Kovvur is a town, municipality and mandal in West Godavari district, in the state of Andhra Pradesh and is situated adjacent to the west bank of the river Godavari. It is an important town in the District due to its location on the sacred banks of River Godavari and as it is well connected by Rail and Road (NH 5). Kovvur, is preferred as retired persons' paradise as many retirees prefer to settle in this as it hosts the ever-pleasant Godavari Ghat.

 

It used to be a peaceful town with lot of coconut groves, fresh air and was also a cultural hub where events like “Harikathalu” and “Burrakathalu” were popular. The Sanskrit College of Kovvur was also a popular institution till late 1970s. Although Kovvur is a town, its life style used to resemble that of a village. I remember as a child my mother used to take me to Kovvur during summer holidays to spend a week with her maternal uncle and aunt.

 

Her sexagenarian aunt used to get up at dawn and decorate the road in front of the gate with colorful rangoli. Around 6 am the milkman would come with his buffalo, milk it as my mother’s uncle used to sit in the portico and ensure that no water was mixed by the milkman.

 

Later my mother’s aunt and her neighbourhood women used to carry brass vessel (Bindey) and go to the banks of river Godavari, which is known as “Goshpada Kshetram” for daily bath.

 

By 6.30 or at the most by 7 am, she and her neighbour women used to take a dip in the holy river, fill their pot with water, go to the temples on the banks of Godavari, offer prayers and walk back home. While the water the women used to bring with them was kept for the purpose of pooja at home, a man with ‘Kavadi’ used to bring two big drums of water and fill the vessels. The only filter that was used during those days was a fine washed muslin cloth. The water was cool, clear, pure and potable.

 

Around 7.15 am she would offer glass full of hot milk to me. They were not used to tea or coffee. My mother’s uncle also used to drink glass full of milk and along with his friends in the neighbourhood he would go to the river for a bath. Since I was staying in Delhi and this lifestyle was unknown to me, he used to take me with him to the river for a bath. The flow of river Godavari used to be quiet heavy. He used to take me about three steps down the river and give me a nice bath. He then ask me to sit on the bench  on the banks while he used to go deeper inside the river and spend some time there taking few dips while chanting some mantras and offer Suryanamaskar.

 

Back home my mother’s uncle used to perform puja. His wife served us hot idly with chutney or idly powder mixed with oil.  They used to have one huge wall clock, which gave the sounds of gong every one hour. At 1 pm my mother’s aunt would serve lunch and immediately after that, we were asked to have afternoon nap till 3 pm. Although Kovvur was a sleeping town, even during those days it had power supply and the high roof houses had fans and lights.

 

While afternoons used to be sultry, the wind used to turn cool by evening and we used to enjoy tender coconut water sitting on the terrace of the house. The nearest shopping area for Kovvur was Rajahmundry and those days the only way to go to Rajahmundry, which is on the other side of river Godavari was the railway bridge, which is now abandoned, built by Sir Arthur Cotton, was opened for traffic from August 30, 1900.

 

But as the pace of development gained speed, the sleepy little town started losing its sheen. The sugar industry, the wood and saw mills, hospitals, restaurants, fertiliser and seed mills started coming up and the industrial effluents were let into the river Godavari. This was the beginning of pollution of the mighty river. Later, the municipality also started releasing domestic affluent into the river and by mid seventies people of Kovvur stopped going to the river for bath or to get water for drinking purposes. They instead started depending on the water supplied by municipality and now it has become like any other town on a river bank. “Water Water everywhere but not a drop to drink” directly is the situation.

V Ramu Sarma