Nellore was part of the Mauryan Empire, ruled by Ashoka during the third century BC. Since then it came under several rulers such as the Pallavas, Cholas and Satayahanas. Consequently, the varied artistic influences on Nellore is apparent in the structure and architecture of its temples.The city of Nellore is the administrative stronghold of Sri Potti Sri Ramulu Nellore District (previously Nellore District) and the sixth most populated city in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Nellore is located on the banks of the Penneru River, 453 kms from Hyderabad, 168 kms from Chennai and 386 kms from Bangalore. It is renowned for producing handmade gold jewellery, mica and lime. Nellore is also a leading producer of agricultural and aquaculture products, predominantly rice. Known as VikramaSimhapuri till the 13th century AD, the word Nellore derives from a combination of the two Tamil words ‘nelli’ and ‘ooru,’ meaning ‘paddy’ and ‘village,’ respectively. After India gained her independence, the Telugu patriot PottiSriramulu set up the state of Andhra Pradesh from his base in Nellore, giving his name to the district. Today, Nellore boasts of some of the state’s best infrastructure with rapid growth and modernization.
Nellore holds close proximity to time-honored temples like the NarasimhaSwamy Temple and the Someswara Temple. The temple of Sri MulasthaneswaraSwamy, built 1400 years ago at the site where the Lord appeared under a Nelli tree is located to the west of Nellore. The 600-year-old TalpagiriRanganathaswamy Temple is a main attraction for tourists to Nellore sporting a 70 footgaaligopuram, or ‘wind tower,’ that holds 10 feet of gold-plated vessels. During the months of March and April, Nellore plays host to a grand 11-day-long festival held at the Ranganathaswamy Temple called Brahmotsavam, celebrating the life of Lord Rama. Other major temples in and around Nellore include thePenchala Kola, Ayyapa Temple, Jonnavada, KamahshiAmavari, Rajarajesjwari and the GolgamundiVenkayaSwamy Temples.
Nature lovers can find many places to take reggae in and around Nellore such as Pulicat Lake and the Nelapattu Bird Sanctuary, which hosts many rare and exotic bird species. A 165 km coastline adorns Nellore with serene beaches such as Krishnapatnam, Ramayapatnam, Kodur and Mypadu, among many others. The Prabhagiripatnam ruins, 45 kms from Nellore, contain the ruins of a temple housing Lord Shiva and PerumallaSwamy, belonging to 1512 AD. The island of Sriharikota is also found between Pulicat Lake and the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Space Research Organization’s rocket launch site that launched India’s mission to Mars.
Vijayawada is the commercial capital of Andhra Pradesh and is recognized by McKinsey Quarterly as a ‘Global City of the Future.’ Vijayawada is the most central transportation point in the state and is also well connected to the rest of the country with two national highways passing through it. Pandit Nehru Bus Station in Vijayawada is slated to be one of the largest bus stations in Asia while Vijayawada Junction Railway Station is the largest railway junction in the region. The Krishna River flows to the east and west of Vijayawada while the Budameru River holds the north. Fertile agricultural land irrigated by three major canals cover Vijayawada’s central, southwestern and northwestern parts and small to medium-sized hills surround Vijayawada from the northern, northwestern and southwestern sides. The 30,000 acreKondapalli Reserve Forest provides Vijayawada with clean air and the soft wood used to make ‘Kondapalli toys,’ popularized by the celebration of BommalaKoluvu.
Vijayawada is well known for the Kanaka Durga temple that beckons busloads of devotees everyday. It is located on top of Indrakeeladri Hill, from where one may enjoy an eagle’s eye perspective of Vijayawada. Ancient epigraphs line the two routes leading to the temple, still retaining ancient stories of religious significance. According to one version of mythology, Vijayawada was GodessDurga’s resting place upon slaying the demon, Durgama. Another version recalls Arjuna receiving his holy weapon, the Pasupatha, on top of this hill. Upon doing so, he built the Kanaka Durga temple, around which the city of Vijayawada would bloom. Other sites of religious significance include the MarkataRajarajeswari Temple; the SubramanyaSwamy Temple; the MahalakshmiAmmaravu Temple; The Narasimha Temple in Mangalagiri; The HazratBal Mosque that displays a holyrelic of the Prophet Mohammed once a year; HinkarThirtha, the region’s largest Jain temple, and the GundalaMatha Shrine that hosts the annual Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, attended by hordes.
An escape route from the city life in Vijayawada leads to the 133-acre Bhavani Island located on the Krishna River. Visitors may enjoy boat rides to the island, water sports and stay at a river front resort. The town of Amaravati, 33 kms outside Vijayawada, is the site of Chintapalli, a Buddhist settlement during the reign of Asoka. A massive stupa once stood here, said to be bigger than the ones found in Sanchi. The Archaeological Museum in Amaravati boasts of exhibits dating back to the 3rd century BC. Another site of educational significance, just 8 kms from Vijayawada, is that of the Undavalli Caves that showcase the rock-cut sandstone architecture of the Guptas from as long ago as the 7th century BC.
Vijayawada’s 1.2 km Prakasam Barrage built across The Krishna River is the largest of its kind in Asia. It was first constructed in 1855 and reconstructed in 1957. The barrage irrigates over twelve lakh acres of farmland and supplies water to the thermal power plant at Ibrahimpatnam, which powers much of Andhra Pradesh.
Other places of general interest in and around Vijayawada include the Mogalarajapuram Caves, with carvings said to be the first of their kind; the hamlet of Kuchpudi, located 60 kms from the city at the birthplace of the age-old Kuchipudi dance form; The historic Victoria Jubilee Museum in Bandar Road; Gandhi Hill with a 50 ft. stupa in memorial of Mahatma Gandhi and the Kondapalli Fort, 16 kms from Vijayawada, which served as a center of commerce for many dynasties and as a training station for the British army.