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Hindu Temples

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Rock Cut Temples:

Bhairavakonda, (near Nellore)

In the 7th –8th Centuries AD, Kondavidu chiefs ruled over a large part of eastern Deccan. Bhairavakonda near Nellore has remains of several rock cut Hindu temples dedicated to God Shiva and other Hindu deities. The shrines have Lingas and also small images of Shiva and other gods. The column bases have seated lions and the entrances are guarded by huge figures with clubs. Monuments in Bhairavakonda are similar to the Pallava style of architecture that flourished further south in Tamilnadu.

Undavalli, (near Vijayawada)

Like Bhairavakonda, Undavalli is also a 7th – 8th century, Kondavidu site with rock cut Hindu temples. The largest among the temples is four storeyed in height; each successive upper storey being recessed from the lower one. Projected eaves separate the floors from each other. Parapets at upper levels are lined with large lions and other figures. There are four shrines in four interconnected mandapas. Columns and walls have images of Vishnu in Anantashayana and Vishnu on Garuda sculpted on them.

 

Structural Temples: Early Chalukyan

Alampur (near Kurnool)

Hindu temples in Alampur reflect the style of Papanath at Pattadhakal, because of their Indo Aryan Shikharas. They are not large temples; the largest temple occupies a rectangle 75 feet by 50 feet. They are structurally very complete as the walls and spires are in a finished state and there is a finial in the form of a fluted melon like member (amalasila) in position on most of them.

Nine Early Chalukyan temples dating from the 7th – 8th centuries are situated at Alampur on the Tungabhadra river. Although they are known collectively as the Nava Brahma, all of the shrines are dedicated to Shiva. A rectangle of walls encompasses a sanctuary surrounded by a pathway and a mandapa on columns divided into three ailes. Rising over the sanctuary is a curved shikhara (tower) derived from central and western India models. This is divided into tiers and decorated with arch like motifs; a large amalasila is placed on top. The outer walls are regularly divided into projecting niches.

Alampur retained its importance as a major religious centre all through the history. The protective walls and gateways in the town and the 11th century Papanasi group of temples (which have been dismantled and re-erected about four km to the southeast) stand testimony to that.

 

Kakatiya Temples:

The early chiefs of the Kakatiya dynasty were feudatories of the Chalukyas. As independent kings, the Kakatiyas ruled the Deccan for nearly two hundred years in the 12th and 13th Century with architectural works mainly concentrated around Warangal. The Kakatiya architecture has roots in the Chalukyan style with improvisation to suit local conditions. Locally available granite and sandstone were used for the main structure. The Shikhara was built with lime and brick. Kakatiyas stepped their Shikharas instead of using curvilinear spires of Chalukyas and vertical structures of the north. The domed ceiling of the central hall was polygonal, eight or sixteen sided instead of circular. Volcanic, intricately carved and polished black basalt was used for pillars, jambs, lintels and motifs.

Hanamkonda and Warangal

The Thousand Pillar Temple at Hanamkonda was erected in 1163 by Kakatiya king Rudradeva. Three shrines in this temple are dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu and Surya. The doorways have cutout lintels. To the south of the Mandapa rests an exquisitely polished Nandi (bull figure), the temple has several columned mandapas. The large number of granite columns of this temple has given it, its name.

Warangal, once the capital of Kakatiya kings, was an important urban centre of the Deccan since the eleventh century. In 1300 AD the city is said to have had a population of nearly 100 000.

The Bahmanis finally captured Warangal in 1366 and later Warangal became part of the Qutb Shahi kingdom.

The old city has an unique circular plan with two concentric circles of fortifications. Most of Warangal’s standing buildings are located within the circular shaped fort. The famous entrance portals on four sides are 30 meters (100 feet) high. Of the centrally located Shiva temple of Kakatiya period, only the ruins remain. The only courtly building to survive is Kush Mahal attributed to Sitab Khan, alias Sitapati a Hindu chief, and Governor of Warangal under the Bahmanis in the early sixteenth century. This is the only royal palace in Warangal, though not belonging to the Kakatiya kings.

The Kush Mahal does not resemble any of the Bahamani buildings of the Deccan. The palace is smaller in scale but strikingly similar to the sixteenth century Hindola Mahal in Mandu, capital of the Malwa kingdom near Indore in Madhya Pradesh.

Kush Mahal is the only royal palace in Warangal that survives: though it does not belong to the Kakatiya kings. George Michell, UK based scholar of Indian architecture opined that being at the geometric centre of the fort and near the Shiva Temple, Kush Mahal may have been built over the site of an original Kakatiya palace, which like the Shiva temple was dismantled.

Palampet and Ghanpur

Ramappa Temple of Palampet, about 40 km north of Warangal and built in 1213, consists of the main shrine dedicated to Shiva with the nandi mandapa in front. It has a reddish sandstone exterior and projecting eave continuing around the building. The shikhara is multi storeyed and made of brick. The most striking features of the temple are the figure brackets springing from the shoulders of the outer pillars supporting the eaves slabs. Highly polished in black basalt, these consist of mythic beasts or elongated female figures almost life size, cut with great precision.

Six kms from Palampet, Ghanpur has two 13th century partly ruined temples in Kakatiya style similar to the Ramappa Temple.

 

Hybrid Styles: Simhachalam

Situated in the outskirts of Visakhapatnam, the Varaha Narasimha temple was built by the Eastern Ganga rulers in the 13th century. The temple combines Deccan and Orissan architectural features. Located on a hill, it is one of the most popular places of Hindu pilgrimage in the region. The main shrine is dedicated to Vishnu.

 

Reddi Kings of Kondavid:

The Reddi dynasty ruled in the region around present day Vijayawada and Guntur towns for nearly a hundred years (1328-1428). The kingdom was ravaged by the Bahmanis (1458), the Vijaynagara Kings (1516), the Qutb Shahis, (1531,1537 & 1579), the Mughal Army of Aurangzeb in 1687, the French (1752), the Asafjahi Kings, and finally the British (1766 &1788). Two major hill forts, one at Kondapally 20 Km north west of Vijayawada and another at Kondavid about 30 km west of Guntur bear testimony of the fort building skill of the Reddi Kings. Surviving structures in these two massive granite forts therefore represent a mixture of Qutb Shahi and Hindu styles.

At Kondapally, the old palace lies on an elevated platform situated between the two hills on either side. A wide stone stairway leads to the hilltop. The peak is fortified with towers and loop holed bastions. The upper fort is accessed through three successive gateways. This leads to Tanisha Mahal named after Abul Hasan Tana Shah, the seventh and last Qutb Shahi King. The palace has a cloistered lower floor with arched roofs. There is a large hall above. Several bathrooms have stone pipes and cisterns. The Zenana quarters are approached along a terrace and enclosed by a high wall. The buildings in Kondapally are in predominantly Qutb Shahi style with ogee arches and extensive use of granite and stuccowork.

At Kondavid, ruins of three forts from successive periods can be seen. The main fort at a height of nearly 320 meters consists of massive ramparts, magazines, godowns, granaries and wells. There is a temple with carved stone pillars and a mosque within the fort.

 

Architecture of the Vijayanagara Kings:

Early Vijayanagara style had considerable influence of Chola style of Thanjavur, Tamilnadu. But the scale was much bigger and the Vijayanagara architects developed a scheme of a large temple complex with several concentric walls entered through gopuras leading to multiple shrines, tanks, stores, kitchens and other ancillary structures. The gateways had tall brick towers. The shrines had large mandapas standing on delicately carved granite columns.

Penuconda

The question whether the founders of Vijayanagara Empire were of Telugu or Karnataka origin is much disputed . According to one version, Harihara and Bukka, the two brothers were first in the service of Kakatiya King, Prataprudradeva. After Warangal fell in 1323, they moved away to safer places but were eventually captured by the Tughlaqs and were taken to Delhi as prisoners and were forced to become Muslims. They later gained favour of the Tughlaqs and received ministerial appointments. When the brothers found the political conditions conducive, they declared themselves free and founded the Hindu kingdom of Vijayanagara. They got reconverted to Hinduism. Andhra Pradesh can therefore rightfully stake a claim to a good part of the glory of the great Vijayanagara Empire ( 1336-1664 ) which with its first capital at Hampi, extended from the present day Karnataka to Orissa including Andhra Pradesh.

The golden period of the Vijayanagara dynasty was the rule of the legendary Krishnadeva Raya (1509-1530). During the reign of Vira Sadashiva Raya (1543-1568), Vijayanagara forces were defeated by a confederacy of four Sultans. Hampi was devastated and abandoned and the court and army fled southwards to Penuconda. Penuconda is a small town with a hill fort located about 70 km south of Anantapur in Andhra Pradesh. The town is full of ancient Hindu and Jain Temples, mosques, fortifications, towers and palaces. The four sides of the town are presumed to be guarded from evil spirits and diseases by the idols of Lord Hanuman, the largest of them, about eleven feet tall is placed at the Yerramanchi gate, the main entrance to the fort town.

Penuconda was the residence of the Vijayanagara Rajas from as early as 1354. Tirumal Raya moved here after the disastrous battle of Talikota in 1565. Gagan Mahal, the royal palace was built in 1575. Penuconda is an interesting architectural case. The town has Hindu buildings in Islamic style and Muslim Dargahs built in Hindu or to be more precise, Lepakshi style. In the same tradition, Gagan Mahal has a basement in Hindu style but a ground floor of intricate Islamic details with later additions. Continuing the Vijayanagara traditions, the palace is similar to several structures at Hampi, with Islamic style arches, vaults and plaster decoration combined with temple like elements. The upper level is capped with an octagonal pyramidal tower. An adjoining three storeyed square tower with projecting balconies overlooks the approaches from the east. Nearby stands a small, square structure, also with a pyramidal roof. The skyline of Penuconda fort is dominated by the Rama Burj, an observation tower standing in the northwestern corner in Vijayanagara style.

Next to the Gagan Mahal, are two 15th century Hindu temples dedicated to Rama and Shiva. The temples are built of granite in early Vijayanagara style with their towers topped by domical roofs. The walls have stone carvings depicting scenes from Ramayana and other epics.

Penuconda also has a Jain temple; the Parshvanath Temple built in the 15th Century dedicated to the 9th century B.C, 23rd Great Teacher (Tirthankaras) of Jainism. Inside the temple stands a 11th century sculpture depicting Parshvanath in standing posture and facing a serpent. Built in the late Chalukyan style, the sculpture is of exceptional merit.Penuconda has an early 17th century mosque built in grey and black granite attributed to one Sher Ali.

Lepakshi

A significant artistic achievement of the Vijayanagara rulers, the Virabhadra Temple at Lepakshi, 10 Km west of Hindupur town was built 1600 AD. The temple complex is renowned for its ceiling-paintings and the intricately carved sculpture-columns. Dedicated to Shiva, consort Uma and also Vishnu, the temple complex is surrounded by two rectangular enclosure walls. Besides the Mandapas, Gopuras and subsidiary shrines it contains monolithic large figures of Nandi Bull and Nagalinga. Though the basements and the superstructure are of carved stone, the brick towers over the sanctuaries are pyramidal in shape with domed roofs.

Tadpatri

Situated 54 Km north east of Anantapur town, Tadpatri has two sixteenth century Vijayanagara Temples. Located on the banks of Pennar river, the Ramalingeswara Temple dedicated to Rama and Sita, has multistoreyed and pyramidal towers with hemispherical roofs. The Venkataramana Temple located inside the town has Vishnu as the principal deity and is similar to Ramalingeswara Temple in architectural style. Both the temples are extremely rich in sculpture and carvings.

Srisailam

The 14th –16th century Mallikarjuna temple and the 16th century Uma Mahaeswara temple at Srisailam dedicated to Shiva have Vijayanagara style Gopuras on four sides and pyramidal towers rising over the sanctuary and walls with exquisitely carved panels depicting mythological subjects. Srisailam is one of the most important Hindu places of pilgrimage.

Kalahasti

Kalahasti has a very large sixteenth century Shiva Temple with granite basement and walls rich in intricately carved pilasters and a tall pyramidal tower nearly 120 feet (36.5m) high. Situated on the banks of Swarnamukhi river, Kalahasti is a very important centre for Hindu pilgrimage and also famous for a popular and traditional technique of painting on cloth known as Kalamkari. Achyutdevaraya, one of the Vijayanagara Kings was crowned at Kalahasthi temple.

Palaces of Chandragiri

The second Vijayanagara capital Penuconda was also under constant threat from Qutb Shahi and Adil Shahi rulers. Therefore the capital was again shifted to Chandragiri (Chittoor) by 1585. Penuconda was thereafter ruled by Vijayanagara Governors. Chandragiri remained capital of the declining Vijayanagara Empire till 1646. Located 11 km north east of Tirumala Hills, Chandragiri has natural defences with a ring of hills surrounding it. It has an upper fort, reputed to date from 1000 AD situated on a 183m (600 ft) rocky hill. At the base of the hill there are defensive walls and gateways, two well preserved palaces, a tank and other civic structures. The palace of the Vijayanagara kings is an early seventeenth century specimen of south Indian architecture combining Hindu and Muslim styles . The palace is 45.7m (150 feet) long with a three storeyed façade of pointed arches and pyramidal towers. It consists of a centrally located Durbar Hall. The hall is surrounded by a two storeyed colonnade, which acts as a clerestorey, allowing light to penetrate the space. The Main palace and the ancillary structures have stucco facades and variations of Vijayanagara style.

It is from the Chandragiri Palace that in 1639 the ‘Vijayanagara Empire’ granted land to Francis Day for the East India Company at Madras.

Ahobilam

Situated about 80-km south east of Nandyal town, Ahobilam is one of the most sacred Hindu sites of Andhra Pradesh . The temples here are all dedicated to Narasimha, the mythological lion-god who destroyed demon Hiranyakashipu. The temples owe their origin to the 14th century Reddi Kings but the present architectural form is a result of additions and improvements by the Vijayanagara kings in the 16th and 17th centuries. Both the main temples located in Lower Ahobilam and Upper Ahobilam are therefore in typical early Vijayanagara style.

Tirumala

Tirumala is famous for the temple dedicated to Venkateswara, an aspect of Vishnu and is among the most important Hindu places of pilgrimage in India. The site is situated among a range of seven wooded hills at a height of about 700 meters. Origins of the temple complex can be traced to the 10th century. Due to the proximity of Chandragiri, the late 16th century capital of Vijayanagara kings, the temples at Tirumala received patronage from the powerful dynasty and prospered. Though the carvings and several architectural elements reflect Vijayanagara style, the temple complex has been extensively rebuilt

Tirupati

Tirupati is a large town at the foot of the Tirumala hills and the gateway to Tirumala. The 14th – 17th century Govindaraja temple is in parts built in the Vijayanagara style. The temple is dedicated to Vishnu.