Amararama – Amaravati
Amaravati is a historic pilgrimage center and a storehouse of ancient Buddhist sculpture. Amaravati is home to the Amareswara temple which constitutes one of the five Pancharama temples of Andhra Pradesh sacred to Shiva, the other four being Kumararama (Kotipalli), Ksheerarama and Bheemarama and Draksharama. Amaravati is located about 15 miles away from Guntur near Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh.
The temple of Lord Amareswara located on the banks of river Krishna, is rich in Dravidian and Buddist architectures. The Lingam is 15 feet high, carved out of marble. The city was named Amaravati after Indra’s capital here. Tradition says that Indra and Devas had worshipped the Lord here. Goddess Shakthi is worshipped as Bala Chamundika Devi.
The white Linga is quite unique and the priests have to ascend the steps for offering abhishekam. As the name Amaravati implies, legend has it that Amaravati was once the abode of the Gods – the Devas, the yakshas and the kinnaras, who performed penances to Shiva to request him to rid the earth of the mighty demon Tarakasura.
Legend has it that Shiva’s son Subramanya vanquished the demon. It is believed that the Shivalingam that shattered Into five pieces was a huge one, and the biggest of the five pieces is a fifteen foot long column of white marble which is worshipped as Amareswara at the Amaravati temple (this is very similar to the Shivalingam at the Draksharama temple). Legend has it that it was installed by Indra the king of the Devas, Brihaspati the guru of the Devas and Sukra the preceptor of the Asuras.
The Amaravati temple is located on a small hillock referred to as Krouncha Shaila, alongside the river Krishna which flows for a short distance in a North-Southerly direction, although for the most part, the river heads eastwards towards the ocean. The river Krishna is held in reverence at this pilgrimage site, and a ritual dip in this river here is considered to be meritorious.
The temple has ancient origins, however the structural foundations as seen today, seem to date back to the 11th century CE. The Vijayanagar kings did provide grants to maintain the temple. However it was the local kings of the 18th century CE that provided vast endowments to this temple. The temple is decorated with four lofty gopurams in its outer circumambulatory path.
Draksharama – Draksharamam
Draksharamam is a shaivite shrine 185 km. from Vijayawada, 17 km. from Kakinada, 40 km. from Rajahmundry and 466 km. from Hyderabad. Draksharama is considered to be one of the five Arama kshetras dedicated to Lord Shiva. This is located in East Godavari District near Kakinada. The place also known as “Dakshina Kasi” (Southern Banaras) along with SreeSailam and Kaleswara constitute the three sacred Shivalingams of the State, giving its ancient name “Trilinga Desa”.
The Bhimeswara temple at Draksharama has two prakaras. The inscriptions here suggest that the temple was built by Bhima, the Eastern Chalukyan King of Vengi(9th -10th centuries), when his kingdom was under attack by the Rashtrakootas. The temple art thus shows the influence of a blend of sculptural traditions of Chalukya and Chola styles.
The temple has four entrances in the outer prakara each marked with a gopuram, facing the four cardinal directions. On the south is the entrance to the inner prakara, which is lined by a pillared two-storeyed verandah.
The main temple is twin storeyed. Two flights of stairs lead us into the upper level of the sanctum. This has a pillared pradakshina on three sides and a Garbhagriha. Bhimeswara is enshrined in the form of a ten feet high Shivalingam in this Garbhagriha. Another feature of the temple is the narrow mantapam that is seen in the premises. Shiva’s consort here is Manikyamba. The temple walls and pillars are decoratively carved with mythological figures.
Legend has it that the Saptamaharishis (Seven Sages) to achieve the ends of their penance divided the akhanda (unbranched) Godavari river into seven different streams at Draskharama. Bharadhwaja, Viswamitra and Jamadagni streams known as Antarvahinies, were believed to have gone under ground. There is Sapta Godavari Kundam (Seven river pond) near the temple where the devotees bathe. Sivarathri attracts huge crowds of pilgrims.
Once Daksha Prajapathi decided to perform a Yaga. In pursuance of the same, he had been to Kailasa to invite Gods and Goddesses to sanctify his ‘Yazna’ and accept his hospitality. But when he had been there, Lord Siva was in his Court immersed in his spiritual splendour. But Daksha Prajapathi out of his ego of being the father-in-law of Lord Siva, mistook the Lord’s trance as indifference towards him. So, being put out at the difference of his Son-in-law he came back without inviting the Lord and the Lady to his sacrifice.
Sati in her womanish nature requested Siva to permit her to attend, the sacrifice at her parental home, even uninvited and have the pleasure of the performance and the association of her kith and kin. But Siva explained her the tragic implications that she might have to face at her parental house and let her to at her own wish. But, when she actually stepped into her parental home, none greeted her or even just asked her a mutual exchange of her well-being. Then Sathi was put out with the humiliation she had to face amidst her own blood and then and there, decided to give up her body instead of facing her beloved husband with a fallen face. So, she gave up her body then and there and fell down dead. Siva having come to know of the tragic end, sent his son ‘Veerabhadra’ to boot down the ego of Daksha.
Siva in his pangs of separation with Sati came down to her dead body and shoultered the corpse over his shoulders and danced in ‘Pralaya Thandava’. At this juncture, the Lord Vishnu, the presenting, force of Universe, sent his ‘Chakra’ to cut down the body of Sathi and redeem the grief of Lord Siva. The Chakra came and cut the body of Sati into eighteen pieces feel in eighteen parts of this ‘Punyabhoomi’ of ours and came to be known as ‘Ashta Dasa Peethas’ and out of these eighteen Sri Manikyamba of Draksharama is the Twelfth.
It is said that Kartikeya, the son of Lord Shiva has killed the demon Tarakasura, on the request of the gods. The Shivalinga in the throat of this ardent devotee of Shiva, Tarakasura, is said to have fell in five different places that became the “Panchaarama Kshetras”. They are Draksharama, Komararama, Ksheerarama, Bheemarama and Amararama. It is also said that the linga here was later installed by Vedavyasa.
Another legend says that the three demons Taarakaaksha, Kamalaaksha and Vidyunmaali, who were the children of Tarakasura, have obtained the boon of death by the arrow that could set afire their three cities at once. Finally after the Tripura Samharam, when they were killed by Lord Shiva, all that is said to remain was the Panchaarama lingas.
Famous Telugu poet Srinatha is said to have written Prabandha Kavya Bhimakhanda about this sacred place.
Bheemarama – Samalkot
Samalkot is located at a distance of 12 km from Kakinada, 52 Km from Rajahmundry in East Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh, which now forms part of Samalkot town, is known as Bhimavara Kshetram with its famous temple of Kumararama – Bhimesvara. The village was known in the past as Chalukya Bhimavaram according to the inscriptions found in the temple.
The temple known as Kumararama at Bhimavaram in Samalkot is one among the five important and popular ‘Pancharama’ temples of Andhra. The other four temples dedicated to Siva are Amararama at Amaravati (Dist. Guntur), Daksharama at Daksharama (Dist. East Godavari), Kshirarama at Palakollu and Somarama at Gunupudi – Bhimavaram (both in Dist. West Godavari). There is an episode on the origin of these ‘Pancharamas’ which is also found in ‘Bhimesvarapurana’ written by Srinatha (AD 14th – 15th Century).
According to it, Lord Vishnu, in his charming and fascinating incarnation of Mohini started distributing the nectar (amrita) obtained after the hazardous churning of the ocean to both the demons (asuras) and divined (devas) Dissatisfied with the injustice meted out to them in the manner of distribution of nectar, the asuras lead by the lords of Tripuras resorted to severe penance on the advice of the celestial sage Narada and were blessed with boons by Lord Siva. Thus with the power newly acquired through the boons, they inflicted atrocities on the devas, who sought refuge with Lord Siva.
On hearing the pitiable plea of the devas, Siva killed the asuras with his infallible Pasupata (a spiritual weapon of flame), which reduced them and their kingdoms to ashes. This material aspect of Siva is better known as Tripurantaka. However, a huge stone linga, worshipped by Tripuras, remained intact after the encounter. This was cut into five lingas by Lord himself and distributed for the purpose of installing at five different places which came to be locally known as Pancharams.
According to the inscription at Pithapuram, it is very clear that the temple of Kumaram Chalukya Bhimesvara was constructed by the famous Eastern Chalukya king Chalukya Bhima-I towards the end of the 9th century AD and the presiding god Siva, in the form of tall Sivalinga, was named after the monarch as Chalukya Bhimesvara. The inscription states that Chalukya Bhima, the son of Vikramaditya having been victorious in three hundred and sixty battles ruled the earth for thirty years.
The Bhimesvara temple at Samalkot is similar in architecture to that of the Bhimesvara temple at Daksharama. The temple is surrounded by two prakara walls built of dressed sand stones. The outer prakara wall is pierced by gopura – entrance on all the four sides. The four gopura – dvaras have ardha – mandapas on either side. The inner enclosure wall is divided horizontally into two sections separated by a cornice. It has a two storeyed pillared mandapa running all the inner side.
The main shrine is a free standing monument lying at the center of the inner enclosure. The temple is a rectangular structure and has two storeys. The lime stone Linga, installed in the shrine, is so tall that it rises from the pedestal on the ground floor and enters the second floor by piercing the roof, where the Rudrabhaga is worshipped. The present Vimana of the main shrine has been renovated and is covered with thick plaster. It consists of flat pattas, row of geese kutas, salas, simhalalatas, lotuses and kalasa. It is a dvitala vimana of the dravida order with regional variations.
Like in Daksharama, a miniature temple model, found in the court yard of the temple, shows the whole temple with all the architectural details, possibly used as model before erecting the temple ranging from AD 1147 to 1494, recording gifts made to this temple. These epigraphs refer to the construction of mukhamandapa at the Eastern entrance in AD 1394. Further the erection of the additional structures like Srimukhamandapam and niluvu mandapam on top of it in AD 1422 are also mentioned in the inscriptions.
Ksheerarama – Paalakollu
Ksheeraramam, also known as Paalakollu is located near Narasapuram in the West Godavari belt of Andhra Pradesh. It is considered to be one of the five pancharama Shiva shrines of Andhra Pradesh. the five pancharama temples are Draksharama, Kumararama, Ksheerarama and Bheemarama and Amararama.
Legend has it that Upamanyu, the son of Kaushika muni requested Shiva that he be granted the desired quantity of milk for the performance of his daily rituals and that Shiva caused the Ksheera Pushkarini tank to overflow with milk from the mythical Ksheera Saagaram (the milky ocean). Hence the names Paalakollu, Dugdapovanam and Ksheeraramam.
Legend has it that Shiva was worshipped by Rama at this shrine as in Rameswaram.
The white marble Shivalingam worshipped in the sanctum is referred to as Ramalingeswara Swami as well as Ksheeraraameswaraswamy. Built during the 10th-llth centuries A.D. by the Chalukyas, it represents the south Indian style and has a 9-storey gopuram that soars 125 feet, one of the tallest in Andhra Pradesh. Colourful images and sculptures of various deities are engraved on the walls and can also be seen inside the temple complex.
20 Kms from Palakollu is the Natta Rameshwaram temple, where the Lingam is made of shells & conches is worth a visit.
Kumararama – Kotipalli
Someswaram or Kotipalli (Kumararama) is an important pilgrimage center in coastal Andhra Pradesh, located near Rajahmundry. Located nearby is Drakshaaraama, Kotipalli or Kumararama is regarded as one of the the five pancharama temples are Draksharama, Kumararama, Ksheerarama and Bheemarama and Amararama. It is situated on the Bank of River Godavari according to Brahmanda Puranam and Gowthami Mahatyam, here three famous idols are situated by Lord Indra, Lord Chandra and Kasyapa Maharshi.
Siddhi Janardhana Swamy along with Sridevi and Bhudevi were established as Kshetra Palaka by Kasyapa Maharshi. Lord Indra in order to wash out His sin He founded Koteswara Lingam along with Amma varu. Further Lord Chandra established Someswara Lingam with Raja Rajeswari Amma varu to wash out his sin.
The Holy River is very famous for its sacred water it was brought by Gowtham Maharshi. If any person take a bath in these Holy Water of Gowthami at Kotipalli will purify himself from all kinds of sins. It was written in Sri Gowthami Mahatyam. It is also known as Koti Teertha Kshetram as a number of water currents are flowing in these waters. A holy dip in Gowthami waters at this Kshetram is very famous for the removal of sins completely. Here there is no difference between Lord Vishnu and Lord Siva. Koteswara Lingam is a Yoga Lingam, Someswara Lingam is a Bhoga Lingam. Raja Rajeswari Amma varu is famous for satisfying the wishes of Devotees.
once upon a time it was called as Somaprabhapuram. There is a big water tank in front of the temple which is known as Soma Puskarini. In the premises of the temple there are 4 Pradakshina Mandapams, in the Northern Mandapam Kalabhairava Swamy temple and Sankaracharya Mandir along with Chandra Mouliswara Lingam, further Navagrapha temple along with Uma Sametha Mruthyunja Lingam are situated.
For time immemorial it has been believed that a ritual bath in the river Godavari at Kotipalli is symbolic of a new beginning in life, a change in direction. The most classic of these legends is that of Ahalya-Indra saapa vimochanam. This legend occurs in the grand epic Ramayana. Gowtama believed to be one of the foremost rishis of ancient India was married to Ahalya. Indra the king of the Devas lusted after Ahalya and using a ploy, diverted Gowtama and assuming the disguise of Gowtama led Ahalya in his embrace. An enraged rishi cursed his wife who petrified into a rock immediately and was absolved of her curse by Rama (incarnation of Vishnu). Indra the king of Devas was cursed with a life of disease. Legend has it that he lived through his curse and performed severe penances (at the instance of Gowtama rishi) and finally was absolved of his curse and forgiven when his penance concluded with a ritual dip in the Godavari river at Someswaram.
It should be noted that Bhimavaram in West Godavari district also bears a temple dedicated to Someswara and it is also considered to be Somaramam. This temple is of historic significance as it was patronized to a great deal by the Chalukyas. This temple is associated clearly with legends related to the moon God Soma. The temple tank here is known as Chandra Pushkarini. The Someswara lingam (crystal) is said to glow with differing levels of brightness depending on the phase of the moon. Ths Shivalingam is 5 feet in height and is housed in a two storeyed sanctum, with Annapurna – Parvati on the 2nd floor.
Somarama – Bhimavaram
Bhimavaram is located 107 Kms from Vijayawada & 270 Kms from Visakhapatanam. Bhimavaram is famous for the Gunupudi Someswara (Somarama) temple, which is considered to be one of the holy Pancharamas. Built during the 3rd century A.D., the Shivalinga in the temple is believed to assume a black-cum-brown colour on no-moon day and a kind of white on full-moon day.
Another unique feature here, is that the temple of Goddess Annapurna was built on top of the Shiva temple, something that cannot be seen anywhere in the country. Surprisingly, the Goddess has the sacred thread around her neck and a baby near her feet.
Other places in Bhimavaram that are of interest to tourists are the Jain temple at Peda Amiram and Mavullamma (Goddess Shakti) temple.