While we all curse social media and the amount of time our generation spends on it; (the older generation too – except they don’t want to admit it!) if you really leverage social media, it can be a wonderful tool to connect and bond with like-minded people. Through Facebook, I discovered a group called GoUnesco – that amongst other heritage promotion initiatives- organises Heritage Runs (the key word for me here being ‘heritage’ not ‘run’ 🙂 So, when I heard of a run being organised at Warangal, which is pretty much a stone’s throw away from Hyderabad (if it takes 3 hours to throw a stone that is!), I jumped at the opportunity. Breaking away from tight work schedules and escaping on a trip to a heritage site itself holds a unique thrill for me!
If you thought watching an India-Pakistan match is nerve-wracking, it’s nothing like watching and praying that your train reservation status changes from WL 2 to confirmed. (Spoiler Alert – It never happened!). So redbus to the rescue it was! An overnight bus journey to Hyderabad and a three-hour ‘semi – luxury’ APSTDC bus ride later (which drops you at Hanamkonda) , I was in Warangal and checked in at the Telangana Tourism Haritha Kakatiya Hotel.
One of the first things that hit you as you enter Warangal is, here is a city steeped in Kakatiya pride. The classic kirtitorana symbol is seen all over; from the local courts to the entrance of the NIT campus.
Warangal is also known as Orugallu or Ekashilanagaram . Oru” terms the word ‘single’, “Kallu” is referred as a ‘stone’: The significance of the etymology is evident in every structure there. It is host to several heritage sites and is currently on the Tentative List of World Heritage Sites. It is also being nominated for the World Monuments Fund’s 2016 World Monuments Watch List. This should hopefully boost and put the value of city on the tourism map.
The Kakatiyas ruled the region from the 12th to 14th century. While we often hear of the brave Jhansi Ki Rani, not many of us know of Rani Rudrama Devi , who one of the few ruling queens in Indian history. Her biopic is currently made into a Telugu movie under the same name.
Since the run was early next morning, it gave me almost the whole of Day 1 to do some local sight-seeing. The best way to see the place is to hire a rickshaw, which charge roughly Rs 600 for the day.
I started with Fort Warangal, which is technically not the fort. It is where the remains of the Swayambhu temple are showcased. Here you are welcomed by fine pieces of Kakatiya art and architecture.
A view of the complex
One of the notable features of these structures is that many are carved in granite which is known to be one of the toughest stones to carve. With every step you take around the complex, you stumble upon a unique gem of stone sculpting art.
The icons of elephants, lions, peacocks are heavily used and the sheer size of some of the fallen sculptures and the kirtitoranas give you an idea of the might & scale of the Kakatiya dynasty, before it fell to the Tughluq invasion.
A few steps from the complex is the Khush Mahal , which has a very Indo-Saracenic feel to it, and houses some interesting sculptures too.
The Bhadrakali Temple apparently has a 13th certury Kali statue, which I couldn’t see unfortunately, because the priests told me that the shrine is closed in the afternoon, probably God taking a nap! 🙂 The boulders around the nearby lake give it a very Hampi-esque feel.
One of the highlights of Warangal for me, was the magnificent Thousand Pillar Temple.
Every surface of the temple walls has intricate designs and carvings (including a dancing Ganpati) that just beg to photographed.
The sculptural beauty of the temple is reminiscent of the rich cultural of heritage of Kakatiya Kingdom. We also had an interpretation tour by INTACH Hyderabad, where we were told that the Kalyan Mandapa (typically a marriage hall) was recently renovated by the ASI.
There is also an inscription in the temple complex that apparently describes the life of people in the region. A heavily ornamented Nandi overlooks the temple.
Later in the evening, the Temple was a backdrop to a cultural program that showcased a Nritya Ratnavalli Interpretation and Perrini dance forms.
Not being a morning person (at all!); after probably many months, I witnessed a sunrise – only because we had to report for the run by 6am.
The run was organised along the Warangal fortification walls (well, let me be honest, I probably walked 30% of the way!). The beauty of the experience was not only that you got to absorb the village life along the route, but we also spotted everything from lovely kingfishers to a bunch of dilapidated temples and other structures inside the fort walls.
Before you dismiss Warangal as a small town because it lives in the shadow of Big Brother Hyderabad, you’ll notice it offers visitors a slice of city life with several branded shops and also has it’s fair share of fast food chains like KFC and Dominos, obviously catering to the student crowd at NIT Warangal.
As a part of my pre-trip research , I had read about the Ramappa and Ghanpur temples near Warangal, but that’s an entirely different story! Watch this space for more! 🙂