Vizag and its surrounding districts are richly endowed with ancient temples and religious festivals. There are umpteen famous temples, impressive churches, very old dargahs and ancient Buddhist sites within and bordering to Vizag. Travelling to temples and seeking the blessings of the Gods is only one aspect of religious tourism. For some, it is the history, heritage aspect and sculpture of the temples that are more intriguing.
Let’s take a look at some of the famous religious sites in the city.
The most prominent shrine in Vizag is the ancient Simhachalam Temple dedicated to Lord Varaha Lakshmi Narasimha. Situated on 244 meters high Ratnagiri hill, dotted with trees of the famed ‘simhachalam sampangie’, the sweet smelling yellow Champa flower, the temple is only 5 km from Visakhapatnam station and 15 km from the airport. The idol is perpetually covered with Sandalwood paste which is replaced every year on Akshaya Tritiya, popularly called the ‘Chandana Utsav’. The only day in the year that the Lord can be viewed with only a thin single coat of sandalwood paste, the ‘Nijarupa Darshanam’.
Sri Kanakamahalakshmi Temple
Perhaps the most popular shrine in the packed narrow by-lanes of One Town area in Vizag city, the Sri Kanaka Mahalakshmi temple draws massive crowds in the Telugu month, Magasira Masam. The speciality of this temple is that though there is a big roofed hall, the idol itself has no roof above. This, according to the locals is what the Goddess had desired. Devotees bring newly born babies for blessings and the newlyweds make a beeline for the temple. A visit here showcases some of Vizag’s oldest and busiest lanes.
Sri Satyanarayana Temple
Older than the famous Annavaram temple, this 150-year-old Satyanarayana Swamy Temple is perhaps the oldest in the country. Hidden from view behind the KGH buildings on the Isukakonda hill in the heart of the city the easiest approach is via the KGH. The presiding deity, Sri Veera Venkata Satyanarayana Swamy is worshipped by married couples.
The Three Holy Hills
As a unique testament to the communal harmony of Vizagites, there are three picturesque hillocks each with its own distinctive religious significance. There is The Venkateswara Temple on the ‘Sringamani Hillock’, The Ross Hill Church on the ‘Ross Hill’, and The Baba Ishq Madina Dargah on the ‘Dargah Konda’. The port channel, the entrance of the inner harbour for ships and liners can be seen from these hilltops, located just 1 km from the Old Post Office in the Port Area.
Lord Venkateswara Temple : Legend has it that in late 17th century, a Dutch Ship was prevented from being pulled back into the choppy sea waters in a severe cyclonic storm by what was presumed to be a big ‘boulder’ which turned out to be an idol of Sri Lord Venkateswara. The idol was then reverently installed on the Sringamani Hill overlooking the harbour.
The Baba Ishq Madina (Dargah Konda) : This mosque and mausoleum of the Muslim saint, Baba Ishaq Madina was constructed on the orders of King Aurangzeb after his visit here about 700 years ago. The saint was revered for his prophecies, miracles and venerated by Hindu and Muslim devotees alike. The local ‘Pirs Festival’ here attracts a large number of not only Muslim devotees but faithful Hindus too.
The Ross Hill Church (Ross Hill) : The central and the highest hill amongst the three, is named after a local Judge, Monsieur Ross who built a house on it in 1864. In 1866, the then Bishop Msgr J.M. Tissot acquired the bungalow and later, an altar was erected and blessed as a chapel. The Church has since undergone many renovations to accommodate the increasing number of devotees. The annual Feast of the Immaculate Conception and procession to the top of the Ross hill, from St. Aloysius School on the evening of every 8th December has become an integral part of the Vizag Culture.