Gódávari/Gazetteer/Bhadráchalam Taluk

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BHADRÁCHALAM taluk runs along the left bank of the Gódávari above the Gháts, by which it is cut off from the rest of the district. It is intersected by the Saveri, an important tributary joining the Gódávari at Kunnavaram. Owing to its position beyond the Gháts its climatic conditions are rather different from those of most of the district. The variations in temperature are greater, and the rainfall, which is almost all brought by the south-west monsoon, is 43'39 inches at Bhadráchalam, a high record for this district, and probably much greater in other parts of the taluk. The officer who drew up the working-plans for the Rékapalle forests inferred 'from an examination of the undergrowth and the general factors of that locality that 70 inches would be a closer estimate ' of the annual rainfall among them. The taluk is for the most part covered with low hills and forest. Some high hills rise to the west of the Saveri river adjoining the Gháts, and a smaller cluster stands some way from the Gódávari and to the east of the Saveri near Bódugúdem in the centre of the taluk. The whole of the taluk is malarious, especially the villages along and to the east of the Saveri river, but the scope for irrigation is considerable, and with more energetic ryots and a better land system cultivation might be largely extended.

Cholam is the staple crop of the country, though paddy and a little tobacco are grown along the river banks. The taluk appears to contain no indigenous industries whatever. The lace-work of the Dummagúdem mission is referred to in Chapter VI.

The taluk is of interest in several unusual directions. The curious Kóya people (see p. 60) make up a large proportion of its inhabitants; its revenue system, inherited from the Central Provinces administration, is in most respects (p. 174) unusual in this Presidency; coal has been mined for at Gauridévipéta (sixteen miles east of Bhadráchalam), albeit (p. 10) without much success, and plumbago has been worked at Pedakonda; garnets, rock-crystal, sapphires and gold are found; the country possesses many legendary associations with the story told in the Rámáyana of Rávana's stealing Síta, the wife of Ráma; and in it, from fifteen miles below Bhadráchalam to four miles north of Dummagúdem, are a number of rude stone monuments. No weapons have yet been found in these, but they contain half-burnt pottery, charred bones, and beads of ivory and glass. From the position of skeletons around them it would appear that human sacrifices accompanied the funeral ceremonies.1[1] Forts ascribed to the Reddi dynasty are found at Nallapalli, four miles north-east of Dummagúdem, and at Vaddigúdem near Rékapalle. There are also the remains of a fine stone fort at Dévarapalli, nine miles east of Bhadráchalam; but it was largely demolished by the engineers engaged in the Upper Gódávari navigation works.

As is mentioned in Chapter XI, the zamindar of Bhadráchalam has a semi-proprietary right over the whole of the taluk. Beneath him, but still recognized by Government, are a number of other proprietors of larger or smaller estates. The only one of these which is of any size is Rékapalle, which was for some time independent of its suzerain, and the history of which is sketched below. The others only contain a village or two apiece. The largest are those of Nandigáma, which contains ten villages and pays a peshkash of Rs. 1,308, and Tripurapantavídu, with seven villages and a peshkash of Rs. 1,195. No other inferior proprietor pays as much as Rs. 400 peshkash.

Bhadráchalam: Head-quarters of the taluk and of the Head Assistant Collector. Population 1,783. It is the chief town of the zamindari of the same name. The original holder of this is said to have been one Anapa Ashwa Rao, who received it in free jaghir from the Emperor of Delhi in A.D. 1324 on condition of keeping up a body of 500 foot for service, and it is stated that the property has remained almost ever since in the families of the founder or his kinsmen. The taluk formed part of a large estate which is called by Captain Glasfurd 2[2] the Hussanabad Sankaragiri zamindari, and is also spoken of as the Palavancha estate, from the town of that name in the Nizam's Dominions in which a large portion of it lay. The zamindar of Bhadráchalam is zamindar of Palavancha also.

In 1769 one of the Nizam's officers put the then zamindar to death and took the estate under management till his own death in 1778, when it reverted to the founder's family. In 1809 an adoption, said to have been the first in the family, was made. This was the cause of a great deal of disturbance and even bloodshed. The adopting zamindar belonged to the Damara Ashwa Rao family, and selected as his heir a boy of the Kundemulla family. This choice was resented and resisted by another family, called by Captain Glasfurd the Setpilly Ashwa Raos, who thought one of their members ought to have been selected. The struggle between the members of these families went on for more than forty years. The Setpillys were at first victorious; but their representative made a raid into British territory and was taken prisoner and carried off to Hyderabad in 1811. The Damara adoptee was now appointed zamindar by the Nizam; but he was so harassed by the Setpillys that in 1819 a European officer (Mr. Ralph) was sent with a body of local troops to Palavancha, where he remained to keep order for three years. The Nizam soon intervened again, this time granting a small portion of the estate to the Setpillys and one village to the Damaras, and taking the rest under his own management. The Setpillys defied the local authorities in 1844 and seized the greater part of the estate; but their representative died in 1851; and, after a little disturbance and some negotiation the property was handed over finally to the Damaras on a decision being passed in their favour (in 1852) by an influential pancháyat of zamindars. The Damara appointed in 1852 was succeeded by his mother in 1859, who was followed before her death in 1874 by her daughter's son, Parthasarathi Appa Rao, who is the present zamindar. The estate at one time (see p. 175) also included the present Rékapalle zamindari.

Until the taluk was handed over to the British Government by the Nizam in 186o the Bhadráchalam zamindar always kept up a troop of Rohillas, who received very little pay for their services and lived chiefly by looting the country round. The taluk was divided into ten samutús, each of which theoretically contained twenty-five Kóya villages and each of which had to supply for a month, without pay orbatta, a hundred Kóyas to carry burdens, fetch supplies, etc., for the Rohillas, and a hundred Mádigas to act as horse-keepers- The whole country appears to have been at the mercy of these undisciplined Rohillas. 'All was grist,' writes Mr. Cain,1[3] 'that came to their mill, even the clothes of the poor Koi women, who were frequently stripped and then regarded as objects of ridicule. The Kois have frequently told me that they never could lie down to rest at night without feeling that before morning their slumbers might be rudely disturbed, their houses burnt and their property carried off. As a rule they hid their grain in caves and holes of large trees .... The last great plundering took place in 1859 not far from Parnasála.

The present position of the Bhadráchalam zamindar is in many respects unlike that of most other zamindars in this Presidency owing to his estate having been first settled by the Central Provinces Government. The point is referred to in Chapter XI.

Bhadráchalam is considered a holy spot, since Ráma is supposed to have lived there for some time after the abduction of Síta. The name means 'the hill of Bhadra,' and is said to be derived from the fact that a saint of that name was living there at the time of Ráma's sojourn. Ráma promised to return when he had found Sita, and did so after many years, and gave the saint salvation. The temple in the village, which is built on the top of a small hillock and is not remarkable architecturally, is supported by an endowment from the treasury of the Nizam of Hyderabad, which amounts to Rs. 19,000 a year but small sums from which are diverted to the upkeep of the temple at Parnasála and those in Hyderabad territory at Mótigadda and Viruvandi opposite Chintalagúdem and Turubáka in this taluk. Legend says that the first beginnings of the Bhadráchalam shrine were made by a bairági who took up his abode there, built a small temple and carved a rude image of Ráma. More authenticated history commences about 1725, when Ráma Dás, an official of the Nizam's government, was sent to collect the revenues of this taluk. Instead of transmitting the money, he spent it in enlarging the shrine and building the gopuram. His superiors at last objected to this, and sent a number of Rohillas who carried him to Hyderabad, where he died after an imprisonment of twelve years. Tradition, however, declares that he was miraculously ransomed by Ráma and Lakshmana (who appeared before the then Nizam in person) and returned to Bhadráchalam, where he disappeared and became one with the god. His adventures are the subject of a book of Telugu poems, called the Ráma Dás kírtana, which is widely known throughout the country. The poems in this are often sung by the Telugu bards (bhágavatas) who are in such favour at social gatherings throughout south India.

Ráma Dás was succeeded in his office by a certain Túmu Lakshminarasimha Rao who, wiser than his predecessor, annually despatched part of the tribute and devoted the rest to finishing the work the latter had begun. He also commenced another temple. While he was thus engaged a wealthy man from Madras, named Varadaráma Dás, brought two lakhs of rupees to Bhadráchalam and agreed to help him to complete the work. Before this could be done, however, the Nizam's government, dissatisfied with the small amount of revenue received, sent a number of sowars to take Lakshminarasimha Rao to Hyderabad. He bribed the sowars to give him a little grace, promising to follow them shortly to Hyderabad. The rich man from Madras died soon after their departure; and Lakshminarasimha Rao embarked on rafts to cross the river, taking with him the dead man, his widow and mother, his own mother and a number of servants. Half way across he threw the corpse into the river and plunged in himself, followed by the widow, her mother-in-law and most of their followers.

The Nizam originally endowed the temple with a lakh of rupees, but the endowment was gradually reduced till in 1840-41 it was fixed at Rs. 19,125, for which a sanad was given. An important festival takes place at the temple in the month of Chaitra (March-April) and is said to be attended by as many as 20,000 people from all parts of India, in spite of the difficulties of the journey thither. A common object of the pilgrimage is to obtain children; the childless women sleep behind the temple and draw an augury of the future from their dreams.

Dummagúdem : Thirteen miles north of Bhadráchalam. Population 2,556. It was the head-quarters of the old Upper Gódávari Navigation project referred to in Chapter VII. Operations on this were discontinued in 1871, but while they were in progress Dummagúdem was a busy town. It is now an insignificant village. The anient is in good condition and a large lock stands close to the village and a canal runs parallel with the river there for two miles. The lock is in fair condition, but was much damaged by the floods of 1900. The village is also the head-quarters of the Church Missionary Society in the district (see p. 41) and the centre (p. 112) of a lace-making industry fostered by this. A number of roughly carved idols have been dug up near the place.

Gundála : Four and a half miles east of Bhadráchalam. Population 359. This (like Sarpavaram in the Cocanada taluk) is said to be the place where king Janaméjaya, the son of Paríkshit, performed the sacrifice described in the Mahábhárata because his father had been bitten by a snake. A hot spring in the bed of the Gódávari near by is pointed out as the pit (gundam) where the sacrifice was performed. Pilgrims to Bhadráchalam bathe in this, and the name Gundála is supposed to be derived from it. Kumárasvámigúdem: Twenty-six miles south-east of chap. xv. Bhadráchalam. Population 1 10. Contains a very old and Bhadra- sacred temple to Kumárasvámi, son of Siva. He was devoted chalam. to the fair sex more than was seemly, and his father cured Kumara- him by contriving that any woman he looked upon should at svamigiidem. once assume the shape of his mother, Párvati. The first occasion on which this happened was at Kumárasvámigúdem, and Kumárasvámi induced Siva to direct that a bath in the Gódávari at that spot should have great sanctifying virtue. The temple has no income and is very much out of repair.

Kunnavaram: Stands at the junction of the Saveri and Gódávari rivers; population 1,107. Formerly the station of the Special Assistant Agent and now the head-quarters of the District Forest Officer, Upper Gódávari. It is an important point for the river-borne trade, as it is beyond the Gháts and the unbridged Saveri and carts can travel from it to Bhadráchalam.

Parnasala: Twenty-two miles by road north of Bhadrá- chalam. Population 276. It is widely believed in the district that this is the spot on the banks of the Gódávari described in the Rámáyana where Rávana carried off Síta.

In a stream bed near the village the people show the stone on which Síta is supposed to have sat while bathing. Certain marks on a rock resemble foot-prints, and these are therefore called Síta's foot-prints, and are revered accordingly. On another rock are yellow stains which are attributed to the yellow dye from Síta's clothes when they were laid out to dry, or, according to another account, to the saffron she used to adorn herself withal. The black stain left by Ráma's sash when put out to dry is also shown on another rock. The Nalugu gutta hill on the opposite side of the river is supposed to have been formed by an accumulítion of nalugu (a kind of soap) left by Síta after her daily bath. Behind the Vishnu temple is a hollow which is pointed out as the exact place where Síta was seized; some of the earth is said to have been carried off with her. There is also a Siva temple in the neighbourhood where, it is said, Rávana used to pretend to worship, disguised as a mendicant.

A small festival is held at Parnasála in Chaitra (March- April) at the same time as the Bhadráchalam festival, and those who visit the latter place go on to Parnasála.

Rékapalle: Twenty-eight miles east-south-east of Bhadráchalam, and below the junction of the Gódávari and Saveri rivers. Population 617. The name means 'wing village' and is explained as referring to the abduction of Síta which tradition locates in this taluk. It is supposed that the wings of the bird Jatáyu, who tried to oppose Rávana's flight but was killed by him, fell here.

Rékapalle is still important as the chief village of the most considerable of the inferior proprietors of this part of the country. The Rékapalle estate formed only a part of the large possessions of the Ashwa Raos of Palavancha and Bhadráchalam referred to in the account of the latter place above, and it was leased in 1574 to a family of Kórukonda (in Rajahmundry taluk) who enjoyed it for nearly two and a half centuries. In 1814 the then holder was murdered by his four díwáns, who seem to have enjoyed the estate thereafter either jointly or successively. Three of the four having died, the survivor, Venkayya, became for a time the sole proprietor; but in 1857 he was compelled to hand over a portion of the estate, then known as the Marrigúdem taluk, to one Rájaji, the son of one of his deceased accomplices. Rájaji misconducted himself, and his share was given over to the Bhadráchalam zamindar's direct control by the Central Provinces Government in 1862. The present proprietor of Rékapalle is the son of Venkayya. The relations of the inferior to the superior proprietors in this taluk are referred to in Chapter XL Rékapalle was formerly the head-quarters of a taluk which comprised that part of the Bhadráchalam taluk which lies to the east of a line running due north from a point a little to the east of Gaurldévipéta.

This country joined in the Rampa rebellion of 1879, and at one time gave a great deal of trouble to the authorities. The causes of the rising were quite different from those which operated in Rampa. Under the Central Provinces administration, podú cultivation had been almost unrestricted, and the assessment on it had been only four annas an axe. The Madras Government almost trebled the assessment, excluded the cultivators from certain tracts, and levied a tax on the felling of certain species of reserved trees. These new taxes and restrictions were considered a grievance, and it was for this reason that the Rampa leaders found adherents in the Rékapalle country. On the tenth of July some Rampa insurgents under Ambul Reddi, aided by a number of Rékapalle people, attacked the Vaddigúdem police-station. They were driven back, and a party of armed police was directed to proceed up to the river from Rajahmundry in a steamer and launch. The steamer which was without a guard or arms, incautiously went on ahead, was attacked a little above the gorge, and was taken by the insurgents. A force of 125 sepoys was then sent up the river, the Gódávari and Saveri were patrolled by steamers, and posts were established along their banks. By September the people had resumed their ordinary occupations and quiet was restored. The Rékapalle country was again disturbed by an incursion of Tamman Dora in October 1880. He looted a few defenceless villages, but his stay in this quarter did not last long.

Srí Rámagiri ('holy Ráma's hill') lies forty-four miles south by east of Bhadráchalam. It is supposed to have been here that the bird Jatáyu, who had tried to hinder Rávana's abduction of Síta but been mortally wounded in the attempt, told the news of the abduction with his dying breath to Ráma as he passed that way. The grateful Ráma performed the funeral rites of the faithful bird at Srí Rámagiri. The god is known as Kulása ('the joyful') Ráma, because he here had news of his lost wife; while the Ráma at Parnasála is Sóka ('the sorrowful'), because his bereavement occurred there. The temple is supported by the zamindar of Rékapalle, who devotes to its maintenance the net income derived from the village of Kúnnavaram, which ordinarily amounts to about Rs. 800 a year.

The neighbouring hill called Váli Sugríva is so named from the legend that it was there that Ráma obtained further news of Síta from Sugríva, the brother of Váli and king of the monkeys.

  1. 1 Sewell's Lists, i, 20.
  2. 2 See his settlemeat report on this taluk (Nagpur, 1869), para. 41.
  3. 1 Ind. Ant., v, 303.