Bhadrachalam, the abode of Bhagwan Rama is a hilly place in Dandakaranya that is surrounded by holy River Godavari passing towards southern direction. Bhadrachalam- The name is derived from Bhadragiri (Mountain of Bhadra- son of Meru and Menaka). It is at this temple site that, long after Ramavatara, Bhagwan Mahavishnu manifested himself again as Rama to fulfill the promise He made to Bhadra, who did a long penance.
Bhadra desired Rama to be seated on his head, but Rama who was in search of his consort Sita gave a promise to Bhadra that his desire would be fulfilled on his way back, after finding Sita who was kidnapped by Ravana. As Rama could not fulfil his promise in Ramavatara, later Sri Mahavishnu comes down to earth as Vykunta Rama accompanied by his consort Sita and brother Lakshman to bless Bhadra who was in deep penance.
In this temple, Rama is found having four hands- Shanku on the right, Chakra on his left hand and Bow and Arrow in the remaining two hands. Sita is found on the left lap of Rama and Lakshman at the left of Rama in this temple.
The hill where the Sita, Rama and Lakshman deities are located is considered to be the head of Bhadra and this place became popular as Bhadrachalam (i.e., Mountain of Bhadra).
Pakala Dhammakka, an ardent devotee of Rama (17th century) was living in Bhadrireddypalem village, a mile away from Bhadrachalam. One night Bhagwan Rama appeared in her dream and advised her to perform pooja to his murti at Bhadrachalam. Since then, she used to perform pooja daily and constructed a temple of thatch hut with the help of local people. Bhagwan Rama told her that at a later date, one of his devotees would construct a temple at this site. That devotee was none other than Bhakta Ramadas.
Kancharla Gopanna, popularly known as “Bhakta Ramdas” (1620-1688) was Tahsildar of ‘Palvoncha Paragana’. His nephew, Akkanna was the administrative head in the court of Nawab Abdul Hussan Shah (known as Taneshah of Golkonda and was the last ruler of Golkonda before Aurangzeb captured it in 1687 A.D.).
Ramdas visited Bhadrachalam and took the initiative to construct the temple by asking the villagers to donate liberally for the cause. As the collected funds were not sufficient to build the temple, he spent 6 Lakh Mohurs (gold coins issued in Moghul period)from the land revenue collections and the villagers assured him to make good this short fall in the ensuing crop season.
Though the temple construction was fully completed, he was dismissed from service for misutilizing the land revenue for constructing the temple and was kept in jail for 12 years in Golkonda. Unable to bear the torture in the jail Ramadas penned many emotional songs on Bhagwan Rama that later became very popular as Dasaradhi Sathakam and Bhakta Ramdas Keertanas.
Rama and Lakshman in disguise as the servants of Bhakta Ramdas meet the Nizam Nawab Tanishah one late night and repay 6 lakh Mohurs. They obtain voucher from the Tanishah in discharge of the dues of 6 lakh Mohurs and keep it under the pillow of Gopanna (Ramdas) in the jail.
Tanishah realises that those two people in disguise were none other than Bhagwan Rama and Lakshman and releases Ramdas from the prison and requests him to take all the gold mohurs that he received from Bhagwan Rama and Lakshman. However, Ramdas takes only two gold mohurs (as a mark of divine significance) and declines to accept the rest. Those two gold mohurs can be seen at the temple museum even today.
Tanishah assigned the revenue income derived from Palvonchaparagana for the maintenance of the Bhadrachalam temple and the tradition of offering pearls on the occasion of Sri Ramanavami to perform the Kalyanam of Bhagwan Ram and Sita was introduced. This tradition of offering pearls on Sri Ramanavami is followed by the present state Government.
Bhakta Ramdas inscripted the details of the daily rituals to be performed in the temple right from Suprabhata Seva (wakeup call) in the early morning to Pavalimpu Seva (lullaby) at night on two pillars of the temple. Popular Carnatic musician Saint Thyagaraja (1767-1847) makes reference to Bhakta Ramadas in his kirtanas and praises Ramadas as a great devotee of Bhagwan Rama.
Famous Carnatic musicians likeMangalampalliBalamuralikrishna and Nedunuri Krishnamurthy have popularised Bhakta Ramdas Keertanas by their music concerts and albums.
This place is about 35 KMs from Bhadrachalam. This is supposed to be the place where Rama during his vanavasa constructed a hermitage and lived along with his consort Sita and brother Lakshman, on the advice of sage Agastya. One can find the foot prints of Sita and a stream by the name Sita Vaagu (it is believed that Sita took her bath in this stream) as well as the marks of her saree on the rock near this stream. The tracks of the chariot of Ravanathat kidnapped Sita can be seen on the mountain on the other side of the river bank at Parnashala.
It is believed that Bhagwan Rama killed Mareecha in this place when Mareecha came in disguise as a golden deer to deceive Sita. It is also believed that Ravana abducted Sita from this place.
While some historians refer to Nashik as Panchavati, there are other historians who hold the view that Bhadrachalam is Panchavati. As it is very difficult to get any acceptable archaeological evidence in this regard there is a need to use the science of astronomy and botany to identify the exact location of Panchavati since Saint Valmiki in his Ramayana refers extensively to planetary position and flora and fauna while describing the major events and locations and their period.
Sri Rama Navami and Vaikunta Ekadashi are two major festivals that are celebrated in this temple on a grand scale. Kalyanotsavam is performed to Bhagwan Ram and Sita on Sri Rama Navami. Ten-day festival known as Adhyayanotsavams and DasavataraMahotsavams(10 incarnations of Sri Maha Vishnu) precede the Vaikunta Ekadashi festival.
Papikondalu mountain range passes along the River Godavari covering Bhadrachalam to Rajamundry. During its course the mountains become very closer leading to the width of the River Godavari becoming very narrow. As this picturesque scenery resembles the middle partition of a woman’s hair, it is named as PapidiKondalu, which later came to be known as Papikondalu.
Papikondalu mountains spread across Bhadradri Kothagudem district in Telangana and East and West Godavari districts in Andhra Pradesh is a famous tourist attraction. The boat journey between Bhadrachalam (the boats start from Kunavaram or Sriramagiri which takes around 1.5 hrs to 2 hrs from Bhadrachalam) to Rajamundry covering around 100 Kms takes about 12 hours and during the course of the journey one can enjoy the scenic beauty and also see various animals and birds.
There are several tribal communities who have made Papikondalu as their habitation and do cultivation, fishing and handicrafts for their livelihoods. During the boat journey one can see Pattiseema village, (40 KMs from Rajamundry) West Godavari District, Andhra Pradesh.
Pattiseema lift irrigation project that links the Godavari and Krishna rivers was completed in a record time of one year and was inaugurated in March, 2016. This lift irrigation project pumps water drawn from the River Godavari into the Polavaram Project Right Main Canal for the benefit of farmers in the Krishna River delta.
Bhadrachalam is connected by train (Bhadrachalam Road railway station 39 KMs, Khammam railway station 115 KMs) and by road. Nearest airports are Rajamundry (190 KMs), Vijayawada (220 KMs) and Hyderabad (270 KMs)