By: Vijayshree Kurumilla
Built in the 13th century, by the Kakatiya ruler, Ganapati Deva after whom Ghanpur is named, not many people have heard or seen the Kotagullu at Ghanpur, in Warangal. They look resplendent even in a state of ruin and are as spell binding as the temple at Ramappa.
We have spent many years of our summer vacation at our village which was just ten minutes away, from Ghanpur but have never seen or known the existence of such temple ruins. Ghanpur was well known for us on two accounts, one was its huge lake and another, was the santha or Market day, which takes place on Monday evenings. We used to get all our provisions from Ghanpur and farmers from our village went there, to sell their produce. Children from our family often rode with the bullock cart till Ghanpur, but I never went.
After twelve years of having sold our house at the village, I decided, I must see the Ghanpur Lake. It was the beginning of summer, and we went at 4.30 in the evening. Nothing prepared me for what I saw; it was simply an awesome sight. There were these huge mountains for a backdrop and the lake was so immense, it made for a perfect, picture post card, kind of look. On that evening, a thin fog enveloped the scenery, adding to its dream like quality.
It spanned for a quite a length and at one spot, there were some ancient looking steps leading to a pier like structure. You can see here, the irrigation system which has been put in place, by the Kakatiya rulers and how, it is being still used by people, to draw water and grow, a second crop. When I climbed up the ancient steps and looked around, I could see miles of green fields, gently swaying to the evening breeze. This magnificent lake is a man made one and the Kakatiya rulers had built it.
I did not go looking for the temple then, as the fog was now melting into a light drizzle and I did not wish to search for the place, with darkness looming over us.
When we made the recent trip to Ramappa, I asked the driver who knew the way, to take us to the Kotagullu. It is just a few minutes of drive from Ramappa.
The temple at Ghanpur is extremely beautiful to behold and one can see, that it has been put together, by the archaeological department, from what was surely a completely ruined state. Here, the sculptures and the images have been badly defaced, unlike that of Ramappa.
There was an emaciated and very old, priest, who was eager to show us, around and perform the pooja for us. He was previously placed at the Mallanna temple at Odhala and was happy to know, we knew that temple. He lives in the premises of the temple and has even grown, a nice little garden with flowers and also a kitchen garden where, banana, palak, brinjal and chilli were growing. He also had some goats and a cow, with a calf. It felt homely and I thought, at such an old age (he must be eighty plus), he was so active and loved his job, even if it paid him next to nothing.
According to him, it was during the time of Razakars that this mutilation of the carvings took place, and I could understand that only someone, with a lot of time, in their hands could have done this kind of a thorough job, of defacing.
But still, like those art forms which don’t have limbs, the temple looks charming all the same. The ruins are spread around in a vast area, with the main temple being intact. Everything looks so precariously balanced and it needs some more work on it, to make it a stable structure. There was work going on, to do that and some areas have been kept out of bounds for the visitors.
The setting of the temple, its ruined state and its solitary location, which is far from the hustle and bustle of any kind of inhabitations, makes it more endearing and precious, to anyone coming to have a look at it. The same qualities also make it more striking than the famous Ramappa temple.
When we came out of the temple and headed towards the lake, we looked out for the steps leading to the pier like structure. We saw some steps and climbed them only to see, that the pier was not there and we took a path which after we asked a village woman, were told, led to it and was located, just a short distance away. Always remember this: when villagers, say it is a short distance away, be sure, it will be, at least a mile away. I found this, after many such instances and at the cost of aching feet.
Everyone started cribbing as we began to walk, without any sign of the pier, showing up and after we ran into what looked like total wilderness and sensed there was danger lurking, ahead (There was matthadi somewhere and it is dangerous to walk without knowing where your next step might lead to), we gave up the search and told everyone the same. It was a hot afternoon and we stopped a bike for a lift, to send at least my little niece with one of us back, but he refused and we walked back with everyone jeering at us, for having led them along a wrong path. Actually, this is one thing about the place; you will not be able to find the same spot again, if you come from a different direction.
There are many canals dotting the landscape and it makes for, a pretty sight. We saw some snakes peering their heads, out of their homes, in the holes of the walls, of the canals. One ends up admiring the enduring technical skills of the Kakatiya rulers, who built these lakes and also the canals and the water supply system. There is a stamp of ancient, yet resilient and timelessness, to the entire system of irrigation, clearly seen here and just to think that people here are thriving and dependent on this system, speaks volumes about it.
While driving through this scenic road, with the lake spanning for a long distance, on one side and the green fields and huge canals on one side, it just makes for one of those great drives, which every traveller loves to come back to.
We saw many, what we thought were wild geese coming out of the water streaming through the lake, only to be told that these ducks were brought from Nellore, to feed here and that their eggs were sold at Chennai, at a high price. Makes you angry but we sat down under the shade of the tree, to look at them, as there were hundreds of them and we never saw such a big gathering of geese before.
If you come here on Monday evening, don’t forget to stop by, at the village market yard, where the santha or market day takes place. If you miss that, on the way back, to Warangal, you will find fresh farm produce being sold by the road side. You cannot miss the bananas at Gudappad, they will thrust bunches into your vehicle and you will end up buying them.
Carrots, cauliflower, tomatoes and seasonal fruits like water melon, or papaya are sold, and they are a must pick, even, if the rates are the same, as in the city. They taste like, they once upon a time always did, when we were kids: simply delicious.
Even if it sounds like I am repeating, I want to tell this again, ‘If you wish to see any place, don’t postpone. Warangal has staggeringly beautiful places, but it has a ticking environmental bomb. It is being destroyed from every side. Just beside the Ghanpur Lake, a chemical factory has come up and is poisoning its waters. I can’t imagine what repercussions it might have for those crops which are dependent upon its water. And I have seen every place, facing this kind of a challenge.’
Ghanpur is just a one hour’s drive from Warangal. So get on that bike or car and hit the road. You will find the drive itself is rejuvenating, with emerald green, fields lining the roads and Ghanpur takes you back in time, to a past which stands testimony to the foresight of the Kakatiya Rulers.
Information that you could use:
1. The best time to visit is October to February.
2. The temple is difficult to find, but I think now it is slightly better known, so somebody would be able to guide you, from the main Ghanpur road.
3. Stay options: There is no place to stay, here. It is very close to Ramappa and just an hour’s drive from Warangal.
1. Unless somebody in the know guides you, don’t attempt to find the way of entry to the lake.
2. You will find many ancient steps leading up to the bund of the lake, be careful when you walk, as snakes abound.
3. The water in the canals looks inviting, but don’t get into them, as they can be pretty deep and the steps leading down are mossy.
4. Carry some food with you, to have an impromptu picnic and enjoy the surroundings. (No good eatery, close by).