So it was my first weekend in Vijayawada and I went around exploring three popular places of the city – Kanaka Durga Temple, Prakasham Barrage and Gandhi Hill. If you have had a chance to read my last blog, you would know that my acquaintance with this city is situational and I am enjoying my short stint here. For a North Indian, every little introduction to South India is always refreshing. And someone like me who loves waking up to idlis and dosas over puffed puris and paranthas, I see no reason to complain. In the first week, it has been fun trying to get a hang of damn spicy food of the state of Andhra Pradesh.
Essence of KanakDurga Temple
Situated atop Indrakeeladri hill, on the banks of the River Krishna, Kanaka Durga Temple is often associated with the origin of the city. It is counted among one of the Shakipeeths and boasts of a Durga idol with eight arms, one of her forms when she took over the demon Mahisasura. The temple is an example of a masterpiece of Dravidian style architecture. This temple of Goddess Durga is not only very popular among the locals, but it also occupies a very important mention in our scriptures. I wanted to begin my exploration of the city from here and so I did. The idol of Goddess Durga is endearing and I definitely felt blessed.
I am disappointed that I have no pictures of mine, from the temple. The instructions said “no mobile phones allowed” and thus I submitted my cell phone near the entrance. However, when I reached on the top, ( there is a lift that takes you on the 7th floor), I saw most of the people had carried their phones. Aah, there I realized, you really don’t have take it seriously. So I can conclude cell phones are allowed, maybe not cameras.
In my next visit, I am definitely taking it with me. Overall, the experience of the temple was nice. I opted to join a free queue and hence it was a little time-taking. There are three more easy ways of accessing the Goddess (pay Rs. 100, Rs. 300, Rs. 500). I have never understood this differential payment concept, but I am not sure it will ever change. However, there is one thing that I would prefer to change is that all the sign boards inside the temple should have translated information in Hindi and English as well. It becomes very difficult for people from other states to comprehend Telegu. We should make it more easy and relatable for tourists from all parts of the world.
The Well-Lit Prakasham Barrage
After spending an hour at the temple, I walked down towards the popular barrage of the city. I could see it twinkling from far away. The best part is that it is very close to Kanaka Durga Temple, so you can simply walk down from the temple, cross the road and see it in its night avatar. Yes, its different from the day.
Now this barrage is a very interesting structure and can be called an engineering feat too. Not only it helps to provide water to 13.5 lakh acres of area every year, this road bridge also connects Krishna and Guntur districts. It is listed among one of the major irrigation projects of South India. Most of the agricultural land in and around has survived because of this, since 1957 when it was completed. I was curious around its name and learned that it is called so after one of the former Chief Minister, Sri. Tanguturi Prakasham Pantulu.
From a temporary barrage on Krishna delta, made by Sir Arthur Cotton, it has become to be a huge barrage with 70 gates. I was told that the views are amazing in the night and sure they are. I have still not had a chance to take a drive across it but I will doing it soon. It looks lovely when its completely lit. I could see there were steps to the ghat. One can get down and enjoy some breeze. What I really liked about the barrage that it is old but looks mighty strong and sturdy. It makes an attraction for the locals to take a break from the city and enjoy the proximity with Krishna river. And the light show in the night adds much more character to it.
Sunday Evening at Gandhi Hill
The heat waves are strong in the day, so evenings are the only time when you can head out. On Sunday, first we decided to go to Undavalli caves but by the time, we booked cabs and all, it was pretty late and its open only till 5:30 p.m. So I dropped the plan and suggested to go to Gandhi Hill. The change of plan worked out really well. So as the name suggest Gandhi Hill is basically a hill, situated behind the Vijayawada railway station in the Tarapet area. There is a park on the top, a Gandhi memorial, a cute little track where a toy train runs around and a tunnel. But what nobody emphasizes on are the amazing 360 degree views of the city. Maybe its not very exciting for the locals but I actually loved it from photography point of view. And the 10 minute toy train ride was absolute fun. I liked the Warli art on the walls around the park. I think the gorvernment is trying to maintain it but they really need to do more to attract tourists. This place has lots of potential for sure.
There is a proper road and thus it is easy to drive up the hill. We hired a taxi and it dropped us near the park. To reach the stupa, we had to take some stairs. It is the first Gandhi Memorial with 7 stupas in the country. I had heard there is planetarium but I couldn’t see it. Well, its a good place to spend an evening. It was good to identify the landmarks of the city from an aerial view. The railway station, the prakasham barrage, the Kanak Durga temple, Krishna river could be seen. And of course, the whole city looked so colorful and cheerful.