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ROAD TO ‘AMARAVATHI’ …

October 31, 2015

 

Tracing the NH-5 from Chennai to proposed & upcoming Seemandhra Capital AMARAVATHI, recently inaugurated by PM Shri Narendra Modi and Andhra CM Chandra Babu Naidu

All pictures from Google Images

MADRAS PRESIDENCY / ANDHRA PRADESH BIFURCATION INTO SEEMANDHRA & TELENGANA – AN INTRO

Long before Indian Union was divided into different states on linguistic basis, the south constituted mostly of a single large Madras Presidency of which today’s Seemandhra, Telengana, Kerala were part of. Madras was the undisputed capital city until 1955 when finally states were reorganized with respect to their ethnic and lingual identities. Senior citizens of the south therefore still speak of actors like Prem Nazir (of today’s Kerala), N T Rama Rao and Nageshwar Rao (of Andhra Pradesh) with the same breath as for veterans like Shivaji Ganesan and M G Ramachandran of Tamil cinema from the ’50s. Mysore and parts of Karnataka came under Mysore presidency even so Kannada’s Raj Kumar was quite a popular hero with Tamil audience.

A further division of southern states therefore comes to most of us as surprise. There are some political angles to this issue. Some say, it was Sonia Gandhi’s revenge on the Seemandhra people for (impending) routing out of congress (in the parliamentary elections that saw Modi’s BJP come to central powers). Because that was how it was done, in the last leg of Congress reign as Lok Sabha as well as state elections were drawing close. Normally one may debate on legality and sanction of the division, provisions for which are not construed appropriate with polls overdue within 6 months as announced by the election commission. In the case of Telengana, every rule in the book was flouted giving in to the ‘fasting’ and longstanding demands of KCR and his men who were at the tether of their nerves. Their emotional blackmail finally won over the anti-Telengana brigade at a very critical phase of time. Both congress and the BJP had by now acceded to state bifurcation in principle. Naidu and BJP’s staunch opposition to the division was what cost them the 2004 Lok Sabha elections which made them change tack finally a decade later when once again the state assembly and the central elections were to be held in 2014. It was a massive win for the BJP at the center that saw congress on its way out (despite its Telengana execution) that also saw Naidu take over as CM for second term for Seemandhra while K Chandrasekhar Rao was crowned the first ever Telengana Chief Minister.

Andhra Pradesh is one of the only 4 states I have visited outside Tamil Nadu (!) and it is special because my husband was part of the NH5 team that did the highway segment from Kavali to Ongole. Even then, the Telengana protests were going on. Ongole was where we lived – in the sense where I and my son spent all my boy’s term holidays for 4 good years.

KALAHASTHI : A TALE OF TWO STATES

75 km into NH-5, branch off left to drive into Kalahasthi, the Shiva temple town atleast 10 centuries old. Famous for Raghu-Kethu puja, the temple tower was in news a few years back for having crashed. Blessed to have had more than a half a dozen darshans since my childhood when the old tower was still intact. The town is not exactly in Andhra-Tamil Nadu check-post but a little interior, still this is a mixed/dividing line. Name-boards are both in Tamil and Telugu.

TIRUMALA TIRUPATHI

Further 75 kms down the road from Kalahasthi and there loom in front of us: the 7 hills of the Eastern Ghats, the abode of Lord Venkateswara who sees upto 1 lakh devotees from all around the world (by prior appointment only) during any day of the calendar! Lord Balaji darshan, I must have had alteast a dozen times or perhaps more in life. Second richest temple next to Vatican.  Today in the times of beefban I have this to say: atleast 3 of our muslim friends have visited Tirumala-Tirupathi seeking the Lord’s blessings with their families. One is foreign among them. We normally tonsure the heads of our infants in the temple.

SRIHARIKOTA – LAUNCHING A BILLION DREAMS…

Everytime we drove through the NH5 we would promise ourselves about visiting the famous ISRO launching pad Sri Hari Kota, the dream of every Indian citizen. The vision of our forefathers. I have seen signboards but got discouraged when we were told, tours are fine sometimes for school groups but mostly frowned upon for security reasons. Understandable.

NELLORE, THE RICE BOWL OF INDIA

First time we went to Andhra, it was still a drive through the old NH5 when the bypasses were not yet made. The old national highway used to be single-lane and highly congested. On the other side of the check-post would be seen long queues of bullock carts and tractors that had farmers at their wheels taking harvested crop for weighing/storage barns/government godowns. No wonder, because immediately on crossing into Andhra border from TN side, the larger town of Nellore welcomes you. A lush-green paddy town famously called ‘the rice bowl of India’ Nellore still continues to be record rice producer for India.

‘SWARNA BHOOMI’ 

It was a shame that acres and acres of fertile mango groves had to be annexed by government order for highway expansion. Even the project people mourned the loss of this ‘swarna bhoomi.’ Rightly called so. Andhra is also the producer of a rich rice variety – the Swarna series which is top-grade even overseas. Sells even better than Tamil Nadu’s famous ‘Ponni’ and Kashmir’s ‘Basmati.’

(PRAWN) CULTURAL HAVOC

My first consternation came when I saw squared plots of land among lush green paddy fields in Nellore filled with water and attached with pumpsets. What I feared was true. They were huge aquamarine or prawn farms that were starting to play havoc with the fertile Andhra coast just then. Illiterate farmers had no idea and unscrupulous landowners who held huge landholdings did not realize that once you water your fields with saline water, the farming capacity of the land will be lost forever. In order to breed prawns, the farmers were bringing in sea water that was a mere few miles away, through pipes. Prawn farming was big business triumphing short time over agriculture, but how things stand right now in Nellore I have no idea.

Prawn-farming has since been banned in Tamil Nadu, and I hope it is in Andhra too. It has done enough damage to our fertile and most ancient alluvial soil as such. Whether the lost prime agricultural land can ever be reclaimed the way it was before aquamarine culture is a big question.

NARASIMHA WORSHIP: SINGARAYAKONDA LAKSHMI NARASIMHA TEMPLE

We believe the Balaji avatar worship is in practice only since the turn of the century in India. What preceded was the Narasimha and Varaha worship, proofs for which can be found until today even in Tirumala. Enroute Ongole from Nellore, we pass through Singarayakonda, another picturesque village. Atop the hillock ‘Vedagiri’ sits the 1000 year old Lakshmi Narasimha temple that I had the blessings to visit with family.

ONGOLE & MONSOONS

Ongole is a further 100 km from Nellore almost, seaside town immensely popular in good old Madras for its trysts with monsoons. The seasonal cyclones of north east had a habit of skipping blowing over the city at the nth moment for generations, instead changing course to Andhra coast with regular casualties being Ongole and Machilipatnam that made these places household names with the ’80s kids like us.

So that’s how I knew Ongole from a very young age. The town would not be missed from mention in Vividh Bharathi (radio) weather forecasts (news bulletins) whenever a cyclonic storm brewed in the Bay of Bengal.

I do have also an umbilical cord connection with Ongole. My gene partly comes right from there. Strangely I felt no emotional connect with the place when I was there. Andhra women are bold and mentally strong and sometimes it makes me wonder whether that is my miniscule Andhra inheritance (considering my first 24 years).

Nellore is Nellore district’s Headquarters. Ongole is the adjoining Prakasam district headquarters.

Both are well connected by road and rail to Chennai (the same NH5 that runs parallel to Bay of Bengal). In fact it’s Chennai that m0st Andhragaru from these parts visit for Diwali or wedding shopping. Hyderabad is a good 10-15 hours by train from here.

THE COROMANDEL EAST COAST & TRAVAILS OF SOUTH-CENTRAL RAILWAY

We generally took road or rail to Ongole. Right then the NH5 project was underway. So there was always a stretch disturbed or diverted.

As for train, the rail track runs parallel to the coast and there are only 2 lines. One for going north and one for going south. Invariably a rough monsoon washes down atleast one track. And in the remaining one track, the long route mails including the superfast Delhi-Chennai Rajdhani have to manage until the other track would be relaid. It’s a hardship lakhs of passengers face every year until now.

It happens like this: Sep-Dec is North East Monsoon season in the Coromandel coast that might sometime bring in cyclones. Every other year in my childhood I remember, cyclones would hit the east coast. Many a time, my hometown Chennai would be reportedly the eye of the storm but midway the cyclonic winds would change course and batter the coast anywhere between Ongole and Vishakhapatnam (Vizag). The casualty almost always first would the railway lines and the coastal highway. This I came to know only during our Andhra stint.

Almost every year without exception, the railway lines either both or a single one get(s) washed out. From then on starts the nightmare for all-India passengers traveling on trains long distance. Remember, some 50% rail traffic from south to north and north-east have to pass through the Chennai-Nellore-Vijayawada segment before branching off further north or east. And the tonnes & tonnes of goods and raw material get moved by the goods trains, leave alone the passenger trains. Mindboggling. I have seen the heavy goods being handled in Ongole junction which is why I am recording it here. Ongole is also a famous granite mining center to which I shall come later.

I have enjoyed both the road and rail trips through the coromandel coast; when you are looking out through the train window, you see the land & NH5 slip through on one side; and on the other slips the sea; similar was the car ride experience. Looking out through the car window, you could see the sea slip fast on one side whereas parallel on the other side races the train from Chennai Central, on its way to various destinations on India’s east coast. Wonderful.

In last 60 years, no effort has been taken to lay another rail track parallel to the existing one. Once the railway lines get washed out in heavy monsoons, the bidding process is started by our Railways dept inviting fresh tenders. This remedial measure they initiate only after January when they’re certain there are no more pending rains or storms to come their way as the Monsoon season comes to an end in India. Finally when the contract is awarded and the railway line is repaired/relaid resuming regular rail traffic, it will be already May/June. And again shortly it will be time for the monsoons. The Ongole-Vijayawada belt as well as certain pockets down south stand to receive scanty to good rains from the South West Monsoons whose season is May-August.  Water-logging in tracks therefore is inevitable for a good part of the year. Believe me, or ask anyone in the Chennai-Nellore-Ongole-Vijayawada belt or those who take trains regularly to Delhi and Kolkata through the east coast, they can narrate to you their hardships. Until the tracks are relaid, imagine the trains waiting for hours endless at the signals, being permitted to cross and use the single precious existing line one by one awaiting their turn. For train passengers, it is utter despair, with patience and time running out.

Tracks and even the highway getting inundated in seasonal floods is regular feature through decades, but what has been done to rectify the situation. Both NH5 and the twin railways lines run parallel to the east coast, a few kilometers from the sea. These are plains – FLAT PLAINS that can easily be flooded.

Every year the cycle repeats. Went through this torture 2001-2005. While going to Ongole usually we would take the road. But when getting back, my husband would book me and son into Pinakkini or Shatabdi. Both are supposed to be express trains. Day trains. Both still would be delayed by over 2 hours just near the Nellore crossing after monsoons – when we would get back to Chennai in time after Christmas/Pongal vacations. Very harrowing experience, being in a stagnant train in the same spot for over 2 hours.

Life in India can be real frustrating. For middle-class folks its struggle every single inch and minute of their lives.

ANDHRA RED CHILLI, CASHEWNUT, TOBACCO, GRAPEVINE & MANGO

The Andhra ‘red chilli’ starts rubbing on you the moment you step into the border town of Nellore. A fertile district HQ with richest rice mill owners and movie producers, Nellore is 3.00 hour by car from Chennai. Ongole is nearly 4 hours. Vijayawada 6 hours. I liked the hot and spicy Andhra meals and we regularly took a break at Nellore for breakfast. It is a well developed town full of schools and colleges and the signs of prosperity stare at you from every corner.

From both sides of the road from here to Ongole, we see endless miles of green paddy fields, tobacco crop, mango gardens and grape vineyards besides the cash-raining commercial cashewnut groves.

TROPIC OF CANCER

Distilleries are another feature of the east coast, thanks to grape vineyards. Tobacco farms once were big commercial establishment with ITC having its production in Andhra coast. Cancer rates are highest in the state therefore, with even little children picking up the smoking habit. Child labour I believe was once exploited to roll the cigars but now working conditions have reportedly changed for better. I was surprised to find that every little crooked lane in Ongole had an oncologist practising that made me curious. On further enquiries, I found that the surrounding villages of Ongole and Chirala, the textile center closer to the coast, were inflicted severely by oral cancer.

Ofcourse the most tantalizing aspect about the AP coast is its great variety of MANGOES! There was one called ‘Rasool’ I guess that was so juicy, that you had to only fix a straw cutting it open, to drink the nectar directly from it!

Mosambi, Kamala (orange) and grapes took a backseat to the Andhra Mangoes that had no worthy competitors.

GRANITE OF THE GALAXY

Ongole was rich in one way. Its prosperous residents were granite mine owners or rice mill owners or mango grove owners. Nothing less. A few kilometers around Ongole is mined, the world No.1 ‘galaxy’ granite – which is so translucent that you can see through. This small town therefore attracts global visitors/buyers. You can see huge mountainous blocks of granite being shipped to Chennai port or any other through the Ongole railway junction which handled quite heavy consignments routinely in the day. The other half of the town was dirt poor, with the rest working as maids, drivers, cooks, cleaners etc for the rich or at the granite mines or the mango farms or the paddy fields.

THE ANDHRA-AMERICA CONNECTION

Andhraites comprise the largest contingent among Indian communities in American soil not without a reason. Every single household in Andhra has a son or daughter or nephew or niece pursuing MS/PhD in the US or working in the Silicon Valley.

Night schools at Ongole gave me the biggest surprise. It reminded me of the tamil film ‘Mundanai Mudichu!’ and Deepa teacher! Many old men in their 70s and 80s could be spotted religiously attending the night schools to learn the letter so late in life! Another surprise was IIT coaching centers one could find in almost every single street downtown. These came with hostel facilities for boys and girls willing to pursue the entrance course from the neighbouring villages. The tuition centers boasted a good strength. I understood, Ongole produced a number of IIT aspirants/successful candidates thanks to its rigorous drilling schools that levied a hefty fee from students. Somehow I never felt comfortable about the day & night IIT classes going on in full swing, rain or shine. If exams have to be tackled that way systematically, then I don’t know what to say. We today learn of a number of suicides in IIT campuses. No wonder many of them are Andhra cases. I know the reason.The town has also its share of engineering colleges. Nellore also had a reputed government medical college.

THE ONGOLE BULL

The native bull of Ongole is a good breed with the beast towering over 6 feet in height. Prized bull. Most sought after by farmers and breeders.

DEAD END TO THE RED CORRIDOR

There were also rumours afloat in Ongole about Naxals. We were told, many learned men such as doctors, engineers and advocates had pledged loyalty to the naxal movement even if they were not openly naxalites. Naxalism as we saw, died a natural death in Andhra with the locals giving it up wholeheartedly. Partly the reason was a booming economy in Seemandhra (coastal Andhra). The roots of naxalism were steeped in interior Andhra Pradesh, today’s Telengana, which any development in the state bypassed. This gave birth to frustration in the central most districts bordering Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. This is a landlocked region that even monsoons skirt. Hinterland of India comprises mostly of these backward districts comprising the common Andhra, MP, Bihar, UP belt wherein perhaps the Tropic of Cancer passes through. Distance from the sea is maximum. Madhya Pradesh got bifurcated resulting in birth of Chattisgarh. Bihar was bifurcated for creation of Jharkhand. Even Uttar Pradesh was bifurcated to accommodate Uttar Khand, so it was getting pretty evident, the bifurcation of erstwhile Andhra Pradesh which was geographically larger by extent than European nations such as France, Spain and Germany, at some stage was inevitable.

Successive state as well as central governments assured separate statehood for Telengana as routine electoral promise. However most Seemandhra industrialists and big names had invested heavily in Hyderabad that they feared would become Telengana capital, in which case they might stand to lose. This is a main reason the division of the state for administrative purposes was first and foremost opposed. During the grooming of Hyderabad into a class city, TDP chief minister Chandra Babu Naidu left development of rest of Telengana region by hindsight which did not go down well with the rural folks. The cybercity meant nothing to those who lived below poverty line tending to failing cotton crops, a curse of the arid, parched Telengana and the mineworkers who toiled in granite and slate quarries. The region lends credible statistics to continuing and shameful farmer suicides in the nation. Not to forget, bonded labour was the norm of these backward districts for generations. It continues to be so until today in many ways, even if legally the scourge seems to have been eradicated.

BONDED LABOUR & FARMER SUICIDES

There was a landowner in Ongole who owned acres of mango groves. I remember his car driver who had to report for work by morning 6 am. He was paid a monthly salary of 2000 bucks (by 2002-04 standards) that was never anyway disbursed on time, even if the employer had every means to do so without any delay. There were times when 2-3 months’ salary was kept pending. Besides agri farms, the richman also held a stake in granite quarries. The driver not only had to drop the children in school, he also had to shop, run errands for the family and stay upto 8 pm by his boss’s side. By the time he was ready to leave for home, one of the children suddenly would remember something he/she wanted for school from store – like a chart. The man had to go get it for the kid. Mango season was most hectic for the driver. His days dawned even earlier and working hours stretched upto 10 pm. His duties in hot, merciless summer months included picking ripe mangoes as his master trusted very few with the job. After plucking, the driver would grade them and sack them. Ofcourse there were other hands doing the same job at the same time, but the boss made sure not a single minute of the driver’s valuable employment time was squandered in leisure or rest.

Once the driver had his hand bandaged. When asked the reason he said, he had cut his finger when he tried to chop the kacha (raw) mangoes for aachaar (salted pickles).  Maids in the state were treated worse. Andhra is not a kind state when it comes to treatment of its working/labour class. Besides being paid very paltry or below average wages for their services, the workforce could be treated as bonded labour, bound to landlord families for generations. Illiteracy and poverty are stark in Telengana.

‘CHIRALA’ – SMALL TOWN, BIG BUSINESS

After Ongole, there is a road leading right upto the coast that takes you to the textile town of Chirala. Not many in Chennai could be aware that leading stores like Chennai Silks order and procure their stocks from Chirala. It is a great collection center, a quaint town that I fell in love with straight away. Chirala boasts of a pristine beach by itself. Watching ‘Devarmagan’ (remade in Hindi as ‘Virasat’), Kamal Hassan i recall mentions the town Chirala to his father Shivaji Ganesan. He says it’s Gowthami (his girlfriend)’s hometown in Andhra Pradesh. When I watched the movie for the first time, I did not know the existence of Chirala. I did years later when I watched the tamil picture again in You Tube in bits and pieces

GOING ETHNIC WITH ‘KALAMKARI’

Chirala is also an important railway junction. It is the nerve cotton center where farmers sell their produce and innumerable garment factories and collection centers turn out bales of stitched/readymades to be transported to bulk buyers/traders/stockists/city showrooms. Once what I saw in ‘Globus’ priced at 750 bucks (in the year 2003) in Chennai priced for a mere 150 bucks in Chirala Gandhi Market/Bazaar. Lovely flea market to shop from. If you have a local language friend, it helps. Both Ongole and Chirala also are famous for their pure Andhra cotton saris. This is apart from the famed Mangalagiri cotton saris of Vijayawada. This strand of cotton in Chirala is a bit different from the Mangalagiri genre. Another ethnic print of Kalamkari designs owe their origins to Vijayawada belt. Cotton is upmarket here.

I have to mention the route we took to Chirala and the beach thereof.

CASHEW COUNTRY

On either side of the branching road off NH5 to the right, we may be greeted with cashewnut groves with cashew fruits dripping to the ground. Obviously owned by some stinking rich Hyderabadi or Nellorean. One could be instantly reminded of the typically similar prawn farms that line up the Nellore shore outlined by night tubelights even from a distance.

Chirala is located after an unmanned railway crossing and as our car waited multiple times for the gates to open, we were accosted by urchins in rags with torn plastic bags stuffed with cashew fruits and nuts clandestinely picked from the fenced farms. Everytime i took as much as possible from the lads as my heart melted seeing them running after queuing cars and bikes trying to sell the nuts for a fraction of what it could cost you in the market/stores.

In fact we have been to a cashewnut factory where groups of women sat in circles grading the cashew fruit, extracting the nut, drying, regrading by size either full or broken, and then finally weighing and packing. I have been searching for Chirala cashewnut factory images in the web in vain. Cashew pakoras and cashewnut halwa are naturally the greatest delights of Prakasam district. Something we must never miss out on! Literally gorged on them the 4 years!!!

FROM ILLUSTRIOUSNESS TO IGNONIMITY: COURSE OF THE BUCKINGHAM CANAL 

Driving down from Chirala town to its beach, we encountered what we can term as the humble ‘origins’ of Chennai’s infamous Buckingham Canal. Not origins really. But at this point, the canal flowed lush green and looked like a small rivulet. The canal also functioned as a good and viable inland waterways until independence.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buckingham_Canal

A main source of irrigation in the monsoon country during summer months, it is deplorable that the canal has degenerated into foul waterway of scum in recent decades, with the wastes dumped indiscriminately into its channel by a burgeoning metropolis, Chennai. The Buckingham canal and the Cooum river form a delta emptying near the city that is a precious ecological retreat today for many a kind of winged visitors.

THE PRISTINE EAST COAST OF INDIA 

Chirala beach is one of the loveliest and most unspoilt beaches I have ever visited in my life. Once we went there early morning and were witness to fresh sea catch from big lobters to prawns to crabs to sea fish brought in by local fishermen. My husband and his friends wanted a share in the catch and were ready to pay well. They had never seen anything so good, and my men are big seafood lovers. But we were told, some hotels and restaurants straight away booked the day’s fish. The fishermen were reluctant to oblige a few paltry tourists who would come and go now and then. They depended on loyal local customers. It was perfectly understandable.

It was the same with Ongole beach. One more beautiful beach though a bit crowded compared to completely deserted Chirala beach. After growing up with the local Marina crowds, I found the Andhra coast completely serene and totally relaxing.

The tsunami did hurt a little the beaches of Nellore (far from the town), Ongole and Chirala and a few lives were lost and some property damaged. Otherwise everything was fine.

In Andhra Pradesh, even in Ongole, for the first time after city dwelling, we had access to clean river water (for drinking), fresh unpolluted air – kinds of which are rare to find these days. Quality of life was very good. Cost of living was very much affordable. A big size dosa cost only 10 bucks in local restaurants and came with a variety of chutneys. Meals were again for a mere 10 bucks. Cashewnut was cheapest. Fruits were freshly plucked. Flowers like jasmine bloomed from every home.

No wonder in the 4 year period, many of our Bengali and other North Indian friends bought their homes in Ongole and Vijayawada, opting to settle down permanently in these places.

BAPATLA, THE GENESIS OF SOUTH INDIAN CINEMA 

Late film producer Rama Naidu’s grandson Rana Dagubatti starrer ‘Bahubali’ , grandest and most costliest picture ever to be made in Indian celluloid history, proved to be the Indian equivalent of Brad Pitt’s ‘Troy’ very recently. Rama Naidu was a rich agriculturist and under Madras Presidency, with harvested booty had arrived at good old Madras for realizing his most cherished dream of making pictures. He was one of the greatest producers of his times and his lineage continued with Venkatesh, his son and has now come to encompass the third generation. Under his banner, a number of films were made in the south starring N T Rama Rao, Nageshwar Rao etc.

Bapatla, his constituency, had a cinema belonging to his family and engineering college. Driving from Chirala parallel to the sea but a few kilometers inward and running parallel to NH-5 on the other side, you may arrive at scenic farming community town/village of Bapatla.

Many canals, some as wide as 20-30 feet, channelize the Krishna river water to these coastal farming villages that are fertile paddy fields.

Somewhere in the vicinity I spotted a dairy farm, owned by a local villager, benami for an Andhra politician.

Often it surprises me how this small village/town (cannot say what it is exactly) came to contribute immensely to south Indian film industry from the ’60s.

 NALLAMALA HILLS & SRI SAILAM

I have made a mention of Nallamala in many of my earlier posts. Nallamala hills are about 4 hours drive from Ongole. You have to take the exact opposite road to Chirala on the other (interior) side of NH-5 to begin the trip to Nallamala. On our route uphill to Nallamala, we came across the reputed granite quarries of Ongole, with mining operations underway in full swing.

Near the foothills, we were enchanted with the splendorous sight of tuar dal farms, flowering with tiny spectacular yellow blooms lending a beautiful array of colours to the panorama of green fields.

Wildlife of Nallamala hills need no introduction. Known for its tigers, the hills also host a museum dedicated to India’s national animal.

Had a hearty darshan of Shri Mallikarjuna (Shiva) sametha Smt. Brahmarambha. The temple is historic and it is said that Lord Ram visited the Linga with his wife Seetha during his ‘vanavaas.’ The panch pandavs also had supposedly paid their visits to the Shiva temple. There are stone inscriptions inscribed in the complex recording the visits of various rulers (kings) of the region to the holy shrine.  Legend has it that ‘Shiv Ratri’ observance started from here. Each and every temple tower (there are 4 flanked by tall granite walls) was built by a different Hindu king from the Cholas of Thamizh Nad to Chatrapathi Shivaji, of the Marathawad.

River Krishna is dammed in 3 places in Andhra Pradesh and Nallamala is the highest point it is dammed. Indira Gandhi undertook the project in her reign! Kudos to Indian Engineering! If you cross the river here, you may get access to Akkamma Devi temple, rock-cut, and perhaps the most ancient one in the entire world devoted to ‘the She power.’ We gave it a miss as we could go upto this spot only by ‘parisil’ the precarious cane-basket float.

VIJAYAWADA’S KANAKA DURGA

Vijayawada is a still further 150-200 km from Ongole, and like Ongole and Nellore, is situated away from the sea by a couple of tens of kilometers. Obvious reason being to save the town from the fury of North east monsoons every year.

The approach to Vijayawada by train from Chennai-Nellore-Ongole is unforgettable as the coach transports regally over the tracks on railbridge/barrage on the backwaters of Krishna river that form a delta with myriad small tributaries which all converge in the sea forming a vista of scenic backdrop. On one side is the train flying slow, drawing to a halt with the junction approaching, with the Bay of Bengal in the horizons … and on the left is the flush Krishna river teeming with a variety of fish and fauna (in years when the monsoon is bountiful)… and looming over the hanging bridge is the beautiful Mangalagiri hills over which the Kanaka Durga (the Golden Durga), mother goddess, one more avatar of Shakthi reigns supreme. Legend has it, if you pray sincerely for wealth at this temple, it shall come to you. Seemandhra prosperity, they say, is because of Her divine presence.

AMARAVATHI ENROUTE VIJAYAWADA-GUNTUR

Looping through the backside, we once arrived at Vijayawada thus. Both the coastal road and the NH-5 and even train journey once to the city have been memorable. On the left as I said is the flowing Krishna that’s receding, given it’s nearing the delta. If the season is good, there is leisure boating to the small island resort in the Krishna from the prosperous city of Vijayawada.

In Vijayawada, once I went to a Shakthi temple where Mother Goddess looked totally green. It was JADE, a single stone carving! Oh what a sight. I have promised to come and see Kanaka Durga in future. I shall when She wants me to.

Vijayawada and Guntur are twin cities branching off left and right from the same highway.

Vijayawada has great potential to become a state capital. No wonder Amaravathi, the new Seemandhra Capital will nestle between Vijayawada and Guntur. My only regret is for the inevitable damage to green cover. Because this is such a green belt that I would hate to be marred for development purposes.

NAGARJUNA SAGAR DAM & RESERVOIR 

Many friends picnicked here but somehow we missed it.

VIZAG,  A MISSED OPPORTUNITY

I have been upto Vijayawada but not to its twin city Guntur. Vishakhapatnam neither although it harbours literally a great port on the east coast. Vizag is forever waiting in the wings but never gets to fly, rue some friends.

All I know is ‘Saagara Sangamam’ (Salangai Oli) starring Kamal Hassan & Jaya Prada was filmed in the city. Love this number and rounding off my blog with sweet Maargazhi romance:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdQuri8F8vs

FOOTNOTE:

 

what affected me most in my Andhra days…

THE CLASSIC CASE OF LARGE SCALE CONVERSION IN ANDHRA PRADESH DURING CONGRESS REGIME AT CENTER & STATE

http://indiafacts.co.in/impact-joshua-project-india/

http://centreright.in/2011/12/andhra-jyothy-proselytizing-unlimited/#.VjImfbcrLIU

PLEASE DO NOT CLICK ON THE LINKS, OPEN TABS. And I have added just two well researched links but this must do. The list is endless. Any literary/scientific/cinema national awards returned? 

THE DUAL DEVILS Y S RAJASHEKHAR REDDY & SONIA GANDHI

As someone who has witnessed the conversion spree in Ongole, Nellore, Vijayawada and the surrounding villages/taluks with my own eyes during the 4-year period in Andhra, I have to say my pro-Hindutva posture stands vindicated. After the tsunami, entire villages were converted with mere 1000-2000 bucks distributed to the poor by foreign-sponsored churches with the help of local evangelists. Missionary activity is pretty active in Andhra and adjoining Orissa (and where not). They have reached far interior, you will never believe.

Even while retrieving pictures from Google images, some pictures I could see, were from ‘India Vision’ by foreign churches targeting select city/villages/taluks for conversion propaganda. The scale at which this is done is mind-boggling.

Today there are advices and warnings to the central BJP government from Indian media, Marxists and Intellectuals to ‘stem the rot’ before it gets out of hand. I am asking now the same BJP govt to ‘stem the rot’ – and in this case limitless, unexplained, unaccounted foreign fund flow to churches in India and hawala money to our bhais from middle-east that are igniting social tensions. Besides, would our media explain themselves why they have not done their investigative journalism when it comes to christian conversions in India? Deserves a PhD if you ask me. Any takers. I am directly challenging Indian Express, The Hindu, The Scroll etc to carry out research in every Indian city, district/taluk, village, assess the reach of church and publish exact conversion rates. With interviews from the converted. Not much, all I am asking for is last 10 year stats.

Kerala is almost entirely accomplished, Tamil Nadu and Andhra and Orissa are next on Church radar? Someone has to stop this and who else other than BJP can?

When Y S Rajashekhar Reddy, the congress CM who carried out the conversions in massive scale under the auspices of congress president Sonia Gandhi died in helicopter crash in Nallamala hills on summit  of which sit the Mallikarjuna Shiva temple and also a Venkateshwara temple, my Andhra friends said, Shiva punished him and saw to that not even a single bone or a pound of his flesh could be recovered for burial (YSR being christian) for the atrocities he so ‘innocently’ committed in the state. It was during his time that the evangelists got emboldened enough to infiltrate even the Tirumala darshan queues, bribe the poor waiting for darshan, pull them out and convert. They stopped at nothing. LAKHS AND LAKHS OF CONVERSION. 3 Maids worked for us in Andhra between 2001 and 2005 – and all 3 converted to christianity for after all 3000-5000 bucks right in front of our eyes. Preachers shadowed them day and night, in case they changed their minds. After disbursal of cash, threat worked. Now the poor families were indebted to the church that financed them. Sunday church became a ritual they could not miss in matter of days on conversion or else they stood to be dragged to service by zealous pastors. Not a figment of my imagination. This is what I witnessed personally. Firsthand information. Seemandhra and Telengana both are afflicted by the plague called ‘conversion’ and to fight the scourge will not be easy.

This video that I have added in other posts in my blog is a mere sample (of grander schemes):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-YCY8voabkg

NAIDU’S INHERITANCE:

So this is finally Chandra Babu Naidu’s inheritance as chief minister of Seemandhra for a second term. His plans for Amaravathi seem bold and ambitious, but my request would be to ensure that the green cover of Andhra does not shrink or suffer further in the process. Industrial development has to go hand in hand with innovations and investments in Information Technology. No doubt, Amaravathi will rise as foremost IT center in India in near future, knowing what Naidu did with Hyderabad aka Cyberabad. Agriculture in Andhra is under severe stress, for want of irrigation facilities. Poverty and illiteracy still characterize large swathes of the population. Interior Andhra is worst-hit. It will not be cakewalk for KCR either who heads the new and impoverished Telengana state. Very shortly, his admirers could turn against him if something concrete does not materialize in near future. The rural peasants have been waiting since long. Compared to KCR, Naidu is lucky to win a bountiful ‘Seemandhra’ which lacks for nothing, being the most fertile region in entire Andhra Pradesh. Not only is the state already well developed, it is also effectively connected to rest of India and the world. It has a very mature and literate population. Seemandhra is very much self-sufficient and self-sustaining by nature except for oil & gas, just like India as a nation is. The same does not hold good for Telengana, its poorer cousin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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