I am not a person prone to undertaking Teerth Yatras (pilgrimage tours) but the places I visit tend to have a generous smattering of forts and temples. So Hyderabad it was this time and we decided to spend the Diwali holidays with Vidhya’s cousin Mahalakshmi and her husband Lakshman. We enjoyed the 4 days we spent in Hyderabad and had a fantastic time with them.
Join me on my trip to the satellite township of Warangal which lies about 146 kms North –East of Hyderabad. We left Hyderabad at about 6.15 am and reached Warangal by about 10.30 am which included a breakfast halt too. The roads leading to Warangal were good.
A brief history of the Kakatiya dynasty will stand you in good stead. The Kakatiyas ruled Vengi Nad(which saddled the region between Godavari in the North and Krishna in the South) during 1000 -1325 AD. During this period apart from waging wars , defending their citadels, they gave us mortals some outstanding work of art and architecture to admire. Unfortunately, some are under severe disrepair and might end up in heap of stones and pillars. Warangal or Orugallu (one stone) was one of their key power centers. Interestingly, there are several shops in Warangal which goes by the name Kakatiya
Our first halt was Thousand Pillar Temple at Hanumkonda. There are more famous Thousand Pillar Temples in the South. The one at Madurai Meenakshi temple is amongst them. But this was my first one and I was looking forward to see it. The temple complex was built by Rudra-I who was a Kakatiya King during 1110-1150 AD. The temple consists of three shrines- Siva, Vishnu and Surya which is arranged around a central hall. The Thousand Pillar temple is getting restored by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) and hence closed for public. Talk about disappointment! The main deity is Lord Siva and photography is strictly prohibited inside the temple and one of the devotees got rapped for having the temerity to video record the proceedings.
Temple at Hanumkonda
Ganapati on a Pillar with Mooshika
Anyways, we trudged off to our cars and soon hit the road to the next destination….a Bhadrakali Temple. Now, right from my childhood, Bhadrakali was always been linked with ferocity and I personally thought she is a very angry Goddess and that strand of thought persists till date. I entered the temple with the remnants of the same feeling. But what a surprise!! Bhadrakali in this temple was innately calm and exhibited timeless solitude. I was totally intrigued by the deity. And for the history buffs, tie yourself to your chair… the temple was built by Pulakesi II who ruled the entire real estate to the south of the river Narmada. He conquered Vengi and built this temple to commemorate his victory in the first quarter of 6th Century AD! So you just visited a place which is about 1600 years old. Adjoining the temple is a vast water body which lends beauty to the temple.
Bhadrakali Temple built by Pulakesi II
Now tie your seat belts real tight. I am going to take you to couple of ancient places. One I had disclosed to my family at the start of trip to Warangal and the other was held close to my chest. Simply because, I too did not know how it will turn out! Let’s make our way to the first one- Ramappa Temple of Palampet. Palampet lies 67 kms north east of Warangal. Generally, the name of the temple is derived from the main deity who occupies the sanctum sanctorum. The name Ramappa would conjure up an image of Rama , Lakshman and Sita. But you will be surprised because a Siva Lingam occupies the sanctum sanctorum. In this case, the name of the temple- Ramappa is derived from its chief ideator- Ramappa who built the temple. History is that Ramappa was a native of Karnataka and was invited by Racherla Rudra, a General of the Kakatiya king Ganapati Deva, to build the temple. There is a mandap which houses a magnificent Nandi the Bull (Siva’s choice of motor). The carvings on the temple panels are breathtaking and make you wonder on the kind of technology the builder had in his command at that time. I noticed a pillar which had host of inscriptions on it and would have given us detailed information on the temple and its builder but alas there was no information plaque translating the inscription. ASI should put an information plaque about the pillar. What a loss!!
Ramappa Temple of Palampet- First Look
Dancing figures on a pillar
Work on a window
Nandi The Bull
Work on temple wall
Profusion of Art on the temple walls
Lost in translation
Ramappa Temple- A Kakatiya Gem
Nice and well-manicured lawns dot around the temple. We chose a huge tree and took a lunch break under its comfortable arms. Lunch consisted of tamarind rice and generous helping of curd & potato chips. The joy of having lunch under a tree…..a long standing wish fulfilled. Thanks Mahalakshmi for the amazing lunch.
Now let’s move on to the surprise packet which is the Ghanpur Group of temples. Ghanpur lies 10 kms north of Ramappa Temple. Google maps took us through some rough patch of road and the occupants of the car became wary of the route. Then we reached a point which seemed unmotorable and we got down from the car and started walking. We turned right from a ‘T’ junction and soon we found ourselves standing in front of a gate. We thought of returning back to the car but then I noticed that the gate was unlocked -an example of classic Indian obfuscation. At the same time, I spotted couple of kids walking towards the gate. I “air drew” a temple and asked them “ mandir”? The kids broke into a smile and nodded affirmation. A little push and the gate opened to a clean pathway. We walked ahead and soon saw the towers of temples. I have seen the ruins of Hampi but since people inhabit Hampi it did not seem desolate. In front of us were temples, nay-ruins of temples which were desolate, neglected and at the same time breathtaking in its beauty. The roofs had come off. Opposite to the main temple was a natya mandapa which was in more deplorable state. One of the local villagers Kishore met us and called for a priest to do a Pooja. An old priest (was he really old?) ambled forward and performed the Pooja with great gusto. They could not throw any light on the makers of temple. We spent some time in the temple. Behind the temple there were 5 smaller temples which would have seen better days eons ago.
The Two Kids who made my day
Ghanpur Temples- First Sight
The Five Temples of Ghanpur
Silhouette of the temple
The Sanctum Sanctorum- Note the absence of the roof
We roamed around the temples and noticed they bore the stamp of the Kakatiya. On our way back we saw some idols were arranged neatly in a row. We chanced upon Suman, another local, who haltingly explained that these idols were excavated near the temple. The one idol which blew us off our collective minds was of a figure holding a drum which could resonate with music provided we knew how to hit the right notes. I would not say we hit the right notes but we could make out the timbre from sheer stone! What kind of mastery our forefathers had. We know of several instances of musical pillars- Hampi, Darasaram comes to my mind. Heady stuff!!
Idol with Drum
Notice the thumb ring and the nail work
Left to the vagaries of nature
We returned back to Hyderabad in the evening with our thirst quenched and satiated. What a day!
Hope you enjoyed too.