On an earlier trip to Warangal, I missed visiting Ramappa Temple as we fell short of time when we took a detour to cover Cherial. But this time around, I made sure we had enough time to visit the Ramappa temple which is at a village called Palampet, about 70 km from Warangal.
We had a quick lunch at the Haritha Hotel that overlooks the serene Ramappa lake(a km away from the temple site) before driving to the temple. Built in 1213 by General Recharla Rudra, during the reign of the Kakatiya king Ganapati Deva, this is perhaps the only temple to be named after its architect Ramappa.
A semblance to the architectural style of the Hoysala temples is immediately evident from its star-shaped plan. The main temple structure known as Ramalingeswara is dedicated to Lord Shiva, and stands on a star shaped platform that is roughly 6 feet in height. When we visited, about a half of the temple structure was closed for renovation.
The temple is built with sandstone, while the spire (shikara) is said to have been built with bricks so light that they would float when placed in water. The shikara stands directly over the inner sanctum (garbhagudi).
The three entrances to the main temple, are each flanked with an elephant on either side of the steps. Looking up towards the ceilings, these entrances are also flanked with very attractive statues of dancing girls, a pair on either side. These dancing figurines, known as Madanikas, are made of black basalt, sculpted to perfection with different poses and an amazing detail in their attires, jewelry and other props.
To the side of the Madanika figurines are the brackets that show yalis with a foot on the head of an elephant and another on its trunk. The yali figures, common in Kakatiya architectures, are powerful mythical beings with the head of a lion, body of a horse, with a rich mane and bulbous eyes. They are said to be guardians of the temple site to protect it from evil forces.
The inner precincts of the temple are supported by pillars made of black basalt decorated with elaborate carvings that depict scenes from epics and speak volumes about the skill of the sculptors of the era. The guides around would tell you, perhaps even show that some of the carvings are so fine that a string would pass through them. There are scenes of a performance of dance/music, indicating patronage of the ruling kings towards sculpture, art and culture. Even the ceilings are adorned with intricate carvings,
The outer walls are lined with motifs of elephants, flowers, dancers and larger images of Gods and Goddesses. Apart from the main temple, two smaller temples also dedicated to Lord Shiva are seen in the premises. Directly facing the sanctum sanctorum is the Nandi mandap, that has over time lost its roof, with the Nandi remaining intact.
After visiting the Ramappa temple, I could mentally piece together some of the ruins we saw at the Warangal Fort – and to some extent, imagine what the temple at the Fort may have looked like in the past. It is indeed a miracle, that the Ramappa temple has survived the vagaries of time as well as Islamic invasions. And today, it stands a testimony to the rich heritage of Telangana from the medieval times.