Rayachoty is a dusty town bereft of vegetation but it is prominently known for communal harmony between Muslims and Hindus in the YSR District (Cuddapah) of Rayalaseema in Andhra Pradesh. Rayachoty was previously known as Rachaveedu and Rajaveedu, and it is also spelt as Raychoti or Rayachotty. It is the third largest town in the district after Kadapa and Proddatur.
The town houses the one thousand-years-old temple named Veerabhadra Swamy Temple, and the temple serves as Dakshina Kassi (Southern Benares or Varanasi) for some devotees who may not able to go to Benares or Varanasi in the northern India.
The main deity in the temple is Sree Veerabhadra Swamy Temple. The presiding deity of the temple receives the sun rays directly for five days in March, and the rays fall at the feet of the idol on the first day and rise upwards. Daksha Prajapthi is in the temple in the form of worshipping near the presiding deity or the main deity in the temple. The Shiva Linga worshipped by Mandavya is located to the right hand side of Lord Veerabhadra. The priests offer puja first to Shiva Linga and then to Lord Veerabhadra. Veerabhadra appears in the form of a youth figure, soft and gentle persona, and also in the fierce form of ugra roopam with moustache. The ugra roopam Shiva is Virabhadra (or Veerabathira or Veerabathiran). Betel leaf is offered as a prasadam here. There are two nandis or bulls: Veera Nandi and Siva Nandi: one for Lord Veerabhadra and the other for Lord Shiva. The temple – 3-storeyed rajagopuram or the temple tower. Every Monday, Lord Veerabhadra and Mother Bhadrakali bless the devotees from a palanquin.
LINGAMS AT THE TEMPLE:
The temple has unique and rare lingams of Lord Shiva, and are worshipped with special rituals on special occasions apart from daily puja.
The temple has the figurines of Chandika and Prachandika.
The chief temple priest Shankara Ayya told theTelugus.com that the temple was patronized many rulers: Cholas, Pallavas, Vijayanagara kings and Kakatiya kings. Another employee of the temple, Mrs Manjula spoke about the rituals that happen in the temple and their significance. Please listen to the podcast:
LEGEND OF THE TEMPLE:
The King Daksha Prajapathi organized a homaam or yagna and did not invite Lord Shiva with a deliberate intention to humiliate and embarrass him. Lord Shiva was aware of King Disksha’s intention.
King Daksha’s youngest daughter was Sati, also known as Dakshayani. She married Shiva in spite of her father’s approval. The father saw in Shiva unsavoury attributes but his daughter saw in Shiva a doting and loving husband.
Dakshayani visited her father’s house who at that time was conducting the homaam. King Daksha did not receive his daughter properly as it was expected, and he also insulted Shiva. Dakshayani was furious, and she set ablaze at the yagna or homaam matnap. Lord Shiva came to know of this, and he too seethed with anger at King Daksha Prajapthi. Shiva tore a lock of hairs from his matted hairs, and from that Lord Veerabhadra took birth. Veerabhadra and his Siva Ganas went to on to destroy Daksha’s yagna. During this time the sage Mandavya Maharshi was on a penance for the darshan of Lord Shiva, and he sensed the anger of Lord Shiva and what he would do to the king and kingdom of Daksha Prajapathi. In order to bring the situation to normal order, the sage Mandavya Maharshi pleaded to Ambica to calm down Veerabhadra. Thus, Ambica took the form of Bhadrakali to cool down Lord Shiva. Once the situation came under control, the sage requested Lord Veerabhadra and Lordess Ambica to stay in the spot of penance, and that is present day’s Rayachoti and Veerabhadra Swamy Temple in Rayachoti.
The Vijayanagara King Krishnadevaraya visited the area and had camped at Rayachoti. According to a stone inscription found in the old part of Rayachoti town, the stone had Tamil inscription dated 1155 (AD 1233). The inscription says that a king called Nissankapratapa Raya the lord of Karkatapura gave a grant to a temple but another inscription found at Abbavaram, a village near Rayachotty, mentions another king’s name Thomba who ruled Kalukatayapuram (Karkatapura), and then Marujavaduyandapuram his capital.
48 km from Kadapa (Cuddapah)
55 km from Kadiri (Anantapur district)
55 km from Rajampeta
113 km from Tirupati (Chittoor district)
Railway: Nearest railway stations are in Tirupathi, Kadapa, and Kalikiri
Airport: The nearest airports are at Kadapa, and in Tirupati.