Through Sri Seetha Ramachandra Swami Temple
Historical Background of Vengi Chalukyas: -
Vengi Chalukyas are also known as Eastern Chalukyas. They are a collateral branch of the Vatapi lineage. It was a dynasty that ruled parts of South India between7th to 13th century CE.
After consolidating Pulkesin 2’s portion in the western Deccan, he decided to extend his authority over eastern Deccan. Leaving his younger brother Vishnuvardhana in charge of his capital, Pulkesin 2 led an expedition eastwards and attacked Kalinga occupied its capital Pishtapura (modern Pithapuram). At the next stage in a contest near Koleru Lake, he defeated Vishnu Kundins who held most of the Andhra country. Following his success in the east, Pulkesin 2
appointed his brother Vishnuvardhana to rule over these regions withPishtapura as a capital. Vishnuvardhana remained loyal to his brother throughout his career. But his son and successor, Jayasimha 1 asserted his independence and established an independent kingdom called ‘Eastern Chalukyas of Vengi’ or ‘Chalukyas of Vengi’.They started out as the governor of Chalukyas of Badami (Vatapi) in the Deccan region. Subsequently, they became a sovereign power and ruled the Vengi region today’s Andhradesa.
They continued ruling the region as feudatories of Cholas. The Chalukyas were great rulers and provided a conducive atmosphere for the promotion of religion, learning literature, art, and architecture. They were staunch supporters of Hinduism. During the later days of Chalukyas Brahmanism became extremely popular in the kingdom. Temples were built in honor of Puranic Gods like Shiva, Vishnu, and Mahesvara. Jayasimha 1 was a worshipper of Vishnu.
Temple Architecture during Chalukyas and later Chalukyas: -
Like the Gupta kings, the Chalukyas were also famous for their art and architecture. They built up various cave temples at Badami. Temples at Aihole and Pattadakal also belong to the Chalukyan era. But later on, they developed a new style of temple architecture. The Chalukyas were called Vengi Chalukyas or Eastern Chalukyas and formed a new temple style so, therefore it was the transition of Temple architecture from rock-cut cave temples to fully structured temples. The structured temples were the hybridization or combination of two different styles i.e. The Nagara Style (North Indian Temple Architecture) and Dravida Style (South Indian Temple Architecture)together made Vessara style temple architecture. These temples had more ornamentation and decoration. Floral tracery can be witnessed on the facade. Towers repeatedly were ornamental structures.
In the border areas between the two major styles particularly in the modern states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, there was a stylistic overlap of Architectural features. The cellas and the main portico is joined mainly with a wall having pilaster work. The boundary wall of the complex was a little later development having small cellas in the wall as enclosures and facing the main shrine in a rectangular courtyard. The tower is a pyramid in form with mostly straight lines, over the cella. It has a different number of stories having pavilions on a miniature scale. This adds visual thrust to the elevation. The temples started developing as complexes with boundary walls having elaborate gateway, courtyards, tanks, and the temple building i.e. the sanctuary.
Gopurams are witnessed as dominating features and thus becoming landmarks. They became taller and taller, dwarfing the inner sanctum and its tower and dominating the whole temple site. The Gopurams are divided into two categories:-
Straight tapering pyramidal sites
Sloping sides i.e. curved/conclave sides.
The later period has more number of Gopurams with rectangular bases and pyramidal top. The material used to build the lower story of Gopurams is granite and the superstructure is made up of bricks and plaster. Perhaps, the purpose was to reduce the deadweight as the height of the structure goes up in order to make it more stable.
Sri Seetha Ramachandra Swami Temple:-
Sri Seetha Ramachandra Swami Temple is one of the unknown temples in our ancient history. This temple belongs to the Vengi Chalukyas or Eastern Chalukyas and is built by one of the Vengi Chalukyan Kings in the 13th century.
As said earlier the Chalukyas followed Hinduism and were interested in art and architecture because of this they were famous for their new development architecture style called Vessara style temple architecture. They merged two different styles and formed one. Many such temple architectures are known to us through historical records and researches. But, Sri Seetha Ramachandra Swami Temple is one of the unknown temples of the Vengi Kings should get an identity as one of the historical monument and heritage sites.
This temple is located in Hyderabad which is also known as ‘The City of Nizams’. It is one of the largest cities of Indian State Telangana and the capital of Andhra Pradesh situated in the northern part of South India. It is around 5kms away from
Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, Shamshabad, Ammapalle, and Telangana. The name of the temple itself indicates that it belongs to the Vaishnava cult as Lord Rama is one of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu.
The temple is not only of lord Rama but with him we find the idols of goddess Seetha his consort and of his brother Laxman as well therefore the village is named as ‘Ammapalle’ after the name of Amma Seetha Devi. It is one of the temples of Lord Rama without lord Hanuman.
Not much is known about the history of the temple since no inscriptions are available. But, the architecture of the temple tells itself that it belonged to Vengi Chalukyas.
Structure or Architecture of the Temple:-
The structure or architecture of the temple comes under the Vessara style belonging to the Chalukyan era. The Vengi Kings during the 13th Century CE. The entrance of the temple starts almost 80 feet high raising Gopuram with two white elephant statues at the entrance.
The Gopuram has an entrance gateway of approximately 18feet high with two structured pillars and it also has a rectangular space wherein there is a statue of Lord Vishnu carved out lying on Sheshnaag with his other companions. The position is called’Anantashayanam’. It’s a colored statue probably painted with oil paint. The entrance also has a wooden gate with spikes on it. The structure of the gates seems to be like the ones we find in forts tall and strong. The struts of the entrance pillars have serpent carvings and at the bottom, there are figurines of dwarapalas carved. The Gopuram is a seven stories tall tower. It incorporates elements of Rajasthani architecture such as flared chajjas that curve upwards with intricate designs carved on them. The ground of the Gopuram has two square-shaped boxes having latticework with small windows above it called
Niches. Each story is carved out with various figurines belonging to the Vaishnava cult. In the third story, there is a figurine of a dwarapala carved out which depicts the Vaishnava cult by his elongated cap unfortunately the other figurine is missing. In the fourth story again there are two dwarapalas carved out are the Naga people belonging to the Naga tribe and followers of Vaishnavism. The rest three stories also have dwarapals but they are carved out having mace as one of the attributes of Lord Hanuman showing that he was the part of Vaishnava cult.
As one enters the temple we find two tall pillars (sthamba) one of stone and the other might be of metal with gold plating on it. The stone pillar has four sides and at the bottom of it, the figurine of Lord Hanuman is carved. Because of the worshippers, the figurines are turned red due to the showering of kumkum. Behind the pillars, there is an inner sanctum that is square-shaped and is in the center of the temple area. There is also a spacious square-shaped balcony around the sanctum probably made for the devotees to sit. This balcony also has a staircase to go upwards, the gates of the staircase are closed due to some reasons. The roof
of the main sanctum has a stone carving of half-man half-snake which depicts lord Vishnu on Adishesha.(Vishnu, the preserver is actually portrayed as sitting or reclining on the enormous coiled body of Adishesha or Ananta, a giant snake deity with multiple cobra heads. The avatars or human manifestations of Adishesha include Lakshamana and Balarama, who were the brothers of Rama and Krishna respectively. The association of the snake with Vishnu is a result of the association of Vishnu worshippers with the snake worshippers). On both the sides of the Vishnu sculpture with seven hooded snakes, two statues of mythical
gods are been sculpted depicting as if they are welcoming the devotees. It is said that the statues are of Lord Hanuman. (Hanuman was a loyal devotee of Lord Rama, one of the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu. The iconic form of hanuman appears in various forms by clasping his two hands together as in prayer
r; standing or kneeling before his beloved Rama; even as he is either flying or starting to fly).
The sanctuary also has a conical or pyramidal tower with beautiful figurines carved on it with a golden kalasha at the apex of the tower which is called Shikhara is also visible
This conical or pyramidal shape tower can be divided into five parts as they are countable. Each part of the tower depicts some of the other stories of Vaishnavism. The second
step has a carving of seven hooded snakes and the fourth step has again a carving of lord Vishu in the Ananatshayanam position.
As you move around the temple it is surrounded by the balcony and also has a staircase to go to the terrace which is protected by the boundary walls. In the corner, there is a small statue of Lord Rama, Laxman, and goddess Seetha Devi with lord Hanuman sitting on his knees and venerating them. People come and worship, this statue is placed under a tree and is carved out from a stone probably a granite stone.
The inner sanctum i.e. the Garbhagriha has the idols of Lord Rama, Laxman, and goddess Seetha Devi with a mandapa outside the sanctum where many people can gather for aarti or so.
Opposite the entrance of the temple, a building is been build which seems like a mini palace with a structured pillared hall and terrace. This building is usually used for film shooting purposes. This temple has an idol of KONDANDARAMA where lord Rama holds the arrow in his right hand and a bow in his left hand therefore it is also known as ‘Ammapalli Kodanda Rama Temple’.
The area of the temple is spread up to nine acres of land. It has a stepwell as well which is built over 1acre of land and is surrounded with the porticos which provided shelter to the pilgrims and people can roam around it. It usually appears like a balcony in a palace with beautifully carved arches that are curved and gives an idea of Mughal architecture or as earlier said it seems to be like flared chajjas found in Rajasthani architecture. There are numerous steps to enter into the water but unfortunately, it’s dried up so the visitors are deprived away of enjoying themselves in the water but, simultaneously looking at the architecture gives an amazing feeling. The stepwell is made up of dressed baked bricks and stucco and is not destroyed or damaged.
Behind the mini palace, there is a small story building where people live and even that building probably gets utilized for film shooting purposes. On the right-hand side of this building, a huge cubical wall is constructed with baked bricks having small niches in it. The idea behind constructing this wall isn’t clear but one can click pictures.
Henceforth, the nine-acre of land is covered with such amazing architecture which most people are not aware of.
The reverse or backside of the Gopuram is conserved by restoring it with baked bricks and plaster as during one of the film shootings it caused damage. In 2010, the officers from the Archaeological Survey of India surveyed this place and confirmed it is an ancient temple.
Sri Seetha Ramachandra Swamy Temple is one of the sources which highlighted the unknown history of the Chalukyan kings that too the eastern Chalukyas or the Vengi kings. Unfortunately, due to the unavailability of inscriptions, it was not possible to reach the apex of the history of Vengi Kings but the architecture itself gave evidence that it belonged to the later Chalukyan era.
Therefore, no inscribed work but sculpted work is quite enough to prove it’s an Eastern Chalukyan artwork done by Vengi Kings and it should be appreciated by every one of us.
Ancient India, Dr. Eugene D’Souza, Manan Prakashan.
UGC NET Tutor History, Mayateet Kaur, Aditya Raj, Devyani Dubey, Smriti Patwardhan, Arihant, Publications,2019.
History of Indian Architecture, Sharmin Khan, CBS Publications and Distributors Pvt.Ltd, 2017.
Sacred Animals of India, Nanditha Krishna, Penguin books India, 2010.
Role of Chalukyas of Vengi and its Polity during Post Gupta period, http://www.historydiscussion.net
NOTE: All the pictures attached are self-clicked.
About The Author: -
Bhavita Rajesh Jadhav, M.A. in Ancient Indian History Culture and Archaeology
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