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Vontimitta Sri Kodandarama Swamy temple is a 500 year old temple dedicated to Lord Rama in Kadapa District of Andhra Pradesh state. It is stated to be the largest temple in the region. It is located at a distance of 25 kilometres from Kadapa.
The temple and its adjoining buildings are one of the centrally protected monuments of national importance.
The place is believed to have got its name from Vontudu and Mittudu, two robbers who reformed and later turned into devotees of Lord Rama. The temple here was believed to have been built by these two, After construction of this wonderful temple with 32 pillars, both devotees sacrificed their lives and transformed into statues. These statues can be seen even today as soon as you enter the temple.
It is believed that Jambavatha (the bear king who helped Lord Rama in his mission to Lanka) placed the Lord Rama deity in this temple Garbhagudi. The deities consists of Lord Sri Rama, Goddess Sita and Lakshmana engraved on a single rock.
Another interesting fact about Vontimitta Kodanda Rama Swamy Temple is that it is one of the few temples, where the deity of Sri Rama is without Lord Anjaneya Swamy at his side. By the time that this temple was built, Lord Rama did not meet Hanuman hence we do not see here a Hanuman deity along with Lord Rama. There is separate Anjaneya temple constructed later in the temple premises.
Vontimitta has a high importance as the place where the Kishkinda Khanda, one of the seven khandas of Ramayana happened. A famous French traveller named Tavernier, had visited this abode in 1652 and described the temple as one of the most exquisite temples in India. He was astonished by the devotion and dedication of the people here towards the Lord.
According to Legend, Rama, Lakshmana and Sita spent some time here in the forest during the period of their exile. Once to quench the thirst of Sita, Rama shot an arrow deep into the earth, upon which sweet water gushed out. Later, with this perennial water spring, two small tanks formed, named Rama Theertham and Lakshmana Theertham.
Bammera Potana who lived in Vontimitta wrote his Maha Bhagavatham in Telugu language and dedicated it to Lord Rama. We can see his statue at the entrance of the garbhagruha.
In the 19th century a great person named Vavilakolanu Subba Rao has helped in renovating this temple. He is called locally as Andhra Valmiki (ancient saint who wrote epic Ramayana). He collected money and made many ornaments and deities of Rama, Sita and Lakshmana. He translated Valmiki’s Ramayana (the Hindu epic that narrates Rama’s tale) into Telugu and spent his time here worshiping Lord Rama.
Though the Cholas started the construction of the temple, the architecture here is more or less in the traditional Vijayanagara style of a Sandhara order, which has a rectangular yard enclosed by walls. The temple itself is known for its architectural elegance, having 3 ornate Gopurams, one facing east, which is the entrance to the temple, the other 2 facing north and south. The central tower is built in 5 tiers and you have steps to approach this.
The mandapa or the Rangamantapam, the open-air theatre, has exquisite sculptures. The mandapa is supported by over 32 pillars. Each of the corner columns have three layers carved with images of apsaras and deities. In the central part of the mandapa, there are piers which are adorned with images of the mythical creature known as Yali. The roof of the central part is built up with many decorative brackets or corbels.
This is the only temple where the marriage event of Rama and Sita happens every year in the midnight, which is held outside of the temple. According to the ancient epics, the reason for this is as follows: The entire universe had witnessed the marriage of Lord Rama and Sita except for the Moon. So when the moon requested Lord Rama that he would like to watch Rama’s marriage then Lord Rama fulfilled Moon’s request. Hence it is done outside of the temple, in the midnight on a full moon day.
The state of Telangana was carved out of Andhra Pradesh in 2014. Rama Navami, the birthday of Rama, was officially celebrated by the Government of Andhra Pradesh in Bhadrachalam Temple, which went to Telangana. The Vontimitta Kodandarama Swamy Temple was chosen as the alternative venue of the official celebrations in 2015.
The most spectacular thing of this temple is that this is the only Rama temple in India where many Muslims offer prayers to Lord Rama.
It is believed that the reason for Muslims worshipping in this temple is as follows. There used to be an officer whose name is Imam Beq who worked for King Abdul Nabi Khan. Once this officer visited this temple and asked the devotees whether the god responds if one calls him by name? The people there said, “Yes, if we call with pure heart and devotion.” Then the officer called thrice with the name of the god “Rama”, and miraculously a response was heard thrice. From then that officer became a great devotee. This lead to Muslim offering prayers in this temple, which is a unique custom followed even now.