Nevertheless i made all the necessary enquiries about Penukonda before hand.Got up early and headed towards Chikkaballapur at around 5am.A brief stop at the kamat hotel beyond Chikkaballapur with some crisp idli and vada was indeed a good start for the day :).Reached Penukonda at around 8am,parked my car near the fort entrance and walked along only to be stopped at the temple of Lord Venkateshwara.It was the first pooja for the day and indeed i was blessed.After the pooja ,prasad was given ,thanking the lord for the blessing and the good beginning for the day i went ahead only to see a giant hanuman statue.
It then dawned on me ,Penukonda is one of the holiest places in south India.It has 365 temples of Lord Hanuman alone.Right through this post i will bring out some facts which might be a bit disturbing ,but it has be taken at face value since these are facts and well documented.
Above : An erstwhile temple which was converted into a mosque post the conquest of the vijayanagar empire by the adilshah king
King krishnadevaraya was a staunch disciple of Lord Venkateshwara.He also believed in Lord
hanuman -the god of strength.He has installed hanuman vigraha in most places to make sure
that he gets to pray before ,before he sets out to do any work.
He also installed shiva linga which was brought from kashi.The shiva temple has very beautiful sculptures comparable to the hoysala architecture.One can imagine the granduer of the huge homa mantapa with all the hymns in full throttle -what a sight it must have been-sadly the homa mantapa is today a cattle stable.
Above : Shiva temple
Above : Homa mantapa
Above : Aymukteshwara temple
That is when i met my guide venkatesh,who intitally promised me to take me to the fort atop the hill but later backtracked sadly.As i climbed on it was a difficult to climb on since the heat was starting to beat me,there was little or no track visible all along,made my way along the rocky hills of the fort.Unfortunately there is very little of the fort which is remaining but the sheer joy of climbing the fort where once king krishnadevaraya ruled is indeed a joy in itself. After exploring the fort until a certain level where it overlooks a huge lake below,the path ahead was either non-existant or ended with a path full of thorns,it would have been a better idea to take a local along.Rested for a while before i started my descent to meet my guide at the Gagan mahal palace.
Venkatesh was sitting in the cosy halls of the Gagan mahal palace.The palace is in itself not a huge one.The ground floor has a elaborate halls which is said to have been used for king meeting the common people.The first floor has the durbar hall which is said to have housed the king's throne along with his son thimmaraya and his queen.A little ahead of this durbar hall is a small personal natya mandira where the king krishnadevaraya is said to have enjoyed the company of his misstresses.A small cozy place where there were dance performances personally for him.A fact to be known here is that the king was a sex maniac.He was known for his insatiable thirst for sex.It is said the king used to keep himself fit with a strict regimen of excercises daily.He became a king at the age of 20 and died at the prime age of 40-establishing on of the most flourishing kingdoms in south india.
Above : Durbar hall where the king used to sit on the throne
Above : The king's gym -it is said that he used to lift these heavy stones with ease as a part of his gym regimen
Above: A kalyani near the Vajramushti Hanuman devasthana
After exploring Gagan mahal palace i headed for lunch ,where i bumped into the raghavendra
swami brindavana -the priest there gave a brief of history.It is said the one of the disciples of raghavendra swami found a lot of hidden wealth ,since he was a sanyasi he offered it to the king .The king meantime welcomed the swami ,sought his blessings for the kingdom from the disciple.In spiritual acitivities the king sought a lot of guidance from them.After the fall of the vijayanagara empire ,vyasaraya again a raghvendra swami disciple came back after the fall of the vijayanagara empire.In a bid to stop the onslaught of the jains who were flourishing he took an initiative to establish his philosophy.He took on the jains in a spiritual and intellectual debate defeating the jains in each of them.It is said that he installed one hanuman for each win against the jains .In one year alone he installed 365 hanuman idols-establishing his philosophy and giving a new turn in the religious history of Penukonda.The heat was a bit too much to take ,after taking the blessing of Raghavendra swami ,i had lunch at the matha-thanking the priest ,i decided to conintue my journey of exploring penukonda.We later visited the vedavyasa theerthara brindavana-a nice calm place followed it by shree laxmi-kanta theerthara brindavana.A small abandoned hanuman temple near this brindavana is worth seeing.
After this we headed to the hanuman which is at the edge of the city in a ram temple which is again very famous.Each of these temples is different and has an aura of its own.Beside it is a giant statue of Kumbhakarana which was established recently as a tourist attraction.It is a welcome spot for kids to be shown about the hindu mythology,a place that the kids are sure to enjoy.
Later we entered back to the town checking out the prison of thimmaraya the son of Krishnadevaraya.Some interesting information about Krishnadevaraya can be found in this link
After checking out the sripadaraja matha at the edge of the town ,headed back after a memorable day out in the summer.