Bhadrachalam - One of the famous shrine of Lord Sri Rama , located on the banks of Godavari in A.P and also called ‘Ayodhya of South India’. This temple is associated with the legend of Bhaktha Rama Dasu and Golconda Nawab Abul Hassan Shah also called Tanishah.
Recently we had an opportunity to visit this famous religious site. Bhadrachallam is 7 hrs train journey from Hyderabad and is well connected by road and railways to the other parts of the state. We have 2 trains from Secunderabad ‘Munugur Express’ and a Passenger train. We took the express train from Secunderabad and got down at Badrachallam Road station which is in Kothagudam. From here Bhadrachalam is 40 Kms and it will take 1 hr to reach the place. There are many buses, shared autos from station to the Badrachallam. We got down at the station around 5 A.M. As Children’s festival (Balostav) was going on in Kothagudam, a lot of children from various places have come to participate in the festival. The station vibrated with their laughter and excitement. As soon as we came out of station all the shared auto drivers surrounded us and almost confused us. We couldn’t take the bus as we had a lot of luggage and it was difficult for us to lift the luggage till the bus. So, we hired an auto and he has charged us Rs250 to take us to Bhadrachallam. The bus charges for an ordinary bus will be @31 per person. It was a very cold morning and the auto did not have a proper tarpaulin (a heavy duty water proof cloth) or sheets to cover, we were literally shivering inside the auto due to the cold winds. The auto raced through the quite streets. After a few minutes the sun has started to come up. It was a beautiful site. On either side of the road are the fields. Most of the fields had rice crop. The crop is matured and it is ready for harvesting. There was a lot of fog as the sun slowly came up. The sun rays and the fog gave a beautiful touch to the already shining yellow crop. It was like we are in a beautiful picture frame with sun’s rays passing through the fog. Enjoying the scenery we passed through Palwancha (a small town famous for coal mines), Sarapaka and other important towns and reached Badrachalam exactly after an hour. Our auto driver took us directly to our hotel. When we got down from the auto we saw a huge rock and the temple standing majestically on it. It was a blissful feeling to be very near to the temple. The temple was build with the hardship of Kancherlla Gopanna famously called Bhaktha Rama Dasu.
We checked into our hotel rooms and started to get ready, as we again have to travel back to Kothagudam for the children’s festival. We got ready and first wanted to visit the temple. We bought the pooja items and walked towards the temple. As we walked towards the temple I remembered the famous legend around this temple. It is believed that in Tretha yuga , during his exile Lord Rama and Sita lived in Dandakaranya forest which is surrounding the current place. One day Lord Rama and SIta were roaming in the forest and were tired. They sat on a rock and found immense pleasure while sitting on the rock. Lord Rama became very happy and gave a boon to the rock that he will settle on the rock after he completes his exile. But, Lord Rama forgot his promise, and after his Rama avatar he returned to his abode Vikuntam. Mean while due to the boon from Lord Brahma the stone is born as a boy ‘Bhadra’. From his childhood the boy is a great devotee of Lord Sri Rama and Maharishi Narada taught the boy the Taraka Mantra. Bhadra, wanted to have the vision of Lord Rama. So, he did a severe penance to get the darshan (glimpse) of Lord Rama. Due to the severe penance Lord Vishnu was forced to come down to earth, but in his eagerness to see his devotee Lord Vishnu wore his Chakra and Shanku in a reverse way. When Bhadra sees the Lord he requested him to give the darshan as Lord Rama with Bow and arrows. Lord obliges to the request and shows his beautiful Rama avatar. Bhadra is pleased and requests the Lord to settle on the rock as promised. Lord Rama along with Sita and Lakshmana settles on the rock as idols. Because Lord Rama has settled on the rock Bhadra, this place is called Bhadrachalam and the Lord is called Bhadrachala Rama. Because the Lord has come from ‘Vaikunta’ he is called ‘Vaikunta Rama’. Many devotees like Tirumangai Alwars, Sankaracharya have served the Lord here. The time had passed and the idols of the Lord get submerged in the ground. After a long time a tribal women Pokala Dhammakka finds the idols in a huge mud hill. She builds a shed with palm leaves and placed the idols inside the shed. She used to perform pooja every day to these idols.
The temple in the present form was build under the guidance of Kancherlla Gopanna, a tax collector under the Golconda ruler Nawab Abul Hassan Shah also known as Tanishah. It has so happened that Gopanna heard the story of Badragiri and was overcome with grief looking at the thatched roof and the idols laying in the sun and rain. He used the money he has collected as taxes from the farmers, to build the temple. In those days of religious intolerance, it was conveyed in a negative way that Gopanna has utilized the money to build temple and has not paid any respect to the ruler of Golconda. Hearing these rumours Tanishah sent for Gopanna and had asked him to be present at his court. Gopanna was tried in the presence of Tanishah. Gopanna could not prove his innocence. So, he was imprisoned until he paid back the tax amount. In the prison Gopanna had a very hard life. He was beaten, made to carry heavy loads and was hardy given any food to eat. Gopanna carved idols of Sri Rama, Sita on the walls of the prison and used to sing songs of the glory of the Lord and prayed to Lord to protect him. Many beautiful songs were composed by him and are sung even to this day. After 12 years in prison, it was said that Lord Rama and Lakshmana came to Tanishah during the mid night. They gave Tanishah two bundles of coins and said that it is the money that Gopanna owe him. They ask the ruler to release Gopanna. Not knowing the real identity of the two visitors Tanishah obliges them. Later when he opens the bundle he finds all the gold coins with Lord Rama’s face printed on them. Tanishah realizes the devotion of Gopanna and releases him from the prison. Tanishah also becomes devotee of Lord Rama and to prove his love for the Lord sent pearls as talambralu ( rice mixed in turmeric, used to bless in auspicious occasions) on annual festival of Sri Rama Kalyanam. (The Sri Rama Kalyana Mahiostavam is performed every year during the Sri Rama Navami. Usually comes in the month of April, May).
The temple is built on a huge rock and has four entrances. We always used the entrance where prasadam (Food offered to God) is sold. It is close to the hotel we were staying. We have to take a few steps to reach the entrance of the Gopuram. When we cross Gopuram and step inside, on the right hand side is the mandapam (a huge hall) where Sri Rama Kalyanam and other festivals are celebrated. On the left side is the old inscription giving the details about the temple. The temple courtyard is very spacious and the main Garbha guddi is in front of us. If you keep moving to right we can see the ticket counter and little further we can see Goddess Padmavathi temple, addala mandapam (the room decorated with beautiful glass work) and behind this is the museum, where we can see the ornaments that Rama Dasu has made for the God. If we keep moving to the right we reach the entrance of the temple. A huge Dwajastambham (Flag stag) is at the entrance of the temple. In front of Dwajastambham is the Lord Garuda. In front of Garuda are two elephants guarding the entrance and if we move further we can see handsome Lord Sri Rama sitting with one leg folded. On his lap is beautiful Sita, sitting in a blessing position. Besides them is ever dutiful Lakshmana. Lord Rama holds his Counch and Chakra in a reverse way. Typically Lord wears his Sudarshana Chakra in his right hand and his counch in the left hand. Here the Lord is shown reversing his counch and chakra. Due to the severe penance of Bhadra, Lord had rushed to oblige Bhadra. In his hurry he reverses his counch and chakra. He holds his bow and arrow in the other two hands. Inside the temple are beautiful sculptures showing the Yakshas, Nagas, lotus, creepers, and motifs e.t.c. The Pillars are also carved with the beautiful sculptures. Other than the entrance from dwajastambham, there are two other entrances to the main temple (Garbha gruha). One entrance is now used as a special entrance for devotees who have tickets for Asthotaram and the other paid sevas. The other opening is used as exit from the main sanctorum. We have taken the ticket for Archana. So, we are allowed to enter the main temple through the special entrance. It is a blissful experience sitting near to the god when the priest reads out the names of the Lord. Each name of the Lord has a meaning and a story attached to it. After pooja aarathi is given. Having a wonderful darshan of the Lord we came out of the temple. As we came out we saw Kalash on the top of the main Santorum. The Kalash is totally different. Usually all the temples will have kalash (a vessel with narrow mouth and a coconut on it) on the top of the main Santorum. Here we see Sudarshana chakra. It is believed that this Sudharshana Chakra was found by Gopanna when he was having a bath in the river Godavari. As we exit the Santorum In front of us is a rock and on it is the temple of Sage Bhadra. We can see Lord Rama’s feet on the rock. Beside this temple are the small rooms having ‘Madana Gopala swamy’, ‘Sri Venkateshwara Swamy’ idols inside. The main temple and the inner walls of the temple are beautiful sculptures. But outside of the temple is pretty simple. We once again came near to dwajasthambam, Crossed the gopuram near it. This is the main entrance and there is Lord Hanuman temple just a few steps down from the main temple. On the right hand side we can see the neem and Ravi tree. Here the devotees are lightening the lamps. Facing the tree and with a folded hands is the statue of Rama dasu, who took a lot of pain to build this temple. From here we can see the river Godavari flowing silently. You can have a good view of the town from here.
Next day we woke up early to have a bath in the river Godavari. We needed to carry towels, dry clothes for the dip in the river. The river is 10 min walk from the temple. We walked through the small shops that sells pooja articles, toys, bangles. As a tradition we have to light diyas . pray and then leave diyas in the river . So, we bought diya’s on the way to the river. They costed us Rs.5. The banks of the river were dirty and slippery. We have to be careful while walking. Wish we can maintain our rivers little better. The water level in the river is low so it is very difficult to get in to the river. Carefully holding our hands we walked into the river. The water is very cold and is not very clean. There are boats on the river that will take us to the other side of the river where the water is little clean. We performed pooja, lighted the lamps and left them in the river. You will meet a lot of photographers here who will click and give you the instant photos. They will coax you till you oblige. We have also obliged and took the photos, these will be a fond remembrances to look back to. Slowly we came back to the bank and walked towards out hotel. We had a bath and then went for darshan of the Lord. No matter how many times we have darshan of the Lord, our hearts will still long for one darshan of him. Such is the beauty of the Lord here.
After coming back from temple we went to Parnashala. Parnashala is the name of the place where Lord Rama spent last 4 years of his exile. This is the place where Ravana had abducted Sita. There are many buses, autos running to this place. But we have preferred to hire an auto. Parnashala is around 30 Kms from Bhadrachalam and we were charged Rs.100 for each person. The journey is very beautiful with green fields on either side of the road and occasional hamlets with people tending to their household work and children with happy faces running around. There is not much traffic on road. The auto was speeding and we have to repeatedly tell him to slow down. The journey took us a good 45 mins. We stopped near to a small stream and the auto driver has asked us to get down and walk ahead. In front of us was a small stream, surrounded with tall trees. There is a small wooden bridge that connects the bank with the large rock in the middle of the stream. This is the place where Lord Rama, Sita and Lakshamana used to take bath. There are seven symbols that remind us of the bygone history. Beside the stream there is a huge colourful rock. On this rock there are few symbols that indicated that Lord has stayed here. According to the Ramayana, Lord Rama has decided to come to Dandakaranya as it is safe for Sita and also there are many Rishi Ashrama’s near by. Rama is very impressed by this place and has asked his brother Lakshmana to build a small hut here for them to spend the rest of the exile. Lakshmana selected this place that is near to River Godavari.
On the rock there are few holes, these are supposed to be made for SIta, so that she can grind the red stones found in the river and use it as her Sindoor. There are few stripes on the rock. It is said that this is the place where Sita used to dry her saree after bath. The saree she has used is said to be around 6 yards. Next to this is the place where Rama used to dry his clothes. His lower cloth called as dhoti is around 8 yards and the upper cloth is 3 yards. Then a little further is a stone with foot marks. This is said to be the foot marks of Lord Rama, who kept vigil for Sita so that rakshasha cannot come to harm her. A little further is a small idol where Lord Rama and Sita used to pray. From here if we climb the small hill we come to the place where rakshasha Surpanaka comes to harm Sita. According to Ramayana when Lord Rama , SIta and Lakshmana were in Parnasala, rakshasha Surpanaka sees Lord Rama and was bewitched by his beauty. She transforms herself into a beautiful lady and approaches Rama and asks him to marry her. Lord Rama refuses her proposal saying that he is already married. Instead he asks her to approach his younger brother Lakshmana. When she approaches and asks him to marry her, he refuses. Feeling angry Surpanaka sees Sita sitting in the hut. She rushes towards Sita, seeing the situation and being worried that Sita will be hurt, Lakshmana rushed towards Surpanaka and cuts her ears and nose. Now, this is the same place where the incident happened. There is a small stone here and before that there is a small yagna kund. The visitors throw stones on this hill after going around the Yagna kund. It is said that such an act will drive away evil from our lives. Overall we liked the place as it is very quiet with the sound of the flowing stream and chirping birds. Later we got into the auto and we visited the actual place where Parnashala was. This is a very beautiful place with mighty Godavari flowing towards one side and on the other side is the Parnashala. There is a small temple of Lord Rama Sita here. After praying in the temple we came out, at the back of the temple are pictures of foot prints of Lord Rama, The maya deer which Rama has chased. On to other side are the foot marks of Sita. Little before this is the place where Ravana comes in the disguise of a saint and abducts Sita. If we go little further we can see the temple of Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva in the form of Linga was worshipped here by Lord Rama and Sita. The replica’s of the yester years built here brings forth the memories of the great epic Ramayana. After staying there and enjoying the silence and peace we came back to our hotel in Bhadrachallam.
About Museum: The museum is located inside the temple complex and is behind the Addala Meda. The entrance to the museum is Rs.5. Most of the collections in the museum are from the period of Gopanna. The main attractions here are the jewellery that Gopanna has made to the Lord. The intricacy of the design is worth praising. There are also the golden coins which Rama has given to Tanishah to release Gopanna.
Hotel rents: @1200 per day. There are many decent hotels around the temple.
Food: You can get North Indian and South Indian Food for a decent cost. The dosa @ Rs. 50, Lunch – South Indian thali @ 150.
Transport: There are many autos and state run bus to go around.
Other places: Papikondalu. This place is famous for the boat ride in between two mountains.
Some interesting things about the God.
1. Every year at the time of Sri Rama Navami , the wedding of Rama and Sita is performed. The rice required for talambralu (the rice poured on the heads of bride and bride groom) is not pounded or milled. The husk is removed with hand by the volunteers. Approximately 1 crore grains are used for this.
2. The Pearl talambralu were first gifted by Tanishah. Later the pearl talambralu are arranged by state government every year during the wedding.
3. God himself has paid for his jewellery. Initially Rama Dasu has paid the money for the jewellery. Later he was imprisoned for miss using the tax money to construct temple and make jewellery. It is believed that Lord Rama has paid back the money in the form of golden coins from the period of Rama. We can see the coins in the museum even today.