Manikyamba Devi

Introduction

Draksharamam is an important Maha Shakthi Peetha. This place is also known as Dakshina Kashi along with Srisailam and Kaleeswara or Kalahasti which constitute the three sacred Shiva Lingas of Andhra Pradesh. Here Devi Sati’s left cheek has fallen. Devi is worshipped as Manikyamba and Lord Bhairava as Bheemeshwara. Draksharamam is one of the five Pancharamams, (sacred places of Lord Shiva) the other four being Amararamam, Ksheeraramam, Somaramam and Bhimaramam.

Location

Draksharamam is 6 kms from Ramachandra Puram, East Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh. Draksharamam is about 17 kms from Kakinada and 40 kms from Rajamundry. Only bus facility is available to reach the temple. The nearest railway stations are Rajamundry, Kakinada and Samalkota (junction). From the railway station, pilgrims have to take the bus to reach the temple. State government operates regular bus services from Kakinada and Ramachandra Puram to Draksharamam. Nearest airport is from Rajamundry.

Other places of tourist interest

a)   Samalkota has Pancharamam temple namely Kumararamam

b)   Annavaram has a temple dedicated to Satyanarayana Swamy

c)   Thalupulamma Thalli, a temple dedicated to local goddess

d)   Rajamundry has several places of tourist interest.

e)   Kanakadurga Temple

f)    Coringa Sanctuary

The temple and its History

Draksharamam is a two floored ancient temple. The temple is built on 12 acres plot, with huge walls representing a fort. The temple is built by Bhima, the Eastern Chalukya King of Vengi during 9- 10th Century AD when his kingdom was attacked by Rashtrakootas. The temple architecture has a blend of Chalukya and Chola styles. The temple walls and pillars have splendid carvings of gods and goddesses. The Draksharamam temple has nearly 400 inscriptions dating back to 11th century in Telugu and Sanskrit languages. The temple has two prakaras. The outer prakara has four entrances marked with four gopurams on each side of the entrance. The entrance to the inner prakara is from the south. The south facing entrance is marked by a line of pillared two floored veranda. There are steps leading to the sanctum, on the first floor where the main deity- Lord Bheemeshwara is worshipped. At the entrance, idols of Dundi Ganapathy and Natya Ganapathy welcome the devotees to the temple.

Inside the temple is the Dwajastambam and two Prakaras which is dark. On the walls of the Prakara are too many small stone projections. It is believed that initially when the temple was built, there were diamonds kept in those places which lighted the Prakara by its glitter. When the temple was plundered by Aurangzeb, diamonds turned into stones. Thus the Prakara is dark. There are 26 gods and goddesses in the temple. Inside the Prakara, are small shrines of deities -Sri Lakshmi Narayana, the Kshetra Palaka, Prakara Bhairavudu, Lord Virupaksha, Lord Subramanya, Sapta Matrukas, Lord Hanuman, Navagraha, Ashta Dik Palakas, Kailasa Ganapathy, Goddess Kankadurga, Goddess Annapurna, Nataraja and 108 Shiva Lingam on a square stone and Bhima Sabha. A temple dedicated to Kashi Vishveshwara Swamy is on the right side of Lord Bheemeshwara Swamy temple. The temple is very well ventilated with natural light and air.

There is also another small temple within the temple, which is a prototype of the main temple. The temple is maintained by the Andhra Pradesh government.

The temple is open from 6.00 am to 12.00 pm and from 3.00 pm to 8.00 pm. On Wednesdays, temple is open for darshan from 6.00 am to 11.30 am and from 3.00 pm to 8.00 pm.

Annadanam/ Annabogh is provided to the visiting devotees in the temple daily.

The deity

Manikyamba Devi is seated on a Srichakra with “atma lingam” in her hand. Lord Shiva at the temple is a 16 inch Swayambu Spatika Linga worshipped as Sri Bheemeshwara. It is also known as Bogalingam. This is the world’s longest Shiva Linga. Bheemeshwara lingam was installed by Daksha Prajapathi.

Puranic Reference

The demon, Tarakasura performed immense penance and received the Atma lingam as a boon from Lord Shiva. With the blessings of Lord Shiva, Tarakasura committed atrocities against the Devas. The Devas, pleaded with Parvati Devi to put an end to Tarakasura. Parvati Devi killed Tarakasura through her son, Lord Shanmukha or Lord Subramanya. Lord Shiva instructed Shanmukha to destroy the atma linga in Tarakasura’s neck and then kill the demon. The atma lingam broke into five pieces when it was destroyed. These five pieces fell at five places known as Pancharamam. The first Pancharamam is Amareshwara, at Amaravathi which is installed by Lord Indra, the second is Someshwara at Bheemavaram installed by Lord Chandra, the third is Ksheera Ramalingam at Palakollu installed by Lord Rama, the fourth is Kumara Rama Bheemeshwara in Samalakota installed by Lord Shanmukha and the fifth being Draksharamam. The Saptarishis requested River Godavari to come over to Draksharamam to purify the piece of Atma lingam fallen at Draksharamam. But Godavari responded late, thus Lord Shiva emerged himself in Draksharamam.  Thus Lord Bheemeshwara is considered as a Swayambu at Draksharamam.

According to one puranic reference, Saptamaharishis (seven sages) divided the Godavari River into seven streams at Draksharamam. Bhardwaja, Viswamitra and Jamadagni streams are known as Antarvahinis, as they have gone underground.  These streams later merged into one and are known as Sapta Godavari Kundam (pond) near the temple where devotees take bath.

Another reference is that Manikyamba Devi was the daughter of a prostitute. One day she dreamt of Lord Bheemeshwara and decided to marry Him. She prayed with great devotion to Lord Shiva and finally married Lord Bheemeshwara.     Manikyamba Devi is also considered as the Kula Devtha of prostitutes.

Another puranic reference is that the temple was established by the sun god- Lord Surya. The angels decided to build the temple overnight. However, at dawn break, the perimeter wall construction was incomplete. Several attempts made later to construct the perimeter wall went in vain. The wall would collapse in a matter of few months. Thus the wall remains incomplete even to this day.

Another story is that a Brahmin widow made a golden idol of her daughter who had died. Over a period of time, the idol started talking. This idol was decorated with Manikyas (gems) thus the idol got its name as Maniykamba. Bhimadeva, a King took the idol and worshipped as his Kula Devatha.

Rituals, Festivals and Fairs

Shivaratri in Maga masa (Feb- March) is celebrated with great fervour. Navaratri celebrated during Ashwija masa (Sep- Oct) draws people from all over the State. Devi is worshipped as nine different forms of Shakthi during the nine days of Navaratri. Karthika Masa (Nov-Dec) is another festival celebrated, during which people throng to Lord Bheemeshwara Swamy temple to participate in the Karthika Deepotsavam on Karthika Poornima. On Bhima Ekadashi, Swamivari Kalyanam, (marriage ceremony) of Lord Bheemeshwara and Maniykamba is celebrated during Maga Masa (Feb- March). In December, the birth anniversary of the Lord is celebrated as Shasti.

On every Ekadashi day, 11th day of Shukla paksha (waxing moon) and Krishna Paksha (waning moon) Ekantha Seva of Lord Bheemeshwara and goddess Manikyamba is performed. During the Seva, priests sing eight slokas about Manikyamba Devi and Lord Bheemeshwara. Fridays are considered auspicious for worshipping the Devi. Special poojas like Kumkumarchana are performed on Fridays. Abhisheka to the deity is performed using water from the holy Sapta Godavari Kundam.