Devotees trek through tiger reserve forest to visit the temple
The tough terrain is no deterrent for the pilgrims and nature lovers who throng Palanka kshetra, a remote village with a hoary past in the thick Nallamala forests, for a religious festival of the primitive Chenchu tribal people.
The temple dedicated to Lord Veerabhadraswamy was built by Vijayanagar emperor Krishnadevaraya while returning to Srisailam after defeating the Gajapathi kings, recalls Nallgatti Mallikarjuna Naidu, a descendant of a warrior family while speaking to The Hindu . Continuing the glorious tradition, the descendants of chieftains Boda Venkatapati Naidu and Nalagati Pedda Timma Naidu perform special pujas at the temple every year on ‘Toli Ekadasi’ day which falls on Friday this year.
Fondly recalling his forefathers' association with Krishnadevaraya, the greatest statesman in south India during the medieval period, Mr Mallikarjuna said the ''Allattamkota, now in a dilapidated condition close to river Krishna, stands testimony to the heroic acts of Nallagatti and Boda warriors in protecting people from robbers on directions from the Vijayanagara emperor.”
Tens and thousands of devotees from the districts of Mahabubnagar, Krishna, Guntur, Kurnool, and Prakasam visit the temple every year to experience the divinity and scenic beauty trekking through the tiger reserve forest, explained Nallagatti Athma, another descendant of the family.
The Forest officials from G.V.Palli range deployed tribal people armed with bow and arrow to stave off threat from wild animals and provide a safe passage to the pilgrims to the temple situated under ‘Peddakonda’.
A medical team led by Dr. M. Srinivasa Rao, senior public health officer, was positioned to provide medicines to pilgrims to prevent malaria, gastroenteritis and other diseases. ''Every year, we camp in the tribal village to prevent Malaria and gastroenteritis after the bad experience in 2006 when 17 people had died'', Dr.Rao added. “We believe that Lord Veerabhadraswamy, an incarnation of Lord Shiva and goddess Bhadrakali, bless them with health, wealth, prosperity, and progeny on devotees'', said Nallagatti Mallayya.
Pious people take a holy dip in the Palanka Kunta, which join the river Krishna six km downstream, to get rid of diseases. Couples name their newborn babies after the Lord of Palanka he said.
Descendants of chieftains perform special pujas at the temple