The abode of Thalupulamma Thalli is a must visit for pilgrims and thrill seekers

Araku Valley is a destination of choice in summer as well as in monsoon. Come monsoon, the green valley blooms with myriad colours. If you are heading for the valley, make it a point to stop by at Lova on the way. Located not far from the famous temple town of Annavaram on the Vijayawada-Visakhapatnam national highway no. 5, Lova, the abode of Thalupulamma Thalli, is a compelling destination for lovers of nature and adventure. A stop here is all the more important if you are travelling by car. Truck and car-owners, particularly those in the Godavari and north coastal districts, share a special bond with this shrine. They perform pooja to Sri Thalupulamma Thalli, after buying a new vehicle. The strong belief, especially among owners of commercial vehicles, is that her blessings will protect them from accidents and rake in a lot of profits. They pitch tents at the foot of the hill-top temple, offer animal sacrifice and paint the vehicle registration numbers gratefully on the walls, for remembrance's sake. The kind-hearted thalli does not wait for the devotee to make the wish. Mere thought (thalapu) is enough. She will grant it. Hence the name Thalapulamma Thalli, who is a ‘swayambhu' (self-incarnate). However, people refer to her as Thalupulamma Thalli.

The temple, wedged between two forested hillocks, Daarakonda and Teegakonda, offers a breath-taking view of the valley below, even as the steep and winding 5-km drive from the highway gives one a sample of the natural beauty of East Godavari, often claimed as ‘the God's own district'. A long flight of steps, taking off from the ornate entrance gateway, leads up to the sanctum of Sri Thalupulamma, at an intermediary landing, devotees offer worship to Sri Vighneswara and other deities.

Legend has it that Sage Agastya, enchanted by the scenic splendour and tranquility of the place, settled down for tapas. Unlike other temples, the Thalupulamma shrine closes at 6 in the evening. None stays on after that. It is explained that this is so because wild animals frequent the spot after dark or, as some believe, the Goddess is supposed to roam about. The steep climb is worth it, not just for the darshan of the deity , but also for the stunning spectacle of the valley below, the lush fields among others. Youngsters with a streak of adventure can skip the steps and try mountain climbing. Pilgrim rush is moderate except on festive occasions and for the vacationers proceeding to Vizag or Araku Valley, the diversion involves less than two hours.

How to reach: 5 km from NH 5 toward Visakhapatnam, within 20 km of Tuni and Annavaram railway stations. There are special buses from Tuni, no other transport is available. It is best to have your own conveyance. There is no proper accommodation or hotel for overnight stay.