Express press service
RAJAMAHEDRAVARAM: It was their determination and devotion that made this possible. A massive temple spanning an acre of land and located on the banks of the Godavari, was built by 13 farm workers with donations worth over Rs 1 crore collected over a period of three years.
After completing their work for the day, the group of 13 women visited towns and villages in the twin districts of Godavari to seek donations for the temple which will be dedicated to Lord Venkateswara. Finally, they completed the construction of the temple, located near the Kovvada Bridge in West Godavari and about 30 km from Rajamahendravaram, and inaugurated it in a low-key event on Friday evening.
The women became overnight celebrities in the villages of Pattiseema and Polavaram, for their unusual feat. For three consecutive years, they fought against many obstacles, in addition to thwarting the strong resistance of people opposed to a temple in the region.
“All those who opposed our efforts or created obstacles attended the inauguration, which assured us that the village is united and stands with us,” said N Ramalakshmi, one of the 13 women.
Ramalakshmi, Appala Narsamma, Ananthalakskmi, Simhachalam, Durgarani, Venkatalaxkmi, Sujatha, Aruna, Venkataramana, Kumar, Alivelu, Ramalakshmi and Lakshmi built the entire temple with their own hands.
“To be exact, it took us three years and 45 days…” Ramalakshmi said and added that they now plan to build a wedding hall.
The women had been part of a group for several years, attending spiritual services whenever they found the time. They also offered their services to the local Ammavari temple.
“While serving in the temples, we had the idea of building a temple in our own village for all the inhabitants. The plan, initially, was to have a small temple. But when we started mobilizing donations, the response inspired us to think big. Eventually, we did it,” she explained.
Eleven of the 13 women do not even own a piece of land and all work in agricultural fields for Rs 400-450 per day. Before approaching the locals, they pooled their own contributions. “We had hired an auto-rickshaw to collect donations from people of all caste in Tadepalligudem, Rajamahendravaram, Polavaram, Kovvur and other places. Farmers from all the villages in the area have contributed,” the women said in unison.
“Initially, there were objections and arguments. Some have asked us why we want to build a temple in this particular place. We explained to them the importance of the location and the beauty it will bring to the whole region, as the famous Shiva temple at Pattiseema is only a few kilometers away,” the women explained.
The land was originally under the control of the irrigation department. However, officials did not object when the women approached them to cooperate with the temple. The women got the design prepared by an Agama Sastra pandit and had the idols of Lord Venkateswara, Goddesses Padmavati and Andal carved in Tirupati.