Gódávari/Gazetteer/Rajahmundry Taluk

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RAJAHMUNDRY taluk lies along the left bank of the Gódávari just above the head of the delta. Most of it is not a particularly fertile upland, and as much as 71 per cent, of the soil is ferruginous. Nearly all the rest is regar. The taluk is irrigated chiefly by tanks, of which 28 of fair size are in charge of the Public Works department. The largest are those at Kottapalli (ayacut 970 acres) and Kápavaram (823 acres). Rice is the most widely grown crop, but the areas under tobacco and castor are considerable. Nine per cent, of the cultivable land is unoccupied, and the incidence of the land revenue per head is only Rs. I-IO-II. The number of educational institutions in Rajahmundry town results in the people being more literate than in any other taluk, and over ten per cent, of the male population can read and write. The industries of Rajahmundry town and Dowlaishweram are referred to below. At Rájánagaram and Káteru a fair amount of weaving is done, at Duppalapúdi black bangles are made by twenty Kápus, and the stone-carving of Jégurupádu is well known. Large taluk board chattrams have been established at Rájánagaram and Dowlaishweram.

Nearly the whole of the taluk is Government land. It includes nine villages of the Pithápuram zamindari and also nine other small proprietary estates, but of these latter all but one consist of only one village. The exception is Vangalapúdi, which comprises three villages.

Dowlaishweram: Four and a half miles south of Rajahmundry. Population 10,304. It appears to have been a place of importance during the early struggles between the Hindus and Muhammadans and is now widely known as the site of Sir Arthur Cotton's great anient across the Gódávari, referred to in Chapter IV, is the head-quarters of two Executive Engineers, and contains the Public Works department's workshops mentioned in Chapter VI. The town is a union and contains a local fund dispensary (established 1892), a large local fund choultry, a fair-sized market, an English lower secondary school for boys, and a Sanskrit school. The choultry (called, after the house-name of the donor, the Kruttivantivári choultry) is endowed with land bringing in an income of Rs. 2,100 annually, and was bequeathed to the taluk board. The income is devoted to feeding Bráhmans. There area small European church and cemetery in the village. What looks like a town wall and is pierced by the road entering the place is really only the bank of the old railway constructed to bring materials from the quarry to the river for the building of the anicut.

Dowlaishweram possesses considerable religious interest for Hindus. The name Dowlaishweram is derived from that of the neighbouring hill Daulagiri. There, it is said, a saint named Nárada used to live; and he is credited with the foundation of the Vaishnavite temple of Janárdhanasvámi on the hill, as well as of many other shrines to the same god in the villages on the river bank in this and the Rámachandrapuram taluk. That in Dowlaishweram has an annual festival lasting six days in February or March. A cave on the side of the hill is supposed to be the mouth of a subterranean passage leading to Benares. In it is a stone image called Konda Nivásudu or Santána Gópálasvámi, which is visited by women who desire to have children. The temple of Anjanéya contains two rávi trees said to have been planted by Ráma and Síta respectively; and there are two footsteps in the rock there which are supposed to be those of these two deities. Dowlaishweram is in consequence sometimes called Ráma páda kshétram, 'the holy place of Ráma's feet.' The sanctity of the village is also enhanced by the fact that it is the last place at which the waters of the Gódávari flow down united and undiminished, and by a fanciful legend that 108 Siva temples lie buried somewhere or other in the neighbourhood. The result is that Dowlaishweram is one of the holiest of the bathing-places along this holy river, and is thronged by pilgrims during the pushkaram festival.1[1]

A feast to the village goddess Mutyálamma is held in the village once every three years. A buffalo is sacrificed and afterwards votive offerings of pots of buttermilk are presented to the goddess, she is taken outside the village, and the pots are emptied there. The head of the buffalo and a pot of its blood are also carried round the village by a Mála, and a pig is sacrificed in an unusual and cruel manner. It is buried up to its neck and cattle are driven over it until it is trampled to death. This is supposed to ensure the health of men and cattle in the ensuing year.

A few industries flourish in the place. Two Kamsalas make brass and bronze vessels, and about 25 persons of various castes do really good wood-carving. The place is also known for its architects, who are said to be employed throughout the plain taluks of the district when houses are built.

Gókavaram: Nineteen miles north-north-east of Rajahmundry. Population 2,425. Contains a local fund rest-house and a large weekly market to which the hill people bring the produce of the Rampa country for sale.

Kórukonda: Eleven miles north-north-east of Rajahmundry. Population 3,952. Contains a police-station. A travellers' bungalow is kept up in the neighbouring village of Gónagúdem. A pilgrimage to the temple of Narasimhasvámi at Kórukonda is supposed to be of unrivalled efficacy in granting offspring to childless women, and the place is often thronged with suppliants of this class. Rumour avers that the Bráhmans of the place take a personal and direct share in ensuring that their prayers shall not be fruitless, and the belief has passed into a proverb. A festival which lasts for fifteen days takes place at the temple in the months of January and February.

Kórukonda and its neighbour Kóti 1[2] appear once to have been of some political importance. One of the Mackenzie MSS. which deals with the ancient history of the district 2[3] gives some account of their early fortunes. It says that Kóti and 101 Siva temples were founded by king Rájarája of the Eastern Chálukya line, who reigned from 1022 to 1063 and is prominent in the traditional history of Rajahmundry, and that about two hundred years later a fort was built in Kóti by an early Reddi chief named Annala Déva. The MS. goes on to quote a local inscription of 1322-23, apparently still in existence at the end of the eighteenth century, which recorded the revenue arrangements made in the village by the Kákatiya king, Pratápa Rudra, who reigned till 1324. The Kórukonda fort was built some time afterwards by Kúna Reddi, 'a good Súdra who became ruler of the adjoining country,' and who governed wisely and well. He was succeeded by his son Mummidi Reddi, one of whose servants erected the Lakshminarasimha temple. The date of this event is given both in the MS. and in an inscription quoted by Mr. Sewell as 1353.3[4] Mummidi Reddi's three immediate successors ruled for the next 40 years. One of them rebuilt the Ranganáthasvámi temple in 1394-95 A.D. From this point until Muhammadan times are reached, the MS. is silent, but it gives details of the lessees of the place under the Musalmans, The fort was apparently destroyed by the vigorous and cruel Rustum Khán (1730-37) referred to on pp. 29-30. Its ruins are still to be seen, and there is another ruined fortress at Kóti. On the Pándava hill west of Kórukonda are two rock-cut caves. The MS. says that the Pándavas lived in them during their exile.

Kottapalli: Twenty-two miles north-north-east of Rajahmundry. Population 3,900. Contains a travellers' bungalow and a large tank which irrigates some 970 acres. The village gave its name to one of the 'pergunnas' of the old Pólavaram zamindari. For many years this was divided from the rest of that estate and managed by a díwán; but in 1781 it was reannexed to it and shortly afterwards was placed under Narasimha, a brother of the Pólavaram zamindar. During the fighting in 1785 at Gútála, described in the account of Pólavaram, two usurpers wrested Kottapalli from Narasimha and the Government troops had to interfere. They captured the place and put Narasimha over it once more. He stood aloof from the disturbance of 1790 referred to in the account of Pólavaram, but joined in the more considerable rebellion of Mangapati at the close of the century. Kottapalli was then occupied by a company of sepoys to keep the hill people of Rampa in check, and the young zamindar was ultimately captured and deposed. His estate was then again united with Pólavaram. It was however once more separated from it afterwards, and its 36 villages were sold in 1808 for arrears of revenue. The purchaser himself fell into arrears in 1829, and the estate was attached and remained under management till 1841, in which year it was put up to auction and purchased by Government. The village now belongs to Government. It was formerly the head-quarters of a deputy tahsildar.

Rajahmundry, the head-quarters of the taluk, stands on the left bank of the Gódávari at the head of the great railway bridge (see p. 133) which carries the Madras Railway across that river. It is a municipality of 36,408 inhabitants, and the second most important town in the district.

The earliest mention of Rajahmundry in any extant literature is in the introduction to the Telugu translation of the Mahábhárata, which was composed by Nannayabhatta in the reign of the Eastern Chálukya king Rájarája (1022-62) who is known to popular tradition as Rájarája Naréndra. In this the town is called Rájamahéndrapattanam ('the city of Rájamahéndra') and is referred to as the capital of the Eastern Chálukya kingdom and 'the central gem of the Vengi country.' Rájamahéndra was a title borne by two of Rájarája's predecessors, namely, Amma I (918-25) and Amma II (945-70), and the town was perhaps founded by and called after one or other of these kings. But one of the Mackenzie MSS. attributes its foundation to an earlier king named Vijayáditya Mahéndra.

The extension of the Eastern Chálukya dominions into the kingdom of Kalinga on the north must have rendered Rajahmundry an important strategical point. It is described in comparatively recent times as ' the barrier and key to the Vizagapatam country'.1[5] On the downfall of the Kákatíya dynasty of Warangal before the armies of the Muhammadans in 1323, the conquerors made their way as far as Rajahmundry, and the 'Royal masjid' there contains an inscription dated 1323-24 which mentions Muhammad Tughlak of Delhi. Local tradition says that this building was formerly a Hindu temple and was converted to its present use by these Musalmans.

Rajahmundry next comes into prominence as the capital of one of the lines of Reddi kings.2[6] Its first independent sovereign of that line has left inscriptions in it the dates of which range from 1385 to 1422. By 1458-59 a minister of the Gajapati king Kapilésvara was ruling at Rajahmundry; and in 1470-71 the town was captured by the armies of the Muhammadan Sultan of Kulbarga. About 1478 the Hindus revolted and the Muhammadan garrison was besieged and perhaps reduced. The Vijayanagar chieftain Narasimha seems to have occupied the town at this time and to have been driven thence by a relieving force from Kulbarga. In any case the Muhammadans soon recaptured Rajahmundry and king Muhammad of Kulbarga made the town his head-quarters for some three years (1478-80).

Soon after, during the dissensions among the Musalman powers in the Deccan, Rajahmundry was taken by the king of Orissa. About 1515, however, the town was captured by Krishna Déva, the king of Vijayanagar, in the course of his campaign against the Orissa dynasty.

By 1543 Rajahmundry was the frontier town of the Orissa country and lay on the borders of the new Muhammadan conquests south and west of the Gódávari river. It was ruled by a prince of the Gajapati house, one Vidiádri, who seems to have affected independence. He was ill-advised enough to join in an attack upon his Muhammadan neighbours some time between 1550 and 1564, and paid a heavy penalty. Defeated in the field, he was shut up in Rajahmundry. The Muhammadan powers of the Deccan then combined to deal a death-blow to the Vijayanagar kingdom, and he obtained a short respite. But on the return of the Musalman invaders he was again defeated outside the walls of Rajahmundry. At their first onset in this battle his troops broke the right wing of the enemy, but, on their reserve coming up, the fugitives rallied and drove their assailants inside the fort. Vidiádri was besieged there for four months, and at last (1571-72) was compelled to surrender. The fire of the heavy artillery of the Musalmans had made a breach nearly fifty paces in length in the curtain of the fort, and further resistance seemed useless. Vidiádri was permitted to go unharmed and Rajahmundry was never again a Hindu possession.

The neighbourhood was the scene of a stubborn battle a few years later, when the Muhammadan governor defeated the insurgent rája of Kasimkota. The fate of the day hung long in the balance and victory was only secured by a charge of Muhammadan cavalry which had turned the flank of the Hindu army.

On the disruption of Aurangzeb's empire, Rajahmundry became the head-quarters of a Nawábship of the province of Golconda. The names of the Nawábs, and indeed of all the Musalman governors of the town from 1553 to 1769, are given in the Mackenzie MS. referred to above.

After the cession of the Northern Circars to the French in 1753, Rajahmundry, on account of its central position, was chosen by Bussy as his head-quarters in preference to Masulipatam. It remained the French capital till the English invasion of 1758. On the evening after the battle of Condore, a force of 1,500 sepoys was sent on by Colonel Forde to occupy the town. They arrived on the following evening (December 10th 1758) and found the French, who imagined the whole English force to be upon them, in the act of evacuating the fort. One boat laden with several Europeans was in the middle of the Gódávari river, and some others with a few small field-pieces had just reached the opposite bank, when the English arrived. The English sepoys opened fire on them from the walls of the fort, and this deterred them from carrying off their guns, or remaining in the vicinity. Fifteen Frenchmen were taken prisoners in the fort, and also a quantity of ammunition and stores. The town was shortly afterwards, however, retaken by the French. When Colonel Forde advanced southwards against Masulipatam in February 1759, only a small garrison, some sick and wounded, and some treasure had been left there; and a detached French force made a dash for the place and easily captured it. The Commandant had only just time to send his treasure to Cocanada and his able-bodied men in retreat towards Vizagapatam before the French arrived. The latter, however, did not attempt to hold the place.

During the few years thereafter in which the district was again in the hands of the Nizam, Rajahmundry was the headquarters of his local representative, Hussain Ali Khán. The latter's position was precario is, and an English force of 200 sepoys and twelve artillery men under Lieutenant (afterwards Sir Henry) Cosby was sent to Rajahmundry to support him. Two rival claimants were at that time competing for the position of Nawáb. A near relative of one of them was commandant of the fort at Rajahmundry, and had 500 Araos, ready for any mischief, under him. He had entered into a conspiracy to take the town and hold it for his relative, but his design was defeated by the vigour and promptitude of Cosby, who, despite the insignificance of his force, took him prisoner. Reinforcements were soon received from Masulipatam, and Cosby maintained his position at Rajahmundry till the country was ceded to the English.

Though Masulipatam then became the centre of the administration, troops appear to have been stationed at Rajahmundry for many years. When, in 1794, the Chief and Council at Masulipatam were replaced by Collectors, one of the latter was stationed at Rajahmundry. When the 'Rajahmundry district' was constituted, the Collector did not live in the town which gave his charge its name, though from the very first this had contained the court of the Zilla Judge appointed in 1802,1[7] and it was not until 1867 that even the Sub-Collector was stationed there. The Sub-Collector, the District and Sessions Judge and the District Superintendent of Police are stationed there now. The place moreover contains the usual taluk offices, a sub-registrar and a district munsif. It is the head-quarters of the American Evangelical Lutheran Mission, which keeps up a high school there, a station of the Roman Catholic Mission, and contains several Christian churches and two European cemeteries. The older of the latter is near the old Civil Court, and the tombs in it go back to 1771. The other contains a large number of graves dating from 1862 down to the present day.

The town also contains two travellers' bungalows, one belonging to the municipal council and the other to the taluk board; several private chattrams, two of which are important institutions; two police-stations, a police school and a large Special Police Reserve; a municipal hospital and a mission dispensary; a first-grade college, a training college, two high schools, three English lower secondary schools for boys, one English and three vernacular lower secondary schools for girls, and a Sanskrit school. The choultries are referred to in Chapter VII, the chief medical and educational institutions in Chapters IX and X respectively and the municipal council and its doings in Chapter XIV.

Rajahmundry is not only of interest historically and as an administrative centre, but is also of importance to Hindus from a religious point of view. It is held that all pilgrims going from this district to Benares should also visit Rajahmundry, and most of these people bathe in the river there on their way back from the holy city. They also observe the curious custom of emptying half the contents of the pots of Ganges water they bring back with them into the Gódávari, and fill them up again from the latter river. It is believed that if this is not done, the Ganges water will quickly dry up in the pot. The sanctifying effect of a bath in the Gódávari at Rajahmundry is placed so high that'people come by train all the way from Madras for the purpose, often going back the next day. The bathing place is called the Kótilingam ('crore of lingams') ghat. The name is explained by a story that the Bráhman sages at one time wanted to make the place as sacred as Benares, where there are supposed to be a crore of lingams, and therefore set themselves to found the same number here in a single night. Unfortunately the day dawned before the last one was made. The lingams are supposed to lie buried in the bed of the Gódávari opposite the ghat. The river is held to be particularly sacred at Rajahmundry (and Dowlaishweram) because, like the Cauvery above the delta, it is still undiminished by division into many branches. It is called the Aganda ('entire') Gódávari, just as the other is called the Aganda Cauvery. The Rajahmundry ghat is one of the centres of the great pushkaram festival, which takes place once in thirteen years.1[8]

The place is also noted for the worship of a very widely known village goddess called Chamalamma, whose image reposes under a tree about a mile away. A fortnight's festival in her honour is celebrated in the last month of the Telugu year (March-April), and at this a mud pot which her spirit is supposed to enter is taken round the town every day and worshipped. Various peculiar rites are performed at the festival. The buffalo which is sacrificed is not killed outright; but a wound is first made in its neck and a potful of its blood is collected. A hook-swinging is conducted, but a sheep is the victim, and not a man, and it is swung by a rope tied round its body. The ordinary offerings of sheep, fowls, buffaloes, etc., are also made in fulfilment of vows. Another local deity is called Kannamma Pérantálu ('housewife Kannamma'). She was a Reddi woman. She, her husband, and her six sons all died on one day of cholera about 40 years ago, and her soul appeared to one of her relatives and said she had been deified. Ever since then she has been worshipped by all the non-Bráhman Hindus of the place, who offer her sheep, fowls, cloths, etc. Her shrine is an unpretentious tiled house.

The industries of the place are of some note. Some 400 households of Dévángas weave coloured cloths for men and women, and some of them can do simple embroidery. A few Rangáris stamp chintzes^ and some thirty Kamsalas make vessels of brass, bell-metal and lead. One or two Múchis are said to paint with skill, and thirty Kamsala and Odde carpenters do excellent wood-carving. Three fair-sized tanneries, managed by Labbais, are at work, and good shoes are made by Mádigas and Gódáras. A few potters make good gújás.

  1. 1 See Chapter I, p. 6.
  2. 1 Said to be short for Kótilingam ('a crore of lingams') and to be derived from the number of Saivite emblems about the place.
  3. 2 Local Records, vol. ii, p. 231 and vol. xix, p. 75. See also Chapter II, p. 25.
  4. 3 Lists of Antiquities, i, 21. The MS. only gives the cycle year.
  5. 1 Cambridge's War in India (London, 1761), 207.
  6. 2 Ep. Ind., iv, 319.
  7. 1 Chapter XIII, p. 189.
  8. 1 See Chapter I, p. 6,