RÁMACHANDRAPURAM taluk lies along the left bank of the Gautami Gódávari just below the head of the delta.
Almost all its soil (91 per cent.) is alluvial, it is irrigated by the Gódávari water, nearly the whole of it is cultivated, and the density of its population is second only to that of Nagaram island. Paddy is naturally the chief crop, but tobacco is grown in fair quantities, and the area under sugarcane is greater than in any other taluk in the district. Detailed statistics regarding the crops and other matters will be found in the separate Appendix.
Local industries are few. Kótipalli and Drákshárámam are sacred places, and the temple in the latter contains many ancient inscriptions.
Nearly the whole of the taluk is now Government land. Eight villages belong to the Pithápuram zamindari, eight others to the Végayammapéta estate, and five more each make up a small estate.
Bikkavolu: Nine miles north of Rámachandrapuram. Population 7,994. It is a union, and containts a sub-registrar's office and a small local fund market. Two Múchi wood-carvers do good work. The village is said in one of the Mackenzie MSS.1 to have been the capital of the earlier Eastern Chálukya kings before they moved to Rajahmundry. It is said to contain extensive ruins and some deserted temples.2
The place is now famous as a centre of snake-worship. The snake-god Subbaráyadu has a three days' festival there in the sashti (sixth day) following the new moon in Margasira (December-January), which goes by the name of the Subbaráyadi sashti. People attend this in the hope of obtaining relief from small bodily ailments (such as boils and pains in the ears, eyes, etc.) and in order to get children. Childless women spend a night fasting in the temple clothed in a particular kind of cloth (called nágula kókalu) in which the colours are mixed in a peculiar way. All castes appear to resort to the temple for the purpose. In former times a cobra was supposed to come out and show itself on one of the days of the festival. Drákshárámam: Four miles south by east of Rámachandrapuram; population 11,213. Contains a private chattram for feeding Bráhmans, a police-station, a sub-registrar's office and a large cattle-market. The union of which it is the chief village also includes Vélamapálaiyam, Tótapéta, Jagannáyakulapálaiyam and Végayammapéta. Two Múchi wood-carvers do particularly good work, and a little weaving of tape and cloths is carried on.
The village is noted for its fine temple and for its sanctity. Its name is said to be more correctly 'Daksharáma' and to mean 'the Garden of Daksha.' According to the well-known story in the Sivapuránam, this Daksha was a Bráhman, the father-in-law of Siva. Thinking that he had not been properly treated by that god, he performed a yágam (sacrifice) without inviting him to be present. His daughter attended uninvited, he treated her discourteously, and she accordingly plunged into the fire of the sacrifice. Siva burst into a sweat on hearing the news, and from this perspiration was born Vírabhadra, who went and killed Daksha. Orthodox Bráhmans will not perform a yágam inside the village, as it is held to be an ill-omened place.
The real centre of the religious interest of Drákshárámam is the temple of Bhímésvara-svámi, It contains a particularly big lingam, some fourteen or fifteen feet high. This is supposed to be part of a lingam which broke into five pieces and fell at five holy places, namely at Bhimavaram or Bhímaráma in Cocanada, Pálakollu or Kshíra-ráma in Kistna, Amarávati or Amara-ráma in the Guntúr district, and Kumára-ráma, which is not identified. It is supposed to have been erected by the sun and worshipped by the seven sages who made the seven mouths of the Gódávari.1 So it is sufficiently holy. The seven sages are supposed to have each brought water from their respective rivers underground to the tank at Drákshárámam, which is called the sapta Gódávari, 'seven Gódávaris,' There is a sacred bathing ghat in this tank which confers in a condensed form all the sanctity which is to be obtained by separate baths in each of the seven rivers.
Like many other holy places in this and other districts, the town is called the southern Benares. It is supposed to have been founded by the sage Vyása, and a rávi tree and a lingam planted by him are still shown. So great is its sanctity that a night's halt in it is believed by some to render future births unnecessary. A festival is held in honour of the god every Mákha (February-March), and lasts for five days beginning on the eleventh day after the new moon day.
The temple is a rather handsome two-storeyed building. Its erection is ascribed by popular tradition to an unknown Chóla king. In the porch round the shrine in the upper storey are black granite Chálukyan pillars, a great rarity in this district. The lower porch is also of black granite. On the northern side of the temple a figure of a Jain tirthankara, sitting cross-legged, is carved on a stone slab. The stone Nandi (bull) and Hanumán in the temple have had their heads knocked off, and it is said that this was done by the Marátha marauders 1 when hunting for treasure. In the temple is a curious well, the mouth of which is the shape of a strung bow. It is called the rudra tírtam, and a bath in it is holy. The lingam at the side of the western gate is supposed to go to Benares every night.
The temple has an annual allowance of Rs. 1,000 from Government, and some of the servants in it have inam lands. But it is a large building and is not in particularly good repair. It contains a great number of ancient inscriptions. No less than 271 of these have been transcribed by the Government Epigraphist (Nos. 181 to 451 of 1893). The earliest appears to be No. 185, which is dated in A.D. 1055 or during the reign of the Rájarája whose capital was at Rajahmundry. The latest appears to be No. 426, which belongs to the Reddis' times, and is dated in the year corresponding to 1447 A.D.
Drákshárámam is sacred to Muhammadans also. The mosque and tomb of a saint called Saiyid Sháh Bhaji Aulia are much revered by the Muhammadans of the neighbourhood, who are often buried within their precincts. This saint is said to have been a contemporary of the famous Mira Sáhib of Nagore near Negapatam, and, like that rather shadowy personality, to have lived some five hundred years ago. He was born, it is said, at 'Gardez,' near Medina, and visited Drákshárámam with four disciples. Being hungry, the visitors slaughtered the bull belonging to a math of the local Saivite priests. In the disputes which ensued the comparative holiness of the Muhammadan saint and the Saivite head-priest was called in question; and to test the matter a lingam was thrown into a pond (the Lingála cheruvu) and each was told to charm it back again. The saint succeeded, was given the math to live in, and turned it into a mosque. A very similar tale is related of the Bábayya darga at Penukonda.1 The saint had a daughter, and her descendants are still living. They are said to receive an endowment from the Nizam of Hyderabad. In former times a festival of some importance used to be held at the mosque, but of recent years it has ceased to be observed.
Two Dutch tombs stand in the village on what is called the Ollandu dibba ('the Holland mound'). They are dated 1675 and 1728 respectively and are covered with the sculptured slabs which are characteristic of Dutch tombs in this Presidency.
Gangavaram: Seven miles south of Rámachandrapuram. Population 1,532. The name is supposed to mean 'Ganges blessing;' and to explain it a legend has been invented to the effect that the Gautami Gódávari blessed the Ganges at this place. Defiled by the sins of the many wicked people who bathed in her, the latter river used to come every day in the form of a crow to be purified by the Gautami, and used to return in the form of a hamsa bird. At last the Gautami took pity on her and blessed her, and now she can purify herself.
Kótipalli: Nine and three-quarter miles south of Rámachandrapuram. Population 2,476. It contains a travellers' bungalow and a large private choultry maintained by the proprietor of Pólavaram, at which travellers are fed. Tape and kusa mats are manufactured on a small scale in the village. Its correct name seems to be Kódipaili, which Dr. Macleane translates ' border village,' apparently from the Tamil kódi. It is also sometimes called Kótipali, which means 'a crore of benefits' and is explained by the assertion that the value of a good deed done there is' increased one crorefold by the sanctity of the place. The place is in fact held very sacred by Hindus. A bath in the Gódávari here has virtue to expiate the most terrible of sins, even incest with a mother, and the bathing-ghat is called mátrigamanághahári for this reason. A story is told of a Bráhman who inadvertently committed this sin, and was in consequence turned into a leper until he bathed here.
The temple is dedicated to Sómésvara, 'the moon god,' and is supposed to have been built by him to expiate his sin of having seduced the wife of his teacher Brahaspati. The injured husband cursed the moon and caused it to loose its brightness. In the same precincts is a shrine to Kótisvaradu, 'the god of crores.' This was built, it is declared, by Indra to atone for his seduction of the wife of Gautama. The erring god brought 'crores of waters' underground to the Gódávari at this place; andt he deity of the temple took his name from this act. There is a local festival there every year on the Sivarátri day. The great pushkaram festival held once in every thirteen years is celebrated here with great éclat.
Kótipalli forms a proprietary estate which pays a peshkash of Rs. 5,831. It belongs to the Rája of Vizianagram.
Márédipáka: Seven miles west by north of Rámachandrapuram. Population 1,005. Some Singams do a little tape-weaving there. After Kándrakóta in Peddápuram taluk, this is the greatest centre for the worship of the village deities in the district. The goddess of this village is called Mávullamma. She was originally a mortal maiden who was persecuted by her mother. Unable to bear the latter's cruelty, she hid in a cave by a mango tree, and disappeared for ever. Some days later she was seen in a dream by her parents, and informed them that she had become one with the divine, and must henceforth be worshipped as a goddess. This has been done, and the priests at her temple are supposed to belong to her family. The annual festival in her honour, which lasts for a fortnight, attracts many pilgrims. One peculiar feature of the ceremonies is that the blood of the sacrificed buffalo is left in the temple all night, with various kinds of grain scattered around it, and the door secured and sealed. In the morning, it is said, a foot-step is seen in the temple, and some of the grain is found thrown into the pot. This is considered to afford a forecast of the coming season; those grains being expected to do well which are found in the pot.
Rámachandrapuram: Head-quarters of the taluk, and once the chief village of a large ancient zamindari which was eventually bought in by Government. The place is a union of 10,692 inhabitants, the other component villages being Pasalapúdi and Mutsumilli, and contains a travellers' bungalow, a local fund rest-house for natives, a police-station, an English lower secondary school for boys and a local fund hospital founded in 1876. A tahsildar, stationary sub-magistrate and sub-registrar are stationed there. Some 25 Dévánga households weave cloths of a fair quality. The village is a centre of trade in local produce.
Ramaghattálu: Four miles east of Kótipalli. It is a hamlet of the village of Masakapalli, the population of which is 2,244. It contains one of the many temples supposed to have been founded by Ráma to expiate the sin of having killed the Brahman king Rávana. Ráma's foot-steps are said to be visible on a rock there. A bath at this place on the Sundays in the month of Mákham (February-March) is considered holy.
Végayammapéta: Five miles south-south-east of Rámachandrapuram and part of Drákshárámam union. Population 2,004. Contains a lower secondary school for boys. It is the chief village of an ancient zamindari, which comprises ten villages and pays a peshkash of Rs. 8,055. The present holder says that the estate was originally given by 'Haidar Bádsháh'—apparently the Nizam of Hyderabad — to one of his ancestors for his literary ability. It was permanently settled in 1802 on a peshkash of Rs. 8,750. The estate was diminished by a partition in 1809, and in 1879 a suit about it went up as far as the Privy Council. The present zamindarni says that she is the eleventh in descent from the original founder.
- 1 Wilson's, Catalogue, p. 397, No. 12, 4.
- 2 Sewell's Lists, i, 25.
- 1 Chapter I, p. 6.
- 1 See Chapter II, p. 30.
- 1 Anantapur District Gazetteer, 193.