We wake up early, which is fortunate during the hot season. It’s been about 41° C here at the hottest time of day since I arrived two days ago, and humidity is high – nearly 50 percent. So getting out early for a walk is a good idea. Even at 6:00 AM, which is when we set out today, I was mopping myself with a handkerchief by the time we stopped for tea.
The cyclone that hit Kerala days ago, roiling the surf here at Gokarna, has finally arrived. We sit in the Prema restaurant, enjoying a cup of tea while we wait for our lunch to arrive. Wind drives rain against the small shops and tall coconut palms, and in sheets across the street. Deep puddles grow deeper, and even the vagrant cows huddle together under shop awnings, reluctant to emerge in such conditions. We drink tea, we eat slowly, we order more tea, as we wait for a moment when the rain pauses.
We love visiting Indian temples, whether living or historical (and sometimes, as at Pattadakal in Karnataka, it’s a bit of both). So we were looking forward to spending some time at the Sri Sita Ramachandran Swamy temple in Bhadrachalam – but we had no idea just how much time we’d end up spending there.
It took just one day in Bhadrachalam to make us decide we needed to stay longer than the three nights we originally booked. It’s a lovely small town, located upriver from Rajahmundry on the same side of the Godavari, offering plenty of temples, a couple of nice short walks along the river, and the chance to take a one- or two-day river trip among the scenic Papikondulu Hills. So we asked Mr. Ramachandran, the owner of the hotel where we stayed, if we could stay another eight nights.
During our time here in Rajahmundry, we’ve remarked on just how many men we see dressed in black. We know these are people going through the 41-day period of fasting and abstinence that pilgrims undertake before traveling to Sabrimala in Kerala, a temple dedicated to Ayyappa, or Ayyappan, as he’s also called.
I knew about these pilgrimages when I lived in India during the early 1980s, but I really didn’t know anything about Ayyappa. Today we learned a lot about this god when we stopped off in the early morning at the Sri Ayappa Swamy temple beside the Godavari River.
We spent the day we arrived in the charming city of Rajahmundry just walking around and absorbing the atmosphere, then decided we wanted to get on a bus the next day to Kakinada, to see a bit of the Godavari delta region. We like to have a focus for our excursions, so we chose the ancient temple of Sri Bhavananarayana Swamy. It’s located six kilometers away from the center of Kakinade, so after getting a late breakfast of idly, sambar and chutney near the Kakinada bus station, we grabbed a rickshaw and headed to the bus station.