Rajahmundry is often called as the cultural capital of Andhra Pradesh.. Well, that’s what my papa loves to boast! It’s located on the banks of the river Godavari, which has a lot of religious and cultural significance as the River Godavari splits into 7 streams which were named after the seven Saptarshyas of the Hindu mythology. I always love the sight of Rajamundry, those riverbanks, temples when the train is gushing over the huge arched bridge thats built over Godavari. Since childhood, Mamma used to hand me a coin to throw in the river and pray for the river goddess whenever the train is taking us over it. A small confession is that I still do it. :-)
Oh, How did I forget to mention? The Asia’s largest rail-cum-road bridge on the river Godavari linking Kovvur and Rajamundry is considered a real miracle. Me and my dad used to hop on a bike for a long drive on that bridge in my school days. Guess that bridge is almost 4 kilometers long and a long ride along its side sure breathes fresh life into any mood with picturesque surroundings..
There are a number of temples here and the Kotilingala temple, Uma Ramalingeswara temple on the banks of the Godavari are some of the most important temples. The Godavari Pushkaram, celebrated once in twelve years, attracts a huge number of pilgrims from all over the country. It’s the period where every Hindu is urged to take the ceremonious bath in the river Godavari. It’s a big event for which preparations go on for two years during which our quaint little town dresses up for the travelers and visitors in the most grandiose fashion. For the last Pushkaram, they have renovated the entire godavari and gautami ghat and have constructed a huge shiva linga near the Godavari railway station which marks the entrance of town.. I still get that childish glee of coming home whenever I see that well lit huge temple.
Rajahmundry is famous for Cloth market/Textile and it is said that the cloth business of Rajahmundry stands second, after Mumbai in India. The drought in Vizag made the weavers shift to Jampet in Rajahmundry and lead to the establishment of the Textile industry. Rajahmundry has the Mahatma Gandhi Cloth Complex which is one of the biggest shopping complex in AP. It is the base for most of the big cloth merchants in India like Bommana Brothers, Chandana Brothers, Sumangali, Puja Silks, Tummidi Brothers etc. Having sampled various showrooms in various cities, I would say that whatever you get in entire A.P. (and even more varitety at times) is available in Rajamundry, albeit at reasonable prices.
Be it that special Palakova from Kumari Talkies, Rose Milk from Kotagummam, Tapeswaram Kaja, Artos Cool Drinks or Putarekulu (Paper Sweet), our Rajamundry has its share of unique mouth watering delicacies. When a topic of sweets come, I cant resist quoting Anand Sweets. I can blindly vouch for any item under their name, be it their dry fruit chikki, badam burfi, kaja, kachori or namkeens!
Rajahmundry has the base offices for the Krishna-Godavari Project of The Oil and Natural Gas Corporation at Rajahmundry. This brought in various cultures of people and the establishment of the ONGC colonies. Dad used to take us to the ONGC colony park and the township whenever it fell on the way of our drive. Also Rajahmundry houses industries like The Southeren Drugs and Pharmaceuiticals Limited, Smithkline Beecham Consumer Healthcare limited, GVK Industries/The Jegurupadu Power Project at the outskirts. Its also home for a lot of paper mills like The Andhra Pradesh Paper Mills, The Coastal Paper Mills (P) limited, The Kadiyam Paper Mills. Anyone can locate loads of nurseries and flower gardens near Kadiyam, which have almost any variety of samplings that you would love to have in your little garden.
I cant write about Rajahmundry without giving due credit for to these two people, Sir Arthur Cotton for making the city arable and Sri Kandukuri Veeresalingam Pantulu for his contribution for the city. These people’s memories are etched strongly in the minds of the people.
Sir Arthur Cotton dammed the great Godavari River below Rajamundry at a point where the river is over three miles wide, and although he utilised two islands he still had to construct two miles of masonry to build his own dam. This took him five years to complete, but was an immense gain to a teeming population. The 2 1/4 – mile long Dowleswaram Barrage across the Godavari turned a flood-and-drought prone area into million acres of flourishing paddy and sugarcane. He made Rajamundry a rice bowl for A.P and people still remember and honour his contributions. A Sir Arthur Cotton Museum is set up at the dam site and a Sir Arthur Cotton Memorial Agricultural Service Centre is set up at Bobbarlanka, 20 km from Rajahmundry and near Dowleswaram to commemorate the contributions of Sir Arthur Cotton. Thank you Sir!
Sri Kandukuri Veeresalingam Pantulu is known as “The father of reformations” in A.P. He is a champion of widow remarriages, girl education and social reforms. There are many firsts to his credit. He started a monthly magazine “Vivekavardhini”, a school for girls at Dowlaiswaram in 1874. He established a weekly “Satyavadini” which was published both in English and Telugu. He established “Hitakarini Samaj” in 1906. He was the first novelist in Telugu ;”Rajasekhara Charitra” was the first novel. He bought a revolution in Telugu Literature by simplifying Telugu without using the flowery embellishments that graced the language through Sanskrit influence. He is a great man who has dedicated his pen, intellect, money, work and worth for social service.
Many schools and colleges were started by the Hitakarini Samaj. Well, the expansion of ‘SKVT High School’, the school that I studied in stands for ‘Sri Kandukuri Veeresalingam Theistic English Medium High Schoool’. If you stop wondering about whats me with long names, I had a great time at that school with some fabulous schoolmates and teachers! I can’t think of any college that wasn’t supported by his ideals or deeds in some way. Well, if you ask me the current scenario, the educational climate is slowly getting commercialized now, with the advent of Srichaitanya, Nalanda, Narayana, Bhasyam schools and colleges.
Being at the banks of the Godavari River, which has a lot of religious significance and the Sir Cotton Bridge, which gave a boost to the agriculture made Rajahmundry the way it is. Since history, a lot of Brahmins settled in Rajahmundry making it the centre for Arts and Culture. Even today there are separate areas designated for Brahmins in the City, though the City is an amalgamation of various sects, castes and beliefs. The City hence is a cradle for education, textiles and agriculture. The attitude of people is slow paced and life rolls on simply. I love the simplicity and the down to earth nature of the people here. I feel home!
All this and more is what makes my little town special to me. Guess all this is summed up in this lovely song from Andhra Kesari. I get a reverent feeling whenever I hear it..
“Vedam la ghoshinche godavari
Amaradhamam la sobhille rajamahendri
Satabdala charita gala sundara nagaram
Gataveibhava deeptulato kammani kaavyam
Raja raja narendrudu kakatiyulu
Tejamunna meti doralu reddi rajulu
Gajapatulu narapatulu elina ooru
Akadhalanni ninadinche Gauthami Horu
Adi kavita Nannaya rasenicchata
Srinadha kavi nivasam pedda mucchata
Nava kavitalu vikasinche nandanavanamu
Dittamaina silpala devalalu
Kattukadhala chitrangi kanakamedalu
Kottukoni poye konni kotilingalu
Viresalingamokadu migilenu chalu”
Didn’t realize that this would end up as such a huge post when I am not even half done! Let me wrap up here as my love this little place can make me fill this space with ease.