About 60 kilometres away from the State’s administrative capital, Telangana’s spiritual capital is getting ready. Inch by inch, brick by brick.
Sculptors armed with chisels striking off chip by chip from huge blocks of rocks, some carving out intricate designs on rocks that can naturally withstand the vagaries of nature for centuries, masons busy in cementing one brick atop the other, engineers engrossed in roads that snake up the hill, and amidst all this, a steady flow of devotees coming to have a darshan at the abode of Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy near Bhongir – Yadadri is one unmatched beehive of frenzied activity.
With the State government planning to open the main temple for pilgrims’ darshan by next Dasara, the Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy temple management and the Yadagirigutta Temple Development Authority are racing against time to meet the deadline.
Workers from different States, including Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are toiling hard round the clock as construction of seven ‘rajagopurams’ and a retaining wall on the existing ghat road progresses.
This apart, works pertaining to Four Mada Veedhis and Inner Prakarams are to be taken up. Not 10 or 50, but 500 sculptors are engaged in carving the sculptures, statues, and designs on the pillars.
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Construction works too have gained steam. At one end, the Gopuram works on the hilltop are in full flow while at the other end, the construction of a new ghat road, leading to the temple, is being taken up at brisk pace.
The temple management plans to make operational the new ghat road in a couple of months. Except for a small portion of the work connecting the new ghat road with the existing one, all works on the nearly 2km-ghat road are completed, according to N. Geeta, Temple Executive Officer.
Going by the quantum of works on the site, there could be apprehensions over the deadline being met, but all the civil works, including construction of Gopurams, Mada veedhis, Inner Prakarams etc will be completed by March 31, she says.
All the works, including sculpting are being taken up in different locations and by different groups. The sculpture work will be finished by August 31.
“From then, during the cushion period of two months before Dasara, patch works will be taken up and by all means the main temple will be ready by Dasara next year,” Ms. Geeta assures.
Allied works like queue complexes, prasadam counters, Vratha mandapams and Kalyana mandapams will be taken up after the main temple works are completed.
Bringing in over three decades of experience, S. Sundara Rajan, the Sthapathi Advisor of Yadadri temple, is making all efforts to ensure that the temple, in its new avatar, offers the ultimate spiritual experience for devotees.
The outer Prakara mandapam (the space between the Garbha Griha and the temple exterior) of this temple is going to be unique. No other temple in South India has such a structure, says the 62-year-old Sundara Rajan with an unmistakable tinge of pride.
Art director Anand Sai, who was appointed by the government as the temple architect has prepared a tentative conceptual plan.
“Designing the structures of this temple was not easy. After trying six different sketches, the final sketch was approved by Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao,” he explains.
A retired Sthapathi from the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh Endowment department, Mr. Sundara Rajan has the experience of constructing over 4,500 temples. He was also involved in the construction of the famous Gopuram at the Sri Kalahasti temple in Chittoor of Andhra Pradesh.
“The constructions are being taken up following the Pancharata, Agama and Vasthu sasthras in association with the Sthapathis and Archakas,” says Mr. Sundara Rajan.
Like in the ancient times, the construction of Gopurams and other structures is being done using stone, lime mortar, jaggery and other material. Except for a few portions, cement, bricks and other regular material will not be used. This will help in withstanding the vagaries of the weather and to last long, he says.
After the foundations are laid, the Gopurams will be constructed in six months. By August 2017, all the works will be completed, Mr. Sundara Rajan assures.
Black stone, or Krishna Shila, has some unique features. Most temples are constructed using Krishna Shila, which has small pores. When milk, oil, curd and other materials get into the pores, the stone tends to gain strength.
The stone has been certified on this account by experts. The same stone was used for constructing the Sri Kalahasti gopuram after being certified by IIT-Chennai, says Mr. Sundara Rajan. It is being procured from Gurujepalli, Guntur district.
Sthapathi is the Engineer-in-Chief of temple construction. He should have knowledge pertaining to designs, stone load bearing, vedas, Puranas and foundation works.
There will be seven Gopurams with wooden roofing. The Maharajagopuram on the West side will be seven-storeyed (nearly 80 feet), while the three other Gopurams will be five-storeyed structures (55 feet).
There will be a three-storeyed Gopuram on the North East corner while the Vimana Gopuram on the Garbhalaya (Sanctum Sanctorum) will be five-storeyed.
Pilgrims will be entering the temple from the East Gopuram and after passing through the North East Gopuram, they will exit via the West Gopuram.
46-year-old Dandapani from Trichy is an epitome of concentration as he, unperturbed by the dust flying all around, continues to bring his hammer down on the chisel, his mind devoid of anything but the intense desire for precision to give the black rock, known as Krishna Shila, in front of him a pre-designated shape and size.
Like him, there are many others hailing from Rameswaram and other parts of Tamil Nadu. Bringing in all their expertise and skill, they have been working on the construction of Gopurams and a zillion other foundation works on the hilltop since the last few months.
“Sculpting is my ancestral job. I have worked on the Sri Kalahasti Gopuram and I really feel blessed to work here,” says Dandapani.
The Gopuram designs are impressive and pilgrims will like the art work. It is a big project and very challenging, says Perumal, another worker from Trichy.
Down the hill, in a workshop marked out for them in the bustling Yadagiri Gutta town, few more workers are toiling hard on flooring works, making Upapitams (base on which pillars and other structures are placed) and other structures.
Karthikeya from Rameswaram, without taking his eyes off his chisel says it is not an easy job for any artisan.
Utmost care has to be taken to chisel the rock to minute detail and shape, says 34-year-old Karthikeya.
The abode of Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy on a hillock in Bhongir, is an ancient and prominent temple of Telangana.
The shrine is also known as Pancha Narasimha Kshetram. It is said, in the ancient days, Yada Maharishi son of Sri Rushyashrunga Maharishi performed great penance for Lord Narasimha Swamy.Impressed with his devotion, the Lord came into existence in five avatharas, including Sri Jwala Narasimha, Sri Yogananda Narasimha, Sri Ugra Narasimha, Sri Gandaberunda Narasimha and Sri Lakshmi Narasimha.Of these, except for Sri Lakshmi Narasimha, which is Prathistha murthy, the rest are self-manifested. Every day, thousands of pilgrims visit the temple and the pilgrim count increases on weekends and holidays.
In view of the historic and spiritual importance of the temple, Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao wanted to develop it and laid the foundation on May 30, 2015. Except for the main temple, the existing structures like the administrative office, stalls and others would make way for gopurams, inner and outer prakarams, Giri Pradakshana carving out four lanes around the hillock, besides other structures.
The State government constituted the Yadagirigutta Temple Development Authority (YTDA) to ensure orderly growth and to give an impetus to the historic, religious and cultural development of the temple.
Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao laid the foundation for the temple and the temple city on May 30, 2015. G. Kishan Rao, Vice-Chairman of the Authority, says the works are going as per schedule and the temple will be ready by Dasara next year.
Apart from the works on the hilltop, the area downhill, which will be called as the temple city, is in for total metamorphosis. YTDA has acquired over 2,000 acres for taking up different works.Under the first phase, about 800 acres will be used for construction of different structures of the temple city.
Lots of space will be required for accommodating the residences of archakas, security personnel, parking etc. To begin with, the layout is being developed for constructing cottages through donations from donors. They will come up in an area of about 250 acres. A notification on this will be issued shortly.
This apart, an 25-acre exclusive Udhyana Vanam ( horticulture park) for cultivating flowers, plantain trees, mango trees and others, which will be used for performing pujas and sevas is also on the cards.
To ensure smooth flow of traffic, roads heading to the temple city are being widened. Already works have commenced from the Raigiri end, he explains.
Emphasis is laid on water supply as well. Yadadri will be getting water from both Krishna and Godavari rivers. There is no dearth of funds and till date, works worth over Rs.150 crore have been completed, Mr. Rao says.