Of Telugu Films and Andhra towns

August 2, 2008

 

I was always fascinated by history. Apart from giving insights into our heritage and the key reasons for the rise and fall of all those great empires and kings – lessons that can be applied to our benefit now – history helped my imagination run wild. In my childhood I used to try imagining the lifestyle, the dressing style and the pattern of human emotions at various points in time, going back to vedic times. For example, I tried to imagine what my great-great-grand-father was doing in mid-19th century, and what his reaction might have been to the major national and local events in his time. Of course, I could not figure out what his reaction was to, say, Sepoy Mutiny in 1857 J But the very mental exercise used to give me a high JJ

 

Given that the human civilization is changing at very fast pace in the past few decades – even India’s maiden cricket world cup triumph n 1983 is a major historical event now – history lovers like me have a lot to ponder over. The most routine study in history for most of us now is wondering at how the cities and towns are changing, more so in post-liberalization India. For example, one of the most common remarks heard in Hyderabad these days is how Kukatpally, Miyapur, Madhapur, and Gachibowli areas have developed into major residential and commercial hubs in a matter of 4-5 years. That’s what people of my generation talk about, whereas my father can’t stop wondering about how desolate the areas beyond Panjagutta (i.e. Ameerpet, Srinagar Colony, etc.) used to be even in 1980’s.

 

Carrying on in the same vein, I get nostalgic when I see movies of 1970’s and 1980’s shot in the cities/towns that I am associated with. In the past 2-3 days I watched a few Telugu movies that took me back to my memories of Vizag, Vijayawada and Amaravathi in those good old days – which is not too far, considering that I am only in mid-30’s J

 

The first movie was Rendu Jella Seetha, directed by Jandhyala in early 1980’s. It was shot almost entirely in an old bungalow on Vizag beach road. You can recognize some of the buildings on the beach road, incl. this bungalow, that have withstood the onslaught of apartment clusters on beach road. And, it makes you feel sorry for the buildings and trees, some of them 100+ years old, that have bitten dust. I get the same feeling when I watch Chantabbai or Babai-Abbai or scores of other movies that were shot at Vizag in early 1980’s, after K.Balachander popularized Vizag as a beautiful location for movie making.

 

 

The next film was Appula Apparao directed by EVV in early 1990’s. The movie was shot in Vijayawada, a city I used to visit regularly to meet my class mates from REC, Warangal. Vijayawada formed the back drop of a handful of movies in 80’s and 90’s, but was lying low since then, till it was showcased again this year in Krishna-the power of Indrakeeladri  featuring Raviteja. This movie earned accolades, of course from Vijayawada folks, for capturing some of the beautiful locales in Vijayawada. But after the repeat watch of Appula Apparao recently, I could n’t help but appreciate director EVV for showcasing many hitherto unknown – some beautiful, some weird – locations of Vijayawada.

 

 

The crown jewel for me was Sapthapadi, directed by K.Viswanath in early 1980’s. Strangely enough, I watched this film for the first time last evening. Apart from a great theme and mind-blowing songs, I was mesmerized by the way Amaravathi was depicted in this film as a quintessential coastal village. Many of the songs captured the beauties of a village such as the early morning dips in river Krishna, cows grazing in the fields, temple on a hillock, and the famous Amaralingeswara Swamy Temple and the pushkar ghat next to it. Amaravathi was featured in many other Telugu films such as Shankarabharanam, Develayam, etc., but Sapthapadi should take the cake for showcasing it so beautifully.

 

Talking of Telugu movies and Andhra cities/towns, other than Hyderabad, Tirupathi is another town that featured in many films, that showcased the Seshachalam hill range.

Picture Courtesy: travel.sunyaprajna.com/India/

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Trekking Places near Hyderabad

July 29, 2008

Trekking used to be passion for me when I was in Bangalore. It also helped that Bangalore has so many scenic spots within 100 KM. Comparatively Hyderabad has fewer options, which are no less beautiful.

Let me start with the trekking options closer to the city..

Narsapur Forest

This forest is about 30 KM from Balanagar junction on Nizamabad/Bodhan highway.  This is a very small forest, stretching for 4-5 KM on the highway.  But is has everything, well almost, a mini-ghat section, thick forest, a hill some 4 KM inside the forest, a large lake, a good number of birds, and a lot of monkeys. This makes an ideal spot for trekking for 4-5 hours on a Saturday or Sunday.

Ananthagiri Hills

Located 75 KM from Hyderabad, just after Vikarabad, this mini hill range shrouded by thick woods is another trekking spot that can be motored down to at 100-120 KM speed. The road via chevella upto Vikarabad is flanked by beautiful grasslands and sunflower farms. Apart from “Anantha Padmanabha Swamy temple” there is not much to Ananthagiri other than trekking down the hills.  APTDC is planning to build a resort here very soon.

Moving our attention to the other places in Andhra Pradesh, I feel we have quite a good number of quality trekking spots.

Srisailam

Srisailam is known more for its Mallikharjuna Swamy temple, one of the 12 jyothirlingas in India. But, Srisailam is also a beautiful place with thick forests, a large dam-cum- hydel power project  on Krishna river and a good number of waterfalls. Closer to the temple, you can visit the 512 meter-long Srisailam Dam on the River Krishna, that offers magnificent views of the ghats, cliffs and forests. You can also take a brief but exciting trip on River Krishna in an inflatable rubber “dinghy”.

Trekking lovers have 2 options –

1.       A visit to the Nagarjunsagar Srisailam Tiger Reserve that is spread over 356,000 hectares, and is the  largest tiger reserve in India. A little over 6 sq km in area, the Rollapadu grasslands near Srisailam are dotted with dry, thorny bushes and is home of about a hundred blackbucks. From a distance, one can observe families of blackbucks out on their breakfast trail, a couple of bustards gazing at the horizon while taking a tentative foot forward. At present, day visits to Rollapadu Sanctuary is permitted.

 Picture courtesy: www.flickr.com/photos/me_haridas/2265597847/

2.       Mallela Theertham –This waterfall is in the middle of dense forest. 40 KM before Srisailam, we need to take a diversion from Srisailam-Hyderabad highway and travel for 8 KM on a bumpy muddy road which is unmotorable during the rainy season. One has to walk down 350 steps to the stunning waterfalls amidst dense jungle. The water comes from a small rivulet and via this place it flows through the dense jungle and then meeting the Krishna River upstream. 

courtesy:   flickr.com/photos/99768206@N00/1257368794 

Talakona forest & waterfalls

Talakona is located in the picturesque Nagari valley, 45 kms away from Tirupati amidst verdant hills of Nallamalai range. The 60 meter perennial waterfalls is said to contain minerals that have curative properties. Talakona literally means head hill in Telugu (tala – head and kona – hill). However, Thalakona allegorically means “the head of the Seshachalam hills” as these mountains are believed to be the starting point of the Tirumala mountain ranges.  

Picture courtesy: www.chennaitrekkers.org/2008/07/talakona-june-21-22-2008_10.html

Talakona can be reached from Tirupathi, 76 KM away, or from Madanapalle (50 KM away) or Bakarapeta (nearest town, 20 KM away) by APSRTC bus or private transport.  APTDC operates a guest house in Talakona that has 12 non A/C rooms, and a very functional restaurant. APTDC also had plans for a tree-top restaurant and Machaan cottages. The Talakona waterfalls are about 45 minutes walk from the guest house. It would be great fun to trek up the hill in search of the origin of the water steam. The views from up the hill too would be breathtaking. There are a number of trek routes available in the forest, but it is advisable to take the help of trained guides who are picked up from local forest protection communities maintained by the forest department.

 Picture courtesy: http://csuvarna.sulekha.com/blog/post/2008/03/talakona-seat-of-sages.htm

Mamandur, located 20 km from Tirupati, is another trekking option available in the vicinity. There is a guesthouse here with two suites, one dormitory with 10 beds, 4 tent houses and two jungle resort double bed suites. Local Community based Eco-tourism project members are running a canteen for catering to the tourists. The spot is picturesque with panoramic view of the jungle spread over miles and miles. visitors stay here and trek downwards to reach a stream.. The tourist attractions near by include; Brahmadevunigundam waterfall, Kaliviletikona, Golladevuni gundam and Tumburu teertham, all situated in beautiful locales in Seshachalam hill ranges. Wildlife available includes spotted deers, sambar, panther, sloth bear and jungle fowls.

Horsely Hills

It’s a good idea to club the Talakona trek with a visit to Horsely Hills which is 20 KM from Madanpalle in Chittoor district. Picture courtesy: smrti.net/archives/105

Picture Courtesy: picasaweb.google.com/…/MmtBhZNEd0JWfKRXWdj9Ig

Horsely Hills has a variety of options for accommodation, incl. the forest bungalow, the P W D inspection bungalow and APTDC’s Punnami hotel. The narrow road to Horsely Hills from Madanapalle is very scenic. It is surrounded throughout its entire length with dense growths of eucalyptus, jacaranda, allamanda, and gulmohar trees. The major tourist places around Horsely hills are Lake Gangotri, Highview seeing place, Gaalibanda, Environmental park and Horsley hills Museum. This may sound a lot, but the fact is that Horsely Hills is a small, sleepy hill station where you can relax for a couple of days for dozing off in an armchair, or by taking short walks around the place, or shedding some calries in the swimming pool in the hotel.

Ananthagiri Hills, near Vizag

Ananthagiri is a breathtakingly beautiful resort sheltered in the lush undulating ranges of the Eastern Ghats.  Driving through picturesque coffee plantations the road to Ananthagiri with its ups and downs on the Ghat route is literally enveloped with mango groves, waterfalls that gush and flow into the ravines. The Eastern Ghats rail route on this stretch is one of the highest broad gauge tracks in the world. 

The journey from Visakhapatnam to Anantagiri offers unforgettable vistas ranging from thick forests to scintillating sunrise and sunset. The entire Anantagiri Hills has a lot of vintage viewpoints that offer enthralling views. Amongst the variety of flora in the forests of Anantagiri are many medicinal plants and herbs. Several swift streams flow through Anantagiri though it is the river Musi or Muchkunda that originates from Anantagiri. The Bhavanasi Lake Anantagiri is referred to as the Badrinath of the South.

Anantagiri is located of the top of the Elysian Tirumala Hills approximately 17 km from Araku valley, which is 112 kms from Visakhapatnam. Anantagiri is the located among the ranges of the Eastern Ghats at a distance of 40 km from Visakhapatnam.

Kondaveedu fort

Kondaveedu Fort is about 25 km from Guntur. It was built during the rule of the Reddy kings. Located on a hilltop, this historical fort offers around 21 structures to be seen. There are also many temples, residential structures, pillared halls and the entrance gate ways worth seeing here. The panoramic view from the summit is awe inspiring and is ideal for trekking. The Gopinatha Temple and Kathulabave at the foothill are other major attractions of Kondaveedu.

(You will find the above photos and an excellent travelogue at kunal.wordpress.com/category/travelogue/kondaveedu)

The road route from Hyderabad is via Narketpally-Miryalaguda-Piduguralla-Narsaraopeta-phirangipuram

While you are there, you may also want to visit Guttikonda bilam. 38 km from Narasaraopet town, Guthikonda caves are located amidst dense forest. The environment here is serene and legend has it that many Rishis meditated here for centuries. The place is also popularly known as Dakshina Kasi.


Summer special in Guntur

July 14, 2008

Guntur is 4th largest city in Andhra Pradesh. Well, its actually an overgrown town that pretends to be a city. But it definitely qualifies to be called as a city for the sheer size of its economy and population, and, of course, let’s not forget its contribution to Telugu literature and culture. For rest of the state the name Guntur is associated with chillies and heat. Justifiably so. While others may be looking back at that hot summer afternoon spent in Guntur with trepidation, we “Indians of Guntur Origin” recall those hot summer days with deep nostalgia.

Some of my memories of summers in Guntur are:

· Non stop cricket we used to play at “police parade grounds” through out the day (with temperature reading 48 degrees centigrade) taking breaks only for a glass of refreshing lemon soda. 15 years later, on a cloudy day in Hyderabad, I tried bowling 3 overs on the trot, and I was practically carried off the ground after collapsing with fatigue. Lesson learnt: You lose your fitness if you don’t spend at least a month every summer in Guntur.

· Watching matinee shows in theatres that barely have 1-2 ceiling fans that are in working condition. That too when 500 humans some how manage to cram into a 30’ X 20’ hall. But, it did not seem to matter in those days, especially when you are too relieved to buy a ticket after jostling near the ticket counter for 1 hour. Most memorable moment – watching matinee show of “Ben Hur” (that runs for 4 hours) in Leela Mahal (that has single asbestos sheet as its roof) on a day the temperature read 50 degrees centigrade.

· Mid night tiffins at Bombay Tea stall (in Lakshmipuram) during “combined studies” when preparing for Intermediate Exams or EAMCET.

I can go on and on like this, but I will spare you from the pain and will instead reproduce here a piece on the same subject by one of the best online writers of Guntur Origin I discovered recently.

Musing about hot sunday afternoons in Guntur, authored by Sri Kanneganti Rama Rao (www.kanneganti.com)

Thanks for the memories
” Danke Schoen, darling Danke Schoen.
Thank you for all the joy and pain.
Picture shows, second balcony, was the place we’d meet,
second seat, go Dutch treat, you were sweet.”

Turns out that those days were different. I was naive; I believed in the infallibility of youth; I even adored Tilak’s poetry. I was ever so wistful about “bhavishyadmukhangaa, sukhangaa, naDichipOyaam”

.

Those days I spent my summers in Guntur. Coming from Sowpadu, Guntur appeared to be the center of earth. Early in the morning, at 5 AM, you could wake up and lie still in the bed, and listen to the city waking up with you. The milk men, the villagers coming into town, people setting up Dosa and tea stalls, bicycles ringing bells, a stray car going on the streets — the city has its internal rhythm of waking up.

In the mornings, after the city stirs itself up, you could walk outside, say in Lakshmi puram, and see the city as an overgrown village. People from the same village live in the same neighborhood, and in the morning they get up and do the same things — tend to their livestock, clean in front of the houses, and sprinkle water to keep the dust down. I suppose we all carry some of what we leave behind (Cf: TANA and ATA conferences).

Guntur has only two seasons: hot and hotter. By the afternoon, the roads get unbearably hot. The main ring road resembles a western town at high noon — not a single soul stirring, except an occasional rickshaw passing by. The dusty streets stretching endlessly into the horizons, and the sound of wind whistling by — one could expect Gary Cooper and Krishna to duke it out on the streets.

The evening brings the cool air, whispering possibilities mixed with mystery. Just step out near to Sankar Vilas(now non-existent except as a name for a bus stop), and closeyour eyes and ears. You could feel yourself in the halcyon gardens with all the smells of flowers wafting over in the cool, humid air. But then, open your eyes and ears and prepare yourself for the cacophony of flower market, the crowded roads, and the smell of gasoline. I wonder, if they write a “prabhandam” about Guntur, would they describe the “pushpalaavikalu” of Sankar Vilas?

If you really want to find out the answer to that question you could visit Navodaya, just a stones throw away. You could browse, buy, or even borrow, if you belong to the literati of Guntur. As it happens, Guntur was famous for its writers — even Vi.Saa. was there for a while. Koku, being from Tenali, immortalized Guntur in several of his books.

If you are not into books, you could hang out with people. You see them in every street, each group staking out their own corner. You could talk politics endlessly, or better yet talk about the other groups hanging around other corners. If you are inclined, you could hang around the medical college canteen with people dreaming of Mass. general hospitals.

Of course, you could always go to movies. You could go early and get two tickets. If you are lucky, your eager wait at the movie hall is rewarded with the glimpse of anxious ankle getting down from the bus. Possibly, you may even see a shy conspitorial smile. You should avert your eyes from the carelessly exposed mid rift because of that cool breeze. The sweet smell of jasmine, coconut oil, cinthol soap, and perspiration may even take your breath away. But you all are from respectful families. You keep respectful distance. If the fingers touch in a brief exciting moment of exchange of money, it is a mere accident. Once on the second balcony, next to each other gazing at the gyrations of geriatric actors, what would you talk anyway? If you are young and artless you could talk of Tilak. May be you could listen to Koku and at least take her a brooch as a gift. Or, in jaded sensitivity, you could talk of “Prufock”. Or, you could look into the heart of silence.

Years later, may be you would feel thankful for the mere memories.

“Danke Schoen, darling Danke Schoen.

Thank you for seeing me again.

Though we go, on our separate ways,

still the memory stays, for always,

my heart says, Danke Schoen”


Weekend getaways from Hyderabad – Part 3

July 11, 2008

Concluding my posts on this topic, the following are the tourist spots that will take more than a weekend to visit, but are highly recommended if you are truly interested in exploring this part of the country: 

 

·      Srisailam, Mahanandi, Mantralayam and Ahobilam: I have clubbed these places together because one can plan to visit these places in single trip spanning 2-3 days. Srisailam is one of Jyothirlingas in India. It is some 250 KM from Hyderabad. Srisailam is also one of the most naturally beautiful lolcations in Andhra Pradesh. The drive from Hyderabad thru thick forest and hills would be very enjoyable. Apart from the temple, one can also visit the dam (on Krishna River) that abuts a huge Hydel power project. Mahanandi is about 120 KM south of Srisailam. Mahanandi is surrounded by Nallamala forests. About 15 km radius from Mahanandi, you can see nine Nandis known as “Navanandis” and Mahanandi is one of the Nava Nandis. From here, you have to travel southeast for about 65 KM to reach Ahobilam which another beautiful temple (Lord Narasimha) located on a hill in thick forests. Ahobilam is one of the 106 Divya Desams. From Ahobilam, you can return to Hyderabad (~380 KM) via Nadyal, Kurnool and Jedcherla. Or, you can travel to Mantralyam, some 160 KM to the west, to visit the temple/Mutt of Guru Raghavendra Swamy. The temple and “Mutt” complex is the main attraction here. Behind the temple the Tungabhadra river flows, if the rains are good in that year, which is also worth seeing. From Mantralayam, you can return to Hyderabad (~360 KM) via Raichur and Jedcherla.

 

·     Konaseema (in East and West Godavari districts): Konaseema area in Godavari delta is famous for its lush green paddy fields, coconut groves and, of course, its back waters. The major tourist attractions here are – 1) the Boat cruise that starts at Dindi  (near Narsapur/Palakollu) which also houses a brand new APTDC guest house and some private guest houses, 2) boat ride up to papikondalu (a hill range located between Bhadrachalam and Rajahmundry, through which river Godavari flows) from pattiseema near Rajahmundry, and 3) a host of temples near Amalapuram/Kakinada (Ainavilli, Muktheswaram, Muramalla, Draksharama, Kotipalli, G.Mamidada, Biccavolu, Pavivela, Mandapalli, Ryali, Vanapalli, Appanapalli, Antarvedi). Narsapur, Rajahmundry and Kakinada are accessible by train also. But I would rather you drive down to those places enjoying the greener parts of Krishna and Godavari districts. Decent hotels are available in Bhimavaram (near Narsapur), Rajahmundry and Kakinada, but at the other places you will have to make do with Panchayati Raj or forest guesthouse.

 

 

·      Visakhapatnam, Annavaram, Araku, Bheemili: Visakhapatnam is the most beautiful place in Andhra Pradesh, period. Within the city you have places like Simhachalam (Appala Narasimhaswamy temple), Kailasa Giri – beautifully landscaped hill that gives a panoramic view of Vizag city, Gangavaram beach (abutting Vizag Steel Plant) where many Telugu/Tamil/Hindi movies were shot, and, of course, the famous beach road that stretches up to Rishikonda (where a lot of resorts are under construction) that is the site of Kali Temple, Naval Museum and Dolphin Nose (a view point). The city tour can be completed in a day. You need one full day for driving down to Annavaram (Sathyanarayana Swamy Temple) and return by evening. Then you need one full day for visiting Araku valley, with stopovers at Borra Caves and Tyda. Bheemili a.k.a. Bheemunipatnam is a small Dutch settlement 25 KM from Vizag. Its beach is very safe for swimming. The other sights of interest at Bheemili are Old Dutch fort, Church, Cemetery and Light House.

 

     Bijapur-Badami-Pattadakal-Aihole-Hampi: This essentially is a trip for history lovers. We go thru the ruins of the capital cities/ temple cities built by Adil Shah dynasty (one of the 4 Bahamani sultanates), Chalukyans, and the great Vijayanagar Kings. Bijapur has many historical attractions, mainly related to Islamic architecture, such as Gol Gumbaz, Ibrahim Rauza, Asar mahal, Gagan Mahal, etc. The drive from Hyderabad to Bijapur is 400 KM (try to stop over at “Café Ethnic” near Zahirabad, a unique restaurant that prepares a lot of dishes by using only millets). After overnight stay, the following day would be entirely consumed by sightseeing in Bijapur. Bijapur has decent options for accommodation. The next day, we travel to Badami, the regal capital of the Badami Chalukyas from 540 to 757 AD. It is famous for rock cut and other structural temples. The rock-cut Badami Cave Temples were sculpted mostly between the 6th and 8th centuries. The four cave temples represent the secular nature of the rulers then, with tolerance and a religious following that inclines towards Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. Do you know that “Barso re” song in the film Guru was shot in Badami? From Badami we travel to Pattadakal, which is 22 km way. Pattadakal is the capital of the Chalukya dynasty of Southern India, who built the temples in the seventh and eighth centuries. There are ten temples including a Jain sanctuary surrounded by numerous small shrines and plinths. Four temples were built in Dravidian style, four in nagara style of Northern India and the Papanatha temple in mixed style. Remember, Pattadakal is one of the UNESCO world heritage sites, no less. We then travel to Aihole, which  was the first capital of the early Chalukyas. Here they built over 125 temples in various styles and is said to be a laboratory of experiments in rock cut architecture. Visit Badami’s cave temples in the morning and visit Pattadakal and Aihole in the afternoon/evening, and stay overnight at Badami/Bagalkot. Next day we travel to Hampi, a drive of 150 KM, and take in some sights in the afternoon, and go to Hospet for overnight stay. We continue the sightseeing in Hampi next day too. Hampi is listed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Vast stretches of boulder-strewn hills make the backdrop of Hampi unique. Dotted around the hills and valleys are 500 plus monuments. Among them are beautiful temples, basement of palaces, remains of aquatic structures, ancient market streets, royal pavilions, bastions, royal platforms, treasury buildings.., the list is practically endless. The return to Hyderabad, a drive of 350 KM, is via Gangawati, Raichur and Jedcherla.


Weekend getaways from Hyderabad – part 2

July 11, 2008

In continuation of the last post on the same topic, the following are the tourist spots that can be done from Hyderabad in 2 days:

·         Tirupathi and Srikalahasti: Abodes of Lord Venkateswara and Lord Shiva respectively, they are some 600 KM away from Hyderabad. Srikalahasti is a major shaivite temple, and is located 30 KM from Tirupathi. The best route to reach Tirupathi by road is via Narketpally, Miryalaguda, Addanki, Ongole, Nellore and Nayudupeta. This way you can avoid thick traffic on some parts of Hyderabad-Vijayawada and Vijayawada-Chennai routes. Decent accommodation is available in Tirupathi and Tirumala (hilltop).

 

·         Srisailam: Srisailam is one of Jyothirlingas in India. It is some 250 KM from Hyderabad. Srisailam is also one of the most naturally beautiful locations in Andhra Pradesh. The drive from Hyderabad thru thick forest and hills would be very enjoyable. Apart from the temple, one can also visit the dam (on Krishna River) that abuts a huge Hydel power project.  Decent accommodation is available in Srisailam in private guesthouses or APTDC guesthouse.

 

·         Vijayawada (Kanaka Durga temple) and Mangalagiri (Narasimha Swamy temple) located on banks of river Krishna – 270 KM from Hyderabad. The other sightseeing options available at Vijayawada are – Undavalli caves (built in 420 AD), APTDC resort on Bhavani Island, on River Krishna abutting Vijayawada city. Accommodation for all budgets is available in Vijayawada.

 

·         Amaravati (Shaivite and Buddhist center): Though it is a historically important place, being the capital of Satavahanas who ruled most of south India and Deccan between 2nd century BC and 3rd AD, this place is known more as one of the largest excavation sites of Buddhist heritage in India. Lord Buddha preached at Dharanikota/Dhanyakatakam and conducted Kalachakra ceremony, which takes the antiquity of Amaravati back to 500 BC. Some of the finds from the excavation are preserved a museum here. Amaralingeswara Swamy temple is a major shaivite center. Amaravati is immortalized by a compilation of short stories called Amaravathi Kathalu (that was later made into a Hindi tele-serial) and many Telugu films (most notably Saptapadhi by K.Viswanath). One can reach Amaravathi via Narketpally, Miryalaguda and Guntur. As there are no decent hotels in Amaravathi, one can stay at Guntur (30 KM away) where accommodation for all budgets is available.

 

·         Warangal-Hanamkonda: Warangal was the capital of the Kakatiya dynasty which ruled most of present day Andhra Pradesh from the 12th to the 14th centuries. The Kakatiyas left many monuments, including an impressive fortress, four massive stone gateways, the Swayambhu temple dedicated to Shiva, and the Ramappa temple situated near Ramappa Lake. Warangal is also the home of my alma mater – REC, Warangal (now rechristened as NIT, Warangal) J. The major sights in Warangal are Thousand Pillar Temple (built by Kakatiyas), Bhadrakali Temple (near a huge lake with boating options), the Kakatiya fort, and Ramappa temple near palampet village (77 KM from Warangal). The drive to Warangal from Hyderabad, via Bhongir, is very conveniently short (2.5 Hrs), and decent accommodation is available in hotels in Hanamkonda and Warangal.

 

·         Medak, Pocharam Dam, Nizam Sagar Dam: Medak is a town 100 KM from Hyderabad. The church at Medak is built in Gothic style and is considered to be the largest in Asia. Medak also has a small fort on a hillock. 15 KM from Medak is Pocharam Lake with a dam, and Pocharam Wild life sanctuary which used to be a hunting ground for the Nizam. Nizam Sagar dam, 50 KM from Medak, was constructed across the Manjira River, a tributary of the Godavari River. The site is noted for its splendid scenic beauty. The most outstanding feature of the project is the gigantic masonry dam sprawling across the river for 3 km with a motorable road of 14ft width over it. The nearby Manjira wildlife & bird sanctuary comprises of nine small islands which are home to a number of resident and migratory birds in addition to Marsh Crocodiles and Muggers.

 

·         Suryalanka: This is a beautiful beach that has become popular recently with the weekend crowds from Hyderabad and nearby cities. This flat beach has a gradual slope with a wide shore. APTDC has built a few AC cottages that are just 50 yards from the undulating waves. One can reach Suryalanka via Narketpally-Miryalagua-Guntur-Bapatla. While you are there you may also want to visit vadarevu beach near chirala which is quite beautiful and quiet.

 

·         Faraharabad: It has a wild life resort nestled in Nallamala hills on Hyderabad-Srisailam route. In February 2004 Naxalites had blasted a dozen ethnic cottages with plush interiors and a hanging restaurant that presented a panoramic view of the area and a huge structure here. APTDC has revived the resort with the help of local tribal mean who will oversee the operation of the cottages. The spot is an eco-paradise, rich in flora and fauna, including tiger, neelgai, sambar and spotted deer.

 

      Belum caves and Alampur: Belum Caves is 320 KM from Hyderabad, located on Kurnool-Nadyal road. It is the largest cave system in the plains of India. The underground caves are located on a flat agricultural field, have 3 well like cavities with the centre one being the main entrance to the caves. Stalactite and stalagmite formations are the main attraction apart from the fascinating colour illumination. This bagged the award for the “unique Eco – Tourism Project” by Government of India. There is just an APTDC-operated dormitory in the viscinity and the food available in local canteen is paltry. Hence, one has return to Kurnool for overnight stay, if you are planning to extend this trip by visiting Alampur (near Kurnool) that is home to the very ancient Navabhramma temples dating back to the 7th century. The Nava Bhramma temples were built by the Badami Chalukyas, who ruled for about 200 years from the middle of the sixth century onwards. The Badami Chalukyas built several temples in Karnataka, and the Alampur temples in Andhra Pradesh.


business as usual – on personal front

May 14, 2008

Past 15 days have been typical of the way I spend my time ever since I moved to Hyderabad, and I love living in Hyderabad for that.

1. No surprises at the office. The same 9 AM to 5. 30 PM routine, things under control. Even when I had to deal with an avalanche of work I have made it a habit to plan my work early in the day, and then sticking to the plan. That helps me finish work by 6 PM or so, and lets me spend quality time with family or friends. What I have noticed at work places is that people prepare themselves to stay beyond 7 PM everyday, and then deal with their work in a leisurely manner, typically postponing much of the work to late afternoons or evenings. If people are little more serious about planning their work loads and are punctual, we can see a boom in the economy –a productive work force who consume less resources per day (in terms of electricity and food), who can then spend more time with family, shopping, and entertainment.

2. When it comes to the evenings/late evenings, I try to spend equal amount of time with family and friends. Fortunately for me my wife is not big on shopping :), so we watch TV or movies at home (thanks to all those DVDs I buy for Rs. 30 per piece), or we go out to the nearby theaters (Radhika, Sharada, Shivashakti or Cineplanet) or we go for a leisurely walk to 5th Avenue in Sainikpuri or the Temple complex in Sainikpuri, or we just submit to the latest fancy of our 5 year old son. I generally hang around with 4-5 friends of mine who I know for a long time. Strangely enough all those guys (and myself) made Hyderabad their home only in the past 3-4 years. Ten years ago we would not have imagined that all of us would reunite again in a distant place called Hyderabad.

These days I have also made it a point to start networking with similar minded people in industry – professional executives or entrepreneurs. Apart from that I regularly attend the alumni meetings of REC-Warangal and IIM-Bangalore. I find such meetings very invigorating because I could connect to people who are doing many things beyond the usual and also because we can exchange info on the latest happenings in the industry.

3. I love to travel, especially in the company of my close friends and especially in Andhra Pradesh. We typically pile into 1 or 2 cars and go on a 2-day trip that should include a long night full of booze, good food, and a lot of jokes and senseless talk. I also drive down to Guntur and Tenali (coastal towns ~270 KM away from Hyderabad) to meet my parents and in-laws.

As one can see the last 2 things would not have been possible if I am living in any place other than Hyderabad.

To sum up my last few days..

Movies watched recently: Iron Man, Bourne trilogy (DVD), Apollo 13 (on DVD, after watching it first in Sangeet Theater 12 years ago), Jalsa (what a waste of time)

Recent Eating outs:

  1. Katriya De Royal (Ale & Kabab festival – Man! They sure know how to piss of customers, they kept us waiting for 1 Hr before they handed out our last beer at 11.30 PM)
  2. Tandoor in A.S.Rao Nagar (the Chinese dishes last time tasted better than the moghulai dishes this time)
  3. Deccan Pavilion@ ITC Kakatiya (The buffet here is the only way I can extract some value from my “Sheraton Plus” card)

Recent Long-Drives:

  1. Narsapur Forest on Medak Highway (surprised to find a forest so close to this concrete jungle; can sight a lot of emaciated monkeys; good for trekking).
  2. Penuganchiprolu (near Nandigama in Krishna District): went there with some friends who bought new trucks and wanted to visit Thirupathamma temple. Having lunch in sweltering heat on the banks of Krishna river is quite an experience 🙂

Revelry on the banks of river Krishna, and the temple

revelry on the banks of River krishnatemple

On the way to Vijayawada from Nadigama


Road trip to Chinchinada (in Konaseema)

April 2, 2008

During this year’s sankranthi season I went to Guntur and Tenali to visit my parents and in-laws. After spending a couple of days in Guntur, I thought it would be good idea to go on a long drive towards Ongole (southern coastal Andhra), stopping at a couple of places on the way to meet some ex-colleagues who were also vacationing in their native places. However, my friend-cum-navigator suggested going in the opposite direction, i.e. towards eastern coastal Andhra, to visit a friend who lives in a village deep into west godavari district. It was an easy decision to make considering the greenery and festive fervour that can be expected in godavari districts, and those 1.5 days of travel turned out to be the best part of my sankranthi vacation.

On Jan 14 (the day of bhogi, 1st day of 3-day sankranthi festival) I woke up early and walked around our neighbourhood (in Guntur) to observe the bhogi mantalu (the customary log fires lit up to drive away the early morning chill, and to dispose off the old wooden furniture in the house). After some heavy breakfast, I started waiting for my friend-cum-navigator to turn up, and it was 12 noon before he appeared along with another common friend. Without any further ado, we started off, in a relatively new Hyundai Verna.

Our destination is chinchinada village in west godavari district that is about 190 KM from Guntur. We did the 30 KMs between Guntur and Vijayawada in about 25 minutes. In fact, one can consistenly drive over 100-120 KMPH on the re-laid, 6-lane NH-5 (connecting Chennai and Kolkaka). The only irritating factor is that there are 3 toll gates between Guntur and Eluru (a distance of 90 KM) where the aggregate toll fee (one-way) is Rs. 70. Between Vijayawada and Gannavaram (the location of Vijayawada airport) we were caught up in a traffic jam caused by festivities near a temple. We reached Eluru at 2 PM. We decided to halt at Eluru for lunch as chinchinada is another 95 KM from Eluru. We sprang a surprise to a friend, a resident of Eluru, by calling him up and asking him to join us for lunch. He instead asked us to come over to a govt. guest house where he is busy playing cards with his colleagues. After some card games, some beer and heavy lunch (at 5 PM), we decided we are getting late and started towards chinchinada. BTW, the lunch was from “Appala Raju hotel”, which is apparently quite famous in Eluru. The curries of country chicken, quail and prawns indeed tasted good.

Now, there are 2 routes for reaching Bhimavaram (a major town, and chinchinada lies further 25 KM from this town) from Eluru. The shorter route is via kaikaluru, but one has drive mostly on a narrow road adjacent to a canal, and hence the drive will be slow. The other route is to continue driving on NH-5 for about 50 KM and then turn right into a 2-lane road that leads to Ganapavaram and then Bhimavaram. We took the option of driving fast on NH-5 and though we slowed down once we turned towards Ganapavaram, we were enjoying the sights (paddy fields, coconut trees, etc.).

We drove thru Bhimavaram and palakollu and finally reached chinchinada at 8.30 PM. By this time the booze, heavy lunch and the drive (I was the sole driver through out the trip) have really worn me down. So I was more than happy when our host suggested a hot bath first up. Our host in chinchinada is an amiable and soft-spoken “Raju garu” who was introduced to me a couple years ago by a common friend in Vizag. Raju garu lives in a joint family in a 12-room bunglow. In next 40 minutes, we freshened up and were ready for a long night. Raju garu took us to a special place for, ummm.., drinking the appetizers. Chinchinada abuts the godavari river, and across the river is east godavari district. There is a huge bridge connecting chinchinada and the village (Dindi) on the other side of godavari. Raju garu asked me to stop the car near the mid-section of the bridge, climbed out, and arranged the drinks and snacks on the pavement. As a Hyderabadi my first reaction was to enquire about the police finding us there. Raju garu waved off my fears and fixed me a stiff peg. After much guzzling down and non-sensical talks, I politely reminded Raju garu that we may be getting very late for dinner. He assured me that godavari districts never sleep during the 3 days of sankranthi, and that men folk are supposed to go on 72-hour non-stop binge of playing cards, betting on cock fights, and booze & eat sessions. True to his word, we were served piping hot food (rice, country chicken curry, fish curry, tamarind pickle, sambar and curd) at 12.30 AM. I was so glad to hit the bed at 1 AM.

The next day (i.e. the day of Sankranthi) I woke up at 7 AM, found Raju garu and others still asleep. I went for a short walk around the place to snap pictures of the village waking up to its daily routine.

I could see some small smoke coming from the direction of some houses, and that is indicative of those big boilers that some people still use to heat water for taking bath. I went back, freshened up and got ready for another busy day. Around this time one of my fellow travelers from Guntur also got ready, and asked me to accompany him on a quick trip to a neighbouring village (called Elamanchili). My friend apparently visited Elamanchili every summer during his school days to stay with his babai’s (chacha’s) family. Elamanchili is a picturesque village with a huge fresh water lake right in the middle of the village.

My friend located the house his babai used to live and, to his surprise, found the other tenants of that huge house still living there. While my friend was engrossed in conversation with his old acquaintances, I was served vada, pulihora and payasam, twice. Around 9.30 AM we some how pulled away from Elamanchili and picked up the guys in Chinchinada and started towards Antarvedi.

Antarvedi is the place where river Godavari enters Bay of Bengal, and is home to famous Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy Temple. For these 2 reasons, lot of people from Godavari districts flock to Antarvedi on every possible occasion. We reached there by 11 AM, finished Darshan, and drove off to the sea shore a couple of kilometers away.

The sea side was hot and humid (it’s almost 12 noon), and I started getting reminders from Guntur that I am supposed to spend the festival day with family rather than getting busy making friends in a faraway place. Therefore, we decided to give up on spending some time at the “cock fights” and headed towards Chinchinada. We reached a place called Dindi by 1 PM.

Dindi is a village on the banks of godavari from where we can see Chinchinada across the river. There are some newly built guest houses (by AP tourism dept and also by some private operators) on the banks of godavari in Dindi. AP tourism dept is also operating 4 two-bed room houseboats from these guesthouses. These are the Konaseema houseboats you will find a mention of in AP tourism dept’s website. The guesthouses and houseboats are tastefully done, and are highly recommended for a 2-day vacation.

Raju garu wanted some appetizers before the lunch, got his wish fulfilled under the cocunut trees near the guest house. The lunch in Raju Garu’s house was great and plenty. The menu was wild boar curry, egg keema, potato fry, sambar and a lot of pickles and powders. After finishing the lunch we were very tired, but had to start towards Guntur as it was getting late. My other 2 friends slipped into deep sleep immediately after entering the car, and I drove non-stop to Guntur in 4 hours following the same route (chinchinada-bhimavaram-ganapavaram-eluru-vijayawada-guntur). I have spent the next 1.5 days in Guntur and Tenali before returning to Hyderabad on Jan 17. Overall, it was a trip that left me asking for more (of godavari districts).

You can find the pictures of my trip here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/25316907@N08/sets/72157604378665299/detail/

The photos of Dindi guest house and houseboat are borrowed from the websites, as my camera ran of out of charge when we reached Dindi.