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The past and the present are in constant dialogue at the Ramappa Temple

G Naga Sridhar | Updated on August 08, 2021

Holistic composition: Stylistically, the Kakatiya temple architecture has been referred to as ‘Trikuta Style’ with three temples in the main temple complex   -  The Hindu/NAGARA GOPAL

World Heritage Site tag brings droves of tourists to sleepy Palampet, where the shrine is located

* The lofty temple was built in 1213 AD by Recharla Rudradeva, a commander of Kakatiya Monarch Ganapatideva.

* In Medieval Deccan history, large shrines were not just religious places. They were hubs of social, economic and cultural activity.

* Stylistically, the Kakatiya Temple Architecture has been referred to as ‘Trikuta Style’ with three temples in the main temple complex while a star-shaped platform hosts the main temple structure.

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A decision taken in China a month ago has suddenly awakened a sleepy village in Telangana. Palampet village, 66 km from Warangal, is now abuzz with tourists eager to glimpse the 800-years old Ramappa temple after it got a world heritage site tag from UNESCO last month.

The lofty temple was built in 1213 AD by Recharla Rudradeva, a commander of Kakatiya Monarch Ganapatideva. Though the presiding deity is Rudreshwara (Lord Shiva), it has been named after its chief sculptor, Ramappa.

On July 25, at a UNESCO meeting held in China, the global agency announced its decision to inscribe the temple as a World Heritage Site, kicking off a new wave of interest in the medieval temple. A World Heritage Site tag is given to a place with “outstanding universal value”. In the last 10 days, there has been a big increase in the number of visitors to Palampet from about 500 to over 2,000 per day, according to A Srikanth, a staffer of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which has restored the temple. Cutting across faiths, visitors are arriving.

“We are really amazed to see this excellent structure. Though we have been planning for many days, the news of world heritage site has brought us here,’’ explains Muhammad Ghouse from Mahbubabad. The temple’s unique sandbox technology and ‘floating bricks’, which reduce the weight of the roof structures, helped it get the tag.

Locals who are dependent on the temple for their livelihood are delighted. There are some 40 petty businesses including eateries in the vicinity of the temple. “I do ₹50,000 worth of business per month as about 500 tourists come every day,” says Rapparti Ravi who runs a toy cum photo store near the temple, and now anticipates an increase in his earnings.

The higher inflow of tourists is already having an impact on the local economy. Locals are quoting higher prices for land in and around the village. “Till last month agricultural land per acre was sold at around ₹15 lakh per acre. But now, owners are expecting beyond ₹25 lakh per acre,’’ said Siddyyah, who owns a tract of three acres of farmland in the village.

In Medieval Deccan history, large shrines were not just religious places. They were hubs of social, economic and cultural activity. With huge land grants made by rulers, temples also donned the role of landlord, employer and a power centre as a seat of village Panchayats, as well as an entertainment hub. There were the comely temple girls (Devadasis) who regularly danced in the ‘Ranga Mandapa ostensibly for the worship of God. The temples also played a role in local agriculture with the attached tank providing irrigation to fields in the vicinity. This was the way of things in not just the magnificent Chola temples, some of which are also UNESCO World Heritage sites, but clearly also at Ramappa, going by the records here. For instance, an inscription at the Ramappa temple details the land grants made for its upkeep.

In the good old days the Ramappa temple had a huge tank spreading over 12 km, though now it has shrunk to about 3 km. But the dam and water channels originally built by the Kakatiyas are still intact and nourish the surrounding fields even today. The Kakatiyas are known for interconnecting all major lakes in such a way that all of them will always have water like perennial rivers.

A visit to the heritage temple site shows that the past and present are still in dialogue with each other. The main temple has been restored completely by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The majestic Nandi (bull) in the temple is richly carved and looks as if it is looking at you from all angles. The sculptures converse their history — for instance, there is a breathtaking representation of a dance form, Perini Siva Tandavam, developed by Jayapa Senani, a commander and relative of celebrated Kakatiya Ruler, Ganapathi Deva, on the temple walls and on the panels on ceilings.

The architecture of the temple is unique in many ways. The sandbox technique has been deployed in the construction. In this method, the pit, dug up for laying foundation was filled with a mixture of sand lime, jaggery and black myrobalan fruit. According to noted archaeologist and historian, P V Parabrahma Sastry, this was meant for providing a cushion to the structure in case of an earthquake.

Stylistically, the Kakatiya temple architecture has been referred to as ‘Trikuta Style’ with three temples in the main temple complex while a star-shaped platform hosts the main temple structure. The Kakatiyas were the first to build temples on a raised platform in the south. The bricks used in the temple in some places (apart from rocks) are so light that they float on water!

However, even as more visitors have begun visiting the place, there are some infrastructural challenges. There is no regular public transport to the temple and visitors will have to use private transport.

“This place is so scenic in the lap of nature. But we need more facilities to stay overnight,'' feels M Raghunath, a software professional.

The Telangana Government is drawing up plans to woo foreign as well as domestic tourists by offering a temple circuit and packaged tours. The ASI too has its own plans. It remains to be seen how far these initiatives will go in attracting more visitors in the days to come – especially with the pandemic still raging.

G Naga Sridhar

Published on August 08, 2021

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