Posted on Trivia- The Spice of Life on 25/06/2022
As children start growing up, a family vacation is rather challenging to plan and execute. However, determined to steal some quality time and explore an area which is akin to a hidden treasure trove, we set off to Konaseema (coastal Andhra Pradesh) during the Ganeshotsav break .
Surrounded by distributaries of the River Godavari and the magnificent Bay of Bengal, Konaseema is a deltaic region of coastal Andhra Pradesh. While the Kerala coast and its backwaters are very well marketed and feature prominently on the tourist map of India, Konaseema which is no less beautiful, remains largely untraversed. Such tourist destinations which are off the beaten track have a charm of their own.
The Kakinada Uppada Stretch
While we visited quite a few places in Konaseema namely Rajamundry, Kakinada, Uppada, Dindi and Antaravedi, I would rate the drive from Kakinada to Uppada as one of the most scenic and breath taking ones – in fact, the high point of our vacation. The lush green fields on one side and the boundless Bay of Bengal with its changing hues and dashing waves on the other, make it one of the best road trips ever. The sea water drenches the mesmerised onlooker. If you do not have your car windows shut, you could be drenched even while sitting in the car.
Here is a video we shot from our car. The scintillating blue waters and the clear blue skies make your day.
The Uppada Jamdani Saree
Those who regularly follow my blog know that I am a die hard fan of handloom sarees. When we set out for a vacation, I ensure that there is at least one weaver’s village that can be visited. So, not only is the drive to Uppada picturesque but also the fishing village of Uppada which is home to the famous Uppada Jamdani saree. For those who have no idea about how exquisite the Uppada Jamdani weave is, the video below may help.
The Jamdani technique itself is pretty old; its origins can be traced to undivided Bengal where muslins that could pass through signet rings were woven by master craftsmen; soon beautiful motifs were created by inlaid thread added discontinuously onto the loom. The Jamdani is more a weaving technique rather than a weave generic to a place. This laborious and intensely skilled technique that emerged during the Mughal era is known as the Jamdani technique – the word jamdani meaning a ‘floral vase’.
The Uppada Jamdani Sarees were woven since the 17th Century, patronized by the Maharajas of Pithapuram, Venkatagiri & Bobbili. The artisans wove cotton Uppada Jamdani Sarees to be worn exclusively by the ladies of the royal household. Originally the sarees were woven only on cotton, and only 100% pure gold or silver zari was used.
Unfortunately, with the fall of the royalty, the then existing weavers lost royal patronage which led to a decline in this style of weaving. However in 1985, the Weavers’ Service Centre, Vijayawada conducted a training programme for the Uppada weavers in the Jamdani style of weaving and since then the art has flourished again in this region. The motifs used are typically birds, flowers, leaves and buttis. Here below are the exquisite motifs that adorn the pallus of the sarees which we saw. The entire weaving has shifted to using superior quality mulberry silk yarn (procured from Bengaluru) as the raw material. Thus, the sarees are quite expensive.
The Rich Pallus of the Uppada Jamdani Sarees
The Uppada Jamdani Sarees got a GI tag in 2009, which has helped in boosting the weaving technique which is undertaken without any mechanization. The intricate motifs are woven impeccably, looking the same on the reverse side as well as the front side. Since in the Uppada style of weaving the design is two sided, when the surface of the cloth is touched, the design cannot be felt separately from the cloth. The design thus blends with the cloth.
Added to that is the fine quality silk yarn used which makes the saree very light unlike other silks (like Kanchipuram and Paithani) which are very heavy. It could take at least a month for one saree to be woven by two weavers simultaneously working ten hours a day. Elegance, finesse and quality must be adequately recompensed.
Since I was determined to visit the loom and was not just satisfied acquiring an Uppada Jamdani Saree, I got in touch with Shri Sattibabu, a master weaver who lives in Uppada. He was extremely patient while showing and explaining the entire technique and his labour of love. He also described the various problems faced by the weavers – the lack of capital to buy the expensive raw material, the struggle to sell and the menace of middle men and imitations, the low rates of payment given to the weavers to name a few.
We made quite a few amateurish videos as he explained, which I have posted below, which take us through the entire process. Though the conversation is in Telugu, the visuals are self explanatory. Further, there is a smattering of English as well in the conversation.
Dindi and Antaravedi
While Uppada has its own charm, so does Dindi and the entire drive from Dindi to Antaravedi – the confluence of one of the distributaries of Godavari with the Bay of Bengal. Nestled in the lap of nature, abounding in coconut trees, overlooking the River Godavari is Dindi a quaint hamlet. The scenic beauty of Dindi is unparalleled.
The ride to Antaravedi from Dindi was heavenly. It would be difficult to believe that one was in Konaseema and not Kerala, seeing the captivating landscape which bears a strong resemblance to God’s own country. Antaravedi has the Vasishta, a distributary of Godavari, meeting the Bay of Bengal.
The Spiritual Moorings of Konaseema
I must say here that the entire Konaseema is home to a number of ancient temples such as the Daksharama temple, the Bheemavaram temple and the Antaravedi Lakshmi Narasimha temple – all of which are serene abodes of spirituality.
The Daksharama and the Antaravedi Temples (courtesy https://dakshinavarta.com/ and TTD Seva
The sweet delights of Konaseema
Last but not the least, the cuisine of Konaseema too has its own specialities to offer – especially for those who have a sweet tooth. Pootarekulu and Kaja must definitely be tried. They have a unique taste and visual appeal. For the sake of brevity, I have not described these but provided links for the same.
Konaseema’s sweets : Putarekulu and Kaja image courtesy : https://www.indiansbasket.com and https://ttravelog.com/
The best part about Konaseema tourism is that it has so much to offer – pristine beaches, a picturesque coconut tree-dotted landscape, an elegant weave, spiritual solace and gastronomical delights. What more can anyone ask for?! This region of Andhra Pradesh still lies unexplored and beckons you with open arms.
P.S. How we reached Konaseema :- We flew to Rajamundry from Mumbai. We then hired a cab for the entire trip which included Kakinada, Uppada, Bheemeswaram, Dindi, Antaravedi and Vijayawada. We flew back to Mumbai from Vijayawada. There are several parts of the trip and some destinations en route that I have not covered in the post as it would have become rather unwieldy.
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