Hanamkonda 1000 pillar Mandapam of Rudreshwara Swamy Temple (12 CE) , Telangana built with earthquake resistance technique

1000 pillar temple. Hanamkonda, Andhra Pradesh

1000 pillar temple. Hanamkonda,  t, Telangana  hehansindia.com

Located in the town of Hanamkonda, Telangana State, India  is the Thousand Pillar Temple or Rudreshwara Swamy Temple also dedicated to Lord Shiva, Vishnu and Surya. Often called  the epitome of engineering marvel of the Kakatiya era. This amazing temple along with Warangal Fort, Kakatiya Kala Thoranam and Ramappa Temple are included  to the tentative list of World Heritage sites recognised by UNESCO, It shows the artistic excellence, imagination  and workmanship of artisans of past era, besides their proper planning.

Hanamkonda, Telangana  tourism.webindia123.com

Thanks to the Kakatiya rulers  Ganapati Deva, Rudrama Devi and Prataparudra  who were great builders of Hindu temples and they never failed to leave their mark in them.  It is because of   Rudra Deva, his vision and commitment,  the 1000 Pillar  Temple was said to have been built between 1175–1324 CE. It was during this time the temple architecture  achieved a new height and it was because of  amazing talents and unique styles  Kakatiya Vishwakarma Sthapathis (Architect) possessed through hard work. 

Unfortunately, these monumental sites were desecrated by the army of  Tughlaq dynasty of Delhi  and  in 1323-24 Ulugh Khan laid a siege on Warangal and then desecrated the temple and  defaced the sculptures. The temple destruction happened  during their invasion and   war campaign in the  Deccan region. The garbhagrihas -sanctums  of Vasudeva and Surya were  very much  damaged during the siege by the armies of Ulugh Khan, (later Mohammed bin Tughlaq). The sculptures at the lower level are horribly disfigured.

Quite disturbed by the wholesale destruction   the 7th Nizam of Hyderabad,(Mir Osman Ali Khan) donated a grant of 1 Lakh INR towards reconstruction and restoration of the tmpls back to old glory. In 1929 the  Archaeology department of Nizam’s Dominion cleaned the pathway around the temple and carried about basic work in stabilising the temple. 

An excellent example of  Kakatiya art, architecture and sculptural grandeur, Rudreshwara Temple locally known as Veyisthambala Gudi (Thousand pillars temple) had a unique place in the area of temple architecture. The ruins of  the Thousand Pillar Temple lie near the Hanamkonda -Warangal Highway in Telangana State,  roughly about 150 kilometres  Hyderabad city. The presiding deity is  Rudreshwara, (built in 1163 AD)  and in the temple one can see the influence of later Chalukyan and early Kakatiya style of design - star-shaped and triple shrined (Trikutalaya). The mandapam that stands at a height of 9.5 meters has 2,560 sculptures of exceptional beauty and the ornate pillars enhance the architectural splendor. The foundation of the temple was based on sandbox technology. Kakatiya architecture widely used this unique technique which involves  filling the pit — dug up for laying the foundation — with a mixture of sand-lime, jaggery (for binding) and karakkaya (black myrobalan fruit) before the buildings were constructed on these 'sandboxes'. The sandbox in the foundation acts as a cushion in case of earthquakes

The striking architectural features are richly ornate pillars, perforated screens, exquisite icons, rock cut elephants and the monolithic dolerite Nandi as components of the temple. The latter one is a unique one as most of the Nandis are made of basaltic or granite rock.  The beautiful lath turned well polished pillars, granite and dolerite sculptures of divine images, flawless ivory carving work, use of sandbox technique in   strengthening of foundations, etc bear testimony to the ingenuity and the highest level of skills possessed by  stone sculptors. 

Nava Ranga mandapa (located in the center of three shrines) is a standing example.  Normally Medieval temples were not only  places of worship but  also  the hub of social and community activities. Ranga Mandapa was used to stage dramas, Hari-katha discouses , etc. As for festive occasions, weddings of village personages, etc  the vast Kalyana Mandapam  was widely used and  and is  connected by a separate platform to access it. The temple has an excellent stepwell and  is a venue for Bathukamma - flower festival that comes during the Navaratri festival - for 9 days.

The granite pillars are massive and  machined into the smoothness of soap similar to  pieces of jewellery smoothened to shine. Some visitors try to string thread through blocks of sculpture to show the intricacy of the craftsmanship.  Some of the stone blocks are  put together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle without any bonding material and are held together just by gravity. It is a modular architecture before its time. The  highlight of  the architecture can be seen even today — ''the first rays of the sun fall on the Nandi throughout the year,” 

From the  the inscription on the site, we understand that  the temple was built in 1163 by Kakatiya Rudradeva as a thanksgiving to Rudra, Vasudeva and Surya. The three temples (trikuta aalyam) are on east, west and northern side, while a massive Nandi and Kalyana Mandapa are on the southern side. Now, regular puja and abhishekam take place only at the temple dedicated to Rudra or Shiva.

 In 2004  the temple was renovated  by the Government of India. Archaeological Survey of India  ASI) applied latest technique to renovate it.   The Kakatiya-era temple is on the base of the hill which lends the name to the town: Anumukonda. The renovation work on the  Kalyana Mandapa of the 1000-pillar temple had been going on for the last 17 years.   As part of restoration of the 1000-pillar temple by reinstalling the lost idols of Surya and Vishnu in the main sanctum sanctorum,   providing pathway with stone flooring, signages in granite, drinking water and washing area the government gave grants at different periods. Th restoration work, it is hoped will be over by 2023 because some beams and pillars are cracked and one of the reasons was heavy downpour.  However for more than a decade and half the Kalyana  Mandapam in the Thousand Pillars Temple had not been open to public primarily because of restoration work launched by the ASI in July 2005. 

A reputed Sculptor Sthapati  from Tamil Nadu one Shiva Kumar of was entrusted in charge of renovating the temple. The target was to reconstruct the 1000-pillared mandapam.  It was beset with all kinds of problems, the agency ran out of funds so the sthapati and his team had to leave the job in the middle.  It may be mentioned here that main sanctum sanctorum was relatively in good shape. It is said that 1,000 Pillars in the mandir  cannot be counted individually. The Mandapam has 132 main pillars, made of multiple blocks of stones and the other pillars that vary in size make it 1000 pillars.