On the banks of the culturally and agriculturally significant Krishna River, Vijayawada aka the “place of victory” thrives as the business capital of the state of Andhra Pradesh. This city in Krishna district, not only basks in the beauty of its hills and canals but also abounds with mythological and historical legacies. Here is a glimpse of the places of interest in (and around) Vijayawada. While you are reading ‘Vijayawada- 5 Must Dos’, don’t miss to note down about the street art all around the city and the amazing spicy chutneys, pickle and Andhra thaali available all over the city.
Vijayawada- 5 Must Dos
The article was first published in inflight magazine of Spice Jet Airlines in September. Also, I must thank Savaari Car Rentals for collaborating with me to explore Vijayawada and around.
Pray at the Kanaka Durga Temple
This temple is considered extremely sacred and powerful. Perched on the Indrakeeladri hill, Kanaka Durga is the most loved and revered deity of the city. It is believed that one of her devotees took the form of a hill and requested her to stay here as a Swayambhu (or self-manifested image) in Triteeya Kalpa. The legends say that it was here that the Goddess trampled Mahishasura and put an end to the growing menace of the demon. Soon after, Lord Shiva chose his abode on the adjacent hillock and came to be worshiped as Malleswara Swamy. The Shaktipeetham, 4-foot-high icon of the deity, with her eight arms, decked with ornaments and flowers, defines the epitome of beauty, grace and strength. The architecture of the temple is a perfect example of Dravidian style of architecture. With inscriptions dated 9th to 16th century, the legacies of the temple find a mention in our scriptures too. The nine-day festival of Navaratri and especially the last day, Vijaya Dasami is celebrated with great enthusiasm and the temple witnesses a massive footfall during that time of the year. Whenever you are in the city, you must visit Kanaka Durga temple and offer your prayers. The evenings are best here. You may hike up the hill or take a lift to the main temple. There are paid and free queues, both. Though the paid queues help you with easy and closer access to the idol, I went for the free one.
Explore the historic Undavalli Caves
Not far from the main city, a small hamlet called Undavalli tells its own tales. It garners attention for its feisty rock cut caves and intriguing sculptures, inside. The area has many small caves but this four-storied one sits high on everyone’s list. While these monolithic caves leave us spell-bound with India’s rock cut architectural and craftsmanship feats, some of its giant carvings of saints and mythological animal fill you with quest. You may wonder, why were the pillared structures on the ground floor left unfinished? What was this structure supposed to be? The remarkable influence of Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism makes the trip to the caves all the more thrilling. Some say the structure was supposed to be a resting place of Buddhist monks (monastery), others believe it to be a shrine that could not be completed, and there are theories which say that it resembles an abode for the Thirthankaras. As you explore these time-honored caves from one level to another through make-shift stairs, you are left awestruck at the sight of the marvelous carvings of Lord Vishnu, Lord Ganesha, the trinity Gods and many indecipherable murals. The front façade is absolutely impressive and the top floor offers beautiful views of Krishna River and countryside greens. Just 6 kilometers away from Vijayawada, this rock cut beauty of 6th century is unmissable.
Marvel at the Prakasam Barrage
It is one of Vijayawada’s pride and undoubtedly the favorite of the locals. With more than 120 pillars and 76 gates, this Venetian styled barrage connects the Krishna and Guntur district while enjoying the magnificent views of the Krishna River, day and night. While it serves as a road, its main purpose is to provide water for irrigation purpose. This is definitely one of the most successful irrigation projects of South India and the agricultural richness of the region is attributed to the barrage. During the rainy season when the water bodies overflow, it releases the excess water in the sea and diverts the needful to the fields. Tourists as well as locals often visit the barrage to marvel at the spectacular views of the Bhavani Island and Krishna River. The barrage was named in the honor of Sri Tanguturi Prakasam, the first Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh and 60 years of this engineering feat was recently celebrated in the year 2017. On a breezy evening, it calls for a drive-in. The barrage has been the talk of the town ever since it has been illuminated by colourful lights by APTDC during evening time.
Take a trip to the Kondapalli Fort
Kondapalli is a treat for history lovers. Built by the short lived Reddy Dynasty, Kondapalli fort is old but impressive. Built as a recreational and business center, it was eyed by several kingdoms. It changed many hands between Bahamanis, Gajapatis, Vijaynagaras and Qutb Shahis before the British made it a military training base. The Ghat road that leads to the fort is pretty scenic. A 2 kilometers trek takes you to the fort. Once inside, it is almost like turning the pages of history. You must look for the Tanisha Mahal, Gajashala, Darbar hall, Rani Mahal, Tope Khana, Dancing hall, Arched hall, Dargah Darwazah, Golconda Darwaza. The fort had been in ruins, thus conducive efforts are being made to revive the grandeur and glory of this South Indian heritage. After exploring the fort, don’t forget to meet the local artisans who make world-famous ‘Kondapalli Bommalu (or Toys), which are rich in Indian motifs.
Pick up a colourful Mangalagiri cotton sari
This makes for the most authentic travel souvenir for friends and family. The Indian handloom is renowned globally and if you have a chance to grab one from the humble abode of the weavers, just go for it. Mangalagiri sarees and suit materials are very popular in Andhra Pradesh. The simplicity of the design and the tough quality of cotton makes it popular among the saree lovers. The loom and the fabric have been named after the place, Mangalagiri and the engravings found there suggest that weaving has been a prime occupation for more than five centuries. The use of zari or gold colored patterns on the border and no woven designs on the body are the most distinctive features about these mangalagiri sarees. Some special designs may carry typical tribal embellishments on the edges (pallu). The distance between Mangalgiri and Vijayawada is 14 kilometers.