RAJAMAHENDRAVARAM: “Money can be a pretty sweet deal. It can offer you an exciting lifestyle, glorious things… The good thing is when you take control of your money, you take control of your life too” is the philosophy of Pattapagalu Venkat Rao, who began his life journey as a cool drinks seller and went onto become an owner of a well-known finance company.
Though he became rich, he never forgot his roots and took it upon himself to serve the needy as his life mission. Today, he is widely known as cremation services Venkat Rao, as he is the man behind the renovation of two burial grounds in Rajamahendravaram on the banks of River Godavari, which today have become an important landmark and a must-visit place for those coming to the city.
Venkat Rao, who is presently engaged in construction of Mahakali and Mahakaleshwar temple in the city at an estimated cost of Rs 22 crore, for which he had already spent Rs 14 crore from his pocket till date, says he feels his hard-earned money was well spent on renovation of two cremation grounds and now on the temple.
Till 90’s, two cremation grounds, one at Kotilingala and another at Innespeta, were hunting sites for dogs and vultures. However, it all changed after Venkat Rao decided to renovate them and today, they are popular as Brindavan gardens of Rajamahendravaram. They have beautiful statues, greenery and temples. Condolence Bhavan is one of the monuments, accommodating 400 mourners. A library was built as an important repository of knowledge.
In 1997, with the help of rotary club and donors, he renovated the cremation grounds, which are known today as Kotilingala Rotary Kailasa Bhoomi and Innespeta Rotary Kailasa Bhoomi. Venkat Rao, has not just limited his effort to renovation of those cremation grounds, but even today, he monitors them personally every day, spending six hours — from 3 am to 9 am.
According to him, during COVID-19 pandemic days, several bodies were brought to Rajamahendravaram, from Hyderabad, Vizag and Vijayawada to perform the last rites on the banks of River Godavari.
Though a believer, he rarely visits temple to worship. It has been more than 50 years, he visited Tirupati, last time. He also performed the last rites of the unclaimed bodies and those that washed away to the banks of the river and the poor who cannot afford a decent burial.
He launched several Kailash Rath vehicles, which provide free transportation of bodies for burial. Today, adjacent to Kailasa Bhoomi at Innespeta, a magnificent Mahakali and Mahakaleshwar temple is coming up on the lines of Dwadasa Jyotirlinga Ujjain Mahakaleshwar Temple.
Limca Book of Records holder
Venkat Rao’s efforts received recognition, when Kailasa Bhoomi found its place in the Limca Book of Records in 2011. For his contribution, Venkat Rao received Prathiba Rajiv Puraskar in 2006. Kailasa Bhoomi was adjudged the best burial ground in the State in 2016