HYDERABAD: It is the only temple in India, perhaps in the whole world, where a temple is known by the name of its sculptor - Ramappa. The 12th century sculptor’s outstanding work had been alive for centuries and will do so for much more. One of the finest examples of South Indian temple architecture, the Ramappa Temple near Warangal attracts historians, art lovers, researchers, and the common man. The exquisitely sculpted dancing girls steal a romantic’s heart: they are slender, graceful and very sensuous. Carved in black basalt stone, their lithe bodies burst into dance as they come alive in your imagination. Isn’t this what exactly Ramappa had on his mind when he was breathing life into the hard stones, chiselling till his hands bled and heart filled with passion? Blessed are such artists who live forever through their art! Inspiring many a poem, song, drama and film, Ramappa Temple still stands proudly in its fading glory.
An inscription in the temple states that the temple was built by Recherla Rudra, a general in the army of Ganapati Deva of Kakatiya Dynasty: the construction took 40 years and was completed in 1213 AD. The temple had remained intact even after repeated plundering and destruction during wars and natural disasters. There was a major earthquake during the 17th century, which caused considerable damage.
The temple stands on a raised platform with lateral porched entrances on three sides: the main entrance faces east. The inner sanctum contains a black basalt Linga installed on a high pedestal.
Inside, over the ceiling of the central hall, one finds a magnificent display of sculptures depicting scenes from Siva Puranam, Bhagavathapuranam, and other mythological narratives. The striking peculiarity of the building lies in the arrangement of bracket figures where stand the slender, graceful Madanikas and Salabhanjikas. The other units within the premises are an imposing Nandi Mandapa, Kameshwara and Kateswara shrines.
Various postures from Perini Sivathandavam (mentioned in “Nritya Rathnavali” written by Jayapa Senaani), a martial dance performed by male dancers before going to a battle are finely engraved on the threshold. We can also find the lasya aspect of the same dance depicted in various poses. I was both happy and sad: sad because such great beauty captured in stone is slowly perishing; happy that India at one time produced such great sculptors.
Vijay, the temple guide said that right now the abhishekam water, milk, curds, honey etc. have no passage to go through the “Soma Sutram”, the receptacle in which the abhishekam liquids are collected in a Shiva temple, as the passage is blocked/clogged by a huge rock that is displaced during the earthquake. If a hole has to be drilled, it is not only risky, as the whole temple may crumble with one misplaced move, but also it needs great expertise to execute it. So the temple priests have no choice left but to collect the water and other liquids in their palms and pour them out into a container. But the liquids do seep into the stone lingam and the surroundings, damaging the same.
The daylight that is reflected by the four pillars is diverted towards and enables the inner sanctum to be illuminated the whole day, which is a significant architectural feat. The exquisitely carved five Dwarapalikas at the entrance of the inner sanctum pay respect through a namskaram while one of the left side ones offers a banana as prasadam (I was quite amused by these interpretations!).
The figurines carved in sand stone all around the temple are very interesting.
The figures of Persian men, Egyptian Pharaohs point to the trade relations the Kakatiyas had with these countries. Though the rulers were staunch Saivites, they had Jain and Vaishnava smapradaya idols carved, which shows their tolerance towards all faiths. Few of the very interesting sculptures are those of women wrestlers and the 523 elephants all around the temple as though they are in circumambulation. The bricks used in the upper part of the temple are specially made with porous, laterite material: they are so light that they float on water. Another interesting architectural aspect is the “sand box” technology used for the foundation.
The Kakatiya rulers, renowned for their highly developed technology of irrigation, created a chain of lakes, which greatly benefited their farmers. As a tradition, a tank was built near every temple. The 700-year-old Ramappa Lake is one of the prominent reservoirs built by them. Spread over 82 sq km, this lake provides irrigation to 10,000 acres of land. Haritha Hotel Ramappa (run by Telangana Tourism) has beautiful cottages on the banks of this lake amidst lush green forest and boating in the lake also attracts many tourists.
Laknavaram Lake - a beauty spot
30 kms from Ramappa Temple is the Laknavaram Lake, created by the Kakatiya kings. Surrounded by a thick deciduous forest, with 13 islands and a 160-metre suspension bridge, it is a popular tourist spot. The wooden and glass cottages on one of the islands are an ideal getaway with calm waters, chirping birds and a peaceful silence that gives one, the much-needed break from the urban chaos and the associated mundane madness.
(The author is a documentary filmmaker and travel writer; she blogs at vijayaprataptravelandbeyond.com)