Nestled between the sunlit waters of the Godavari River and dense forested hills of the Eastern Ghats, Dindi reflects a gem-like beauty
I’m euphoric as we alight at Vijayawada Junction at 4.45 in the evening, having boarded the Mysore-Howrah Express from Bengaluru at 3.10 in the morning. I rummage through my treasure chest of memories, of how my siblings and I would look forward to the approach of Vijayawada while travelling from Delhi to Chennai (then Madras) on our annual vacation. We loved to watch a swelling Krishna river and throw coins into it as the train slowly chugged on the bridge over it, and will ourselves to believe the coppers hit the waters.
Vijayawada is our entry point for Palakollu and Dindi, the riverside Andhra Pradesh village which is our holiday destination. We have 10 hours to get our connecting train from here, the Tirupathi-Narsapur Express departing for Palakollu at an unearthly 2.35 am. We book ourselves into a hotel close by and visit the Gandhi Hill, one of Vijayawada’s landmarks. The station is a beehive of activity as coolies rush into the carriages of trains that have just pulled in. They emerge carrying mountains of baggage on their heads and move across the engulfing tide with deftness that comes with practice, while we dodge the human melee to match their brisk pace.
Sun is yet to make its appearance on the horizon as we reach Palakollu at 5.40 am. The town is one of the five Pancharamams associated with Andhra Pradesh. Legend has it that when Lord Kartik slayed Tarakasura, the demon, the Shiv Ling in his throat broke and fell in five different spots, giving rise to the Pancharama Kshetras. We exit the station and hit the road. It is apparent that Telugu-ites are early risers. The streets of Palakollu are already choked with vehicles, forcing their way to the clamour of horns while bullock carts creak beneath mounds of merchandise they carry.
Dindi is completely pastoral, and winsomely so. Nestled between Godavari and the dense forested hills of the Eastern Ghats, it reflects a gem-like beauty and enchants us with its beguiling charm.
leisurely cruise on the placid Godavari tops our itinerary. Flashes of lively colours flit through the waters as our boat bobs happily on the river. Speed boats leaving frothy trails of water whiz past us and anglers with large nets dot the banks, waiting to make their prized catch. We greedily gulp in mouthfuls of virgin air and enjoy the ceaseless symphony of the Godavari.
The Chinchinada Bridge at Dindi looms grandly over us as we navigate the Godavari. Interestingly, where the bridge makes its gentle descent to merge with the highway, fisherwomen beckon passersby with their Piscean catch, especially the prized pulasa, or hilsa of Bengal. We strike conversation with one of them who tells us that Narsapur, the birth place of megastar Chiranjeevi, born Konidela Siva Sankara Vara Prasad, is one of the few places where the creatures swim upriver from the sea during the monsoons to lay their eggs. Following some bargaining, fish lovers walk away with the tora, roop sanduva and tilawati, a carp species perhaps.
While we are in Dindi, we visit several places that are within a radius of 60 km from it,most of them temples — Penugonda, Ryali, Narsapur, among others. We drive between endless acres of lush green fields juxtaposing coconut and banana groves. Colossal palm trees add to the verdure, giving rise to one long green tunnel.
Antarvedi, a small village situated at the confluence of Vasisht and the Bay of Bengal, entices us with its ancient monuments and beach. We visit the ancient temples of Lakshmi Narasimha, Vasishta Sevashram and, the Neelakanteshwara Shivalayam, supposedly established by Brahma himself.
The Buddhist Site at Adurru and Draksharamam are also on our itinerary. The well-manicured lawns at Adurru throw up ruins of what was once a thriving Buddhist area. The half-broken stupa at the centre bears testimony to this. We make a slight digression on our way to Draksharamam, to visit the 2,000-year old Siddhi Vinayak Temple at Ainavalli. It is lunch time as we pay our obeisance to the various deities. With much gusto, we experience the culinary authenticity of Andhra as we partake of simple meals here. Our visit to Narsapur is particularly interesting. We ferry across a narrowwaterway to reach the town, famed for lace and two ancient temples. At the entrance to the Adi Kesava Emberuman Temple, a replica of the Ramanuja Temple at Sriperumbudur, Chennai, we meet a local school teacher who highlights features of the ancient shrine and suggests we visit the Lakshmaneshwar Temple. A unique aspect of the linga here is its white colour, claimed to have been installed by Lakshman of the epic Ramayana.
The tower of Kanyaka Paremeshwari Temple at Penugonda is a sculptural beauty while the Kesava Jaganmohini idol in Ryali is unique in that it has a self-manifested idol of Vishnu on the front and Mohini on the observe! We wind up our holiday with a visit to Dwaraka Tirumala, a splendid Tirupathi-look-alike with its all-powerful Balaji.
As dusk drapes its veil over Dindi, the region is impregnated with silence. The placid flow of the Godavari and the gusty breeze are harmonious with the gibbous moon which is playing peek-a-boo with the translucent clouds. We are lulled to blissful sleep with images of scenic vistas of Dindi and the friendly villagers of Andhra who endear themselves to us with their warm disposition.