A land steeped in history, once ruled by a powerful dynasty, now lies abandoned by the ravages of time. Warangal is a historian’s dream destination. Lakshmi Sharath explores the sights and sounds of this dusty little town
The pesarattu dosa arrives, piping hot on my table. It is golden brown in colour, garnished with onions and is laced with a variety of chutneys. The waiter beams as he serves us with a bit of a flourish. “It is the speciality here,” he says and goes into raptures of how the eatery is synonymous with the ‘original’ pesarattu dosa. Perhaps, it is not very often that he gets to serve tourists like us.
We reach out to dip in the sambar and bite into the red hot mirchi and lose ourselves in the various flavours that our taste buds discover. For a moment, we forget the crowd around us, the clutter of vessels and the loud voices. We are in a small but hygienic hotel in Warangal town.
I finally take my eyes off my plate and take in the sights around me. The large garish photo prints loom large on the walls. They scream to get the tourist’s attention, but look rather kitschy. A giant Nandi stares right at me, while another monument layered with several pillars stands out in a landscaped garden. It looks nothing like the photographs that had initially lured me here. For a moment, I wonder if this trip is a mistake.
We had decided on Warangal on an impulse. It all started with some black and white photographs that I had seen in an old magazine. There were sculptures strewn all around and enclosing them were massive stone pillars. A footnote told us that it is the 12th century Warangal Fort built by the Kakatiya Dynasty. The stone pillars were more than 30 feet high, and they symbolised ‘gateways of glory’ called Kirti Thoranas.
The sun keeps its date with the sky, as I leave Hyderabad. As we enter rural India, it is very easy to dismiss the dusty hamlet you cross on the way as just another village. Silent and nondescript, it seems to have no identity except for a handful of people who live there and call it home. However, a stray temple or the broken remains of a fort tell a different story. We discover several such insignificant villages enroute to Warangal.
For instance, the fort of Bhongir, which we discover atop a hill from a petrol bunk, was once the famous 10th century Bhuvanagiri Fort of the Western Chalukyas. A simple village, Kolanpuka was a capital town of the same dynasty, and it houses a renovated 2,000-year-old Jain temple, shimmering in marble. We drive on, crossing a bus of enthusiastic school children on an excursion and stopping by at the cave temple, Yadavagirigutta. We meet a few artisans at Pembarti village, who show us their brassware. Myths from the Ramayana fly past us, as we cross Jalgaon where Lord Rama had apparently killed Maricha, who was in the form of a deer.
“It is like Hyderabad and Secunderabad,” says my driver, Salim interrupting my reverie as we enter Hanamkonda. Warangal, the town’s twin is less than 10 kms away. My guide book says that Hanamkonda was the former capital of the Kakatiyas and it was later shifted to Warangal. The towns, however, clone each other as you drive past the busy market road with retail brands jostling for space. Hoardings scream for attention, but I hardly see any heritage relevance. Huge sacks of onions and potatoes are being piled up in the local grocery shops. It is no where close to the picture of an idyllic historic town that I had painted in my mind.
The Kakatiyas were ancient rulers of today’s Andhra Pradesh and it is probable that their early reign is fused with the advent of Buddhism in the region. Some historians refer to the period somewhere in the middle of the 7th century where Hieun Tsang, the Chinese pilgrim has referred to the kingdom of Danakaktiya. Even Marco Polo mentions Warangal much later in his travels. The dynasty’s name comes either from its association with a town known as Kakatipura or from their worship of a goddess called Kakati. It is assumed that Kakatipura is present day’s Warangal.
Salim pulls up outside an university and shows a replica of the Kirti Thoranas or the gateways of glory. Suddenly, the stone getaways have become street architecture, standing at the entrance of streets and monuments. There is history at the end of every street. Salim stops in front of a lane that and we follow him. The narrow congested lane leads to the thousand pillar temple built in the 12th century as well. The temple, however, was under renovation. We speak to a few locals, who tell us that the temple has been under renovation for a while, and that a well was discovered here earlier and it is believed that the temple may have been built on water and it took more than 70 years to build.
The Archeological Survey of India board gives us more information. The temple, built by Rudra Deva I in 12th century, was dedicated to Shiva,Vishnu and Surya. The pillars grace the mandapa and between the main shrine and the mandapa is a pavilion for a massive nandi. The priest explains, “The Kakatiyas wanted the first rays of the sun to fall on the Linga, so while his shrine faces east, the others dedicated face south and west. The nandi is on the other side and looks east.”
On the way to Warangal, we stop by at the Bhadra Kali temple on a small hillock believed to have been the patron goddess of the dynasty, who was also worshipped by Pulakesin II of the Chalukya Dynasty in the 7th century.
We follow the road as it curves, until it leads to a fortified stone wall, which opens out. The arches are embellished with sculptures and yalis carved in stone.We are inside the old Warangal Fort. I thought that I would see a dull weary monument, but had not imagined that an entire settlement lived here, within the Fort.
The four Kirti Thoranas guard a Shiva temple. A couple of elephants, another nandi, yalis, a few pillars, broken sculptures, a gaja kesari and even an old throne lie enclosed by the Kirti Thoranas, opened to the sky. The temple here is said to be swayambhu (meaning self incarnated), and was worshipped by the famous Kakatiya ruler Prataparudra.We sit near the throne and look around us. A couple of dogs chase each other.
I walk over to the map, which points out my presence and read a bit of history. This is Warangal, earlier known as Orugallu or Orukal, referring to the one single boulder or hillock where the fort is located. It is also called Ekasilanagaram.The map says that the fort was built in the 12th century by Prola Raja and his son Rudra Deva, but it was ruled by Ganapathideva. The most important ruler of the Kakatiyas is not a king, but queen Rudramma Devi, who held fort from here in the next century. The fort has three concentric fortifications, two walls and there is a trace of the third. Four gates face cardinal directions, of which the east and west gates are still in use. With 45 towers and pillars spread over a radius of 19 kms , there is also a moat surrounding the fort. Today, the fort is in ruins and was largely destroyed by Malik Kafur as the dynasty fell eventually to the Delhi Sultanate.
The silence in the fort is soothing. Yonder, the Kush Mahal built much later by a local ruler, Shitab Khan, possibly a subordinate of the Bahmani kingdom in the 15th century, is a sharp contrast from the architecture of the fort. We walk up to the roof-top and take in the sights of the old village. A couple of vehicles ply on the road as school kids walk past us. The fields are lush and swaying in the breeze. It is amazing how a rich capital, a seat of power where battles were fought and won, was today a town of forgotten memories, alive only in textbooks. We carry on our journey to Palampet and Bhongir to see more temples and forts of the Kakatiya Dynasty, but the Kirti Thoranas remain in our minds — pillars of yesteryear’s glory lost to modern civilisation.
– by lakshmisharath (@lakshmisharath)
Source: Deccan Herald