drove to Rushikonda Beach Resort run by AP Tourism, the resort is around 15 kms from the city and driving along the beach roads in Vizag is something else !
AP Tourism’s resort at Rushikonda is located on a hill bordering the sea coast and has one of the most amazing bird’s eye view of the beach.
We quickly checked into our rooms and headed for lunch. The resort’s restaurant wasn’t very welcoming with their service but the food was good and poor service doesn’t bother us too much normally, when on a holiday, we just want to have a good time.
It was the monsoon season but staying beside the coast, one cannot escape the humidity, it was hot and sultry and we did the best thing to do at a resort, literally put your feet up and do nothing ! While some caught up on sleep, other watched the waves and the ships near the horizon. We spent the entire afternoon just gazing at this view.
How beautifully the coast and the sea curve in sync with each other !
This photographer remembers clicking away to glory on a DSLR borrowed from a friend when we visited Rushikonda 9 years ago. It was our first time with a DSLR and since it belonged to someone else, half the time was spent on making sure the camera was safe and the remaining time on figuring out how to use it. Close to a decade, an own DSLR and thousands of photos later, this photographer is down to clicking the mandatory trip pictures on a mobile phone and instead losing oneself in the moment and the scenes around.
When evening set in, we walked down the hill for a splash at the beach. When we visited the place in 2009, there were hardly any people, not even at the resort. Now, Rushikonda beach is a popular hangout place, shacks, water sports – all the popular tourist attractions.
That’s AP Tourism’s resort as seen from the beach.
As for the fun at the beach, suffice to say that kids and adults just can’t have enough of it !
For a moment, we felt there was something different about the beach and realised it was flat unlike beaches that slope towards the sea.
It is fascinating to read how beaches, shorelines are formed, nature never ceases to amaze.
We also sipped on coconut water while playing in the water, a first time, exciting experience for us. Exciting because we have all seen enough photos of coconuts and exotic beaches from around the world, we didn’t click a picture because we were too busy having a good time.
There are a few water sports at Rushikonda Beach.
5 PM was tea time, so we walked along the beach to the food joints on the shore. A cup of strong tea later, we were back at the resort for a quick shower and then with nothing else to do, went for a ride on the beach roads.
After sun set, we stopped at the Tenneti Park, a pretty park that overlooks the sea. It was getting dark and there was a light drizzle, we took the steps leading down to the beach. Near Tenneti Park, the shore is laden with rocks, in the dark, the sea assumes some mysterious feel.
Watching the waves roar and crash onto the rocks in the dark, after a point of time, even feels a bit scary !
There was a light drizzle as we climbed back to the Tenneti Park, we could see the dazzling city lights in the distance, hear the waves, the setting was, for lack of a better word, romantic.
Opposite Tenneti Park, near the parking lot there is a coffee outlet selling Araku Coffee. Araku Coffee is slowly becoming popular and one must try the coffee, we loved the hot, aromatic coffee, the drizzle adding to the flavour.
For dinner, we headed to Rushikonda beach road and dined at one of the many restaurants lining the beach road. We forgot the name of the restaurant but it had a nice shack like ambience overlooking the sea. The food was good and we had a quiet, happy family dinner.
Then, we drove around the upcoming IT Parks of Vizag, now that Hyderabad is part of Telangana, Vizag is the destination for Information Technology in Andhra Pradesh. The place was so inviting, we wanted to shift to the city, even if it meant lesser pay package !
By the time we reached the resort, we were all ready to doze off. We still had two more days to chill in Vizag.
- One can find all information about Simhachalam at their website http://simhachalamdevasthanam.net/home.html
- The ticket for entry into the Antaralayam (Sanctum Sanctorum) is Rs.200/-, two people are allowed on one ticket. The ticket can be bought near the entry to the Antaralayam.
- Accommodation is available at Simhachalam, we are not sure if it can be booked online. If you are on a tour of Vizag, one can stay in the city itself.
- Transport to Simhachalam is not a problem at all, there are plenty of buses, autos, cabs.
- A few resorts have come up around Rushikonda but we think AP Tourism’s resort is a good idea, it may not be your typical luxury resort but has the best sea view. Rooms can be booked online at AP Tourism’s website and rates are around Rs.2,000/- per night.
- There are a few water sports at the beach including Kayaking, Speed Boat, Jet Ski. We didn’t try them but they looked fun.
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