Nearly 698 years after Ulugh Khan’s army ransacked and disfigured the Shiva temple in Hanamkonda, the Nandi at the entrance of the temple is set to get a new leg. Currently, a gypsum leg has been created and will be replaced with a black granite leg, according to an Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) official.
“We have used images of the leg of Nandis on other Kakatiya-era temples to recreate the leg. If it looks natural and acceptable, we plan to ask the craftsmen to recreate the leg and it will be attached to the Nandi,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “We can recreate it if we get a model with correct proportions and clean lines,” said Karpiah, a master craftsman from Tiruchirapalli, working on other parts of the temple.
The 1000-pillar temple in Warangal is an architectural marvel with a ceremonial covered pavilion built by a Kakatiya ruler Rudradeva in 1163 AD. Sculpted out of black granite and dolerite pillars, the temple is a Trikuta Aalayam or has three sanctum sanctorums built on a raised platform.
When the northern armies of Tughlaqs invaded the region in 1324-25 and stubbed out the Kakatiya kingdom, the temple was ransacked, according to the temple priests. The two sanctum sanctorums are bare with the deities of Surya and Vasudeva missing and only Shiva is regularly worshipped.
There are smooth richly-carved pillars with perforated screens showing the skill of medieval craftsmen, and exquisite dance forms, rock-cut animals. The massive monolithic dolerite Nandi is the centrepiece linking the temple with the dance pavilion.
An 1888 photograph shot by princely photographer Raja Deen Dayal shows the Nandi with a broken leg and surrounded by pillars and other remnants of the temple.
Besides repairing the Nandi, the ASI is working on restoring the connecting platform that is currently walled in to screen the on-going work at the pavilion.
No easy task
It is no easy task to reconstruct the leg, as the Nandi is life size with intricate jewellery around the neck, hump and rear. Describing the Nandi in his monogram “The Sculpture of the Kakatiyas”, S. Gopalakrishna Murthy writes: “The Kakatiya Nandi, unlike their elephant, is an attempt at natural delineation; it shows even the veins on the snout. The hump of the Hanamkonda bull seems to be unnatural though his jewellery was well done. Basavesvara, who gave a fillip to Veerasaivism (he was not the founder), was supposed to be an avatar of Nandisvara and after his advent, Nandis were made in big sizes. I presume the Hanamkonda Nandi was one such.”
Will the ASI be able to recreate the Nandi’s leg to the satisfaction of millions of devotees and visitors who throng the temple daily? That’s the big question as officials try to complete the project by March 2023.