Visit to Kuruvapur Island, Abode of Sripada Srivallabha
It had been a short night when the bus started to Visakhapatnam airport at 5:30 am on Monday morning 16 January. Some group members directly began their journey home. We were nine persons who, before returning home early the next morning, wanted to make a trip to Kuruvapur, an island in the Krishna River where Sripada Srivallabha had passed the second half of his life, from about 1336 until his disappearance in 1350. We took the first morning flight to Hyderabad.
At the exit of Hyderabad airport my friends Sridhar and Lakshmi with her son Pavan waited already for us. It was the first time I met Lakshmi although we had a lot of e-mail contacts in the past – it was she who brought me into contact with Sripada and proposed the translation of his biography to me. And there was Mr. Subramania Kumar, from a spiritual society related to Lord Dattatreya who would accompany us, for he was very familiar with the place where we were going.
With two taxis and Sridhar’s car we first went to his home to leave there our luggage. Sridhar and his wife offered us tea, coffee and some snacks and then we started – all together15 persons. It was a bit later than I had calculated. And the tour turned out to be long and went partly via bumpy roads. But the time flew quickly by – during the whole journey I had a lively conversation with Lakshmi.
Several mountains were like huge piles of giant pebbles
Sripada statue at the entrance of the Ashram
It was already past 3 pm when we arrived at Panchadev Pahad, a small settlement on the board of the Krishna River. We received a warm welcome at the “Sripada Chaya Ashramam”, where they offered us some food and a few devotional articles. In a huge hall with a shrine a fire ritual was going on. Around the hall there were beautiful new statues of incarnations of Lord Dattatreya and other saints. I urged the group to continue towards Kuruvapur: “We want to visit the island, the time till sunset is running short.”
Shrine inside the ashram hall
Statue of Sripada outside the ashram hall
Lakshmi with her son
Finally we arrived at the river. To my great surprise it was very large – the pictures my friend Robert had taken last year in January showed a shallow stream which they could cross by feet. We now had to take boats. There was a number of huge round coracles. We took two coracles (on the way back the whole group sat in a single coracle!). The ferryman skilfully manoeuvred the boat over the water surface which seemed to be without flow. For a while a water serpent was swimming beside us. The boats had to go through a passage between small uninhabited islands.
For me it was a solemn moment when we entered the island of Kuruvapur. We passed by a small shrine under a huge banyan tree. I heard that the was there already at the times of Sripada, in the 14th century. Through a small gopuram (temple tower) we went into the inner courtyard of the temple. The women were allowed to enter in panjabis; the men had to change the western clothes to dothis, the traditional Indian dress worn by men. Then we were allowed into the innermost part of the temple, the place where Sripada had lived and meditated. All of us felt a strong spiritual presence. Some later described it as a permeating, warm and loving energy. It was very pleasant and stronger than what I had experienced at other places. We sat down for meditation. I quickly was absorbed in profound silence – the outside sounds came like from a great distance.
Small shrine under the old banyan tree
Gopuram, entrance of the temple
Putting on dothis
The statue of Sripada at the Sanctum
Flags on the temple top
Audumbara tree in the centre of the inner courtyard
Filled with this sublime experience, we returned to the river. I would have liked to stay a bit longer but the golden light of the evening sun was already over the waters while we were gliding back to the other riverside. Again some group photos, then back into the taxis and a short stop at the ashram.
Together with Sridhar in the coracle
Landing at Panchadev Pahad
The sun was already setting when the journey back started. 3.5 hours later we arrived at Sridhar’s home in Hyderabad. With warm hospitality, he and his wife offered us a dinner. Around midnight he drove us to the airport. When I finally sat in the plane, I was very tired but filled with a rich treasure of profound experiences. I felt very grateful.