Jun 24, 2017

Kush Mahal ~ Shitab Khan Mahal, Warangal Fort

March 17, 2017

Within the walls of Warangal fort are several spots to see. The prominent ones are-
1. the open-air museum of Kakatiya Keerthi Thorana & other sculptures,
2. Ekashila Gutta and
3. Kush Mahal

Having visited the first two items, we arrived at Kush Mahal around 11-45 AM. It was warm and sultry. I found a shady spot under a small tree to park our car. Washed of the sweat and heat with a liter of water and wiped myself.. ah, it felt refreshing. I was ready to enter this edifice with high arches. At the first sight, the building looked like a military barrack, it took some time to accept this as a palace. Going by its arches, this was built by Muslim rulers.

The building front has a collection of ancient sculptures of Kakatiyan times including an inscription or two.

The north-facing structure is built on a 4 foot high platform. In plan the building is rectangular; 53' wide x 140' long. The front elevation has one large arch may be 40' high and a steep-stairway to the roof. Overall building height is approximately 50'. The side elevation is dominated by seven arches - six tall and one short. The building has fourteen tall arches in all, allowing lot of light and air-flow. The building was said to been an audience hall.

This is the eastern side is a pair of wedges and a tank. It seems the tank was used to store water, Coming to the wedges, it's possible a ramp existed here.. probably to move heavy items into the building.

View from the platform. These walls are built of finely dressed blocks. Notice the alternating thin and thick layers in the wall.. there has to be reason for it.

It is said that Khush Mahal was raised over the ruins of a Kakatiya palace; built during Tughlak reign in 14th century. However, according to some it was built late 15th Century by Shitab Khan - the Governor of Warangal appointed by Qutub Shahi Dynasty. Shitab Khan, also known as Chitapu Khan, was originally Sitapathi Raju of Boya community who has served in the army and rose to the position of governor. It is said he used the title in inscriptions but never converted to Islam.

The interior is a single hall with arches connecting the columns on either sides. The interior is well lit and ventilated. Probably, the governor met his administrative and military officers here.

On the other end of the hall is a rectangular pit, seems like a water tank. I'm guessing this tank was connected to the smaller tank on the eastern site. Probably, water was supplied from the nearby lake next to the monolith within the fort.

The interior has a collection of small sculptures, a dozen or so. I took pictures of only two.. one standing and one sitting. The standing character is four-armed Vishnu, you can see Chakra on the left shoulder, the Shankha is missing. Take a close look at the idol, the detailing is fine. The sitting idol also has Shankha and Chakra; wearing a necklace; and hair tied in a bandana. The former is definitely much older than the latter.

Turning the attention to the sculpture collection outside. A pillar with inscription on all four faces. Surely, this pillar would carry important information related to Kakatiyan times.

Lot of broken idols, surely work of Muslim soldiers. In spite of the damages, these idols are not an eyesore. A damaged pillar with more edicts.

The caretakers have given special care to the lions. Here's a collection of finely sculpted and polished Simha.. the icon of Kakatiyas. These are definitely pieces of some temple.. these pieces are fitted at the entrances, close to the roof, as if they are guarding the temple.

Notice the stone mesh in the wall.. even that has been torn out from some temple. I wonder how many beautiful temples the Muslim rulers destroyed. How could they even feel like damaging something so beautiful. This reminds of the Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan - how Taliban bombed them to pieces. Sadly, the community is same.. always destructive. Will they ever learn to respect other religions and cultures?

I went up the steep stairway to the roof which is quite plain but offers a great view of the surroundings. The building was designed to be tall enough to serve as a watch tower as well. On the eastern side side, the summit of the monolith is visible - the watch tower and the temple are clearly seen.

On the northern side.. the northern gate is seen though partially hidden by trees.

Before closing this line, I would like to quote few lines from the article on Kush Mahal in warangaltourism.in - An audience hall, Khush Mahal structure resembles the Diwan-i-aam’ of Tughlaqabad, which is also a public audience hall. One can also find architectural similarity between Khush Mahal and tomb Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq of Delhi.

Jun 17, 2017

Warangal Fort - eastern gateways

March 17, 2017
It was exactly 9 AM when we reached the eastern gateway of Warangal fort, one of the largest forts of Telangana state. The fort's gateway has a curved path through it. The walls are high, approximately 30' tall and backed by massive earthen mounds.

The gateway. like any other fort has is an arched gateway. This is the inside view.  The gateway, being a checkpost has large open halls annexed to it. Those will be used as offices for security guards and also to store arms for emergency use. The arch seen here seems to be built by Muslim rulers.

Warangal was the capital city of Kakatiya kingdom which existed between 1163–1323. Orugallu was the original name of Warangal. It is said that Warangal fort was originally a brick-walled structure was replaced with a stone structure by Ganapatideva who died in 1262. Then Rudrama Devi (Ganapatideva's daughter) ruled from 1262 to 1289 followed by her grandson Prataparudra II. Warangal fort saw many enhancements when Kalatiyan dynasty was in power. The second and third rings were built around the original fort. Kakatiyas were conquered by the Sultans of Delhi and Warangal fort was conquerd by the Muslim army. Only the two inner rings have survived till date..

The fort's outer ring is approximately 2.4 kilometers in diameter while the inner ring is 1.2 kilometers. The inner wall and outer walls were protected by moats; even to this day the moat pits can be seen filled with water however, the pits have collapsed in most places. The fort has four gateways, one in each cardinal direction. It seems the eastern and western gateways were the important ones. There's one straight road running between the western gateway and eastern gateway with two inner gateways between them.

Here we are looking at the inner western gateway, fairly well preserved. The walls here have three sections- lower, middle and upper. The lower and middle are built during Kakatiyan rule, while the merlons are built by Muslim rulers.. using debris from demolished Hindu temples.

 View of the entrance from the curtain wall. Flanking the entrance are sculptures of lions, hence I would call this entrance as Simha Dwaram.

 The snarling lion of Kakatiyas.. its ready to turn around and pounce.

Somehow these lions have survived the onslaught of Muslim armies and forces of nature. We did not get to check out the other three entrances but I feel those entrances too might have a pair of lions.

A close look at the wall over the door frame. Notice sections of black stone sculptures embedded into the wall are pieces from demolished temples.

Even the merlons have been 'decorated' with stone meshes. How mean were the Muslim rulers.. the community somehow cannot tolerate any other religion or culture.

View from the curtain wall.. on the left is the bastion adjoining the entrance and on the right is the curtain wall. The curtain wall has a shoulder along its length.

Guards can watch over the entrance or shoot from the gaps between the merlons.

The inside view of the entrance. Behind me is a 90 degree turn and another doorway which in turn links to a courtyard.

This is the rectangular courtyard which is with two doorways. This complex security system is designed to confuse and trap enemy forces trying to enter the fort. Once trapped in this courtyard, the enemy forces can be forced to surrender or disseminate easily.

This is one of the gateways seemingly in its original form. We happened to see these similarly dressed siblings.. walking rather slowly.. they must be going to or coming from morning tuition classes. This road leads to the center of the fort where you can see the massive Kakatiya Torana, Kush Mahal and Ekasila Gutta. It is possible that the monolith in this fort must be the origin of the name Warangal. Monolith in Telugu is Ekasila which is also known as Orugallu or one-stone; with time Orugallu changed to Warangal.

This is the gateway in the northern direction. This also has a complex security system. Towards the right of this gateway, is a rectangular bastion built into the rampart walls. It is said that King Prtaparudra II, according to the terms with Delhi Sultans, was supposed to stand on the bastion and bow towards Delhi once a day.

Closer look at the doorway and a narrow entrance on its side. Here the merlons are rounded, these seem like the original construction from Kakatiyan times.

This is probably the bastion on which Prataparudra was to stand and bow towards Delhi. Nevertheless Prataparudra was a brave king, he tried to break away from the Muslim rulers three times before taking his own life.

Right in the center of the fort are the famous arches of Kakatiyas.  Its a big enclosure, kind of an open-air museum of Kaktiyan stone sculptures. We spent couple oh hours looking at the amazing art works.

Kakatiyans were megalomaniacs.. you can see that in their arches and Ramappa temple. We will come to them in detail in the following posts.

Jun 10, 2017

Thousand Pillar ~ Rudreshwara Swamy Temple, Warangal

Thousand Pillar temple remained stuck to my mind ever since I heard my college time friend Ramesh's narration of his trip to Warangal. This was mid 1990s when we has just started off with our working lives. Ramesh had taken up a job in Hyderabad. One weekend he and a friend rode a scooter all the way from Hyderabad to Warangal and back, that's about 300 kms. At the end of his story he mentioned he never ever do a two wheeler trip again!

After moving to Hyderabad, I seldom went on trips. One was my work time and the other was city traffic. Anyway, I slowly learnt to handle crowd and traffic and it was time I got back to historic trips. We planned a two-day trip to Warangal and also stop by at Kolanpak on the way. We also had plans of visiting a lake resort if time permitted. Finally the day arrived.

March 17, 2017
We left early morning while the traffic was easy. It was almost an effortless drive to Uppal and then towards ORR. Then it was open highway.. by 6-45 we were next to Bhuvanagiri, we had covered around 70 kms. With 80+ kms to go, I calculated that we should be reaching Warangal by 8-00. Well, about 10 kms from Bhuvanagiri, the 6-lane road suddenly shrunk to a 2-lane road. Our speed dropped drastically, we were averaging about 55 kmph. We stopped at Raghunathapalli for breakfast, a 30 minute stop. Soon we reached Hanamakonda and we took a diversion to Warangal. The first item on our list was Warangal fort. We went around the fort until noon before heading back to the city.. to
the Thousand Pillar temple. I was expecting to see a temple with rows of pillars.

So, finally I stood looking at the temple. This is the view from north-east.

 A small board at the entrance read as below-
The temple according to an inscription on the pillar here, was constructed by Rudra-I of the Kakatiya Dynasty in 1163 AD. This temple measures over 31x25M and stands on a platform raised to a height of 1m from the ground. It consists of three shrines of Siva, Vishnu and Surya arranged around a central hall with a Ranga Mandapa. In the fore front there is a large pillared Mandapa in variety of patterns. Between the temple and the Mandapa is a plain pavilion for a massive Nandi.

The elegant carvings at the richly decorated pillars under a spacious roof spanning the embellished side slabs is an achievement of unparalleled excellence of the architect. Other units have included a rectangular stepped Pushkarni, a Thorana entrance in the east and a pillared Mandapa correspondingly at the western wing of the ruined Prakara.

The midday heat was blistering; being barefoot, the sandy ground was burning our feet. We rushed towards a patch of grass and shade.. the temple as seen from the west. I was trying to imagine how a temple of this could have 1000 pillars..

Looking at the temple front portion.. a elephant and bull guarded the entrance. So this is a south-facing temple.. generally temple are east-facing.

Well, the temple is beautiful. It has signs of Chaulkyan architecture. But where are the thousand pillars?
A handsome tusker. The tusks are broken. It is said the temple was desecrated by the Tughlaq army during their occupation of the Deccan.

A board proclaimed that photography wasn't allowed inside the temple. Rituals are performed daily and a group of people were waiting inside. I got over my curiosity about the pillars and asked why this temple was called thousand pillars. The clerk replied "this temple has 400 pillars and the mandapa opposite has 600 pillars which sums to 1000." I understood the pillars were part of the temple walls.. that's why they do not obstruct the view of any of the deities. I thanked the lady and stepped out.

This style of temple building was continued by the Hoysalas. Most of their temples are built on star-shaped platforms.

Lord Rudreshwara's mount- Nandi or Basavanna as known in Northern Karnataka. This Nandi is almost 6 feet tall.  As you see, he is richly decorated with plenty of jewelry. Fortunately the Nandi looks well preserved..

Almost intact, except the tail is broken.

This is the Mantapa which contains 600 pillars. Being under restoration, it was out of bounds for tourists. I had to be content in taking two pictures of the beautiful structure.

I'm guessing the restoration work could go on two years.

We decided to leave since we wanted to see Bhadrakali temple. Walking back to the parking lot was a punishment.

Two massive Lingas close to the temple. These are quite similar to the ones seen at Pattadakallu.

Well, our tour of 1000 pillar temple was a quick one.

Jun 3, 2017

Ekasila Gutta, Warangal fort

A trip to Warangal was on my mind for few years before it became reality. A college friend who was working in Hyderabad had told me about his scooter ride from Hyderabad to Warangal and back. It was a terrifying experience for him and he would never try anything like that again. Warangal is about 150 kms from Hyderabad. Our plan was to leave early morning, reach Warangal early so that all important spots could be covered.

March 17, 2017
Our journey started around 5-00 AM. Having visited Bhuvanagiri, we were familiar about the route to Uppal cross.. that's where the road to Warangal starts. Once past the Outer Ring Road, the highway is six lane. We made good speed and passed by Bhuvanagiri around 6-30 AM. About 10 kms from Warangal the 6-lane road abruptly ended giving way to a 2-lane road. We still had 80 kms to go, our time changed significantly. We would be reaching an hour later than planned.. never mind, we were on a vacation, no need to think too much of time. We stopped for bandi breakfast at a Raghunathapalle. By 8-30 we'd reached Hanumakonda and by 9-00 we were at Warangal fort.

At Warangal fort, our first stop was at the open-air museum. We spent close to two hours checking out the Kakatiyan art. At the museum was a map of Warangal fort showing the important spots within it. The next closest spot was Ekasila Gutta meaning Monolithic hill. The monolith is situated next to a small lake named Gundu Cheruvu.

Here's the monolithic hillock, to my right is the lake. Atop the hillock is an ancient temple and a watch tower.
Pushpa was unwilling to climb the hillock. She agreed only when I told that the climb would not be longer than 2 or 3 minutes. And I had to pull her half the way :)

There she is resting half-way up. The lake has a small island at the center. Tourists can rent boats here late afternoon. The view of the hillock from the boat would be interesting.

The summit came into sight; its a small plateau. On one side is an east-facing temple; on the left is a watch tower and a small room for a sentry. Close to the temple is a sculpture of a lotus with a pair of feet at its center (see inset). This seems like a Jain sculpture. There's another hillock in the city, next to Bhadrakali lake, on which a Jain Basadi dedicated to Padmavati. So it seems that even this hill was used by Jain monks at some point of time.

Another view of the lake; this is from a small mound next to the temple. The mound is probably ruins of a platform.

The watch tower and sentry room. The tower is octagonal in plan, about 20 feet high. This tower and sentry room seem to be constructed much later than the temple.

Atop the tower is a platform for a cannon however its in ruins. I guess the archaeology department has placed some ancient sculptures on the tower making it a mini museum. There's only one narrow stairway to the tower top.

The curved stair-way opening at the tower top. On the rim of the tower, one of the slabs next to the stairway, has an image of Lord Hanuman, The image is a typical form of Hanuman (see inset).

View of the sentry room and a foundation of another structure.

The temple as seen from the tower. Its a Ekatachala meaning a temple with one sanctum. As you see, the temple has a wide front side with three entrances. The roof is flat devoid of tower over the Garbhagudi.The roof is surrounded by sloped porch. The temple has ample space inside; it has a spacious Sabha Mantapa and Sukhanasi. At the center is a four-pillared Mantapa which would be the Natyaranga ~ the dance floor.

Ground level view of the temple. Its a simple looking structure yet a beautiful one. The temple is preserved fairly well. One of the reasons for its good condition is its location; being situated on a rocky hillock, its foundation is firm. Also being situated at a height, it has been relatively safe from vandalism.

The interior; Garbhagudi is devoid of deity. The temple design and architecture is similar to Chalukyan temples. The pillars are very much Chalukyan. It is possible that Kakatiyan architecture might have evolved from Chalukyan temple architecture.

That's Pushpa resting on the Sukhanasi. With a gentle breeze blowing, the interior was cool. A nice break from the glare and heat. This hillock and temple are part of the garden maintained by government - thanks to the restricted access. else this would be a place for gamblers and other kind of activities.

Had we come later in the afternoon, we could have enjoyed a cool boat ride and also got a good shot of the hill from the boat. Well, some other day.