After the wonderful darshan at Penchalakona and a delicious breakfast at the ‘chatram‘/ guest-rooms, we drove to Chitvel- a drive that took us over an hour. Chitvel is a small town in Annamayya district of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. The village sits between the Sheshachalam Hills and the Velikondas, the southern part of the Kadapa basin. This location, whivh is between the Chatravati River and Cheyeru River (a tributary of the Pennar River), is called historically as ‘Renadu’ (700villages). The Cheyyeru is formed by the confluence of the rivers Bahuda and Puncha that originate in Andhra Pradesh. The two streams join at Rayavaram to form the Cheyyeru which then flows for 87 km before joining the Pennar. Indeed, we were about to see more of the ‘Pearls across Pennar’. Several paleolithic settlements have been also discovered along these water bodies.
We were to visit the Chitvel Varadarajaswamy Temple, but the local administration asked us to visit the Bhadrakali Veerabhadraswamy temple first. This is the ‘gram devata’ or the village deity and as per tradition a visit here is due before we visit any other place or temple in the town.
The Bhadrakali Veerabhadraswamy temple
After paying our obeisance here, a short drive brought us to the Varadaraja Swamy temple at Chitvel.
Chitvel Varadaraja Swamy Temple:
According to researchers, the inhabitants of Chitvel erected tantric stones across the banks of Cheyyeru River surrounded by temples. However, the presence of the Varadaraja Swamy temple is a departure from this, as the worship of Lord Vishnu that was popularised in the Kanchipuram area, also reached these areas. The region demonstrates an agraharam, that is a contrast to the local vernacular cults. This, the researchers say, proves that the temples was built under the Cholas or under their patronage. The Cholas of Renadu were amongst the oldest of the Telugu Cholas, who adopted the language instead of Tamil.
The temple structure is small and quite plain in its appearance, but the gopuram matches the Vijayanagar kingdom architectural style. However, you do find carvings that are painted red, in line with tantric practices.
Lord Varadaraja Swamy stands majestically with His front right hand in Abhaya hasta, and the front left hand holds his gada/ mace. The rear hands hold the Shanka (conch) and Chakra (disc).
There is a shrine dedicated to Garuda that faces the main temple. This shrine has a shikhara that stylistically represents the Chola architecture. The establishment of these temples, research says, reveals the proximity of Chitvel to medieval trade centres.
The temple is within a walled complex, which is largely empty and we see that a lot of vegetation is wild and overgrown. Perhaps a little better maintenance will go a long way in preserving the temple complex.
More pictures can be viewed in the slide show above.
It was nearly noon when we embarked on our next stop to Rajampet and visit the places that were astounding in architecture, history and had beautiful legends associated with it. Stay tuned! How are you all liking the journey across the Pennar? Do let me know in the comments.
Picture Credits: Diwakar A. S (Chennai)
You can find the previous articles on the series here