The open air gallery at the Heritage Sculpture Park in Hyderabad has replicas of sculptures representing art traditions of dynasties that ruled over the erstwhile Andhra region.

I paused awhile at the sculpture of Ardhanari Venugopala, intrigued by the name and form. We have all heard of Ardhanareeswara––the half male-half female form of Shiva and Parvathi. But a Krishna representation in this manner...?

This rare statue was among the 20 sandstone sculptures located in the Heritage Sculpture Park on the campus of Dr YSR National Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management (NITHM), Hyderabad.

Curiosity led me to a book at NITHM’s library that offered details. I discovered that this Venugopala was a replica of the original one located in the Mahamandapa of a little-known Vaishnava temple in Salakamcheruvu, Anantpur district, created in the typical Vijayanagara style of art that flourished in 16th century Rayalaseema. The half-Krishna-half-Satyabhama figure holds a flute, standing in Ardhaswastikasana, and has other hands holding an ankusha, dhanush, pasha and bana.

This open-air gallery at the Park has a flight of steps that goes uphill and winds round before returning to the entrance –– all flanked by these sculptures. These figures are replicas of the originals which represent art traditions from important dynasties that ruled over the erstwhile Andhra region––from the Satavahanas to the Vijayanagara kings, from the 1st to 16th century AD. All around are millennia-old Deccan Plateau rocks.

We came upon Surya, the Sun God, a replica of the original at Alampur, Mahbubnagar district, from the Badami (Western Chalukya) period, 7th century AD.

The benign Goddess of Food, Annapurna, depicted with ladle and food-pot, is inspired by the original at Choppadandi, Karimnagar district, Kalyana Chalukyan period, 11th century AD.

Umamaheswarulu are a likeness of the original in Hemavati, Anantpur district, Nolamaba period (9th century AD.). This sculpture is placed at the foot of the ‘Burger Rocks’ so named for their shape. Also, a replica of Kubera in Prathakota, Kurnool district, Rashtrakutas, 9th century AD.

Clones of a Kollatam scene (Ramappa Temple, Warangal, Kakatiya dynasty, 13th century AD), and Lady Contemplating Her Beauty (Warangal Fort, 13th century) also find a place here.

The open air gallery owes its existence to the vision of , Chairperson Chandana Khan and NITHM Director, P. Narayana Reddy who along with other authorities decided to have a thematic park after NITHM was established in 2004. Expert inputs were provided by Sthapathi E. Sivanagireddy and B. Subrahmanyam.

“Twenty sculptors –– all budding talents deserving encouragement –– from across Andhra Pradesh were invited to create these art works. They worked onsite for six weeks on sandstone that was procured from Allagadda and Jammalamadugu in Cuddapah district,” reveals Narayana Reddy.

The gallery which offers an overview of art traditions in the state’s history not only educates but also generates an interest in the originals. On the sidelines are 30 unusual Ganeshas scattered across NITHM’s campus, created by 20 local artists using scrap metal given to them by the institute. There is also a bow-and-arrow wielding Ganesha in papier-mache.

The park was formally inaugurated in September. Along with a restaurant and other amenities the complex will be open to the public before month-end.