Only 150 odd km’s from Hyderabad city, Warangal Fort should be a busy weekend getaway from the city. But it is not so. In fact, not many people knew about Warangal except the thousand pillar temple. There is hardly any searchable information available about its hotels. I wonder why AP tourism is not developing the fort as a weekend getaway from the city. Anyway last weekend we drove down to the capital of Kakatiya’s to see the wonders that they have left behind for us. Like most ancient heritage in this country, even this is in dire need of preservation and promotion.
On the way to Warangal is Bhongir fort, situated on a huge single rock with its ramparts visible from a distance. I believe this is a famous place for trekkers who regularly climb this fort. A little ahead is Yadagirigutta and in the interest of time, we kept our visit to these places for some other time. The reason I mention them here is that after this point the rocky terrain of the region suddenly turns green and you would see fields, dotted with small hillocks, water bodies, and various plantations. This makes your journey from this point onwards very pleasing.
Warangal Fort – Kakatiya Signature Arch
Warangal is a part of the tri-city cluster: Warangal-Kazipet-Hanamkonda. Hanamkonda was the first capital of Kakatiyas. Which was later, shifted to Warangal where lies the Warangal Fort. A huge 12th-century fort spread across 19 km’s. Built by King Ganapati Deva, this fort was supposed to have 45 or so intricately carved pillars and towers within the three fortifications of the fort. Today there are a few places within this fort area that give you the glimpse of the bygone era.
The most important of them is the site of the Swayambhu temple. Here the archaeology department has tried to recreate the temple from whatever they discovered from this site and the surrounding area. This discovery was made less than 10 years back. On the 4 sides of this site are giant temple arches that are the signature piece of the Kakatiyan architecture. You can see a replica of them across the city. There are heavy and intricately carved doorjambs that are a characteristic of the Kakatiyan architecture. Temple pillars here have a typical style with 5-6 pieces inter-joined to create massive pillars. But they give the appearance of being carved out of a single stone.
Massive Stone Structures
The roundel at the top of the pillars reminded me of the Tantya Tope cap, which may have been influenced by these pillars. The massive stones carved as the ceilings and the brackets humble you by their sheer size. The carvings in stone here are really intricate and delicate when depicting human bodies, their shapes, and jewelry. They depict the power of the animals carved. Emotions of the deities depicted. There is a row of stones dotted with 9 holes and these were the platforms for Shivalingas. All of these were broken to take out the precious gems that are embedded beneath a Shivalinga. Uprooted Linga’s lie elsewhere. There is a beautiful round stone carved with Navagrahas.
Then there are images of females performing Perini Shiva Tandava. A form of Tandava Nritya or dance that was actually performed by the soldiers before leaving for war. There are beautiful Makara Dwaja’s, who are supposed to have been born with the sweat of Hanuman. There are many carvings of them at this temple. You can only imagine the beauty of the pieces when it would have been a part of the overall structure. Even in these ruins, they look so beautiful.
A story of Swayambhu Temple
The story of Swayambhu temple goes like this: Sometime in the 12th century, farmers carrying their crops to Hanamkonda, which was the grain market, used to pass by this place. One day, the wheel of a bullock cart got stuck in the mud. When people tried to pull out the wheel, a Shivalinga was revealed and hence the name Swayambhu. Which literally means born on its own. Something that is not created but reveals on its own. Our guide told us that there were 365 Shiva temples in the fort. One for each day of the year. Each with unique name denoting different aspects of Shiva. Today nothing but some broken pieces of those temples survive. We could see only one temple in this area that was practicing and gave an impression of being a Tantrik one.
In this huge enclosure flanked by four arches in four cardinal directions are lying thousands of pieces excavated from the Warangal Fort. An attempt to recreate the temple, or at least give a sense of the same has been done. But like Rahim said, “Rahiman dhaga prem ka Mat todo chhitkay Toote se fir naa jurre Jurre gaanth padi jaaye”. The broken things can never be restored to their once complete glory.
Ekshila – Massive Rock
Bang opposite the Swayambhu temple is Ekshila, a massive single rock. By the side of a beautiful lake, with an artificially installed waterfall on it. A Shiva temple on top along with a small fortress-like structure. There are about 100 small steps, carved into the big rock that you have to take to reach the top. Atop you get a 360-degree view of the fort area. You get a top view of the Swayambhu temple with its ruins shining through the trees. The panoramic lakeside view makes it worth the effort to climb the rock. The temple is a typical Shiva temple with a Nandi pavilion and carved pillars.
An interesting modern art piece stands in the center of the lake. The name of Warangal also comes from this single rock, called “Orugulla” in the local language. There is an attempt to make gardens around the lake and the rock. And some artificial bridges that are indeed not required. I think the AP tourism guys love adding artificially to even a naturally beautiful place.
The Khush Mahal or Sitabh Khan Mahal is another structure in the fort. It is a huge hall that houses some of the idols excavated from the surrounding area. Most of the idols are just lying around. There is no documentation on them. The huge recessed arched gateways are typical of the early Indo-Islamic architecture. The arches also support the inner walls of this hall. The ground has a rectangular dip that I could not understand. Legend is that Sitabh khan built it. He was a Hindu, named Sitapati and was the gatekeeper of Kakatiyas. He converted to Islam after Zauna Khan’s invasion and ruled on his behalf from here.
Between the Ekshila and Khush Mahal, stop by to look at the hand-embroiders who are doing needlework on the sarees. Mostly Salma-Sitara work typical of Mughal times.
Ramparts of Warangal Fort
As you walk around the roads within the campus, you can see the ramparts popping out from here and there. Somewhere there is a small gateway. Somewhere a piece of wall and somewhere just some small building. There is a mud fort on top of another hill that we could not go. Before the Kakatiya’s, the Jains dominated this area. You do see their influence here and there.
3 Types of Forts
Our guide told us an interesting thing about the fort. There are primarily three types of forts:
- Giri Durg or the forts built on the hills that provide a distant view for the purpose of protection.
- Vana-Durg or the forts built in the dense forests with protection provided by the wild animals.
- Jal Durga or Water forts where the fort is surrounded by the water. Either as a natural body or through dugout moats that are filled with water. And passage through a wooden plank that is thrown over the moat for passage.
Warangal Fort – 3 Layers of Fortifications
This fort has none of these protections. It is not on a hill. Does not have water around it and is not situated in a forest. Hence the builders of this fort made the three layers of fortifications by building mud forts and moats around them, with 4 entrances in 4 cardinal directions.
Destruction of the fort
Zauna Khan or more popularly known as Mohamed bin Tughlaq, son of Ghiasuddin Tuglaq, the then ruler of Delhi Sultanate attacked the fort in the mid 14th century. And destroyed all the temples. He captured the Kakatiya king and took him to Delhi. But the King died on the way. Some believe that the king was murdered. And some believe that he committed suicide. Whatever it was, it meant the end of the glorious period of the Kakatiya’s.
Recommend you read more about the Kakatiyas.