Penugonda, the abode of Goddess Vasavi is to ARYA VYSYAS, as Buddha Gaya is to Buddhists, as Shravana Belagola is to Jains, Mecca and Madeena is to Muslims and Jerusalem is to Christians.
Renowned temples of Vasavi Devi are located in Malleswaram, Indira Nagar and Ulsoor (near the Co-optex showroom in Ulsoor market). The main temple of Vasavi Kannika Parameswari is located in Penugonda in Andhra Pradesh.
Vasavi was known for her ethereal beauty. The temple in Penugonda houses Sri Nagareswarar, Mother Kannika Parameswari and Mahishasuramardini. The deities of Kala Bhairava, Lord Venkatachalapathy and Lord Ganesha can also be found in the temple.
Where is Penugonda?
It is a town in the West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh. The temple has a multi colored Gali Gopuram and is actually a seven storied tower. It is nothing short of an architectural marvel. Penugonda is a holy place for Vysyas.
Who is Vasavi?
Vasavi Devi / Kannika Parameswari is the kula deivam of shetty community. Kusuma Shetty was the king of Penugonda. His wife was named Kusumamba. The childless couple were great devotees of Nageswara Swamy (Lord Shiva). As advised by their guru Bhaskara Acharya, the couple performed puthra kamesti yaga. Blessed with the prasadam from the sacrificial fire, Kusumamba became pregnant and bore twins – a boy and a girl. The twins were born at twilight during the convergence of Uttara Nakshatram and Kanya (Virgo). The male child was called as Virupaksha. The female child was called as Vasavamba.
Under the guidance of Bhaskara Acharya, Virupaksha learnt the Puranas, fencing, horse riding, martial arts, archery, statecraft etc.., which were essential to rule his Territory. Vasavi learnt fine arts and mastered philosophy and was proud to be an intelligent woman.
When Virupaksha attained proper age he married Ratnavati, daughter of Aridhi Setty of Aelur Town. The huge gathering thought that even Vasavi's marriage would one day also be observed with the same pomp and grandeur.
King Vishnu Vardhana and his evil desire
When King Vishnu Vardhana went on expedition to expand his empire, he visited Penugonda, where King Kusuma Shetty received him and took him in a procession and arranged a felicitation program in the colorful auditorium. After Manamatha (God of Romance) threw his sweet arrows on him, Vimaladitya (Vishnu Vardhana) spotted Vasavi among the crowd and fell madly in love with her. He felt he could not live without her and was determined to marry her. He sent a minister to enquire about her.
The desire of Vishnuvardhana (Vimaladitya) was like a death blow to Kusuma shetty. He was neither in a position to accept it nor to deny. The fact that the Emperor was already married, was much older, the difference in caste and the fact that he was not in a position to prevent this from occurring all caused extreme stress for Kusuma Shetty.
He discussed these issues with his closest family and friends and they unanimously decided to let Vasavi decide. Vasavi frankly expressed her desire to be a Virgin throughout her life and intended not to concentrate on worldly matters.
Kusuma Shetty sent a denial message to king Vishnuvardhana. The king was furious and sent a Battalion with orders to attack mercilessly and to get Vasavi for him. The brave Komti's of Penugonda by using the techniques of Sama, Daana, Bheda and finally Danda, defeated Vishnuvardana's army.
Vasavi’s mission for peace and harmony
Vasavi entered into scene and said: "Why should there be bloodshed among us for the sake of a Girl? Why sacrifice the lives of soldiers for our selfish desire. It is better to give up the idea of war. Instead, let us rebel in a novel way. We can control war through non-violence and self-sacrifice. Only people with strong will power and moral strength can participate in this kind of self- sacrifice. Vasavi's new idea was delightful to her parents and they decided to act in accordance with Vasavi's directions.
As per the directions of Vasavi, at the holy place of Brahmakunda on the banks of Godavari, the royal servants arranged 103 Agnikundas (fire pits) in a special way. The whole city was observing that day as a festival day. Then Vasavi asked the couples of the 102 Gotras: "Will you plunge into this holy fire along with me?" Every one of them whole heartedly gave their consent. They suspected Vasavi must be an incarnation of God and requested her to show her real nature or swarupa.
Vasavi – incarnation of Adiparasakthi
She smiled and revealed her true self, which had the glittering radiance surpassing the brightness of sun. She said: "I am the incarnation of Adiparashakthi."
To safeguard the dignity of woman and to protect Dharma, to destroy Vishnu Vardhana and to reveal to the world the magnanimity of Komti's I come here in Kaliyuga. Like Sati Devi who was insulted entered into holy fire, I too plunge into the holy fire and enter the other world. Kusuma shetty during last birth was a great Saint by name Samadhi as per his aspirations he could attain salvation along with the people of 102 Gotras. That is why I asked you all to undergo Atma Balidana." Vasavi advised the gathering about patriotism, honesty, social service, and tolerance etc.
Devi disappeared as soon as the divine words came out of her mouth and people saw her in human form. Then all of them entered into holy fire after meditating upon their Gods.
Though Vishnuvardhana felt bad Omens, he marched ahead and reached the main entrance of Penugonda. Then his detectives reported what all had happened in the city. He could not bear the great shock and his heart shattered into pieces. He fell down vomiting blood and he was no more.
The self-sacrifice of Vasavi and the end of Vishnuvardhana was the talk of the town. People condemned the deeds of Vishnuvardhana and appreciated the epoch maker Vasavi and her non-violent principle.
The son of Vishnuvardhana, Raja Raja Narendra rushed to Penugonda and repented about the incident. Later on Virupaksha consoled him and said: "Brother, let us learn and formulate the present and future on the strong base of past. Vasavi had come to rescue of the people without giving room for great bloodshed. Her non-violence gave a good result", hence forth Komatis shall not fight or rule states but shall engage in the service and as well wishers of others including services like trade, agriculture etc..,
Vasavi's life is worth remembering because of her faith in non-violence religious values and her defense of status of women. She became immortal as she has been mainly responsible for the propagation of reputation of Komatis throughout the world. Vasavi, who had rejected worldly pleasures, won the minds of Komatis and is the champion of peace and non-violence and will be remembered at all times by one and all.