NEW LIFE FOR RU­INED TEM­PLE

The 13th cen­tury Vishnu tem­ple was in ru­ins till 2006. And his­tory has it that the tem­ple was de­stroyed by the Mughal em­peror Au­rangzeb.

Deccan Chronicle - - CITY - LALITHA IYER | DC

The gen­eros­ity of one wo­man helped re­vive a 13th cen­tury tem­ple, which re­mained in ru­ins till 2006. Sit­u­ated at Yam­nam­pet, 2 km from Ghatke­sar, this is just off the Outer Ring Road. If you fol­low the priest’s ad­vice, you will have to look for the colour­ful gop­u­ram till you reach the Ran­ganathaswamy tem­ple.

The story of re­vival of the tem­ple is rooted in a prov­i­den­tial co­in­ci­dence. “Ms Leela Ran­ganathaswamy, wife of for­mer chief en­gi­neer A.P. Ran­ganathaswamy used to come to our col­lege be­cause of the con­nec­tion she had with the then prin­ci­pal, Dr P.N. Reddy,” said Dr Ta­her Mahi Katika­neni, chair­man of the Sree Group which runs the Sreenidhi In­sti­tute of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy (SIST).

Dur­ing one of the meet­ings, she ex­pressed the de­sire to build or con­trib­ute to a Ran­ganathaswamy tem­ple. “The sarpanch of the vil­lage, who hap­pened to be present at the meet­ing, men­tioned about this Ran­ganathaswamy tem­ples and re­quested us to take up the restora­tion work. Leela came for­ward with an ini­tial do­na­tion of `5 lakh. The Sreenidhi man­age­ment made sure every­thing is re­stored,” Dr Mahe said.

“When we started the col­lege in 1997, we knew that a tem­ple ex­isted but noth­ing be­yond that,” he added. Ac­cord­ing to him, the tem­ple was van­dalised and the stat­ues were taken away many years ago. It was also dug up by some peo­ple in search of trea­sures.”

Some of the stu­dents of the in­sti­tute visit the tem­ple, and peo­ple from the nearby vil­lages go there quite of­ten and even wed­ding rit­u­als are con­ducted here.

The tem­ple does not have land doc­u­ments to check the au­then­tic­ity but oral tra­di­tion speaks of a back­ground with kings and Mughal em­per­ors and de­struc­tion of an an­cient Vishnu tem­ple.

This 13th cen­tury tem­ple was a swayambhu de­valayam, which means the statue of Lord Venkateswara came up on its own. The cur­rent idol is from Tiru­pati while the brass kavacham (body ar­mour) was do­nated by a devo­tee from Pem­barthi, which is fa­mous for its brass items. The tem­ple, ac­cord­ing to chief ar­chaka Ch V en ugo pal a char ya lu, was built by Vish­nukundila I, and later de­vel­oped by the Vi­jayana­gara kings. That did not last for very long as the Mughal em­peror Au­rangzeb, de­stroyed it. The mu­ti­lated bust of god­dess Lak­shmi is cited as proof of this van­dal­ism.

Later, thugs took away all or­na­ments of the gods and god­desses which were ly­ing locked in a vault right un­der the idol of Lord Venkateswara. They also took away the idol of Lord Ran­ganathaswamy, which was in­stalled in an­other tem­ple.

From then on, the tem­ple re­mained in ru­ins. It got a facelift in 2006 with the `20 lakh con­tri­bu­tion. Restora­tion works were ini­ti­ated and a kumb­hab­hishekam was per­formed by Na­landi­gallu Lak­shmi na ra sim ha chary, chief arch aka of the Yadadri tem­ple, along with 60 more priests.

Mr V en ugo pal a char yalu said ,“The tem­ple was built on 12 acres of land. Now it has only two acres. The rest of the land is oc­cu­pied by peo­ple from all com­mu­ni­ties. The Tiru­mala Tiru­pati Dev­asthanams is ready to help the ren­o­va­tion work but wants the en­tire land. We are fall­ing short by two gun­tas and the lo­cals are not ready to give up the oc­cu­pied land.”

Ab­sence of proper ti­tle deeds makes it a Hi­malayan task and vil­lagers are not ready to fall in line.

But Mr V en ugo pal a char yalu is de­ter­mined to make this tem­ple popular, and said, “We or­gan­ise Brah­mot­savams and Ekadasi cel­e­bra­tions. In fact, we have Ut­tara Dwara Dar­shanam for Mukhoti Ekadasi, which is aus­pi­cious.”

Mr V en ugo pal a char ya lu has some where­withal prob­lems .“The tem­ple does not have a main gate and does not have dwaras though it has dwara­pa­likas,” he com­plained.

Ac­cord­ing to him, doors are im­por­tant for tem­ples to main­tain dis­ci­pline. Even with an­i­mals saun­ter­ing in and out, he has man­aged to cul­ti­vate a small tu­lasi gar­den which he calls tu­lasi vanam. “Nor­mally most tem­ples have land to grow veg­eta­bles to of­fer as prasadam. That is not pos­si­ble here due to lack of space,” he said.

He had to start his life from scratch. When he came to look after this tem­ple from Bhadracha­lam, he lived with his fam­ily for a mea­gre salary of `2,500 per month for 12 years. “I had to clean the tem­ples, take care of the seva and pre­pare prasadam for the 13 tem­ples,” he noted.

Once the Te­lan­gana state gov­ern­ment was formed, the salary was hiked to `6,000. Ap­par­ently, the en­dow­ments depart­ment does not pam­per tem­ples that make less money, even though they are an­cient.

“When the tem­ple was handed over to me in 2007 there was no bell. We had to re­move the door at the sanc­tum sanc­to­rum of Sri Ran­ganathaswamy tem­ple be­cause of his ‘shayanam’ (re­cum­bent po­si­tion). He is seven-ana-half-feet wide and oc­cu­pies the en­tire garbha gruha,” said the ar­chaka.

“This is one tem­ple where both the stat­ues of Lord Venkateswara and Lord Ran­ganathaswamy are in one place,” said Mr Venu­gopalacharyalu. The ut­sava mur­tis are also wor­shipped daily.

There is a sep­a­rate tem­ple for Lord Hanu­man, which dates back to cen­turies, claimed the priest.

“Lord Hanu­man is the kshetra­pala and Mughal sol­diers could not even go near Him,” he said. And next to it lies the ru­ined statue of Lak­sh­midevi.

The tem­ple was built on 12 acres of land. Now it has only two acres. The rest of the land is oc­cu­pied by peo­ple from all com­mu­ni­ties. The Tiru­mala Tiru­pati Dev­asthanams is ready to help in the ren­o­va­tion work, but wants the en­tire land. — CH V EN UGO PA LA CHAR YA LU, Chief ar­chaka

—Gandhi

Left: Lord Venkateswara Swamy tem­ple and Ran­ganathaswamy tem­ple on the right in Ghatke­sar

—DC

STAND­ING TALL: The idol of Lord Venkateswara, which is from Tiru­pathi while the brass body ar­mour is from a devo­tee.

—DC

WIT­NESS TO

VAN­DAL­ISM: The mu­ti­lated bust of god­dess Lak­shmi lies in the tem­ple premises.

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