Paddy fields, picturesque spots and rich culture make West Godavari a favourite destination, writes G. Nagaraja
Nestling between the two mighty and perennial rivers – the Godavari and the Krishna – West Godavari district, endowed with picturesque tourist spots like the Kolleru Lake and surrounded by the Papi hill ranges, and a chain of temples is widely known for its aesthetic beauty, rich culture and illustrious history.
The swaying paddy fields, high-rise coconut trees and the criss-crossing canals turn out to be favourite locations for film shooting. The district forms part of the 300-year princely State of Mogalturu and Vengi kingdom ruled by the Chalukyas. Vengi (now called as Pedavegi), the once capital of Eastern Chalukyas, falls under West Godavari.
Surrounded by Khammam on the North, East Godavari on the East, Krishna district on the West and the Bay of Bengal on the South, the district was once home to Buddhism and Jainism. The temple of Pradhama Teerthankara, named as Adhinadhudu of Jainism at Pedamiram village near Bhimavaram and a big stone image with a sitting posture of Jaina Teerthankara at Penumanchili of Achanta mandal, and the Buddhist remains at Guntupalli village under Kamavarapukota mandal, including a group of rock-cut chambers such as caves, remains of a brick-built Chaitya hall and many stupas of different sizes stand testimony to the rich culture of the district.
The Kolleru Lake, the largest freshwater body in the country spread over 77,000 sq km draws a wide range of exotic birds from Siberia and European countries. The lake became more conducive for nesting and staging by the winged guests after the Operation Kolleru, which helped in removal of encroachments like fishponds in the sanctuary area.
The lake, which serves as a natural flood-balancing reservoir for the Krishna and the Godavari, is an important habitat for an estimated 20 million resident and migratory birds, including the Grey or spot-billed pelican. Besides, the boat ride in the Godavari amidst the giant-like Papi hill ranges is a thrilling experience for the tourists.
West Godavari, with a garland of temples with rich historical and architectural importance, attracts pilgrims from far and wide. The places of pilgrimage include Dwaraka Tirumala, the abode of Sri Venkateswara Swamy, Palacole with Ksheera Ramalingeswara Swamy temple, Pattisam with the shrines of Veerabhadhra Swamy and Bhavanarayana, Natteswaram and Penugonda, the abodes of Natta Ramalingeswara Swamy and Kanyaka Parameswari respectively.
The district, with a vast delta-rich paddy fields, has got the sobriquet of rice granary of Andhra Pradesh. A large portion of prawn and fish are exported to Japan and the U.S. from the delta parts in the district. In Delta, coconut, lemon, rice farming and aquaculture are practiced. In uplands, oil palm, tobacco, cotton, sugarcane, corn, cashew, mango, banana and other fruit farming are taken up.
The Cotton barrage across the Godavari at Dhavaleswaram has helped prosperity flow through the district. The prestigious Indira Sagar Project under construction at Polavaram has made West Godavari a pioneer of development. It is a role model in literacy with 66 per cent of its population being literate.