Vijayawada is easily identified with the State of Andhra Pradesh. It stands close to the geographical center of the state. Vijayawada is the business centre and is also the dominating part of the capital city of the state of Andhra Pradesh. Vijayawada is synonymous with the mother goddess of the city, Kanaka Durga.
The temple of Kanaka Durga, the mountain IndraKeela where the temple stands, and the city of Vijayawada all have a dozens of inspiring legends around them. These arise from very divergent sources and it is not easy or even possible to accommodate all of them into a single narrative. But so much can be said that the mountain, the goddess and the city, all of them are of immense antiquity and of deep significance in the timeless history of India.
Keeladri – Indrakeeladri – Kanakachala
In the ancient days long gone by, a Yaksha named ‘KEELA’ under took a most intense tapasya for Mata Durga. Durga was deeply pleased and gave him darshana. Keela was struck with awe and happiness by this vision and begged to remain permanently in the sacred presence of the mother.
Mata Durga overflowing with love and grace granted the wish. Keela became the mountain Keela so the mother may remain permanently resident atop the mountain. After exterminating the demons Durga took permanent residence upon the mountain. Because of the divine grandeur of the mountain the Devas led by Indra worshipped Mata Durga and the mountain where she resided. And so the mountain came to be called Indra Keela Adri. The mountain of Indira and Keela. The devi shines with the lustre of gold and so she is called the Kanaka Durga. And the mountain is also called Kanakachala – the golden mountain.
Because Durga came to reside permanently upon the mountain, it was only appropriate that her consort, Shiva must also reside upon the mountain. Chaturmukha Brahma undertook a mighty tapasya upon the mountain to seek for such a blessing. Shiva granted this wish and came to reside upon the mountain. Brahma worshipped the mahadeva with mallika flowers (jasmine) and so shiva came to be called Mallikeswara. He took his place to the north of the Durga devi on the same mountain. Because of these two mighty deities, the city became an immensely powerful place and remains a most important seat of both spiritual and earthly power.
There are also other gathas about the origin of the Malleswaraswamy temple. One reports that Agasthya Muni had named the deity at Vijayawada as Jayasena. The Mahabharata hero Arjuna, who was a great wrestler or Mallayoddha, called the Lord as Malleswara.
There is another legend. In Saka year 117, there was a king famous on earth by name Madhava Varma. The son, of this King inadvertently killed the child of a woman who earned her livelihood by selling the fruits of tamarind (Intrini-Jeevini). The king, who meted out justice according to the principles of Dharma, sentenced his own son to be hanged, in order to uphold the principles of justice. Pleased at this impartial attitude and the adherence to principles of Dharma, of this king, Malleswara came down and showered gold on him, which brought back to life the deceased prince and the dead child.
The proud mountain Indra Keeladri stood high on the plains, blocking the path of the mighty Krishna river. And so the gods prayed to the river that he must give way. IndraKeela obliged and offered a passage adequate for the flow of the river. But the devi was enraged by so measly a concession. In one angry burst she tore off a mighty piece of the mountain and carried it off several miles down stream. The part so torn off stands on the island of Yenamala kuduru Lanka (Island of buffaloes / would have been a popular spot for cattle herders to rest). On this stands the hill named Telu konda (scorpion mountain), the portion torn off from IndraKeeladri. Most likely the spot of the Ramalingeswara swamy temple today along the banks of the Krishna river.
Because a channel was cut through the mountains, the town by the side of the channel came to be called Bezawada (Bejjam in telugu means hole / channel / tunnel).
In the Dwapara yuga, the Pandavas came to the Daruka vanam. the forest around the present city of Vijayawada. Here Arjuna the Pandava, also known as Vijaya, underook a mighty tapasya for Shiva upon Indrakeeladri, to obtain the Pashupata astra. Arjuna placed himself among the Panchagnis, the five flames and undertook a tapasya that would consume his body.
Shiva was pleased by Arjuna’s determination. But he must first test the worthiness of the warrior. Shiva came disguised as a kirata, a hunter warrior, to test Arjuna’s capacity for restraint. The weapon was not to to be given to one with the slightest hint of imbalance in character. The two shining warriors fought with the ferocity of rampaging lions. But Arjuna was soon beaten in the battle by this nameless warrior who while looking like a mere mortal, had yet more prowess than the hosts of the Deva loka. And yet Arjuna would not unleash his astras upon the man for such would be against the dharma of war. Shiva was pleased by the mighty strength and also the mighty restraint of Vijaya and granted him the Pashupata Astra. A temple to Shiva stands at the spot of this magnificent battle. The deity is called the Vijayeswara. The story of this battle is depicted in a most elegant drama by Bharavi – The KirataArjuneyam.
Henceforth the town came to be known as Vijayawada – The town of Vijaya / Arjuna.
The annual Goddess Shakambhari festival is celebrated in Ashadha month with deep piety and ceremonies. During the three day long festival goddess Kanaka Durga assumes the form of Shakambhari or Banashankari Amma of the Banashankari Amma Temple, wherein prayers are offered to the Goddess to bless all vegetables, agriculture and food so that they are plentiful and capable of nourishing the multitude. Shakambari festival is from 25 July to 27 July in 2018, as it is celebrated from Shukla Paksha Thrayodashi to Purnima, of Ashadha month every year. Goddess Shakambhari temple is situated in Shivalik Mountain range near to Saharanpur Uttar in Pardesh.
In his tours of the Bharata Varsha, Adi Shankara came to Vijayawada and revived the energy centers on the hill and initiated the tradition of vedic worship in the temple. From his day, animal sacrifice has been prohibited at the temple.