Sunday, August 17, 2014

Anantapur District - Day 01

An early morning breeze rushed through the half open window of my car, in which myself, my mother and my wife were traveling towards Anantapur district. In three days (July 27, 28 and 29), I was to cover as much as I could in the district of Anantapur that I had researched before the travel day.

A few months ago, my mother expressed her desire to visit Lepakshi and other parts of Andhra. Having not traveled much in Andhra myself, I thought this would be a good opportunity to expand my district wise travel research beyond Karnataka. On July 27th, a Sunday, at around 6:30 AM we left Bangalore and headed towards Lepakshi on NH7. On our way, we stopped for breakfast at the Kamath restaurant where I always prefer to have Raggi dosa. Lepakshi, is a left deviation on NH7 as soon as you cross the state border. Well maintained signage will guide you to this small town of Lepakshi. We directly headed to the Veerabadhra temple. As I have covered this place in detail, in one of my earlier posts, I shall skip duplication and for further reading would guide you Here.

After a quick tour around the temple, we continued our journey ahead. Our next stop - Penukonda. To Penukonda, you have to get back on NH7 and continue on Bangalore-Hyderabad road which is in fantastic condition. Like to every town, you need to take exits on the NH7 to get to this town. Before you hit the main town, a left deviation would lead you to the fort. Tar road ended almost at the base of the hill and rest of the journey uphill are on mud road filled with small stones. After a little apprehension, we finally decided to go up and see what we shall find. And what we did, bowled us. A full fledged ancient city in ruins. The remains of the market place, kalyani (Pond), temples, and magnificent entrance made us feel thrilled and sad, both at the same time. Being the only ones up there and exploring the abandoned city by ourselves made us feel like we were on a journey to the past. I imagined how a kingdom would have once flourished here and how thriving with life this place would have then been. The fort was built during the Vijayangar empire and then taken over by several other rulers who attacked India.

After a nice time spent atop the hill, we drove back to the town. Here, we saw a few ancient architecture being excavated, renovated and preserved by the Indian archeology department. Amongst these were the following - 

Thimmarusu Jail

Water Tank

Basavanna Well!

Jain Temple being renovated

Gagan Mahal (Vijaynagar Architecture with islamic details)

Rama Temple

Shiva Temple

Gagan mahal and the temples were closed. Penukonda means a big hill and it is said that it had once housed 365 temples; perhaps one for each day. But sadly a handful still exists and rest are all in ruins.

We headed back to the town and enquired for Vegetarian restaurants. We were directed towards Hotel Vaishali located on the junction where the bypass road meets NH7. This place has both veg and non-veg food though. We settled in for a veg meal that included Chapati, rice, Chutney, Sabji,  Pappu, and more Pappu. A andhra meal is never complete without a Pappu, which is the local variant of Dal. The food was spicy and delicious. 

After lunch we headed towards Dharmavaram. Straight on NH7 until you see a sign with right deviation. Driving off the NH7 was a welcoming change. The roads took us closer to the villages and well cultivated fields. However, at Dharmavaram, the entire town seemed to be closed on this Sunday afternoon. We headed to the saree and leather puppet stores and after following several narrow streets ended up between closed shops. Well, they don’t seem to work on sundays here; not a single saree store! So we decided to revisit Dharmavaram during our return journey and continued our travel to Anantapura.

Anantapura, is the biggest city in this district and at it's cetner is a clock tower, surrounding which are the busy streets and crowded shops. Pretty much everything is in the four roads that meet the clock tower. We settled in at Namma lodge very close to the clock tower. I choose this place because it looked fairly descent, it was on a cross road and most importantly had car parking in front of the lodge which was guarded. It is also easy to communicate in Andhra, as most of them can understand or speak Hindi. 

After freshening up we drove to ISKON temple. To reach the temple, head back to NH7 and drive towards Hyderabad. In about 5kms you shall find the temple on your right side. The beautiful pink coloured, chariot shaped temple architecture added charm to the plain lands. In an hour or more that we spent there, we witnessed pooja, bhajans, and lot of devotion. It was not very crowded and everyone smiled a lot as they prayed to Lord Krishna, which seemed to fill the place with lot of positive energy. 

We drove back to the hotel, parked the car and decided to walk around a little. Had dinner at a Vegetarian restaurant. We enjoyed some Pessarat; a variety of Dosa special to Andhra. We bought some Karachi biscuits from a  local store close to the clock tower before returning to our room and calling it a day.

Continued Here Ananatapur District- Day 02

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