On the Traces of Sripada – The Second Tour to Pithapuram
Sunday morning 15 January around 5 am we went with a second group of 11 persons to Pithapuram, the birthplace of Sripada Srivallabha. There was not much traffic on the way and so we arrived already at 8 am. I wondered how this visit would be – the first one had stirred a lot of attention, with the presentation of the new German translation of the Sripada biography. This visit would certainly be much calmer…
The driver first stopped at the wrong place – the Kukkuteswara temple (I did not recognise it; two years ago, I had entered it from another gate). Some youth explained to the driver how to get to the Maha Samsthanam, the temple at the birthplace of Sripada.
We had to walk a bit – a motorbike driver showed us the direction. When we reached the entrance, a cow stood there looking with a profound glance. Inside the temple people were going around the sanctum or sitting in the centre or along the walls reading. We also circumambulated the shrine and then sat on benches at the side for meditation. We had no program and I wondered how the day would unfold.
The entrance to the temple at the birthplace of Sripada
A turtle in front of the temple – a profound symbolism
After half an hour a person came and asked us if we would like to participate in the Abhishekam ceremony – a ceremonial washing of the symbol of Sripada’s feet. We agreed. I went to the office to pay a small amount for the ceremony and then sat with the others in rows before the shrine. At 9 am some priests started reciting Vedic hymns and one priest inside the shrine started washing the feet with various liquid substances, mainly curd coloured with kurkuma or other herbs. Our foreheads were decorated with kumkum (red powder) and vibhuti (sacred ash) pastes. Later, we received some of the curd to drink as a blessing. While the ceremony was going on, a dog came and went along the lines – Dattatreya’s greetings.
After the ceremony a priest came and spoke with members of the group. He said he knew that we were coming and that he came because he knows English and wanted to welcome us. He explained us the ritual and a bit about the temple.
Group photo in front of the Audumbara tree with the statue of Sripada
Around 10 am Srinivas, my Indian friend from the States and his wife arrived – I had met him already in Bengaluru. He proposed to show us a place with an old book about Sripada and the Kukkuteswara temple. We followed him. As we were leaving the temple, the motorbike driver was again at the same place where we had left him two hours before. He took Srinivas on the backseat and showed us the way to our bus. Then the two headed the bus and guided us through small roads to a house. It its court there was a small shrine with a place for fire rituals. Inside the house a priest welcomed us and showed us some Sanskrit palm leave manuscripts. He had done a translation of a very old book about Sripada’s life from Sanskrit to Telugu. They showed us a box which contained the old manuscript, and also the Telugu book they recently had published. It was a special moment.
Palm leave manuscript
Showing the box with the old manuscript
Afterwards Srinivas and the motorbike driver guided us to the Kukkuteswara temple. There we saw a statue of the divine Mother, a very old Shiva lingam and the self-manifested statue of Dattatreya, which is frequently mentioned in the Sripada biography.
The portal to the Kukkuteswara temple
A group photo with students visiting the temple
Our group then left for Visakhapatnam. Srinivas had arranged a visit to a Dattatreya temple in Vannepudi, a village on the way back. We drove some small roads over the countryside and came to a village. We arrived at a pond with a statue in the centre. It turned out that this was a temple of the divine Mother. A priest explained to us that it was a very special, magnetic place with a unique figure of the mother standing erect in a fire. He conducted a small ritual and then there was the obligatory group photo.
The statue of the Mother in the pond
Entrance to the temple of the Mother and of Shiva
The priest in front of the statue of the Mother
Picture of an image of the Mother
On the way back we arrived at the Dattatreya temple which had already closed – it was past noontime. But when we went around the temple, some people came with the priest. They opened the temple for us and the priest conducted a ritual and gave us the blessing of fire and flowers.
Dattatreya statue on the outer wall of the temple
The priest conducting the ritual
Group photo in front of the temple
When we drove back to Vizag we all felt very happy about this auspicious day.