Jul 1, 2017

Kakatiya sculptures at Warangal fort

Warangal, the capital of Kakatiya kingdom was the center of Kakatiyan art and architecture. Looking at the ruins and sculptural remains, one can imagine the glory during the heydays. It is said that one of the grandest temples was completely destroyed by the Muslim army. Today the remains are preserved at Warangal fort, an open air museum of Kakatiyan excellence. Of all that remains, the four massive arches called as Thorana almost intact and have become icons of Kakatiyan art. The word Thorana is common to Telugu and Kannada. Kakatiyan temple designs and art has evolved from Chakuyan architecture. Most Kakatiyan structures are much bigger and grander compared to Chalukyan.

March 17, 2017
Our tour of this museum started around 9-30, probably we were the first tourists of the day. We bought tickets for entry and cameras.. about ₹120 in all. These tickets are valid for Kush Mahal too which is less than 200 meters from here. Its a large enclosure, we decided to go anticlockwise. So we started with these stone water tanks probably for elephants and camels. May be the smaller ones are for horses.

Pushp inspecting a mesh sculpture. Check out the pairs of miniature pillars.. beautiful aren't they? The perfectly spaced spaced holes are stepped squares.. elegant indeed.

A pillar base  transitioning from with square to circle. In the background are a series of twin pillars with godly characters between them. The pillars are actually forming Thorana.. here are 3 of them. The middle one shows Natya Ganapati. The imaginary creatures over the pillars are similar to the ones seen in Chalukyan temples.

Here we have a variety of sculptures.. a miniature temple with a female god; water lily flanked by miniature pillars; two intersecting squares forming a octagram with a lotus in full bloom; an octagonal stepped dome - this seems like a ceiling piece. The miniature columns are so realistic.

Kakatiya and Hoysala dynasties were contemporaries and both excelled in temple art. We can see some similarities in terms of tastes and quality of sculptures. My observation is that Hoysala sculptors were better in carving human figures.. especially female forms attired in jewelry from head to toe. Kakatiyan used less of human figures, my observation so far.

Here we have a form of jewelry; a floral and geometrical combination; a stairway guide; and temple sanctum base. The stairway guide depicts two men on an elephant and a man under the beast's trunk.

Now we turn our attention to Kakatiyan icon, the massive Thorana. From the initial glance its seems like a monolith, can hardly make out where the joints are. This is an assembly of nine individual pieces- 4 columns, 1 central beam, 2 overhangs and 2 upper beams. Of course this entire structure stands  Amazing creation!! The overall height and width are approximately 30' x 30'. Wonder how the pieces were sculpted separately to precision and then assembled. The columns, as I understand are partly buried, so the overall height of each column is approximately 40'. Imagine the effort behind locating the right raw material and transporting them here. The design would have taken into consideration the effects of varying temperatures. 

In this enclosure there are four such Thorana, same size but each of them unique in design. These Thorana are an indication of Kaktiya's liking of large structures.. megalomania. In fact, if you observe the buildings of rich in Andhra/Telangana, its hows the liking for large structures is still in the blood.

Columns viewed from different angles. The edges are perfectly straight and the surfaces are absolutely flat. What kind of tools were used to achieve this precision. I believe its the power of sculptors' minds..

A closer look at the complex design of the upper portion. The beams are richly decorated in floral and geometrical patterns. The seven domes definitely has some significance.. like the Saptamatrika? The ducks on the top are simply adorable.

Somehow this little temple has survived the invasion. It's an east-facing temple, most likely dedicated to Lord Shiva. The structure is quite simple, devoid of any decoration but the design is typically Kakatiyan.. can be traced to Chalukyan. Its Mukha Mantapa and Sabha Mantapa are merged; a short vestibule- Antharala -connects the Sabha Mantapa to the Garbhagudi. The hall has a platform for people to sit on. A simple and neat structure. 

From the front, it looks like a cave beckoning you to enter the abode of the Lord. Check out the pillars and compare them with the miniature pillars.. perfect proportions, isn't it?

Amongst the giant Thoranas is a regular sized Thorana. Simple yet beautiful. thinking of Chalukyan temples, Thorana are not common there but not totally absent. I remember seeing Thorana at Ramlingeshwar group of temples at Aihole.

The earlier Throana we saw was on the west and the one here is southern. Here we have a platform around the columns base. Probably the western Thorana's base is covered in dirt. The designs are same but the detailing on the upper portions are unique.

Close by is a pillar with inscription on all sides. The script seems Telugu.. tried reading it, few letters are Kannada. Could manage few letters and a word or two. Always makes me think why ancient writings did not use spaces?
This part of the museum is a tightly packed collection of variety of items. One of the main attractions is the Nanda Mantapa with richly decorated columns. The Manatapa is badly damaged but its enough to give an idea how it might looked back then.

Like Chalukya, the Kakatiyas were worshipers of Lord Shiva and gave importance to Nandi. This baby faced bull is covered in jewelry. Kakatiyas preferred black colored stones.

Then we have a pair of elephants sans the trunks. Well fed, chubby little elephants :) In the background you can see a Thorana with a triangle head piece.. like a Roman arch.

Few more collages of lovely images.. a pair of lotus; a parade of royal elephants.

A stepped square hole - a matrix of such holes form a mesh. View of the northern Torana through the mesh hole. A handsome tusker. A palm with bunches of dates. I'm guessing they are dates..

Close by were few more smaller Thorana. One of the columns' faces had this interesting art. Looks simple but I'm sure it takes lot of effort to create this.

..this article will continue in the following post - Kakatiya sculptures at Warangal fort - Part II.


teamgsquare said...

Quite interesting. Those thoranas are simply fascinating.

Dr K Prabhakar Rao said...

Warangal fort was vandalised by the armies of Mohd bin Tughlaq of Delhi in 1326. king Prataparudra deva. The last one from Kakateeyas. dynasty at Warnagal was captured and he committed suicide by jumping in Narmada river while he was being taken to Delhi. Warnagal was named Sultanpur and was kept under a Muslim governor. probably his armies ensured tart. Every sculpture was broken. this was the greatest vandalism before Tallikota battle in Karnataka. Warangal was reclaimed by Kapayya Naira who along with his aides carried on guerrilla war for ten years and drove away Muslim armies from Telangana region. Kapayya was declared king of the region succeeding Kakateeyas. He ruled strongly for thirty two years and was killed in a battle near Bheemavaram with Velama chieftain who declared independence at Rachakonda region. Telangana went over to Velama Kings who made friendship with Bahmani kings of Gulbarga and ultimately lost the kingdom to them.Telangana was occupied by Muslim rulers. Most if these areas were again conquered by Sri Krishna deva Rama in 16 century during his epoch conquest. Kapayya carried titles as Andhra suratrana, Andhra desadheesa and had 75 chieftains under him.Warangal was regular battle ground in bye gone times.

Dr K Prabhakar Rao said...

There is a big durbar Hall called Shitabkhan mahal built by Warangal ruler Sithapathi Raju alias Shitabkhan in 16 century. this Mahal resembles similar mahal in Mandu with similar arches. He initially worked as commander with Sultan Kuli the king of Golconda and then he conquered areas of Khammam And Warangal and declared independence. He repaired many temples in Waranagal and reservoirs in Pakal etc. Probably he became a vassal later to Gajapathi Rucker of Orissa. Dupring the epoch conquest of Krishna deva Raya enroute to Kalinga, Sithapathis army fought Rayas forces and probably he was killed in battle. In a different opinion it is believed that Sithapathis died defending Warangal against Muslim rulers.
things are not well defined. armies fought bitterly for Warangal.

siddeshwar said...

@TGS - indeed, they are magnificent creations

@Dr.Rao - your comment has added lot of value to this article. thank you.