Leaving the heat and dust of Rajahmundry behind we drove on eastward on a sultry afternoon. The road wasn’t a smooth stretch but the interesting little towns that we passed caught our attention. One of them, Kadiyapulanka, famed as the floriculturist’s paradise, had decorative displays of flowers of various colours. As the roads narrowed, more and more lush green fields greeted us. We were heading to the Coconut Country Resorts, a unit of the Andhra Pradesh Tourism Department. The area located in East Godavari district is part of the vast Godavari basin, a fertile tract of land. It is little wonder that the district is known as the ‘Rice Bowl of India’.
With the river branching out and surrounding the strip of land on all sides the region is named Konaseema, which means land’s corner. The resort stands in the midst of fertile fields on the banks of the River Godavari. Reaching the destination by evening, we realised why it is called coconut country. There is a grove of tall coconut trees all around the property. Even as our baggage was taken to the rooms, we walked to the edge of the river and were rewarded with a fabulous view of the voluminous river flowing gracefully by. The houseboats docked here lent an aesthetic charm to the scenery. The serenity of the location had simply bowled us over. Watching the changing colours of the sky as the evening melted away we retreated to the rooms.
The resort has 32 air-conditioned rooms, six of them deluxe suites, they are built in such a way that every room has a view of the river from its sit-out. Down below, amidst the lawns is a swimming pool with a toddlers’ pool nearby. Swings and a rope ladder beckon children to have fun.
At dawn, we take a look at the houseboats. Similar to the kettuvallams of Kerala, each houseboat has two tiny yet cozy rooms with a dining area and an attached bath. Some of the houseboats can be taken on a cruise. But these ones we learnt were docked and did not sail. The big draw of the resort is a cruise on the river. A fairly new concept in these parts, cruise trips are organised on different stretches of the river. Naturally, that was we decided to do; our day-long return cruise on the Godavari took us right upto its confluence with the sea at Antarvedi. An open cruise boat had already been arranged for our excursion.
After a snack of spicy pesarattu (a moong dal dosa), typical to Andhra, with curds, we strolled around the lawns eagerly awaiting the start of the river cruise. Our boatmen arrived with life jackets, which must be worn while on a river trip. Dozens of sandwiches and a flask of coffee were kept on board for the day-long trip. At 9.30 in the morning we set out. The river Godavari, we are told, has strong and fast currents which we could hardly feel because of the width and depth of the river. The boat always kept to the centre of the river. The cruising distance to Antarvedi is about 40 km, a distance we were expected to cover by noon. Soon the paddy fields gave way to patches of coconut trees on either side. The way they lined the banks and stooped over the water, reminded us of the backwaters of Kerala!
All we saw was an occasional isolated hut here and an occasional fisherman there. After a 10 km ride we saw people and vehicles crowded on either side of the river. This was Narsapur junction from where people from either side are ferried across. Incidentally, Narasapur is the town famous for the colourful lace products woven in pretty designs by the local women. As our boat surged ahead, we passed by pockets of casuarina trees — ideal picnic spots by the river. On the latter part of the cruise the boat rocked on the waves as we got closer to the sea. The forests along the banks also changed to mangroves with brown-black sandy beaches lining them.
The boat does not enter the sea as the river widens and becomes shallow but docks at Antarvedi on the left bank. An array of variegated fishing boats and trawlers drop anchor to unload their haul of fish. We walked past to our waiting car.
Antarvedi is a town of religious significance. It is said that it was sage Vasishta’s penance that brought the river here, which is why it is called Vasishta Godavari. In fact, a shrine here houses all the seven sacred rishis, including Vasishta. Antarvedi assumes even more importance for its temple of Lakshmi Narasimha. Built during the 15th-16th Century CE. the shrine has been renovated twice. The five-tiered tower above the entrance is imposing. Inside, artistic rows of pillars decorate the passages between various smaller shrines. Famed as Dakshin Kashi or Varanasi of the south, Antarvedi is regarded by many as a very important place of pilgrimage.
We set out to look at the sea. Sagara Sangamam is a charming place where the river merges with the sea. The beach is isolated and except for a few fishermen it is uninhabited. We could see many canals formed by the sea during high tide. And as the sea retreated the wavy patterns left behind on the sands appeared artistic. Our attention was drawn to the ruins of what was once a lighthouse. The new lighthouse is just a few paces away from the sea.
The return cruise began soon and we passed the same landmarks and groves once again. With the sun behind us, the evening light cast a glow on the green coconut palms. The was a lot of bird activity, with egrets, lapwings, sandpipers and kingfishers scouting around for food. At dusk, the cruise culminated with a glorious sunset. As darkness descended, the coconut palms were no more than silhouettes on the horizon. The scene filled us with a sense of peace. A great ending to a wonderful day.
♦ Rajahmundry was founded in the 11th century by Raja Raja Narendra. It is the cultural capital of Andhra Pradesh and the birthplace of Nannayya, a Telugu poet. Rajahmundry is also called Southern Bombay because it is the commercial capital of the two Godavari districts. The city is famous for its textile business.
♦ Antarvedi’s religious fair is held on Bheeshma Ekadasi, which is generally in January or February. It attracts thousands of people to this usually sleepy village located at the confluence of a tributary of the River Godavari and the Bay of Bengal. Lord Narasimha Swamy’s Kalyanam is performed on dasami and rath yatra is performed on ekadasi.
By air: Rajahmundry, 80 km away is the nearest airport.
By rail: Nearest railway station is Narasapur, 15 km away, An overnight train, the Narasapur
express plies daily from Hyderabad. Rajahmundry is also on the main line.
By road: Narasapur, the nearest town, is well connected with Rajahmundry to the east
and Vijayawada in the west.
WHERE TO STAY: Haritha Coconut Country Resorts, Dindi, Malkipuram Mandal, Razole, Konaseema, East Godavari disrict, Andhra Pradesh, Tel: 08862 227991/92
By Supreet Cheema
About the author
Supreet loves to travel and getting into the skin of the destination. Active on travel forums, she likes to read and dance in her free time.