Rebuild a celestial dance pavilion

Work is accelerating for the reconstruction of the Kalyana Mandapa which gives its name to the temple with 1,000 pillars

Work is accelerating for the reconstruction of the Kalyana Mandapa which gives its name to the temple with 1,000 pillars

Jhe reassuring rhythmic sound of ting, ting, ting, ting of a chisel hitting a block of stone is back at Rudreshwara Temple in Hanamkonda.

Craftsmen seated under a blue tarp on the 60-ton granite blocks chisel and follow lines to shape what looks like a beam that will cover the outer part of the Kalyana Mandapa that gives the 1,000-pillar temple its name. The Kakatiya-era temple sits at the foot of the hill that gives the town its name: Anumukonda.

“Two of the 10-meter blocks broke during unloading at the site,” said an official from the Archaeological Survey of India. He displays images on the computer to show how six cranes were used to hoist the stone onto the 20-wheel trailer truck to transport them from the Ammavaripeta rock quarry, about 12 km away, to the temple site. from Hanamkonda.

The event shows the kind of challenge ASI is facing in reassembling the pillars of the temple which were taken down in 2005 for fear of collapsing, according to official documents.

Just a year earlier, in 2004, the hit Telugu movie “Varsham” was filmed near the temple where hero Prabhas serenades Trisha. The camera caresses the countless dark pillars as the rain patters and laps on the great platform of the temple. The pillars appear intact, and this was the last time the Kalyana Mandapa appeared intact.

Giving up hope

Nearly 17 years later, the rain is falling in sheets as the workers continue the work of chiseling and cutting. Some of the pillars are vertical and supported by iron scaffolding. “We expect to complete the work by March 2023,” an ASI official informed. Some pillars split in two during dismantling. Some beams were damaged during the dismantling of the temple. Now bands of steel hold the large blocks of stone together.

Similar steel bands can be seen on the ground on stones that were put together by medieval temple architects. A sand and granite ramp has been installed on the south side of the Kalyana Mandapa to roll up the granite blocks before they are hoisted into position as beams or pillars.

According to the inscription on the site, the temple was built in 1163 by Kakatiya Rudradeva as a gesture of thanksgiving to Rudra, Vasudeva and Surya. The Three Temples ( trikuta aalyam) are on the east, west and north side, while a massive Nandi and Kalyana Mandapa are on the south side. Now regular puja and abhishekam take place only at the temple dedicated to Rudra or Shiva.

The sanctum sanctorum of Vasudeva and Surya was sacked during the siege of Warangal Fort in 1323-24 by the armies of Ulugh Khan, who later crowned himself as Mohammed bin Tughlaq. The sculptures on the lower level are horribly disfigured. The surviving figurines of Natya Indra, Natya Narasimha and Nataraja above the door frames of individual temples show insight into the craftsmanship.

The three temples open onto a Ranga Mandapa for sacred dances. The damage the marauders couldn’t do was done by time and the thugs, who chiseled their names and left love notes on the granite blocks, including the pillars of the Ranga Mandapa.

“We take a month to shape each block of stone despite the use of stonemasons. I don’t know how these artisans carved and shaped the granite blocks,” says Karpaiah of Tiruchirapalli, who leads a team of artisans on the site. There are dozens of workers who continue to come and go to their hometowns as work continues.

Why is it taking so long? “There were doubts about its stability and its foundation and that’s why it was dismantled. Some pillars broke during dismantling. ASI wanted to source the same type of stone and restore it carefully and it took time,” says an ASI official. Procuring the large blocks of stones and dressing them while maintaining the basic geometric shape of the new stones proved to be a challenge, he says.

gigantic proportions

To call them pillars would be an understatement. These are massive blocks of granite that have been machined into the smoothness of soap. Like jewels smoothed to shine. Some visitors try to run wires through carving blocks to show the intricacy of the craftsmanship, with success. Some of the stone blocks are put together like puzzle pieces without any binding material. They are held together solely by gravity. It is a modular architecture before its time.

“I remember playing there. He was still in bad shape. The roof wasn’t there and it was open season for the neighborhood kids,” says Naveen, whose house overlooks the Machli Bazaar temple. Now, access to the Kalyana Mandapa is restricted to work crews and UPS managers.

A sepia-tinted photograph from 1888 by Raja Deen Dayal shows the temple surrounded by straw and mud houses built by locals. In 1929, the then head of the archeology department, Gulam Yazdani, wrote about the repairs to the temple. “The elaborate cast iron balustrade erected around the building some 40 years ago was an eyesore. So, it was replaced with an ordinary pipe railing. Also, as props were needed to support a cracked lintel in the west porch of the outer hall, they were constructed of neat masonry. The courtyard of the temple has been leveled and neat moram paths have been laid for visitors,” Yazdani wrote. Even now, visitors walk the morum path laid out nearly 100 years ago. Incidentally, ASI got approval of ₹10 lakh for laying the path with stone flooring. But there is no stone floor to be seen in 2022.

Even in 2014, houses surrounded the temple, blocking the view from the main road. Even cows and buffaloes wallowed there.

Lost race for heritage tag

In the same year, in April 2014, India submitted “The Glorious Temples and Gateways of Kakatiya” as a serial nomination for UNESCO World Heritage Site status. The serial nomination sites included the Thousand Pillar Temple, the Ramappa Temple, the remains of Shivambu Temple near Warangal Fort and the Keerthi Toranas of Warangal.

But, the 1000 Pillar Temple was erased from the nomination. The nomination dossier cited issues of authenticity and integrity of the site for removing it from the serial list. “The administration committee, while preparing the nomination dossier, had reassessed the sites for protection and management and decided to compare but not include in the Rudreshwara Temple (1000 Pillars) sites, Hanamkonda and Swayambhu temples and Warangal fort. At present, the authenticity of these sites cannot be presented in its full sense and the integrity cannot be maintained with the issues related to the management of the two sites,” the document notes. An amended dossier with just the Ramappa Temple was granted the World Heritage Site tag in 2021.

center of life

Temples are known after idols or places. The Ramappa Temple of the Kakatiya era is known as the architect. Another rarity is the 1000 pillar temple known for its architectural feature. Are there really 1000 pillars? How do we count them? Where to start ? This is the question that devotees and visitors to the Hanamkonda Temple ask themselves.

Locals know it as ‘veyi-sthambala gudi’. “This temple was built to show the unity of God. The trikuta-alayam (three temples) have only one Nandi facing the three idols. The miracle of architecture can be seen even now – the first rays of the sun fall on the Nandi throughout the year,” says Kashi Viswanathacharya, the priest of the temple.

He then takes out his mobile phone, scrolls through photographs to show how morning sunlight filtered through the stone latticework to shimmer on the idol of Shiva on May 23 this year. The rays of the sun move from the north and south side after the solstice during dakshnayam and during uttarayam.

Medieval temples were not just places of worship but were the hub of community life. The part of the temple that was used for this role was the Ranga Mandapa (stage for drama) where Ranga Bhoga (dramatic offering) was conducted before celestial beings. If a theater company or hari katha (wandering minstrels) party visited the village, the scene of the show was usually the temple and its mandapa. Even the weddings of the village characters took place at the Kalyana Mandapa.

The Rudreshwara temple is different as it has both a Ranga Mandapa in the middle of the three temples and a Kalyana Mandapa reached by a connected platform for festive occasions. After the formation of the state of Telangana, the temple’s stepwell became a center of celebration for Bathukamma in the district.

For years, when the temple was disused and in ruins, it was a playground for neighborhood children. Now school and college students take a day trip to the temple. But for the townspeople, it is always the veyi-sthambala gudi, where they can walk around with a cake and have a birthday party.

Chronology of a resurrection

January 11, 1163: King Kakatiya Rudradeva built the temple for Rudra, Vasudeva and Surya with a Kalyana Mandapa.

1323-24: Ulugh Khan besieges Warangal then desecrates the temple and soldiers deface the carvings.

1888: Raja Deen Dayal clicks on a photograph showing people living near the pillars of the Kalyana Mandapa.

1929: The Nizam Dominion Archeology Department clears the path around the temple and performs groundwork to stabilize the temple.

2012: ₹5 crore sanctioned for widening the road to the 1000 Pillar Temple at Hanamkonda; and ₹3 crore was divided among 30 families paving the way for the demolition of houses built in front of the temple.

2013: Andhra Pradesh Endowments Minister C. Ramachandraiah launched a proposal to restore the 1000 Pillar Temple by reinstalling the lost idols of Surya and Vishnu in the main shrine.

2017-18: ₹68,000,000 approved for the ongoing reconstruction of Kalyana Mandapa and an additional ₹10,00,000, and ₹10,00,000 was approved for repairs to the main temple.

2018-19: ₹25,000,000 is approved by ASI for reconstruction of remaining works at Kalyana Mandapa, Hanamkonda; ₹10,000,000 approved for main temple repairs; ₹10,000,000 approved to provide a path with stone flooring, granite road signs, drinking water and washing area.

2021: Work is accelerating for the reconstruction of the Kalyana Mandapa.

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