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‘Rare’ Siva temple cries for attention

‘Rare’ Siva temple cries for attention

The shrine near Rayadurgam is fast losing its heritage owing to lack of upkeep and preservation. Folklore has it that the temple was built by the Chalukyas.

A narrow rusty road and then a trek of more than 1.5 km on a sheer expanse of bare stone. This is how you reach the famous Shaivite shrine atop Lingala Banda, a hillock a few kilometres away from Rayadurgam town of Anantapur district, which is dubbed as a “rarest of the rare” temple by noted archaeologist Emani Siva Nagi Reddy.

Four Nandis, the mythological vehicle of Lord Shiva, form an integral part of the monolithic sculpture of the presiding deity – the Lingam– here.

“The Nandis here, unlike the other Shiva shrines that have the guard of the Lord a few metres away from the lingam, are looking away from it. It is a sort of experiment in the expression of Shaivism in the country,” says O. Ramasubba Reddy, Technical officer with the Archaeology and Museums Department, Anantapur.

Folklore has it that the temple was built by the Chalukyas, who ruled over the modern day Karnataka and parts of Andhra Pradesh between 6th and 12th century AD.

Despite the uniqueness of the temple, never has it been promoted nor preserved. This is the notion one would infer after visiting the temple. “It is a unique shrine, sans all the hype that it deserves,” says Emani Siva Nagi Reddy.

The temple is now a burning example of gross apathy of the government when it comes to preservation of its heritage. It has lost much of its signs indicating its vintage. Further, the shrine is fast losing its uniqueness with modern construction techniques being engaged in phases to preserve its heritage, in the absence of a credible plan of upkeep.

“The absence of heavy adornment and the Brahma Mudi on the Nandis suggests that the temple could have been built during the Western Chalukyan period around 12th century AD,” says J. Vijay Kumar, Deputy Director, Epigraphy, Department of Archaeology and Museums says. .

However, the temple also has architectural murals neatly carved from lime mortar, a reminiscent of the Vijayanagara era, suggesting that the temple might have been renovated or refurbished during the Vijayanagara rule. But, it is a pity that the rich heritage is being pushed into oblivion. With no government plans for their preservation, it is the local legislators or residents of nearby villages who did their bit to preserve the shrine, but of course in an unscientific manner. Many old stones have either been removed or covered up with cement coats, masking its rich heritage.

The murals, which one existed on the temple gopurams and four corners, have been replaced by cement structures. And today, the temple, except for the monolith of the presiding deity, is just a sad remnant of the architectural exuberance of the ancient era.

The Nandis here, unlike the other Shiva shrines, are looking away from the lingam. It is a sort of experiment in the expression of Shaivism in the country

– O. Ramasubba Reddy,Technical Officer, Archaeology and Museums Dept., Anantapur

It is a unique shrine, sans all the hype that it deserves

– Emani Siva Nagi Reddy,archaeologist

V.K. Rakesh Reddy

The Hindu

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