Tag Archives: Architecture

Temples, Antiquity, & Heritage

The following Post was composed by Spandana . You can follow her on Twitter.


Temples have been quite important parts of our lives from ancient times. Temples have always been the centre of many vibrant activities. They might be social or cultural or spiritual or sometimes even political.  In simple words we can say every temple has been a proto type of society (of that particular place, how it was and how it is).

I want to elaborate a point, which everyone may not understand or maybe don’t accept:  modernisation of our ancient temples in the name of renovations. Yes, in our state there are many ancient temples with a great past. The good news is these temples are very much functional and the chain of devotion is passing to succeeding generations without break. But are many of these ancient temples looking that ancient?? No they are completely looking ultra-new. But along with being worshiping places, aren’t these temples our standing examples of our past and our heritage?? Isn’t this our responsibility to maintain their art, architecture, unique construction, and grandeur in the way they were?? But instead of preserving we are damaging these architectural marvels in the name of renovation. The picture below, is the temple which is supposed to be one of the ancient temples in our state. New look of the ancient temple

Srikakula Andhra Mahavishnu Temple

 Photo Credit: highwayonlyway.com

I am not blaming the thought of renovating ancient temples, but am only saying that renovation should be done in the way that temple reflects its grand past with the help of new techniques, instead of completely demolishing and rebuilding. Here is an ideal example of renovation:

Photo Credit: Spandana

Chola period temple (Mulasthaneswara temple) in Gajulamandyam village, was renovated in a beautiful manner—anyone can get the inspiration. All these renovations were done by locals. They took extra effort to maintain the temple’s antiquity. They cleared all paint from the temple walls just to make the old carvings and architecture visible, which was a costly process. Locals taking pride of their past, and conserving their identity is a commendable act.

Photo Credit: Spandana

In the first picture u can see the temple before renovation, in the second picture after renovation (all the paint was removed.

Not all ancient temples are under Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Many are with state endowment department. Though it is the endowment department’s job to conserve these old temples, they hardly understand or care about the antiquity or sanctity of the particular temple. Here I am taking another example of the beautiful temple in Kadapa district in Meenapuram Village:

Rajarajeswari Temple

Photo Credit: Spandana

This ancient temple is very much under the umbrella of endowment department, but this temple is conveniently neglected, due to its low income from Hundi. This temple has a beautiful stepwell in the front and ancient Kalyana mandapa made out by carving a rock. This intricately carved centuries old Kalyana mandapa completely collapsed recently. Not even a sign board or direction board is present to know about the temple. If one wants to reach this place, it’s only with help of locals.

Photo Credit: Spandana

It’s not the story of Meenapuram alone. There are many ancient temples under endowment department facing similar situation. We have examples of 500 year old SriKalahasthi gopuram and Bhavanarayana swamy temple raja gopuram collapsed, due to lack of timely care. This topic is just unending. I can write pages about this.

Photo Credit: Spandana

In brief: as a heritage lover, as a devotee, I wish our temples function well along with maintaining their antiquity and our heritage. I sincerely hope the endowment department takes some responsibility with such temples. As people, who respect our past and understand our heritage, it is our responsibility to educate people in our little circle.

        HERITAGE IS OUR PRIDE
#Heritageisourpride #Heritagemustbepreserved

              Jai Hind


Disclaimer: This article represents the opinions of the Author, and should not be considered a reflection of the views of the Andhra Cultural Portal. The Author is responsible for ensuring the factual veracity of the content, herein.

Peddamudiam — Pride of Andhra Pradesh

The following Post was composed by Spandana. You can follow her on Twitter.


Photo: Spandana

Peddamudiam, a village if properly projected would have been a heritage village of our state, if properly maintained would have been bliss for researchers and heritage enthusiasts, if properly maintained would have been a great tourist spot that speaks to many interesting aspects of our glorious past. All these are possible only “IF” our government tends to show a little interest in our past.

Though I am against any kind of comparison with other countries…here I am left with no choice other than comparing. India is 11 times bigger than Italy, and if we check the monuments in both countries, the Indian monuments list is way bigger than Italy; but Italy being such a small country has the highest number of monuments listed in UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is only because they respect their past in such a way. Forget about other countries, if we compare with our neighboring states, our state has huge lagging. The way Karnataka and Tamil Nadu maintain their monuments is remarkable. That is the reason both the states have recorded their entry into the UNESCO Heritage list. It’s not like Andhras don’t have monuments, it’s because we hardly make time to promote them and maintain them.

Coming to the present topic, Peddamudiam is 19 kms from Jammalamadugu, Kadapa district. This beautiful small village, originally known as Mudivemu, has numerous monuments with its unique style of architecture. It is really hard to find from Jammalamadugu that there is a beautiful village around, as no information board is installed. Most of the monuments in this village are ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) recognized monuments, waiting to come out of their neglect. Any heritage lover, any spiritual seeker can’t accept the present vulnerable situation of this age old wonder.

List of Monuments in Peddamudiam

  • Ugra Narasimaha Temple – The most neglected temple, but has beautiful architecture believed to be built by Cholas, later developed by Vijayanagara Emperors. Always deserted, but a pandit from neighboring village comes in the morning for performing basic Pooja for Lord.

  • Mukundeswara Temple Complex – There are 5 temples in this temple complex, 2 Shiva Temples, 1 Narasimha Shrine, 1 Karthikeya Shrine and 1 Shrine for NagaGrahas. This temple complex is the oldest temple complex in the village, Compared to Ugra Narasimha Shrine…these temples are in better condition. Though there is no Information board about the era or dynasty in which they were built, we can easily infer they are very early type of construction and very unique style of Architecture. After multiple trails of finding the basic information about these sites, the conclusion I came to was this:  they existed from Satavahana Era and later flourished in Pallavas and Cholas time.

  • Kodanda Rama Shrine and Old Village Site – Though these shrine looks like Vijayanagara Style, can’t say for sure, as the temple was closed(when we visited), and there is an ancient village site as well, but couldn’t get much information about that(only if ASI takes some strain)…it is just a barren land with fencing. There are big bastions (buruju) in the village—villagers said it is 300 years old.

PS – I personally want to apologize if anyone was hurt by my words .These words are not meant to hurt people, but are meant to showcase the emotions of a person who can’t see our heritage,our past,our identity dying like this.


Spandana also runs the GloriousIndianPast and NeglectedMonuments Blogs.

Disclaimer: This article represents the opinions of the Author, and should not be considered a reflection of the views of the Andhra Cultural Portal. The Author is responsible for ensuring the factual veracity of the content, herein.

Kalakada & Andhra’s Great Past

The following Post was composed by Spandana garu. You can follow her on Twitter.


Kalakada Temple

Andhra Pradesh is now making its move towards becoming a technology giant, industrial giant, and what not —all these are positive signs to the growth of our newly re-born State. But at the same time, here we should never forget, we are nothing without our identity…and our identity is our culture, our past, our roots. Just a small introspection is needed for us. How well are we treating our monuments, our old temples, old forts (signs of our past)? Penukonda being the second capital of Great Vijayanagara Emperors, how is its present condition…how many actually visit?

Its not about Penukonda alone; it’s similar condition with all our monuments. Hope we realise monuments are not just old walls and buildings, but they are remnants of our ancestors.

#History of #Kalakada (Chittoor District) has an interesting back ground.

Kalakada

1. #Siddavattam was a kingdom in Kadapa District. According to the oral histories of the region, around the 15th century C.E,  there was a king by the name Chandra Sekhar Varma, of the Vydhaba dynasty. He was an honest but strict king. He had a beautiful daughter, Princess Sathyavathi.

2.It so happened on God’s wish that Sathyavathi became pregnant, despite being unmarried. The Raja became harsh and questioned Sathyavathi about her pregnancy, demanding to know who was responsible for her condition. Sathyavathi replied that she was innocent and unaware of the cause. He couldn’t believe  her.  ‘Sathyavathi’ was a great devotee of Lord Siva. She prayed to him to prove her innocence.

3.Being ashamed of his daughter, Chandra Sekhara Varma wanted to get rid of her. As per his strict view, she had committed an unpardonable crime. The King ordered his daughter to cross Seven outskirts of villages by carrying a pot full of toddy on her head (Kallu), under which there was a Cobra.The pot was made  of wet clay. The punishment imposed on his daughter was unfair and humanly impossible, and at any moment, his daughter would die due to Cobra bite. Sathyavathi agreed to her father’s command and started her journey.

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4. The King sent his trusted soldiers along with her. Praying to Lord Siva devoutly, Sathyavathi crossed 7outskirts of villages successfully, and she put down the pot after journeying to an appropriate place. To her astonishment, there was no Toddy (Kallu) in the pot, and instead there was ‘Siva linga’ and a Cobra with its hood on it. The pot disappeared. The Siva Linga is named as “#Kallu #Ghateswar” as it appeared from a pot of toddy (Kallu). It is told that due to her virtue, Sathyavathi turned into a river. Today, there’s a Sangamam (confluence of rivers)with  #Bahuda and #Sathyavathi, where the Siva Linga was installed by Sathyavathi.

5. The local people worshipped Lord Siva and Sathyavathi wholeheartedly. The king came to know the story and repented much for  his foolishness in punishing his innocent daughter. He did namaskaara before ‘Lord Siva’ and asked for forgiveness for this sin. This name of Lord  Siva (‘Kallu-Ghata’) in due  course of time became Kalakada today. Because he fulfilled the wishes of the people, Sadashiva is called “Siddheswara”, which means fulfillment of wishes to those who prayed to Him.

This local legend is considered a real historical story that took place . To this day, people from the 7 outskirt villages come to Kalakada, through the same path by which Sathyavathi travelled, every year and offer their prayers.

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There’s a Pallava period monument in the Town (which is under the Archaeology department). At the same time, the pathetic condition of monuments isn’t hidden as well. Kalakada is not the only place. This wonderful state is blessed abundantly with historical monuments, beautiful architecture, and many old Temples.

Another completely neglected monument, probably a #pallava structure and later improved by #Vijayanagara, is this one. It is a temple with great history. Once a grand structure, it is  now prey for our negligence. Our monuments are in utmost need of care and protection.

Heritage sites in Andhra Pradesh are in really bad state and many monuments are ignored and neglected without a record.

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Loot by thieves in search of treasure in ancient monuments is not new, here is an epic example of it.It is heart wrenching for any heritage lover to see such old monuments in this vulnerable state. Please share this post to the maximum,and let government act and preserve our roots and heritage.

#Heritageisourpride #Heritagemustbepreserved

Location: Location of the Mandal:- #Kalakada Mandal is located on N.H-18,towards North of #Chittoor, which is 90 K.Ms from District head quarters.

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References:

  1. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/13th-century-temple-a-picture-of-neglect/article6795604.ece
  2. http://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/current-affairs/110117/hyderabad-thieves-looting-antiques-without-any-fear-of-law.html
  3. http://www.chikalakabp.appr.gov.in/home/-/asset_publisher/QOkpuc6kj83c/content/about-kalakada/pop_up?_101_INSTANCE_QOkpuc6kj83c_viewMode=print
  4. http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-andhrapradesh/200-year-old-temple-cries-for-attention/article16546761.ece

Spandana also runs the GloriousIndianPast and NeglectedMonuments Blogs.

Disclaimer: This article represents the opinions of the Author, and should not be considered a reflection of the views of the Andhra Cultural Portal. The Author is responsible for ensuring the factual veracity of the content, herein.

Warangal: The City, its Art & its Architecture

After Amaravati, the second capital of the Telugus was Warangal (also referred to by its Sanskrit name, Ekasheela). Literally meaning “One Stone” (Oru gallu), the great capital of the Kakatiyas long stood truly as a “single rock” of Dharma defying Delhi.

Those of you following us on twitter would have read our tweets giving snapshots of the glories of this once flowering citadel of Dharma. This post will not only expand upon them, but explore new, especially visual, areas as well.

Background

Famous Ekashila Hill that gave Warangal its name
The Famous Ekasheela Hill that gave Warangal its name

While settlements in the area date as far back as the Chalukyas (who built the nearby Bhadrakali temple), Warangal truly became a city under the Kakatiyas, at least since the days of Rudra I. Construction of the fortress-capital took place under the greatest ruler, Ganapati Deva, who shifted the government from Hanumakonda. It was completed under his daughter, Rudrama Devi, some time after. In fact, despite the granite strength of the walls, the feminine touch of the Maharani of the Kakatiyas was credited for the ornate carvings of the stout citadel.

Located in new Telangana State, Ekasila-nagari was the capital of the historical Andhra desa that reasserted itself after the ending of the Satavahana dynasty and the dominance of the Chalukyas & Cholas in the land of the Telugus. In fact, after ancient Amaravati, it was medieval Warangal which was called  “Andhranagari”.

Geographically, it is about 150 km from Hyderabad and 10 km from Hanumakonda. In fact, Warangal-Hanumakonda-Kazipet are collectively referred to as the Tri-City area. After the Twin Cities, modern Ekasheela is the second largest urban agglomeration in Telangana.

Palampet, Pakhal, and Ghanpur (Ghanapuram fort) are also in the general vicinity of Warangal. Should the district ever be renewed in vitality, these places would also be counted in a putative Metro area.

Fort

 

One of the most redoubtable forts of India, Warangal stubbornly stood as the Telugu thorn in the side of the Turks, first under the Kakatiyas and later under the Musunuri Nayaks. Its defenders were able to accomplish this through a strategic layout of outer and inner moats, secondary mud walls, and an intimidating granite primary wall.  Built with cyclopean stone masonry,  the inner wall was a fearsome obstacle for attackers. The Outer earthen wall was no less ingenious as rocks from catapults would famously bounce off it, much to the consternation of besiegers. Its well sculpted battlements provided crenelated defense for the countless archers who once manned them (900,000 by one count). Recent excavation by archaeologists uncovered a third ring of fortification inside.

 

The Mighty Walls of Warangal

Almost poetically, there were 77 towers once commanded by 77 Nayaks. The main fort, however, had 45 towers and was 5km in circumference. It was spread out over 19kms. It was also very well-supplied with water, both through lakes inside the fort and canals/moats outside of it.

In a triumph of irrigation, a number of man-made bodies of water were constructed by the Kakatiyas.

View inside Warangal fort

City

Truly the “City of Stone & Lakes” in the land of the Telugus, there is a bit of Warangal in the heart of every Andhra (whether AP or TS). From its lush vegetation, to its resplendent waterways, to the grandeur of its granite, the city, citadel, and structures are verily   

A Vision of Telugu Unity.

Nearby Pakhal Lake was created as a sanctuary for the Warangal Royals. Some accounts refer to it as a summer palace. In fact, the artificial body of water dates back to the earlier Kakatiyas. The last Kakatiya King, Prataparudra is credited with the construction of a stone bund across it.

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Serenely beautiful Pakhal Lake

There were a number of extensions (suburbs) as part of the old city. One such famous addition was Panukantivada. This was built specially for settlers from Nalgonda district, who had been invited to settle down in the rajdhani.

Art

The Art of Warangal (and associated structures) is virtually synonymous with stone sculpture. Indeed, the polished granite and elongated figures are seen as almost the trademark style of the Lords of Kakatipura.

This style of physiognomy is considered an innovation and a departure from past convention in sculpture (Silpa Sastra). Indeed, the Royals of Warangal should be commended for patronizing such artistic experimentation. Art should not merely reprint standard practice, whether textual or not, but take inspiration from the text to explore the artist’s own creativity, resulting in a more vibrant end-product.

The most famous specimens from the era are the polished statuary of the Madanika dancers above and the alert Nandi below. Both are from the Ramappa Temple in Palampet.

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The Nandi of Ramappa Temple, Venkatpur Mandal

This Nandi statue is considered unique as it was shaped to be uncharacteristically elongated and at attention. Typically, Nandi murthis are focused and facing directly at the Shiva-linga, but that is not the case at the Ramalingeshwara Temple of Ramappa.

 

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Pensive Pandit Statue in Warangal Lake

Despite the destruction wrought by Central Asian invaders, sculptures at Warangal fort itself have managed to survive as well. The Pandit above is also emblematic of the experimental nature of Warangal Art, which did not merely repeat time-tested patterns, but broke new ground and invented new technique and approaches.

Painting

While most famous for its statuary, Warangal Art also boasts specimens of Chitra-sastra (Science of Painting). At one time, at least 1000 paintings are thought to have been present in the capital. In fact, the painting gallery (Chitra Sala) of Prataparudra’s favorite courtesan, MachalDevi, was particularly famous. It notably depicted scenes from the Siva Purana, Krishna & Gopis, as well as various erotic pairings such as Tara with Chandra, Menaka with Viswamitra , and Rati with Manmatha (God of Love). Other examples include the Cherial Painting above from nearby Pillalamarri. The Blue Samudra-manthan painting at Ramappa dates to the Kakatiya era as well.

A Chitramandapa for public entertainment is also said to have existed at Warangal. It featured different scenes from historical battles fought by the heroic Brahma Naidu.

Architecture

Chalukya Heritage

The Heritage of Warangal includes the efforts of the Kannada Chalukya and Rashtrakuta dynasties. Their legacy is still seen today in a number of Warangal area temples. Vimanas (heavenly vehicles, houses of God) or more specifically Sikharas (towers surrounding a sanctuary) were historically constructed in various styles: Nagara (mostly North India), Dravida (mostly South India), Kalinga (Odisha), and Vesara . The Chalukyas developed a new style called Rekhanagara, which was more parabolic in nature, and another called Bhumija.

Jain Temple just outside Warangal Fort

Padmakshi Temple

Bhadrakali Temple

Kakatiya Grandeur:

The Kakatiyas continued this heritage from the Chalukya era, but then took this inspiration to make their own name. The Pillalamarri inscription, dated to 1195 C.E., states  the following:

Beautiful, as high as the peak of kailasa, with the clouds, kissed by their banner clothes, are the golden kalasas placed on the top-of these temples of Erakeswara and Naameswara

Beautiful as they were, only a few of these Kakatiyas temples have emerged unscathed from war. Kakatiya vimanas can be broadly classified in two varieties (1) the stepped pyramidal type (2) the storied pyramidal type. They constructed sikharas in mainly Nagara and Dravida styles.

Entrance to Warangal fort

After countless battles and numerous wars, the Entrance to the Fort of Warangal stands defiantly to this day. Like the city and rulers who defended it, it is a stubborn reminder of the stubborn will of the Telugus.

Keerthi Torana

The Trademark Warangal Torana is of course the most famous structure of the site. Indeed, it has come to define its medieval past and, as readers will see below, even its modern image.

Use of the Torana goes as far back as the Vedic period, and smaller versions featured even in villages. The earliest examples of grand stone Toranas are seen in Buddhist structures such as Bharhut and Sanchi. Amaravati in Coastal Andhra also displayed Toranas, as evidenced by the surviving statuary and stone bas reliefs.

They, however, truly reached their zenith under the Kakatiyas. Toranas were an important and distinctive aspect of Kakatiya architecture, and were used in sites beyond Warangal, such as Nandikandi and Kolanupaka’s Somesvara Temple. Nevertheless, the Keerthi Torana of Warangal is the gold standard. The ends of the Torana’s lintels are ornamented with hamsas, which symbolize keerthi (fame). Thus, the improvement of the indigenous Indic gateway is the signature contribution of the Warangal style to India’s Architecture.

Warangal Fort Shiva Temple (interior)

 

Svayambunatha Temple

The true ornament of Warangal fort, however, must have been the Svayambhunatha Temple. The colossal proportions of this complex are corroborated by a contemporary work called the Kridabhiramamu as well as the still extant mandapa. It is primarily the mandapa that remains today, and the Kakatiyas devotion to Lord Shiva made them construct this Mandir as the main Architectural attraction of their capital.

This was also adorned by free standing pillars called nandistambhas, nagasthambhas, and deepasthambhas. These were typically placed in front of the temple itself, as can be seen here. This is considered another marker of Warangal Architecture and its style.

Khush Mahal

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Broken Idols kept in Shitab Khan’s Khush Mahal

One of the very interesting stories coming out of Warangal’s time-worn heritage is the curious case of Shitab Khan. The Bahmani governor is rumored to have been a Telugu convert named Sitapati Raju. He later took advantage of trouble within the Sultanate to declare independence. As a Telugu Muslim, he was a patron of the native Telugu literature and poetrythe Chitra Bharatam was credited to his era. He is said have aimed to  restore the indigenous glory of the previous Kakatiya era, and renovated many irrigation tanks and ponds.

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Khush Mahal (Interior)

While the iconoclasm of the Turks resulted in the destruction of many temples, numerous idols can be found in the Khush Mahal credited to Shitab Khan. The only remaining palace in this once city of palaces, Sitapati’s structure, like Sitapati himself, eventually escaped the Turks, and was returned to his own people related by blood, in the Coastal regions.

Hanumakonda 1000 Pillar Temple (Veyi Stambha Mandiram)

Built by King Rudra Deva in 1163, it is the iconic temple of the Kakatiyas. Constructed in nearby Hanumakonda, it is considered an architectural gem.

 

While the gopuram (tower) was tragically knocked down by vandal invaders, the main structure itself has managed to survive the test of time. The pillars of the temple in particular are known for their detail, design, and resplendent polish.

The pillar itself embodies the sophistication of traditional Dharmic architectural precepts. The Kakatiyas themselves are famous for their polished stambhas. They used the Brahmakanta variety of pillar, though Silpa Sastras also mention Vishnukanta, Rudrakanta, and Skandakanta (also called Suryakanta and Chandrakanta). Podikas (pillar capitals) are the crowning feature and tended to showcase leafy patterns, floral designs and cobra-hoods.

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Ceiling Sculpture from 1000 Pillar Temple

The ceiling too features intricate carvings in stone along with the trademark Kakatiya stone polish.

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Thousand Pillar Temple Pond

Ponds and tanks were also common in traditional Hindu temples. The Veyi Stambhala Gudi was no exception as seen above.

Ramappa Temple in nearby Palampet

Though located a little ways away from Warangal (70 km), Ramappa temple has become closely associated with it and the rule of the Kakatiyas. In a departure from naming convention, which is typically determined by the presiding deity, this Mandir’s appellation is in fact in honor of its Architect: Ramappa. The temple and its eponymous lake are lovely examples of Kakatiya architecture. Credited to general Racharla Rudra (though possibly also Rudra I), the subordinate of King Ganapati Deva, this temple is regarded as emblematic of the unique style of Warangal/Kakatiya Art and Architecture.

Most beautiful are the Madanika Dancer sculptures of lustrous polished black granite and elongated features seen above. They feature as brackets.

Ghanpur group of Temples

Quietly tucked away in the nearby fort town of Ghanapuram, the Ghanpur Group of Temples is an additional stopping ground for any trip to Warangal. 22 in number they remain very close to the style and execution of the Ramappa Temple, and are surrounded by a wall. Built from red sandstone, they are an ocular feast and very much the archetypal vision of Indian ruins amidst lush vegetation. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, they also feature the signature Madanika bracket figures in the archways of temples.

The Kalyanamandapa and Sabhamandapa porches are the most notable architectural sights here. Most significant however is the innovation of mandapas, seen here in the Ekakuta and Trikuta styles of temple. The Kakatiyas also introduced two whole new styles of temple: Panchakuta featured elsewhere (Ramanaujapuram) and Chatuskuta at Panagal’s Somesvara temple.

Chaya Somesvara Temple at Panagal

Dharma

Staunchest Kakatiya defender of Warangal & Dharma

From their earlier Jain inclinations to their later popularization of Shaivism, the Kakatiyas were known as Men (and Women) of Honor and patrons of Dharma.

Shiva temple at Ghanpur (Exterior)

The Walled City of Warangal itself was said to have contained hundreds of Shiva Temples in its heyday, such as the small one above.

Bhadrakali Murthy

The scenic Bhadrakali temple just outside the city is also well-known, and dates back to the pre-Kakatiya era. It symbolizes the long standing roots of Dharma in the region.

Despite its history of triumph and tragedy, Telugu unity, and colonial rule, Warangal’s many temples have preserved the dharmic traditions of this area.

Walls may be knocked down, statues may be broken, and stones may turn to dust…but Dharma will never die. The struggle and sacrifice of the Telugu leaders of this region is testament to that, as is the history of Telangana.

Dynasties

While the Chalukyas deserve mention for their initial presence and contribution of the adjacent Bhadrakali temple, it is the Kakatiyas who are truly the founding dynasty of Warangal.

Though the Turks themselves only record 5 expeditions to the Andhra country, native sources such as Pratapa-charitra, Vilasa, and the Kaluvacheru copper plate grants record 8 wars in the reign of Prataparudra.  Thus the current consensus of 2 Telugu Victories and 3 Turk Victories may, numerically at least, be more in favor of the Kakatiyas than previously thought.

Nevertheless, it was the walls of this citadel of Andhra that stopped the Seunas of Devagiri in their tracks, and stood against the Turks in at least 5 wars. So imposing were the 50 ft walls and 30 ft gates of Warangal, that the Delhi General, Malik Kafur, could not breach them in the 2nd war, and so he began committing atrocities on the women in the surrounding settlements. Thus, while the defenses stood strong and proud, the heart of the King proved soft, and out of concern for his subjects, he relented. The walls were so powerful that it in fact took a brand new type of catalapult to finally knock them down. And knocked down they were, as the fifth and final attack proved ruthless in a way only the silent stones of Warangal can retell.

The Delhi interregnum of Malik Maqbul was put to an end a mere few years later by the Musunuri Nayaks. Liberated under Krishna Nayak (Kapaneedu Musunuri) it would remain in Telugu hands for another 50 years. Recent findings (as well as the ruins themselves) are also testament to the iconoclasm of the times.

Tragically, as Telugus have habitually done, infighting and petty jealousies took place. The traitorous Rachakonda Rajas betrayed the Musunuri Nayaks and captured the fort in battle. The Bahmanis took advantage, and the city fell from Nayak rule to the Sultans, and to eventual political unimportance. Through politicking with and eventual cooption of the traitorous Recherla Nayaks, Warangal remained under Turk hands first under the Bahmanis, then Qutb Shahis, and finally the Asaf Jahs. Due to their neglect, Warangal never again regained its former glory.

Future

Modern Warangal district offers much potential for development.  The current population is around 32 lakh people, with 51 mandals, and over 1000 villages. A number of colleges/universities have also sprung up, like the NIT and, fittingly, Kakatiya University.

Aside from the numerous Hindu temples, from Bhadrakali and Padmakshi to 1000 pillar and Ghanpur, the Jain heritage of the district, and united Andhra in general, should also be capitalized upon. Most of all, is the entire fort complex of Ekasheela-nagaram, which recalls the Vision of Unity that the Kakatiyas of Telangana region so steadfastly fought to give the Telugus.

Sadly neglected since the fall of the Musunuri Nayaks, the Grandeur of Warangal is very much a shadow of its former self. Despite this fact, “Andhra Maha Nagari” lives ever in the hearts of all true Telugus. It is not for nothing that the Keerthi Torana of Warangal was selected for the 29th State’s emblem. One hopes that with the rise of the new state of Telangana, Warangal’s importance will once again be restored.

References:

  1. Rao, P.R. History and Culture of Andhra Pradesh. New Delhi. Sterling Publishers. 1994
  2. http://www.slideshare.net/venkatasivaprasads/history-oftheandhras
  3. http://www.bharatonline.com/andhra-pradesh/travel/warangal/excursions.html
  4. Cousens, Henry.  Lists of antiquarian remains…in Nizam’s territories. ASI. 1900
  5. Singh, Satyanarayana. The Art and Architecture of the Kakatiyas. Delhi: Bharatiya Kala Prakashan. 1999
  6. http://indiatravelogue.com/dest/anp/anp5.html
  7. http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/5889/
  8. http://warangal.nic.in/wglance/wglance.htm
  9. http://warangal.nic.in/kutsav/gallery.html
  10. http://nalgonda.nic.in/pangal.htm

Amaravati: The City, its Art & its Architecture

http://aptdc.gov.in/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Amaravati-museum-2-2.jpg

The Great City of Amaravati has a storied history not only in Andhra and India, but in the rest of Asia as well.

Those of you following us on twitter would have read our tweets (storified for your convenience) giving snapshots of the glories of this once flowering capital of Dharma. This post will not only expand upon this, but explore new, especially visual, areas as well.

Background

 

Amaravati’s name comes from the presiding deity himself, Amareshwara, which is another name for Lord Shiva. Legend has it that the shivalinga fell from Heaven. As it began growing towards the sky, Indra, the King of the Devas, hammered a nail into it to stop it from increasing. As a result it is said to have bled, creating the red naama. As one of the five Pancharama Temples, Amaravati thus has a long history as a center of both Hinduism and Buddhism.

Also known as Dhanyakataka or Dharanikota (appellation of the present town),  it is Amaravati that remains the immortal title of this “Abode of Immortals“. The Buddha himself is recorded by Vajrayana texts to have preached at Dhanyakataka/Dharanikota, establishing the importance of this town for the followers of Siddhartha Gautama. While the famous Buddhist stupa is said to have Pre-Mauryan origins, it is typically dated to the Maurya era. It was under the Satavahanas of Andhra, however, that Amaravati made its true mark. It is for this reason it is called the “Andhra nagari” of the Ancient period (Warangal taking that title in the Medieval era).

Amaravathi, Andhra Pradesh 522020, India

The modern city itself is 39km from Vijayawada and 32km from Guntur, and is on the southern bank of the Krishna river. It is also very near the ancient town of Bhattiprolu (Pratipalapura), which was the capital of the Andhra Ikshvakus, as well as the famous town of Mangalagiri, known for its sarees (and which will be featured here, soon).

Art

Described as “a new canon of beauty and tranquility” and “the aesthetic ideal of India“, the Amaravati artistic style remains one of the three most prominent from Ancient India. The other two were Gandhara (notable in the northwest) and Mathura (in the Gangetic Plains), and did not have as wide a reach as this “Immortal” aesthetic.

The Amaravati School of Art is notable for its influence not only in India (as seen in Ajanta), but in South East Asia as well.

The Ajanta Cave Paintings are said to be extensions of the Amaravati School. This is apparent in the supple yet playful nature of the figures. Noted for its sophistication and curvaceous forms, this style of art projected the occasionally transcendental nature of the subject matter, frequently from Buddhist Mythology (i.e. Avalokitesvara).

Iconic Ajanta “Princess” belongs to Satavahana era & reflects Amaravati’s style

 

The influence on South East Asia however is obvious not only through their native Art, but also in actual copies of Amaravati reliefs found in Thailand to this day:

Thai Copy of Amaravati Relief Original

While subject matter for the various stone friezes and bas-reliefs vary, they range from the mythological (typically stories from the life of the Buddha)

Famous frieze of the demon Mara assaulting the Buddha

 

to the everyday (seen below)

 

To the Royal (seen below)

 

Architecture

When it comes to architecture, the name Amaravati at once recalls the splendors of the massive Buddhist stupa. With a diameter of 51 meters, a height of 31 meters, and an outer railing that was 15 meters wide, it was, and still is, magnificent to behold.

File:Amaravati Stupa.JPG
The mound & parts of the railing are what remains today of the Stupa

While only the ruins of the stupa can be seen, the basic structure recalls the glory of what once existed. Most of the artwork has been carried off to the British Museum in London, though some sculpture and various stone friezes can be found in the nearby Amaravati Museum as well as in Chennai.

Another notable aspect about it is how a bas relief of the stupa itself was chiseled into the actual structure.

File:Amaravati Stupa relief at Museum.jpg

Among the most prominent remaining features of the Stupa is the massive railing. Unlike other stupas, Amaravati is known for its grand use of marble rather than brick.

Other than the stupa, Amaravati’s architecture is also famously expressed in the Amareshwara Temple. The colorful gopuram in particular remains its most prominent feature.

The famous shivalinga is reputed to measure 15 feet in height and the abhishekam itself has to be done from the second level of the temple.

The nearby town of Mangalagiri is also famous for its Lakshmi Narasimhaswamy Temple and its imposing gopuram. The uppermost levels were added by Amaravati’s Vasireddy clan.

Dharma

The Single-most prominent motif of Amaravati and its art is Dharma. Dharmachakras, the Buddha, and of course Lord Shiva himself dot the once great city and its statuary.

Copy of Amaravati Relief found in Thailand

From the “Conception & Birth of the Buddha” to the “Departure of the Bodhisattva”, the importance of Buddhism to Amaravati and Amaravati to Buddhism remains undeniable.

 

The famous Chinese traveler to India, Xuanzang, wrote at great length about the city in his account. Many chaitya halls, monasteries and viharas dotted the once resplendent landscape. Through successive patronage from not only Indian kings, but from pious donors as far as Sri Lanka and South East Asia, it’s clear this once great city was a capital of Dharma.

 

Dhyana Buddha under construction in Amaravati

While the Amareshwara Temple remains in disrepair (one of the gopurams was recently demolished), and the Buddha Statue a work in progress, the prominence of this once great Dharmic city may again flower as it once did.

Dynasties

The “Abode of Immortals” has had many great rulers over millennia. In fact, a Maurya-era inscription associates the stupa itself with Ashoka. Amaravati (and the rest of the Andhra province) had been under Mauryan suzerainty. The Emperor himself had remarked in his edicts that he had been spreading the message of the Buddha in Andhra. Amaravati would naturally have featured in these efforts, as evidenced by the rock edict of nearby Maski. The Andhras are thought to have declared independence from Pataliputra some time after.

GautamiPutraSatakarni.jpg

The Satavahanas were the first great Andhra dynasty. Their rule extend over not only the entire Andhra region (across the trilingas) but to Southern Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and even the great capital of Pataliputra. It was from Amaravati, or what is now known as Dharanikota, that these Andhra emperors left a nation-wide shadow.

Indeed, their wealth and prosperity from international trade and tribute was poured into this capital of Dharma.  Commercial activity with both the Roman world and East Asia was thought to be massive and is evidenced by plentiful coins and accounts from travelers. Sopara, Kalyana, and Bharukaccha (in Gujarat) were important west coast ports and Corinka and Guduru in the east. Dhulikota near Elagandala was an important Satavahana inland market town in Telangana. Exports included textiles, silks, gems, ivory, pepper, and high quality wootz steel produced at Konasamudram and Elangandala. At the heart of it all, however, was the political, commercial, and religious center of Amaravati.

Gautamiputra Satakarni was the greatest ruler, having beaten back the tide of foreign invaders (Sakas and Parthians) back to the Northwestern corner of the Subcontinent. The army of this mighty king is reckoned to have numbered at least 100,000 infantry, 2,000 cavalry, and 1,000 elephants. Despite being an orthodox Hindu, Gautamiputra was known to be a munificent patron of Buddhism as well. The religious life of the city boomed under various sampradayas.  Indeed, it is likely that the importance of this Abode of Immortals to Global Buddhism was secured under either his reign or those of his successors and their building programs. Certainly, Yajnasri, the last great Satavahana, was known to have honored and retained the famed Buddhist Philosopher and Chemist Nagarjuna, at his royal court.

The Satavahana rulers were great patrons of Maharashtri Prakrit and Sanskrit, from both capitals of Pratishtana (Paithan in Maharashtra) and Amaravati. King Hala wrote the Prakrit poetic Anthology Sattasai (700 sringara verses). Gunadhya‘s famous Brihat Katha (originally composed in Paisachi, a lesser Prakrit) is also linked to the Satavahana Kings.  Five hundred years of this dynasty’s glorious rule left a significant impact on the culture not only of Andhra, but also India and much of Asia.

It was during the reign of the Ikshvakus, however, that Amaravati reached its high point. The dynasty began with the Suryvanshi King Yashodhara. According to tradition, his family is said to have left the Kosala (after the Nanda Empire’s conquest) of his ancestors to found Dakshina Kosala south of the Vindhyas. He was remarked to have marveled at the richness of the soil, and founded Pratipalapura (Bhattiprolu, also near Amaravati) as his capital. Vashishtiputra Santamula is earliest known of the major rulers. While he was a staunch follower of the Vedas, his sisters favored Buddhism, which eventual eclipsed Hinduism. This king’s descendants eventually became formal Buddhists and the capital shifted to Vijayapuri (Nagarjunakonda), where their contributions to art and architecture remain today. This also marked the beginning of Amaravati’s decline in importance.

While the later dynasties of the Vishnukundins, Chalukyas, Cholas, and Kakatiyas all expanded into Amaravati, the city’s splendor was no longer the same. Both the political and religious fulcrum of Buddhism had shifted to other centers. While it is not known if Amaravati’s present decrepit state and collapsed stupa was due to medieval Turkic pillage or native disrepair, the once great skyline of stupas,  monasteries, and viharas no longer remains.

 

Vasireddy Venkatadri

Amaravati had a brief, if slight, renaissance under the Vasireddy clan, which ruled the region for around one hundred or so years. It was the last ruler, Venkatadri Naidu, who escaped to the then crumbling town and engaged in a large building program of not only the town layout itself, but also its temples.

Amaravati Survey 1816

Aside from the Amareshwara temple, the nearby Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy mandir is also credited to the renovation efforts of the Vasireddys. While the majority of the structure was constructed under the Vijayanagara Emperors, the Vasireddys added additional layers at the top.

Future

With speculation rife that Amaravati has been tapped as the new capital for Andhra Pradesh state, the future holds much promise for this once splendid spoke of international trade and commerce. Despite its current state of neglect, it remains a great center of pilgrimage for Buddhists around the globe, and small monasteries remain to this day. As the home of a Pancharama Kshetra, its significance to Hindus cannot be denied either.

One thing is certain, from location to history to art & architecture to Dharma itself, Amaravati is an excellent choice for a capital in any Era.

 

References:

  1. http://www.shaktipeethas.org/pancharamas/topic173.html
  2. Sen, Sailendra Nath. Ancient Indian History and Civilization
  3. Rao, P.R. History and Culture of Andhra Pradesh. New Delhi. Sterling Publishers. 1994
  4. Ramaswami, N. S. Amaravati, the art and history of the stupa and the temple.Govt. of Andhra Pradesh, 1975
  5. Ramaswami, N. S. Indian Monuments. New Delhi: Shakti Malik. 1979
  6. http://www.aptourism.gov.in/index.php/k2-separator/k2/item/71-amaravathimuseum#.U7VKjVcreSp
  7. http://asi.nic.in/asi_monu_tktd_ap_stupa.asp
  8. http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-andhrapradesh/guntur-district-a-role-model-for-development/article152219.ece