Kolanupaka showcases a rare blend of art, heritage and spirituality

A centuries-old Jain shrine with a stunning jade idol. A history-rich temple with a thousand Sivalingams in one! Scores of antique artefacts housed in an unassuming museum.

Kolanupaka, 70 km from Hyderabad, has as many lures for the spiritually-inclined as for art-lovers and history buffs. It is yet another illustration of the fact that, contrary to popular perception, there are indeed many day/weekend trip options from Hyderabad.

Close to these are the famous Surendrapuri museum, Bhongir Fort and Yadagirigutta Lakshmi Narasimha temple too. But that is another story.

This area was patronised by the Kalyana Chalukyas. Jainism and later Veerasaivism flourished here. The original Kolanupaka Jain Mandir––Kulpakji to Jains–– was built by the Rashtrakutas in 11th century A.D. It houses three main idols. Lord Rishabh aka Adinath Bhagwan (the central one) flanked by Lord Mahaveer in jade (single piece of jade) and Lord Neminath. A dharamshala is built around the temple.

There are other Tirthankara idols. We saw Shantinath Bhagavan, Chandraprabhu Swami, Abhinandan Swami and others worshipped here. The Padmavati Mata and Bhomyaji Dada idols are Dharmarakshak gods, explained Hanskumar Raichand Shah, of Kutchi Samaj.

A few years ago, the temple was renovated in Nagara style by artisans brought in from Gujarat and Rajasthan. There is a bhojanashala and a few accommodation options. Next-door is a Goshala.

A ten-minute walk from Jain mandir and we reached the famed 11th-century Someswara temple built by Kalyana Chalukyas associated with Veerasaivism. The temple is fronted by a large courtyard with ambulatory which houses centuries-old sculptures of the open-air museum, Kolanupaka. At the entrance is a polished basalt image of Mahaveera in meditation.

Occupying centre-stage in the courtyard is a Hanuman in granite flanked by images of Ganesha and his brother Subramanya. Behind him is the Kirthi Sthambham and after that the Nandi mandapam; facing Shiva housed in the far end of the temple. These are also among the most well preserved figures you find in the museum.

In the ambulatory around the courtyard are many images---Sapta Matrukas, Veeragal, Chamunda, Naga, a Shiva-Brahma-Vishnu panel, etc., all excavated in and around this area, dated between the ninth century AD to the 16th century AD.

The sanctum-sanctorum has Someswara (Sivalingam) with an idol of the great Veerasaiva saint-prophet Renukacharya behind it. The priest revealed that as per Veerasaiva belief, He sprang from the Sivalingam. Beside this is Goddess Chandi’s shrine with the roof of the facing room covered entirely with colourful ‘mudupulu’. Next-door is an awe-inspiring sight---Sahasra Sivalinga shrine! One sivalingam covered with 1,000 tiny lingams sculpted on them!

We found a ruined shrine on our way to the Someswara temple. We were told there are several such in this area---some being used as granaries and others as a resting place for goats and dogs.

After witnessing a beautiful arati ceremony at Kulpakji and visiting the nearby Goshala to feed the cows, we returned to Hyderabad.