Vijayawada (also known as ‘Bezwada’), the third largest city in the state of Andhra Pradesh, is a verdant and ecofriendly city located on the banks of the River Krishna surrounded by low-lying hills. The Krishna (named after Goddess Krishnaveni), is India’s fourth largest river after the Ganga, Narmada and Godavari. It lies 1,300 kilometres (810 miles) across the Deccan Peninsula, quite like a Kuchipudi dancer’s long braid.
There are many tales behind the origin of the name of the city of Vijayawada. Legends have it that Arjuna was blessed with the ‘Pasupathastra’ by Shiva, on Indrakiladri Hill, while another mentions that Goddesses Durga killed the demon (Asura) and relaxed in this place for some time. As she was victorious (Vijaya), the place was named Vijayawada, which literally means ‘City of Victory’.
There is much to see in and around Vijayawada and very few cities can showcase such a diverse number of places of interest. One might say that every location has a different story to tell – whether it is about a journey back to ancient times at the Buddhist sites,
the ancient excavated caves or the numerous temples, many are said to have been lured to this destination to gain knowledge of their true self and discover inner peace. Others with a more adventurous frame of mind are enthralled by the huge Prakasam Barrage built across the Krishna.
The earliest town was a small settlement on the eastern side of the Indrakiladri hills, but it began to grow after the construction of a barrage, three irrigation canals and the rail bridge over the River Krishna in 1892. The construction of the Prakasam Barrage after Independence has been a major landmark contributing to the beauty of the city, as the barrage created a beautiful lake and the three canals crisscrossing the city. The more recent Rajiv Gandhi Park welcomes tourists with its impressive flora and fauna, while the mini zoo and the musical water fountain are popular with the young and old alike.
Bhawani Island, considered one of the largest islands on a river is located in the Krishna River close to the city. Reached by boat, this 133-acre (54 hectare) island is now an attractive tourist spot, with boating and water sports.
Shopping can also be exciting at the markets and malls, centrally located around M.G.Road, Eluru Road, Besant Road and Governorpet, which offer products such as Andhra’s famous ‘ikkat’ handloom fabrics, handicrafts including the distinctive Kondapalli toys made out of indigenous wood from the Kondapalli Forest. Besides the traditional handicrafts, this is also a good place to buy some of the famous spices and pickles of Andhra.
Located just eight km from Vijayawada and among the oldest sites in India, are the Undavalli Caves dating back to the seventh Century BC. Buddhist monks are said to have taken shelter from heavy rains in these four storyed caves. Also of Buddhist origin are the sites of Dhyanakataka, Bhattiprolu, Goli Guntupalli, Ghantasala and Chinna Ganjam.
The Kanaka Durga Temple is one of the most popular temples in Andhra Pradesh and is located on Indrakiladri hill overlooking the city as well as the River Krishna. It was built around 12th century by Maharaja Poosapati Madhava Varma. The Gunadala Matha Shrine is situated on a hillock on the eastern side of the city. It came into being in 1925 and later a church was built and consecrated there in 1971. Now popularly known as St. Mary's Church, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes has become an annual event, attended by people from all over India. Also popular with people of all religions is the Hazrat Bal Mosque which houses a holy relic of Prophet Mohammed, the founder of Islam.
On the western outskirts of Vijayawada lies the Kondapalli Reserve Forest, spread over 121.5 sq km (30,023.3 acres), providing Vijayawada with a ‘green lung’. The Kondapalli Fort stands majestically within the village and is around 16 km away from Vijayawada. Built by the Prolaya Vema Reddy dynasty in the 14th century, it has become a popular tourist attraction over the years.
Among the other interesting places to visit in Vijayawada is the first Gandhi Memorial with its seven stupas, standing at a height of 500 ft (150 m). It offers a library, a sound and light show and a planetarium. The Victoria Jubilee Regional Museum is the place for those interested in archaeology.