Only 150 odd kms from Hyderabad city, Warangal should be a busy weekend getaway from the city. But it is not so. In fact not many people knew about Warangal except the thousand-pillar temple. There is hardly any searchable information availavle about its hotels. I wonder why AP tpurism is not developing it as a weekend getaway from the city. Anyway last weekend we drove down to the capital of Kakatiyas to see the wonders that they left behind for us. Like most ancient heritage in this country, even Warangal is in dire need of preservation and promotion.
On the way to Warangal is Bhongir fort, situated on a huge single rock with its ramparts visible from a distance. I believe this is a famous place for trekkers who regularly climb this fort. A little ahead is Yadgiri gutta and in interest of time, we kept our visit to these places for some other time. The reason I mention them here is because after this point the rocky terrain of the region suddenly turns green and you would see fields, dotted with small hillocks, water bodies and various plantations. This makes your journey from this point onwards very pleasing.
Warangal is a part of tri-city cluster: Warangal-Kazipet-Hamankonda. Hamankonda was the first capital of Kakatiyas, which was later, shifted to Warangal where lies the Fort Warangal, a huge 12th century fort spread across 19 kms. Built by King Ganapati Deva, this fort was supposed to have 45 or so intricately carved pillars and towers within the three fortifications of the fort. Today there are a few places within this fort area that give you the glimpse of the bygone era.
The most important of them is the site of Swayambhu temple. Here the archeology department has tried to recreate the temple from whatever they discovered from this site and the surrounding area. And this discovery was made less than 10 years back. On the 4 sides of this site are giant temple arches that are the signature piece of the Kakatiyan architecture and you can see replica of them across the city. There are heavy and intricately carved doorjambs that are a characteristic of this Kakatiyan architecture. Temple pillars here again have a typical style with 5-6 pieces interjoined to create massive pillars but give the appearance of being carved out of a single stone. The roundel at the top of the pillars reminded me of the Tantya Tope cap, which may have been influenced by these pillars. The massive stones carved as the ceilings and the brackets humble you by their sheer size. The carvings in stone here are really intricate and delicate when depicting human bodies, their shapes and Jewellery, but can still depict the power in the animals carved and in the emotions of the deities depicted. There is a row of stones dotted with 9 holes and these were the platforms for Shivalingas. All of these were broken to take out the precious gems that are embedded beneath a Shivalinga. Uprooted lingas lie elsewhere. There is a beautiful round stone carved with Navagrahas. Then there are images of females performing Perini Shiva Tandava, a form of tandava nritya or dance that was actually performed by the soldiers before leaving for war. There are beautiful Makara dwajas, who are supposed to have been born with the sweat of Hanuman. There are many carvings of them at this temple. You can only imagine the beauty of the pieces when it would have been a part of the overall structure, when even as a ruin it looks so beautiful.
Story of Swayambhu temple goes like this: Sometime in 12th century, farmers carrying their crops to Hamankonda, which was the grain market, used to pass by this place. One day, wheel of a bullock cart got stuck in the mud and when people tried to pull out the wheel, a Shivalinga was revealed and hence the name Swayambhu, which literally means born on its own, or something that is not created but reveals on its own. Our guide told us that there were 365 Shiva temples in the fort, one for each day of the year and each with unique name denoting different aspects of Shiva. Today nothing but some broken pieces of those temples survive. We could see only one temple around this area that was practicing and gave an impression of being a Tantric one.
In this huge enclosure flanked by four arches in four cardinal directions are lying thousands of pieces excavated from the Fort Warangal. An attempt to recreate the temple, or at least give a sense of the same has been done. But like Rahim said “Rahiman dhaga prem ka Mat todo chhitkay Toote se fir naa jurre Jurre gaanth padi jaaye.”. The broken things can never be restored to their once complete glory.
Bang opposite the Swayambhu temple is Ekshila, a massive single rock, by the side of a beautiful lake, with an artificially installed waterfall on it and a Shiva temple on top along with a small fortress like structure. There are about 100 small steps, carved into the big rock that you have to take to reach the top and get a 360deg view of the fort area. You get a top view of the Swayambhu temple with its ruins shining through the trees. The panoramic lakeside view makes it worth the effort to climb the rock. The temple is a typical Shiva temple with a Nandi pavilion and carved pillars. An interesting modern art piece stands in the center of the lake. The name of Warangal also comes from this single rock, called “Orugulla” in local language. There is an attempt to make gardens around the lake and the rock and some artificial bridges that are indeed not required. I think the AP tourism guys love adding artificially to even a naturally beautiful place.
Khush mahal or Sitabh Khan Mahal is another structure in the fort. It is a huge hall that houses some of the idols excavated from the surrounding area. Most of the idols are just lying around and there is no documentation on them. The huge recessed arched gateways are typical if the early Indo-Islamic architecture. The arches also support the inner walls of this hall. Ground has a rectangular dip that I could not understand. The legend is that Sitabh khan built it. He was a Hindu, named Sitapati and was the gatekeeper of Kakatiyas. He converted to Islam after Zauna Khan’s invasion and ruled on his behalf from here. Between the Ekshila and Khush Mahal, stop by to look at the hand embroiders who are doing needlework on the sarees, mostly salma-sitara work typical of mughal times.
As you walk around the roads within the fort limits you can see the fort ramparts popping out from here and there. Somewhere there is a small gateway, somewhere a piece of wall and somewhere just some small building. There is a mud fort on top of another hill that we could not go to. Before the Kakatiyas, the Jains dominated this area and you do see their influence here and there.
Our guide told us an interesting thing about the Warangal fort. There are primarily three types of forts: Giri Durg or the forts built on the hills that provide a distant view for protection, Vana Durg or the forts built in the dense forests with protection provided by the wild animals, Jal Durga or Water forts where the fort is surrounded by the water either as natural body or through dug out moats that are filled with water and a passage through a wooden plank that is thrown over the moat for passage. Warangal fort has none of these protections; it is not on a Hill, does not have water around it and is not situated inside a forest. Hence the builders of this fort made the three layers of fortifications by building mud forts and moats around them with 4 entrances in 4 cardinal directions.
Zauna Khan or more popularly known as Mohamed bin Tughlaq, son of Ghiasuddin Tuglaq, the then ruler of Delhi Sultnate attacked the fort in mid 14th century and destroyed all the temples. He captured the Kakatiya king and took him to Delhi, but king died on the way. Some believe that the king was murdered and some believe that he committed suicide. Whatever it was, it meant the end of glorious period of the Kakatiyas.