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Kakatiya Rudreshwara (Ramappa) Temple, Telangana

  • © ASI

Rudreshwara, popularly known as Ramappa Temple, is located in the village of Palampet approximately 200km north-east of Hyderabad, in the State of Telangana. It is the main Shiva temple in a walled complex built during the Kakatiyan period (1123–1323 CE) under rulers Rudradeva and Recharla Rudra. Construction of the sandstone temple began in 1213 CE and is believed to have continued over some 40 years. The building features decorated beams and pillars of carved granite and dolerite with a distinctive and pyramidal Vimana (horizontally stepped tower) made of lightweight porous bricks, so-called ‘floating bricks’, which reduced the weight of the roof structures. The temple’s sculptures of high artistic quality illustrate regional dance customs and Kakatiyan culture. Located at the foothills of a forested area and amidst agricultural fields, close to the shores of the Ramappa Cheruvu, a Kakatiya-built water reservoir, the choice of setting for the edifice followed the ideology and practice sanctioned in dharmic texts that temples are to be constructed to form an integral part of a natural setting, including hills, forests, springs, streams, lakes, catchment areas, and agricultural lands.

In the village of Palampet, about 200 kms away from Hyderabad in Telangana stands the regal Kakatiya Rudreshwara Temple, also known as the Ramappa temple. It is one of those rare monuments in the world that is named after its creator Ramappa, who was a great planner and sculptor. This majestic temple was built during the Kakatiyan period (1123–1323 CE) by Racherla Rudra, a General of the Kakatiya King Ganapati Deva. The construction of the temple began in 1213 CE, and it is believed to have taken more than 40 years to complete.

The chief deity in the temple is Ramalingeswara Swamy. The main temple faces east and stands on a 6-feet high star-shaped platform with aesthetically carved walls, pillars, and ceilings that attest to the unique skill of the Kakatiyan sculptors. The ceiling is octagonal and the intricate craftsmanship over the architrave, especially the synoptic panels depicting Natya Siva Gajantaka, Tripurantaka are noteworthy examples of lapidary work.

The foundation of the temple is built using the ‘sandbox technique - a technique unique to the Kakatiya Dynasty. In this technique, a pit is dug and filled with a mixture of sand-lime, jaggery, and Karakkaya (Terminalia Chebula). This interesting technique makes the Ramappa Temple earthquake resistant.

The flooring of the temple is covered with granite, and the pillars are of basalt. The lower part of the temple is made of red sandstone, whereas the white gopuram is made with lightweight bricks that reportedly float on water. The chamber of the temple is crowned by a shikharam and there is ample circumambulatory space around the temple. At the entrance of the temple, is the Nandi mandapa, which is a classic example of Kakatiyan art. The bull is so life-like in appearance, that one can discern the veins under the skin of this regal animal. The back door entry to the temple is of recent origin. The other outstanding features of this temple are its decorated beams and pillars of carved granite and dolerite with a distinctive and pyramidal Vimana (horizontally stepped tower) made of lightweight porous bricks, which in effect has reduced the weight of the roof structures. The sculptures in the temple are of the highest artistic quality and they illustrate regional dance customs and the Kakatiyan culture. The dvarapalakas and the idyllic scene of Krishna as Muralidhara and the Gopikavastrapaharana are magnificent creations of mirror-art over the black basalt.

The Kakatiya Rudreshwara (Ramappa) Temple is often referred to as the brightest star in the network of medieval temples in the Deccan region.