Temple that is Telangana’s hidden treasure

The outer walls of the jagati as well as the main temple contain exquisitely carved reliefs of various divinities, elephants, the mithuna couples, mother and child, etc.

Published: 04th September 2021 12:01 AM  |   Last Updated: 03rd September 2021 11:39 PM   |  A+A-

Alampur in Jogulamba-Gadwal district, Telangana, is dotted with many ancient temples of the early Chalukya period (c. 543-757 CE). Sri Jogulamba (Mother of Yogis) of great antiquity is much revered by scores of devotees who throng the temple to offer their vows. Local myths consider the deity as a form of Shakti, the consort of Siva and the daughter of Daksha. Sri Nava-Brahma Temples contain nine Siva Lingams which are believed to have been consecrated by Brahma, the creator. Most of these edifices are fairly intact, but badly damaged. Many fine sculptural panels were either partly or completely obliterated due to several centuries of neglect, vandalism and ravages of war. The site museum houses many fine sculptures. The most noteworthy among them is the fertility goddess Lajja-Gauri, also known as Aditi Uttanapada. Locals however address her by the name Nagna Kabandha (the nude headless-bodied). Further, one sacred structure that still retains its former glory is that of Sri Sangameswara Temple, which was most likely built during the reign of Vishnuvardhana I (r. 655-81).

The Sri Sangameswara (Siva) Temple was originally located about 20 kilometres away from the present one, in a village named Kudavelli at the confluence of the Krishna and Tungabhadra rivers. When the Srisailam Dam on the Krishna started being constructed in the early 1970s, the village came within the zone that would eventually submerge in the backwaters of the hydroelectric project. Therefore, the temple was dismantled carefully by the Archaeological Survey of India and reconstructed at the outskirts of Alampur. In the process, as multiple layers of lime plaster were removed, the temple now appears as fresh as a recently-built edifice.

The temple, with an elongated and four-storeyed vimana (central tower) in the Nagara style, faces the East and contains the Nandi mantapa (bull pavilion) and the deepa-sthambha (lamp post) in front. The jagati (temple platform), which is about four metres above the ground, contains a railing one metre tall. In my opinion, the structure seems to have been set on such a high platform because it had originally existed at the confluence of two rivers that are prone to floods during the rainy season. The temple comprises the gudha mantapa (enclosed hall of pillars), the antaraala (intermediate space) and the garbha griha (sanctum sanctorum). The surrounding space of the Siva Lingam is in the sandara style viz the square sanctum with the pillared pradakshina patha (path of circumambulation). The pillared hall contains large size images of Veerabhadra in one corner, Padma and Sankha Nidhi on either side of the inner entrance, and Ganapati. The latter image is very unusual for it was made with the white soapstone that was commonly used in ancient Buddhist and early Hindu architecture of the Krishna valley region. This might suggest that the image of the elephant-headed divinity could be from a period earlier than the temple, which was built mostly with the red sandstone.

The outer walls of the jagati as well as the main temple contain exquisitely carved reliefs of various divinities, elephants, the mithuna couples, mother and child, etc. The divinities set in the niches include Ganga and Yamuna and various forms of Siva like Nataraja, Nandiswara, Ardhanareeswara, Lakulesa, Siva stumping Apasmara (epitome of ignorance) and so on. The gavaakshas (windows) on either side of the niches contain unique jalis with designs of swastika, chequer and wheel, and flower patterns. The toranas (streamers) atop the windows are beautifully designed with composite animals like elephants, birds, crocodiles and other figures like the Gandharvas and Kinneras of the celestial realm.

Though I had only seen a few early Chalukya monuments, a unique feature of this temple seems to be that it contains not just one pair of large size Padma and Sankha Nidhi figures, but two: one flanking the main entrance of the temple and the other on either side of the sanctum. Both these pairs still retain their original magnificence, with every feature remaining fairly intact. Therefore, in my opinion, a detailed study of them might surely throw better light on the iconographic aspects of the two nidhis (hidden treasures that remain less studied and little understood so far.

Srinivas Sistla
Associate Professor in Art History and Aesthetics, Department of Fine Arts, Andhra University, Visakhapatnam



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