The Lord Sree Sita Ramachandra Swamy
Temple in Bhadrachalam is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Rama in the Indian state of Telangana. The area is known as Bhadrachalam, and it is the site of grand celebrations on Rama Navami, when Lord Rama and his consort Sita celebrate their wedding anniversary with great fanfare.
The temple in Bhadrachalam is closely associated with the life of Kancharla Gopanna, also known as Bhakta Ramadas, a 17th-century saint composer. Gopanna, the Tahasildar of Bhadrachalam in the second half of the 17th century, is said to have built this temple with money from the government treasury and was imprisoned in a dungeon at Golconda.
Lord Rama is said to have miraculously returned to the Sultan the money that Gopanna had spent, after which he was released. Gopanna later changed his name to Bhadrachala Ramadasa and went on to write a plethora of Telugu songs in praise of Rama.
The Ramayana is said to have been closely associated with Bhadrachalam and Vijayanagara. Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana are said to have spent time in Parnasala, which is 35 kilometres from Bhadrachalam. Rama is said to have crossed the river Godavari on his way to Sri Lanka to rescue Sita near the Bhadrachalam temple on the river’s northern bank.
Hundreds of thousands of devotees from all over the world visit Bhadrachalam. The famous shrine Bhadrachalam is located on a hill surrounded by the Holy River Godavari, which flows towards the south. The name comes from Bhadragiri (Mountain of Bhadra: a boon child of Meru and Menaka). The history of this shrine represents the significance of the Ramayana Era, as the coherent hill place existed in the Ramayana period’s “Dandakaranya” where Rama, his consort Sita, and brother Lakshmana spent their vanavasa.
Another story depicts the urgency of “Sri Mahavishnu” to manifest himself as Rama and shuffled back to the mortal coil — long after Ramavatara was to fulfil his promise to his Bhakta Bhadra (a mountain king), a sage who had been continuing the intense penance to obtain Lord Rama’s grace.
According to legend,
The reason for Vaikunta Rama’s incarnation was to fulfil a long-held desire of his ardent devotee Bhadra. Saint Bhadra performed penance on the banks of the Godavari in Dandakaranya in order to obtain the grace of Lord Rama and the countenance of his beloved God. The ecstatic sage begged Rama to sit on his head, but Rama, who was in search of his consort Sita, promised his Bhakta that his wish would be granted after he found Sita and completed the process of punishing the wicked Ravana and establishing ‘Dharma’. As Rama was unable to fulfil his promise in Ramavatara, the sage continued his terrified penance.
Then Sri Mahavishnu appeared as Vaikunta Rama and rushed to his devotee Bhadra, signalling his arrival by blowing ‘Shanku,’ accompanied by his consort Sita and brother Laxmana, in a scene reminiscent of ‘Gajendra Moksham.’ Thus, Rama’s deities (having four hands) — Shanku on the right, Chakra on the left, and Dhanurbhana (Bow and Arrow in the other two hands) — Sita had condescended on Rama’s left lap, and brother (at Ram’s left) are. And because the hill where the Deities were seated was the head of Bhadra – Achala (immovable, i.e., hill), this shrine was renamed Bhadrachalam.
Pokala Dhammakka discovered the Vaikunta Rama, Laxmana, and Sita deities. She was a Rama devotee who lived in the 17th century in Bhadrireddypalem, a mile away from this holy place. Lord Rama appeared to her in a dream one night and told her, “the saints and sages are worshipping my embodied deity settled on Bhadragiri,” and asked her to find them, perform pooja, and attain salvation. The next morning, she began her search for the deities, peeping into an anthill and discovering the deities hidden within it. She poured hundreds of pots of Godavari water on the anthill, which slowly dissolved and allowed the hidden Deities to emerge. She has been performing pooja every day since then, offering ‘nivedyam’ with fruits fallen from a palmyra tree and building a mandapam with the help of local villagers.
Bhakta Ramadas and temple construction
April 2011: Rama Kalyana Mahotsavam at Sri Ramanavami
Kancharla Gopanna, also known as Bhakta Ramadas, built the Bhadrachalarama temple. In the 17th century, he was born to Linganna Murthy and Kamamba in the village of Nelakondapalli, Khammamett Taluk (1630 AD). As Tahasildar, he took his official duties seriously, collecting revenue owed to Nawabs while continuing his daily preaches: chanting of ‘Ramanama’ and feeding the poor at his home. Ramadasa learned that the villagers of Palvoncha paragana were on their way to Bhadrachalam to witness Jatara. He, too, went to Bhadrachalam out of curiosity.
He discovered the deities in amazing condition, and Ramadas then asked the villagers to contribute generously to the temple’s construction. The villagers begged him to use the revenue collections to build the temple, promising to repay the money after the crops were harvested. As a result, Ramadas built the temple without the permission of the Golconda Nawab, using Rs 6 lakhs collected from land revenues.
When the temple was finished,
He ran into trouble with the ‘Sudarshana Chakra’ at the crest of the main temple. He fell asleep, deeply distressed. On the same night, Rama asked him in his dream to take a holy dip in the Godavari, which he would find accordingly. Gopanna did so the next morning and easily found the holy Sudarshana Chakra in the river. He assumed that the Sudarshana Chakra was formed by the divine power of his beloved God Rama. His woes began soon after the construction.
He was fired from the army for misusing revenue to build the temple, imprisoned for 12 years in Golconda Fort, and tortured. Unable to bear the miseries, Ramadas begged Rama to relieve him by singing many praising and emotional songs, which were popularised by the stanzas of Bhakta Ramadasa’s ‘Dasaradhi Sathakam’ and ‘Keertanas’.
After Ramadas’ imprisonment,
The Golconda King Tanishah, the then ruler of the Qutub Shahi Kingdom, became a devotee of Rama and took over the administration of the temple. This is similar to the communal harmony that exists between Hindus and Muslims.
Tanishah, the Golconda King, recognised Ramadas’ devotional spirit and dedication to Rama when Rama and Laxmana repaid six lakh mohurs exposing themselves as Ramoji and Laxmoji, the servants of Bhakta Ramadas, to get their devotee released from prison. Thanisha gave these divine-looking people who approached him at his house late at night a voucher. The voucher was then hidden under Gopanna’s pillow while he was imprisoned.
Tanishah, when she awoke the next morning, realised that those divine-looking people were none other than Rama and Laxmana, and she made arrangements for Gopanna’s release and prayed to forgive him by placing all the Gold Mohurs she had received the night before at the feet of Gopanna. However, he refused to return the mohurs except for two as a mark of divine significance, which can still be seen in Bhadrachalam Temple.
Influenced by Lord Rama,
Golconda Ruler Tanishah set aside Rs 20,000 and odd from the said Palwoncha paragana for the maintenance of the temple, which was continued during Qutub Shahi’s reign, and for offering pearls to Deities on an elephant on the occasion of Kalyana mahotsavam (Sri Ramanavami) through a specially sent messenger. The practise of sending pearls to the Deities is still practised by the current state government and is still available during the SriRamanavami Festival.