Vontimitta is a tiny town in Rajampet taluq in Dr YSR distritct (earlier Cuddapah or Kadapa district) of Andhra Pradesh in southern India. The town is known for its Kodandarama Swamy Temple with architectural history dating back to sixteenth century and for its Vijayanagara architectural style as result the temple complex is declared by the Government of India as a monument of national importance.
HISTRORICITY & RELIGIOSITY of THE TEMPLE:
Sri V. Raghavacharyulu, one of the priests of the temple, says the temple complex has a great history and importance and Lord Ram, who is the presiding deity in the temple continues to inspire. Lord Ram embodies the virtues of the son, the husband, and the friend. “If one visits the temple and sees the deity, one feels like coming back to the temple again and again. Because the temple has wonderful artworks of sculpture, towering gopurams into the sky, the wide spaces in the temple complex,” he emphasises. “Harikathalu, Annamacharyula kirthananalu are organised here with the intention to pass down the legacy of the Indian culture to the current and future generations.”
You can listen to the podcast in which Sri V. Raghavacharyulu talks about the temple’s importance and significance:
Saint Annamcharya prayed at the temple in Ontimitta before going to Tirupathi. Records also suggest that this temple inspired Pothana to compose Andhra Maha Bhagavatham who dedicated it to Lord Ram.
The Andhra Valmiki is Vavilakolanu Subba Rao who has translated Valmiki’s Ramayana into Telugu. He also spent time at the temple while writing his book.
Jean-Baptiste Tavernier the French Traveller had visited Vontimitta in 1652 and noted its architectural significance in his journals.
A devotee of Lord Ram named Bhavanasi Mala Obanna sang kirtans or songs in praise of Lord Ram at this temple. A figure of stone of Bhavanasi Mala Obanna is there in the temple tower in the eastside.
ETYOMOLOGY OF VONTIMITTA:
According to one legend, the temple was originally built by two local robbers named Vontudu and Mittudu who were the thieves but they turned devotees of Lord Ram or Sri Rama. After they had built the temple, they turned into stone. The name of the twon Vontimitta is eponymously named after the two thieves Vontimitta.
The temple is under the administration of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams, Department of Endowments, Government of Andhra Pradesh.
AFTER THE BIFURCATION OF United Andhra Pradesh:
The Government of India under the UPA government led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh carved Telangana out of united Andhra Pradesh in 2014, Bhadrachalam went to Telangana. The temple of Lord Ram in Bhadrachalam is the official site for the celebration of Sri Rama Navami. The re-created state of Andhra Pradesh under the chief minister-ship of N. Chandra Babu Naidu declared the Kodananda RamaSwamy Temple in Vontimitta is the official temple for the celebration of Sri Rama Navami in Andhra Pradesh since 2015.
The temple in Vontimitta springs back to its medieval glory in digital age’s 21st century with the official recognition from the state government as the temple to celebrate Sri Rama Navami every year.
Vontimitta is also spelled as Ontimitta.
TEMPLE COMPLEX of KODANDA RAMA SWAMY:
The Kondanda Rama Swamy temple complex stands next to the highway on Kadapa (Cuddapah) and Tirupati. There is a lake on one side which reflects how good or how bad the rainy season has been in a year. The temple’s towers or gopurams rise into the sky and commands the attention of passers-by and travellers in vehicles on the highway.
The temple is enclosed in a high perimeter wall and has many exquisite sculptures depicting mythological tales, and historical figures of religious importance. The temple complex has a mandapam named Rangamatapam which is an open-air theatre. The mandapam is supported by thirty-two stone pillars so the name ‘madhyarangaradapam’. Each stone pillar and colonnade has carved figurines such as apsaras or nymphs, figures of gods and goddesses such as Vishnu and Krishna and Rama. The roof of the mandapam has decorative corbels. One of the columns of this structure has an image of Lord Ram wielding a bow in the right hand and an arrow in the left hand, and there is a carving of Lord Ram’s brother Lakshman or Laxman who is sculpted in tribhanga posture. Lord Ram is depicted with ear-rings, garlands, and sacred thread.
Lord Krishna is depicted in dvibhanga posture, and raising the Govardhan Hill in his right hand with two cows next to him.
The mandapam also has a figure of Ganesha or Vinayak in dancing posture.
The presiding deity of Kodanda Rama Swamy temple is Lord Ram. In the sanctum sanctorum or garbhagriha is the composite image of Lord Ram along with his consort Lordess Sita and his brother Lakshman. The composite image of three-in-one is sculpted out of a single block of stone.
The temple complex has a separate chamber for God Hanuman the monkey-god and the loyal attendant of Lord Ram.
The temple complex has two water tanks named as Ramatheertham and Lakshmanatheertham.
IMPORTANCE TO THE TEMPLE:
The administration of the temple under Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanmas is giving importance unlike before as it has gained recognition with the Government of Andhra Pradesh to celebrate Sri Rama Navami. In 2016, TTD said that ‘the ancient temple of Lord Sri Rama located at Vontimitta in Kadapa district will be developed as one of the prime pilgrim centres of the district said TTD EO Dr D Sambasiva Rao.
‘“After inspecting the ongoing developmental works here on Saturday evening he said TTD has recently taken over four temples including Vontimitta, Chandragiri, Upamaka and Anantavaram which have historical importance. “We have also allotted a budget of Rs.20cr towards the development of this temple in first phase. Currently Rs.4 crores worth developmental works are under way which also includes beautification of temple premises. Since this temple is under ASI we need their permission to construct permanent structures. Plan is also underway to execute another Rs.8cr worth developmental works. We will also discuss with the locals on the priority of works. We are contemplating to complete the immediate pending developmental works in the mid of April and gear up for upcoming big fete Sri Rama Navami”, he added.’
The Kodanda Rama Swamy Temple has 70 acres of land stretching from its premises. In the coming years, the temple is likely to gain more importance from the devotees, practitioners of religious rites and the state government.