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The city is named after the god of valor, Visakha, the son of Shiva and Parvati, who is also the ruler of the planet Mars and the god of war.The antiquity of the region is evident in its mention in the Ramayana and Mahabharata.

The former tells of the forests through which Rama traveled in search of his abducted wife, and where he met his devotee, Shabari, who directed him to the mountains where Hanuman lived. Rama also met Jambavan, a bear man, who helped him in his battle with Ravana.

It was here, too, that Bheema defeated the demon Bakasura – the Pandava’s huge stone club can be seen in the village of Uppalam, 40 km away.This region, formerly part of the great Kalinga empire that stretched up to the river.

The Thotlakonda Budhist Complex (also known as “The Hill of Eagles”), on the Vizag-Bheemli beach, is the most famous. The complex, located at 16 kms. from Visakhapatnam, has a number of stupas, chaityas, viharas, a congregation hall and other enchanting constructions.

Godavari, has also been mentioned in Hindu and Buddhist texts from the 5th and 6th centuries BCE, as well as by Sanskrit grammarians, Panini and Katyayana in the 4th century BCE.This city was ruled by several dynasties: the Kalingas during the 7th century, the Chankyas during the 8th century, and later the Rajahmundry Reddy kings, the Cholas, the Qutb Shahis of Golconda, the Mughal Empire, and the Nizams of Hyderabad.

Local legend has it that an Andhra king (9-11th century), on his way to Benares, rested there. So enchanted was he with the sheer beauty of the place that he ordered a temple to be built in honor of his family deity, Visakha.

Archaeological sources, however, reveal that the temple was possibly built between the 11th and 12th centuries by the Chola king, Kulottunga. A shipping merchant, Sankarayya Chetty, built one of the mandapams, or pillared halls of the temple.

Though it no longer exists – it may have been washed away about 100 years ago by a cyclonic storm – elderly residents of Vizag talk of visits to the ancient shrine by their grandparents.In the 18th century, Visakhapatnam was part of the Northern Circars, a region of Coastal Andhra that came first under French control, and was later captured by the British.

Visakhapatnam became a district in the Madras Presidency of British India. After India’s independence this was the biggest district in the country, and was subsequently divided into the three districts of Srikakulam, Vijayanagaram and Visakhapatnam.

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