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