While its still dark out, before dawn, my grand mother would wake us up to get ready and then hands out huge cow dung dried cakes (Bhogi Pidakalu). Still yawning, we walk out in the fog wearing sweaters to throw them in the bonfire (Bhogi Manta). This begins our beloved festival – Makara Sankranthi.
Cant believe that this all happened 15 years ago. Children even now do that but it used to be so much fun back then. Like most other things, Sankranthi also changed the way we celebrate. Except for few in the East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh. Being the Rice Bowl, this district is the heart of Sankranthi celebrations. Can be lungs too, because it is so green. Touchwood.
Its time we decode the name for all those who wonder what it is all about. Simply, Sun moves to new position around this time bringing spring. People celebrate this for three days and offer prayers for a good upcoming harvest season. Thus, Sankranthi.
First day is Bhogi, when people make bonfire from agriculture waste and old furniture. Children throw Bhogi Pidakalu, which keep the fire alive for days. It also act as an air cleanser and prevent pollution. Women draw colorful Rangoli in front of their houses.
Second day is Makara Sankranthi. It is all about prayers and good food, really good food. Son-in-laws especially newly wed visit girl’s family to celebrate. From delicious dal to mouth-watering sweets like Ariselu, Bobbatlu, Junnu and Vadalu. Choices are countless.
On the last day of the festival – Kanuma, people clean and worship cattle. Although, not part of tradition, people entertain from cock fights in day; card games and recording dances at night in the village. As they promote violence and bad behavior, Government banned them earlier. But today, we see them everywhere.
Overall, Sankranthi is huge in Andhra Pradesh and there are few things that can experienced only in East Godavari district. Let’s go for a ride from Rajahmundry to Amalapuram and everywhere in between to enjoy Sankranthi in its very own land of Konaseema (Group of islands in East Godavari district). Are you ready for it?
Harathi like nowhere
On Bhogi, bonfires are joy to be around. They were huge but not anymore. But we have got one alternative to do on Bhogi – Godavari Harathi in Rajahmundry. Harathi is a divine fire and here it is the prayer to river Godavari. Priests offer these prayers for good health, wealth and well-being of all. It is such a divine experience to watch in person. Harathi is a daily activity at Pushkar Ghat, although it can be special on festivals.
While at Rajahmundry, there are few things that one wouldn’t want to miss. Rajahmundry authentic Rose Milk at Main Road is a start. In a small store with the board “Serving since 1950” in red and white, it has heavenly milk on earth. While rose milk itself can be heavy, Cova can be substitute of two meals.
Tapeswaram Khaja, Sri Kanya Chicken Biryani, Coconut juice at Danavaipet, various bajji around the city are must try and in right season, pulasa fish can be a treat.
On the way back from Rajahmundry, Kadiyam is a great place for various flowers although they can be quite expensive. On the other side of river is Atreyapuram where one of the most delicious sweet is born – Putharekulu.
Fireworks like never before
Sankranthi fireworks in Kothapeta, near Ravulapalem are one-of-a-kind experience. These fireworks are a competition between two villages and both of them strive to offer a striking experience. Along with spectacular fireworks, they also burn huge mythological villain structures.
Kothapeta is also a food lover junction. About 15 min north is – Ravulapalem with best breakfast at RK tiffins. Especially attu with sugarcane sauce is so freakin’ delicious. Pottikkalu and pesarattu are other local favorites. Also, about 15 min south is Avidi, home of another delicious sweet – Cova.
Did you already feel Konaseema is a food lover’s paradise? What would you say, if there is more.
Cock Fights like everywhere
Few years ago, we had to travel about couple hours to see cock fights and they used to be special. Hundreds of local people gather on Kanuma to bet and have fun. Today, there are permissions to every village and the fights are everywhere. Although cock fights are not always about fights but the display of well built cocks and selling them. Not that I am supportive of these fights but locals treat these as another fun activity along with card games and recording dances.
Prabhala Theertham like a dare
Prabhalu are huge decorated structures built of bamboo in the shape of temple top. For comparison, like Mardi Gras in USA. And displaying several of these at a place on Kanuma is Prabhala Theertham. And Jaggannathota is a place near Amalapuram which attracts several thousands of people for one of such kind. This tradition goes back 400 years and people from surrounding villages gather here to watch Prabhas. There is one Prabha that stands out of all, which local people carry across the creek without Prabha touching the water. No matter how deep the creek is.
There are Prabhas in almost every village around Konaseema and each village celebrates in its own style. And then there is one village near Rajole that cannot be missed for its grandeur of light works. Punthalo Musalamma temple will be illuminated by thousands of lights throughout the festival nights. From nearby streets to temple top, the light display is beyond expectations.
Naan with paya soup is a breakfast available only in Rajole, which is a crazy way to start the day.
To end it all in style, Antarvedi is a must visit place in Konaseema. From historic Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy Temple to the place where Godavari river meet the Sea, it has so much to do around.
From food to visiting places, we have seen it all. And for those visiting East Godavari and looking for beautiful places to stay, look no further. From Dindi Resorts near Antarvedi to Maredumilli resorts near Rajahmundry, there are one-of-a-kind stays. Of course, Maredumilli and Papikondalu deserve entirely a trip of their own.
Are you ready to hit East Godavari for the next trip? Let us know your favorites in comments.