The temple town of Bhadrachalam is a famous pilgrim center for Hindus, situated on the banks of Godavari river in Bhadradri Kothagudem district of Telangana. It lies around 310km east of the state capital Hyderabad.

Bhadradri Kothagudem district was created in 2016,  by splitting Khammam district. Kothagudem town is the headquarters for the district, while Bhadrachalam is one of its two revenue divisions.

It is said that Paleolithic men inhabited in this area, which was thick forests in ancient time. This region is called the lower Godavari valley that includes Bhadrachalam and its surroundings.

The place has a clearly documented history of Sri Sita Ramachandraswamy temple, also known as Bhadrachalam temple, which was constructed in the 17th Century CE. The temple was built during the reign of Abul Hasan Qutb Shah of the Golconda Kingdom, the last king of the Qutb Shahi dynasty. He surrendered to the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in 1686 and died in captivity in 1699.

The place has a clearly documented history of Sri Sita Ramachandraswamy temple, also known as Bhadrachalam temple, which was constructed in the 17th Century CE. The temple was built during the reign of Abul Hasan Qutb Shah of the Golconda Kingdom, the last king of the Qutb Shahi dynasty. He surrendered to the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in 1686 and died in captivity in 1699.

With his defeat, the region became a part of the six Mughal provinces in the Deccan and Mahabat Khan, former commander of the Qutb Shahi army was appointed the governor of Golconda. This eventually led to the establishment of the Hyderabad State under the Nizams by Aurangzeb.

The Nizam’s Hyderabad state remained a princely state for about 150 years during the British Raj. It was brought into the Indian Union in 1948 with Hyderabad as the capital of Andhra Pradesh. Bhadrachalam became a part of Telangana state, when it was formed on 2 June 2014.

The Temple that Sets Specimen of Communal Harmony

Abul Hasan Qutb Shah also known as Tana Shah was a popular ruler who did not discriminate against those of another ethnicity or religion. He had Brahmins as ministers in his government and generals in the military.

Tana Shah set a tradition of sending pearls to the Bhadrachalam temple as a gift on every Rama Navami festival.  Subsequent Muslim rulers of Golconda continued this tradition. The same tradition is continued to this day by the Telangana government.

Today, the government makes an offering of ‘Mutyala Talambralu’ and ‘Pattu Vastralu’ every Ram Navami at the temple. ‘Mutyala Talambralu’ includes sacred rice mixed with pearls, saffron and turmeric.

Bhadrachalam is one the centers identified by the Ministry of Tourism for the Ramayana circuit for its religious significance and tourist attractions. According to reports, the Center Government has sanctioned ₹50 crore for developing the region as a major pilgrim centre.

The State Government is reported to have plans to recreate the major mythological sequence at the place along the lines of Akshardham, the famous spiritual-cultural campus in Delhi.

 Religious significance

Bhadrachalam along with its surrounding areas is a sacred place for Hindus as they are closely connected with important episodes in the life of Lord Ram and Mata Sita  according to the epic Ramayana. And it is popularly known as Dakshina Ayodhya.

It is believed that Lord Ram along with Mata Sita and Lakshmana stayed in a hermitage in the  Dandakaranya forest during a major portion of their 14-year exile. This place is the present-day Parnasala, a small village in the Dummugudem mandal around 35km from Bhadrachalam.

It was here, Mata Sita was abducted by the demon king Ravana. Maricha, a rakshasa and an accomplice of Ravana in his heinous act was killed by Lord Ram at this village. This rakshasa had appeared in the guise of a golden deer and was successful in drawing Lord Ram and Lakshman away from the Ashram. Left alone in the Ashram, Mata Sita was forcefully taken away by the demon King. This incidence was the crucial turning point in the Ramayana leading to the eventual annihilation of Ravana.

Jattayu Paaka also popularly known as Yetapaka, an important place linked to the abduction is located 2km away from Bhadrachalam. This is the place where Jattayu, a  devotee of Lord Ram and the king of eagles is believed to have obstructed Ravana while he was taking away Mata Sita in his chariot. In the fierce battle that followed, Jattayu was gravely injured and just survived to tell the event to Lord Ram, who was searching for his beloved. One of Jattayu’s wings is believed to have been found at Rekhapalli, a village situated about 55 km from Jattayu Paaka.

It was near Parnasala that an ardent devotee of Lord Ram, Sabari attained salvation after having the long-cherished darshan of the Lord. She was believed to have dissolved later as a small river into the holy Godavari near Kunavaram around 41km from Bhadrachalam.

According to Puranas, Lord Ram eliminated around 14,000 demons at  Dummugudem, around 26kms from Bhadrachalam. These rakshasas were owing allegiance to the man-eating twin rakshasa brothers Khara and Dushana. The place is called Dummugudem as it is said to be built on the ashes of those rakshasas killed by Lord Ram.

There is a place known as  Gundala, located 5km away from Bhadrachalam where you can see hot water springs after digging a pit on the riverbank. It is believed that  the divine trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara dipped in the holy waters at Gundala during the winters.

Geographical Location

Bhadrachalam is located at 17.67°N 80.88°E with an average elevation of 164ft above the sea level. Bhadradri Kothagudem district is the easternmost district of Telangana bordering the state of Chhattisgarh. It is spread over an area of 7,483 sq.km.

People

Kothagudem Town, the district headquarters has a population of 79,819, according to 2011 census.  Bhadrachalam is the second largest town in the district with a population of 50,087.

The total population of Bhadradri Kothagudem district is 11,15,724 in about 2.9 lakh households. About 90% of the total population are Hindus, followed by Muslims (9%) Christians and others make out for the rest of the population.

People use mainly Telugu and Urdu languages. Hindi and English are also understood and spoken particularly in the urban areas.

Climate

Bhadrachalam has a tropical climate with an average annual temperature of 28.2 °C and average annual rainfall of 1117 mm. Normally summers experience more rainfall compared to winters. July has the maximum rainfall of an average 322mm, while January remains the driest month. May is the warmest month with temperature reaching around 35.4 °C.

How to reach Bhadrachalam

Bhadrachalam is connected by road to major cities including Hyderabad (310km), Ramagundam (252km) Khammam (115km) and Vijayawada (186km). The town lies 633km away from Chennai and 871km away  from Bangalore. The state bus service corporation operates a bus station in Bhadrachalam connecting the town to various places of the state.

The nearest railway station, Bhadrachalam Road railway station is at  about 40km from the town. Other nearest major railway stations are Dornakal jn (51km), Khammam (60km) and Mahbubabad (65km). However, these stations have limited connectivity.

The nearest airports to Bhadrachalam is Rajahmundry domestic airport (201km)  and Vijayawada Airport (186km).

Places of Attraction

Some of the most favourite places of interests in Bhadrachalam are  the following:

 Sri Sita Ramachandraswamy Temple

Sri Sita Ramachandraswamy temple, dedicated to Lord Ram is situated on a small hillock on the left bank of Godavari River flowing southwards in Bhadrachalam. The temple, one of the ‘Divya Kshetrams’ of Godavari,  was built by Kancharla Gopanna, a saint and Bhakti poet in the 17th century CE. He manged the construction while serving as a local Tahsildar during the reign of Abul Hasan Qutb Shah of the Golconda Kingdom. The temple was completed at a cost of about six lakh varahas (gold coins).

Sri Ramachandraswamy temple Bhadrachalam

He built the temple at a place where there was a small mandapam with an idol of Lord Ram having distinctive features installed by a tribal woman called Pokala Dhammakka. The woman living in Bhadrareddypalem, had found the idol in an anthill in the Dandakaranya forest.

Kancharla Gopanna was an ardent devotee of Lord Ram and wrote several devotional songs (keerthanas) in his praise, which are popular even today. He was widely known as Bhadradri Ramadasu or Bhadrachala Ramadasu.

Vaikuntha Rama, Rama Narayana, Omkara Rama

The presiding deity of the temple is known as Vaikuntha Rama. The idol is in the form of Lord Ram with four arms and in the padmasana posture, unique to this temple only. It appears holding a shankha (conch) and the Sudarshana Chakra (discus) in the upper arms and a bow and an arrow in the lower arms. Mata Sita is seated on Lord Ram’s left thigh, while Lakshmana stood to his left. All three faced west towards the Godavari River. The idol is said to be ‘swayambhu’ or self-manifested.

Scriptures link this peculiar idol to the darshan Lord Vishnu gave to a fervent Ram devotee, Bhadra. Bhadra was the son of Meru and Menaka. He is also said to be a stone-turned human by the grace of Lord Ram, the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Lord Ram promised to meet Bhadra after finding Mata Sita abducted by Ravana; but failed to keep his promise in his lifetime.

Then, Lord Vishnu fulfilled that promise to Bhadra by appearing before him, descending from his abode Vaikuntha. He appeared in the form of Lord Ram, but with four arms. Hence, the name “Vaikuntha Rama”, alternatively the deity was named “Rama Narayana”. Because, that form was the personification of both Ram and Narayana (Vishnu).  The trio of deities together strengthened the aspect of the sacred sound “Om”. Thus, the deity is also known as “Omkara Rama”.

Lord Vishnu in that form gave Bhadra salvation by turning him into a hillock, later called as Bhadrachalam or Bhadradri (“Bhadra’s hill”). And, the Vaikuntha Rama idol self-manifested on top of the hillock.

Vaishnavite Tradition

The rituals of the temple, like bhajans are in line with the Vaishnavite tradition of temple practices.  These are said to be modelled on the practices at the Ranganathaswamy temple in Srirangam in Tiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu.

The temple has four entrances with the Rajagopuram, called the Vaikuntha Dwaram located at the northern entrance. There are several sub-shrines and a few mandapams in the temple in the temple complex. These shrines are dedicated to various deities including Goddess Lakshmi, consort of Lord Vishnu.

Temple Festivals

The temple’s main festival are a 10-day Vaikuntha Ekadashi and Rama Navami festivals. These are held in the months of December-January and March- April respectively. During these days, there is large influx of devotees in the temple and in the town.

On Vaikuntha Ekadashi day, the temple authorities organize a colourful Teppotsavam (boat festival) in the Godavari river, carrying the idols of Lord Ram and Mata Sita on a decorated swan boat. The procession is followed with a spectacular fireworks in the night.

On the eve of Rama Navami, the temple celebrates the annual Brahmotsavam featuring the Sri Sitarama Thirukalyana Mahotsavam, or the marriage of Lord Ram and Mata Sita. Other important festivals include Vasanthotsavam, Karthika Poornima and Vijayadashami.

Godavari Maha Pushkaram

Godavari Maha Pushkaram or the Great Worship of the Godavari River is celebrated in Bhadrachalam and other centers in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. It is held as part of traditional Pushkaram Hindu festival of worshiping 12 sacred rivers in the  country.

The other sacred rivers are Ganga, Narmada, Saraswati, Yamuna, Krishna, Kaveri, Bhima, Tapti, Tungabhadra, Sindhu (Indus), Pranitha. The names of these rivers may vary depending on the regional traditions like in the case of Bhima river in Maharashtra, and Tamraparni river in Tamil Nadu.

Maha Pushkaram occurs once every 144 years, corresponding to the 12th recurrence of the 12-year Godavari Pushkaram cycle. The festival is held for 12 days in the months of June- July, when  planet Jupiter enters the zodiac sign of Leo. Bhadrachalam is one of the major bathing ghats in the state for this festival.

During the festival huge crowd of devotees gather at the banks of the Godavari river to take dip in its holy waters to cleanse their sins.

The next Maha Pushkaram will be due in 2159.

Parnasala

Parnasala, about 35km from Bhadrachalam is believed to be the place where Lord Ram along with Mata Sita and Lakshmana stayed in a thatched hut during his exile. . It was here, Ravana abducted Mata Sita.

According to Ramayana, Agastya muni helped Lord Ram select this spot. The trio reached here via Bastar and Sabari. And Lord Ram and Lakshman then moved into Kishkinda, on their way tracing Mata Sita.

Today, there is a thatched hut built in Parnasala for the purpose of introducing to the tourists the episode in the Ramayana relevant to Parnasala. It is displayed through the canvassed sculptures of Lord Ram, Mata Sita, Lakshman and Ravana.

Today, there is a thatched hut built in Parnasala for the purpose of introducing to the tourists the episode in the Ramayana relevant to Parnasala. It is displayed through the canvassed sculptures of Lord Ram, Mata Sita, Lakshman and Ravana.

Nearby Parnasala, there is a small stream known as Sita Vaagu which flows near Radhagutta. It is believed that Mata Sita used to take bath here and collect turmeric and Kunkum from the nearby stones.

There are frequent bus services between Bhadrachalam and Parnasala.

Godavari Ghat

Godavari Ghat is situated very near to Sri Sita Ramachandra Swamy Temple. It is a bathing ghat on the banks of Godavari river and is considered as the main ghat. It is an established practice for devotees to take a ritual dip in the holy waters here before visiting Sri Sita Ramachandra Swamy Temple.

The Ghat has well built in steps and changing rooms.  People can also enjoy boating in the river. During post-monsoon season, boating is arranged between Bhadrachalam and Papikondalu / Rajahmundry.

Other Places of Interest

Apart from being a major pilgrim center, Bhadrachalam offers various tourist destinations in its surroundings. This includes the Bogatha Falls (120km), Kinnerasani Dam (40km), Kinnerasani Wildlife Sanctuary (40km) Maredumilli (118KM)

In Bhadrachalam, you can also engage in activities such as boating in the Godavari river, trekking at Papikonda ranges etc. There are several other places of worships such as Sree Rama Giri, Venkatreddipeta, Gannavaram etc.

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