By Md Abdullah , Visakhapatnam: It is a town of glorious past and a ruined presence…! Left untouched by progress, it has only two aspects to boast of _ its mythological history and colonial flavor.
If we lean back and stare at the rising waves from the golden slopes of ‘Bheemili’ beach sands, the history which replete with tales of legacy, unravels itself.
A place surrounded by mountains and sea, where the sun, rsing from the sea, beams its rays on the nature’s rare gift __ Yarra matti dibbalu.
It had the privilege of hosting great feminist writer Chalam who dwelled in the Souris Aasram. It’s a place where the river Gostani merges with the sea. It is pious because the Hindu temple bells ring incessantly.
The Puranas say that in the Dwapara Yuga, when Pandavas were in Agnatavasa, Bheemasena killed Bakasura here. Hence it was named after Bheema. The chanting of Boudha sutras ‘Sangham Saranam Gachhami’ resound in the Viharas and Chaityas of Thotlakonda, Bavikonda and Pavuralakonda. Both the schools of Buddhism__ Heenayana and Mahayana__ were propagated in this land. Bheemili is a land of prayers and meditation where Aasrams like Aanandavana, Darga_ Umar Ali Sha, Durga Sakti Peetham, Ramakrishna Matham are housed. It also houses famous churches that preach different schools of Christianity that flourished during the colonial rule.
It was a ‘cosmopolitan’ centre where not only people of various nations dwell, besides being a secular place where Christianity and Hinduism coexist.
Here was a port where the colonial Dutch and British expanded their sea trade and this was the soil where currency was minted.
The Nawabs of Golkonda, who ruled Bheemunipatnam from 1568 AD granted permission to the Dutch to do business during 1628. The Dutch built a high rise Fort here in 1641. Alas… the colonial hegemony brought wars between French and British… the Dutch fort was reduced to ruins. In the passage of history, the rulers of Vizianagram renewed permission to the Dutch to do business. Dutch colonialists built a mint where copper coins were minted. Until 1824 the Dutch continued business and in the colonial power game they were forced to give away Bheemili to British in 1825. In 1846 Arbath Nath started a jaggery factory which gave boost to the trade from the Bheemili port. The colonial Dutch, French, British joined as partners and the factory switched to jute product manufacturing. Gradually the colonialists extended their trade.
Greek Ralees brothers, Boyce Drytace, East India made their trade footings in Bheemili. Reserve Bank of Madras branch was started here and the trade flourished. Even the passenger vessels were operated between Bhimili and Madras, Calcutta and Burma up to 1934. The British government stopped operations in Bheemili port at the time when Japan was bombed in the Second World War. After the independence, the Indian government stopped even the skeletal operations going on from this port in 1964 and the nighbouring Visakhapatnam port flourished.
One and half Century of local governance In 17th Century a social organization started to cater to the needs of the Bheemili citizens. In 1814 with the regulation act, 16 ward committees were formed to rule the town. In 1850 the India Act -26 was introduced and the first municipality in the Madras Presidency was established here on 9 Feb1861. The Clock Tower was built in 1863 for which John Young donated a big clock.
In 1866 a Municipal Council was started with 12 members led by Chairman Freadmen. In the first elections which were held in 1885 V. Jagannadham, a native was elected. In 1967 the number of members of the council was increased to 17. During 1970-75 the Chittivalasa and Tagarapuvalasa Panchayitis were merged with the Bheemili Municipality and the council membership was increased to 20. In 1987 the council was increased with 24 wards. In the post-independent era Visakhapatnam has improved as a big city of progress, which affected the development of Bheemili.
Losing the sheen and glory it enjoyed during the colonial rule, Bheemili has remained a wayside fishermen village in the post-independence era with progress by-passing it.