Heritage History & Culture

A temple with a tale

The gali gopuram of the temple   | Photo Credit: @SERISH NANISETTI

Veda Vyas, the author of Mahabharata, is supposed to have meditated near Basar, Shakuntala, the mother of Bharat — after whom India is named — is supposed to have bathed in the waterfall at Adilabad (hence the waterfall is called Kuntala) and many other spots in the state claim a mythical-historial link to India’s past.

But Hyderabad?

About five kilometres from the RGIA airport is the ancient Ammapalli Sita Ramachandraswamy Devasthanam. A Rama temple without Hanuman. And thereby hangs a tale.

“There are no inscriptions of this temple but legend has it that it was built during the time of Kalyani Chalukyas,” says Anvesh Sharma, the temple priest. The Eastern Kalyani Chalukyas did rule the region sometime between seventh and 12th century AD.

The gali gopuram is a magnificient work of art that rises some 80 feet into the air. Though it is similar to other gali gopurams in South India like Hampi and Tirupati, the one at Ammapalli is leaner and is a combination of limestone plaster, baked bricks and stucco giving it a more dramatic appearance. Surprisingly, the multi-storied gopuram also incorporates elements of Rajasthani architecture such as the flared chajjas that curve upwards. “The gali gopuram and the walking path around the temple are later day additions. They were built in the 17th century while the inner sanctum sanctorum is the earliest structure,” says the priest.

It is the sanctum sanctorum with the three idols of Sita, Rama and Lakshmana that the story of the temple unravels. “This is carved out of a single stone. Even the deities of Rama, Sita and Lakshmana have makarathorana (the arch above the idol) carved out of the single piece of rock. The unique aspect of this Rama’s idol is that the makarathorana has small idols which are representative of Dasavataram,” informs the priest. The gopuram over the idols is a smaller structure but with greater detailing of the temple iconography which is intact despite its age.

While most villages have Rama temples with Hanuman kneeling in front in an act of prayer, the Ammapalli temple has an idol of Kodandarama where Rama holds the arrow in his right hand and a bow in the left. “There are very few Kodandarama temples as they are built only in places where Sri Rama travelled or stayed during his 14 years of exile. That is also the reason the temple doesn’t have Hanuman sitting near the three as he didn’t join them till the end of exile,” says Sharma.

Spread over nine acres, the temple and its ancillary structures hark back to a time when land was not at a premium. It has a step well that sprawls over an acre of land and has a walkway around it. Unfortunately, the well is dry as a rock. “Earlier the well used to be full of water through the year. But now due to a lot of construction activity, the natural pathways of water have been disturbed and the well dries up on a regular basis,” says Anuradha Reddy of Intach who has a family ties to the trustees of the temple belonging to Rajapet Samasthan.

No shootings here

A part of the temple’s outer structure was damaged during a Telugu film shooting where an exploding car in a fight sequence crashed on the left side of gali gopuram. Since then, the temple is out of bounds for film shootings.


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Printable version | Oct 21, 2021 10:50:52 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/history-and-culture/serish-heritage-ammapalli-sita-ramachandraswamy-devasthanam/article18304930.ece

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