Published a Book “Ancient Temples My Travelogue”.

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Towards the end of last year, the thought of making a book about various ancient temples I had been to in the past 3 years, began to root itself in my mind. The last two years I have devoted myself to search for and visit ancient temples. So covering the last three years I had enough of matter and photographs to bring it into book form.

In the beginning of this year, I had not completely decided about it, but thought that I could give it a go in May, when I have the summer vacation and my school work wont get affected.

Towards the end of February, things started changing worldwide. News about Covid was popping up regularly and by March, the seriousness of the infection started registering in all our minds. After the 22nd of March, Lock down was announced in India. A new kind of life started. By the end of March, I decided to start work on my book and go for the kindle version..

Giving myself a deadline, I decided that by April 20th, the book should be up on the Amazon website. So after my work each day, I sat with my book and keeping to my deadline, I made sure that it was up in Amazon by April 20th.

Seeing my travels as a book ‘ANCIENT TEMPLES My Travelogue’ was a wonderful feeling. With a sense of accomplishment, I spread the word among family and friends. Few relatives and friends bought the kindle book and were very happy reading it. Many people I know said that they are not comfortable reading a digital version of the book.

I was a little daunted about going for print. So I had not planned to go for paperback immediately. I thought I would wait for few months and then think about it. One day while browsing the net, I came across the concept of self publishing and checked some sites. I felt comfortable with Notion Press and decided to go ahead with the paperback version. I reworked the entire file for the paperback version and submitted it by the first of June. Within a week it was approved, and I immediately ordered few copies. Due to the Lock down situations in various states, the shipment took time to reach me and finally by the end of June, I had the paperback in my hand.

When you hold your hard work in your hands, it is a great feeling. I sent the books to friends and relatives who wanted to read it and I got a lot of appreciation for my book.

What was a period of uncertainty got converted into a period of a doing something that gave me happiness.

“Ancient Temples My Travelogue” by Sudha Raju

Print version (Paperback) is available in India at www.notionpress.com

https://notionpress.com/read/ancient-temples-my-travelogue

Kindle version

India link – https://www.amazon.in/dp/B08799ZXJP/ref=cm_sw_r_wa_apa_i_vzoNEb3314X0R

US link –

https://www.amazon.com/ANCIENT-TEMPLES-TRAVELOGUE-SUDHA-RAJU-ebook/dp/B08799ZXJP/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=sudha+raju&qid=1587339732&sr=8-1

Nageshwar Jyothirlinga

Nageshwar Jyothirlinga temple is located on the route between Dwarka city and Beyt Dwarka Island on the coast of Saurashtra in Gujarat. One of the twelve Jyothirlinga temples, Nageshwar Jyothirlinga is said to be the tenth.

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According to the Sthala purana, mentioned in the Shiva Purana, hundreds of years ago two demons Daruka and Daruki lived in Darukavan. Daruka after praying to Devi Parvati got her blessings and some power. Emboldened by the power from Devi Parvati, Daruka started creating havoc on the Earth. He imprisoned people and one of them was a devotee of Lord Shiva named Supriya. When Supriya told all the people to pray to Lord Shiva and chant Aum Namah Shivay, an enraged Daruka tries to kill Supriya but Lord Shiva appears to save his devotee. As he couldn’t kill Daruka because Daruka had been blessed by his wife, Lord Shiva took the form of a lingam and told Supriya that with the power of the lingam would safeguard them from harm. To protect the people of the area, he remained as the Jyothirlinga.

The present structure of the temple was constructed a few decades ago. Nageshwar Jyothirlinga is in a underground sanctum.  A 25 m tall statue of  Lord Shiva and a large garden with a pond are the major attractions that attract tourists here every year.

 

Rukmini Devi Temple – Dwarka

Rukmini Devi Temple is dedicated to Rukmini Devi, the chief wife of Sri Krishna. It is located 2 kms from Dwarka.

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According to the sthala purana, once Sri Krishna and Rukmini Devi invited Durvasa Maharshi for dinner. Durvasa told them that he would only go in a chariot pulled by the couple. Sri Krishna and Rukmini agree and started pulling the chariot. After going for some distance, Rukmini Devi felt thirsty and asked Sri Krishna to quench her thirst. Sri Krishna immediately made a hole in the ground from which water spring up. Rukmini Devi quenched her thirst. Seeing this Durvasa Maharshi gets angry that she took water without taking permission from him. He curses her that she would stay apart from Sri Krishna for a few years. The temple is said to have been built where she was cursed. That is why though Dwaradish temple is in the city, Rukmini Devi temple is outside the city.

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The temple is more than 2500 years old, but the present structure is from the 12th century.

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It is a beautifully carved temple with human figures and elephants carved.

A beautiful temple which everyone must see.

 

Dwarkadish temple – Dwaraka

Dwarka is an ancient city in the state of Gujarat. It is said to be the Kingdom of Sri Krishna.

According to puranic history, Sri Krishna along with his family and the citizens of Mathura migrated to Dwarka. On coming to Dwarka he asked the architect of the Gods, Vishwakarma to make a capital city. Vishwakarma asked Sri Krishna to ask Samudradev for land to create the city. Sri Krishna prayed to Samudradev and he was given 12 yojanas of land. Dwarka was constructed on it and it was the city where Sri Krishna lived his life.

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The Dwarkadish temple of Dwarka is one of the Chaar Dham temples and is the holiest for Vaishnavas.  Dwarkadish (meaning the Lord of the Dwarka) temple is originally said to have been built by Sri Krishna’s grandson Vajranabha. In the 14th century it was destroyed by Sultan Mehmud Begada in 1472. In the 16th century the temple has been expanded on and the present structure was built in the Chalukyan style of architecture. It is a 7 storied temple having seventy two pillars. The temple spire is 78 feet high and the flag or Dwaja is changed five times a day and can be seen from 10 kms. The temple is built of limestone and has beautiful sculpture.

We reached Dwarka at 8.15 pm and after a little freshening up, immediately left for the temple. The temple closes at 9.30 pm. After having a peaceful darshan, went around the temple, seeing all the beautiful sculpture. After sitting peacefully for some time, we left as it was closing time. The next day went for the Aarti. It was so crowded with people pushing one another, that I preferred the previous days darshan.

The present Dwarka is said to be part of the original Dwarka. Some years ago underwater excavations revealed a well developed city submerged in the sea near the coast, proving that this was Sri Krishna’s Dwarka.

Vasavi Kanyaka Parameswari temple – Penugonda

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10 km from Palakollu of West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, Penugonda is the birth place of Vasavi Kanyaka Parameswari Devi. Vasavi matha deity was installed in the 11th century while the actual temple has a history of 3000 years. Renovation work was going on when we went, so was not able to see the whole prakaram when we went. Just went into the temple, had darsanam and proceeded.

Nagareswara Swamy (Shiva) and Mahishasura mardini ammavaru have been here for the past 3000 years.

Vasavi matha is known as the Ilavelpu of the Arya Vysyas.

Sthala purana – Kusuma sresti, the king of Vysyas ruled over Penugonda during 10th – 11th century. Kusumamba was his wife. They worshipped Nagareswara Swamy and Ammavaru. For many years they were childless and performed the putrakamesti yagnam. They were then blessed with twins. A boy and a girl. The boy was named Virupaksha and girl was Vasavamba. From childhood, Vasavi Devi was devoted to Nagareswara Swamy and she had a divine presence making people believe she was born as an avatar of Amma (goddess). Kusuma sresti was a vassal of Vengi desha (kingdom). When Vasavamba came of age, one day King Vishnu Vardhan on a visit to Penugonda saw Vasavi Devi and expressed a strong desire to marry her. Kusuma Sresti was shocked as he cannot go against the king, but he didn’t want to go ahead with the alliance as the king was much older and married. Vasavamba tells all that she will remain a virgin and serve Mahadeva. Kusuma Sresti calls for a meeting of chiefs of 18 cities & leaders of 714 Gotras. 612 Gotras felt the alliance would be safer, while 102 Gotras oppose it. The king meanwhile sent an army to attack the 102 Gotras who were opposing him. While preparations for war were taking place, Vasavamba approached the the people who were going to war for her and suggested a novel way of going against the king through self sacrifice. She directed the leaders to arrange an Agnikunda. When the Agni kunda is arranged, she asks the couples of 102 Gotras if they would jump into the Agnikunda with her? They agree and then Vasavamba displays her nijaswaroopa (real appearance) of Adiparashakti and tells them that she had come in this Kaliyuga to give moksha to the 102 Gotras, to safeguard the dignity of women, save Dharma and proclaim the magnanimity of the Vysyas to the world. Vasavamba enters the Agnikunda and the 102 couples also enter the Agnikunda and sacrifice their life. On hearing this news Vishnu Vardhan is devastated and dies. Later, Raja Raja Narendra, son of Vishnu Vardhan installs a deity of Vasavamba in the Nagareswara Swamy temple where she is worshipped from then onwards.

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Dwarapalas of Nagareshwara Swamy.

Shivalinga of Nagareswara Swamy is big and divine. The Dwarapalas are big and attractive.

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There are two Nandis installed in front of Deva. These Nandis are very old. I have never seen two big Nandis side by side.
Though I couldn’t see the rest of the Prakaram, I was very happy with the darsanam of Nagareswara Swamy, Mahishasura mardini ammavaru and Vasavi Devi.

Upamaka – Sri Venkateshwara temple

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Upamaka Venkateswara Swamy temple is a 1500 year old temple. Built in 6th century by Sri Krishna Bhupala, king of Kandregula samsthanam of East Godavari district. Upamaka is a village 1km from Nakkapalli village on NH5 btw Tuni and Vizag. The temple on the hill is of Sri Venkateswara. He appeared as a Swayambhu Murti. The hill is known as Garuda Parvata.

Sthala purana – At the end of Dwapara Yuga, Garudu asked Sri Krishna for a boon that he would stay on his back always. Many munis also asked him to grant them Moksha. Lord said they would be born as animals on Garuda hill, he would hunt them and give Moksha to them and stay back on the hill in a Swayambhu roopam. After granting them Moksha his Murti was found by shepherds who started doing Pooja everyday. 

The present temple was built in 6th century and the history of the temple is mentioned in Brahmavaivartha Puranam also called Garudachala Mahatyam. Sri Ramanuja mentioned this kshetram as one of 108 Vaishnava Abhimana kshetras.

The temple below is of Sri Venugopala Swamy who is the Kshetra palaka of the temple. It is said Narada muni did prathista of Sri Venugopala Swamy. He is also known as Santana Venugopala Swamy because he grants children to couples who pray for children. 
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To go to both the temples, the mukha dwaram has a 3 tiered gopuram with sculpture of the dasavataras and Devas. 
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As we enter, there is a dwajastambam in front of the Venugopala Swamy temple. To the right of the prakaram is an ancient kalyana mandapam. Grills have been placed between the pillars.
To the left is the path that leads to Venkateswara Swamy temple. First we see 48th Rama sthupa, pratishtha done by Sri Tridandi Srimannarayana Ramanuja Pedda Jeeyar Swamy. Then there is a small temple of Sri Sita Rama sameta Sri Dasanjaneya on the left and in front are 225+ steps to climb, to reach the temple of Sri Venkateshwara Swamy.
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After reaching the top we come to the temple of Lord Venkateshwara. The temple is small. Has a garbagriha, antarala and pillared Mandapam. An extension which looks to be made very much later joins the Mandapam.
Deva has appeared towards the North and hence the temple has an Uttaramukha dwaram (north facing doorway).
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Sri Venkateswara appeared in the form of Kalki, with shadbhuja (6 arms), 4 arms holding Shanka, Chakra, Sword and Bow. Right hand is in Varada mudra and Lakshmi Maa is beside him. This is how the Murti looks. He is known to be the bestower of boons.
The archaka showed this to me.
The temple on top is open only from 7.30 to 10.30 am and 4 to 5 pm. Upamaka means ‘which has no equal to this’. Belief is that Sri Venkateswara Swamy goes from here to Tirumala. That is why they wait till 7.30 am to open the doors of the temple, again they close at 5pm because they don’t know at what time he will come to sleep. It is called the Pavalimpu kshetram and is believed that wherever he maybe, he comes here to sleep.
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In front of the hill, besides the temple is a lake called Bandhura lake. It is said Kashyapa maharshi and his wife Adithi took bath here. Deva is known as Santana phala pradaata (bestower of children). Childless couples take bath here, go up the hill to Deva, take part in Abhishekam and take prasadam. Taking bath here is equal to taking bath at Papanasam at Tirumala.
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Coming down, the entrance to Sri Venugopala Swamy temple has a pillared Mandapam. Outer pillars have inverted lotus and design on it. Beside the dwaram are sculpture of Jaya, Vijaya. 
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The two pillars on either side of the entrance has Gaja Simhas on the lower part and Vishnu rupas on top.
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Entering the prakaram, we see the prakara Mandapam around and the temple in front of us. Prakara mandapam has small temples of Andal ammavaru, Sri Nammalwar, Sri Udayavara and Sri Manavalla mahamunis.
Two Sri Vaishnava swamis who stopped here in between their theerthyatra were told by Deva to settle here and perform nitya puja to him. At this command, 80 Sri Vaishnava families came and took care of the temple till 18th century.
Then the British gave it to Wadhwan Rani of Chemudu estate of Visakhapatnam. They are the Dharmakartas till today.
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There is Srivari Ugranam (store house) in prakaram with windows with ventilation. Pillars of prakara mandapam and carvings below as if they are holding the Mandapam.
Paancharaatra Agama shashtras are followed here. All festivals conducted at Tirumala and Sri Rangam are conducted here.
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Pillars in mandapam of the temple.
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Alwars on one side of the antarala. Didn’t understand why they kept a grilled door there. Then we had darshan of Sri Venugopala Swamy and came out.
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For all 30 days of Dhanur masam, both the Utsava murtis of Swamivaru and Godadevi ammavaru are taken in a procession. Since it was Dhanur masam when I had the darshan, I was able to see the murtis being taken in the procession.
With that completed my Upamaka darshanam.

Ghanpur group of temples

Ghanpur group of temples are a group of 23 temples. It is locally called Kota gullu.

Ghanpur is 62 km from Warangal and 11 km from Ramappa temple.

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Ganapeshwara temple is the main temple of the complex.

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Kota gullu are a group of 23 temples. While some are small temples, Ganapeshwara temple is the major temple and two more temples big sized temples are there. Sadly all are in ruins. Built during the time of Kakatiya ruler Ganapati Deva, it is of the 11th – 12th century. This place is under ASI and to really restore it, the ASI will have to put in a lot of effort. It is not easy. Here the temples are not just damaged, but devastated. Apart from the main temple, the two big temples are destroyed. Even going in is a risky affair, with the ceiling, beams and pillars all in a haphazard way. Yet going around it we can see lovely sculpture. The walls of the main temple are similar to Ramappa temple, with one row of elephants, a row of flowers, figurines and hansas (peacocks). This temple is also on an elevated platform similar to Ramappa and 1000 pillar temple. Here the Nandi is in the temple. It is not huge like the others and is simple.

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The doorway is very similar to Ramappa dwaram to antarala. On both sides it has latticed windows with figures in circular design similar to Ramappa. But the hand of invaders is too prominent. Completely destroyed.

Going into the antarala, again we can see carving on dwaram to garbalaya. Ganapeshwara Swamy is a big shivalinga. Thankfully nitya Pooja is performed here now. When I spoke with the archaka, he said that Kota gullu were discovered only 2, 3 decades ago. It was in wilderness before that. I asked whether the temples were destroyed by hand, to which he replied that they were shot by canons. According to him Ghanpur was a place where arms were stocked, hence the invaders made it their target and destroyed it completely.

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It is a very peaceful place and worth seeing the beauty of Kakatiya architecture. Only thing we have to check wherever we enter is if the ceiling is intact.

Anyone going to the area can check it out.

 

 

Ramappa temple – Warangal

Ramappa temple, also called Ramalingeshwara temple is located in Palampet, 76km from Warangal. It was completed in 1213 CE during time of Kakatiya ruler Ganapati Deva and was built by his General Recharla Rudra.
The main structure is in reddish sandstone and it has brackets of black basalt. It stands on a 6 feet high star shaped platform. The uniqueness of Ramappa temple is that the bricks used in parts of the construction float on water. It is the only temple that is named after its sculptor whose name was Ramappa.
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On entering the compound we see a smaller temple called Kateshwara temple which is in ruined state.
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Though we can see some lovely sculpture outside, inside the mark of the invaders is very visible. Human figures have been defaced and damaged. The Nandi also has been damaged. Yet it must have been very beautiful at one time.
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There is a small Mandapam which has a big Sila sasanam (inscription) in black stone. Script is Telugu  and gives details about the temple, Ganapati Deva, Recharla Rudra’s lineage, his bravery, conquest and tells those who takes care of temple will prosper and those who occupy the lands illegally will suffer. Recharla Rudra built the temple and a lake which is called the Ramappa lake which has been a major source of water for usage for people of that time  and agriculture.
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Entering the temple we can see the Ranga mandapam. Though the floor on either side of Mandapam is uneven which was damaged in an earthquake during the 17th century, floor of the Mandapam doesn’t have damage. The four pillars are fantastic. Each pillar has different types of design. Square flat shape at bottom, then 2 layers of round shape with intricate carvings, again square shape with carvings, then the top part is mix of both.
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The shivalinga in the garbagriha is huge. Throughout the day sunlight falls on the shivalinga because  the reflection of sun on the smooth lower part of the 4 pillars is directed towards it. The intricate sculpture makes us spellbound. Lots of dance and music is depicted.
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Just look at the precision of the kolatam dancers.
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Notice the optical illusion. In between there are three dancers and we see only four legs. If you close the body of the middle dancer, it is two girls dancing. But when we close the bodies of the girls on either side, the middle legs become the legs of the dancer in between.
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The doorway to the Garbalaya or Sanctum sanctorum has exquisite carvings on both sides. It has latticed windows on both sides that are so beautifully carved that you want to see it fully before you go for darshan. It depicts a dance form along with musicians on both sides.
‘Perini Shivatandavam’ a dance form popular during the Kakatiya time was lost through time. Known as a warrior dance, it finds mention in Nritta Ratnavali. Dr. Nataraja Ramakrishna studied the book and the sculpture of Ramappa temple and revived the lost dance form of Perini.
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The ceiling of the Ranga Mandapam is carved in so many layers. Each layer depicts an episode of a purana. So many stories told through them shows the mastery of Ramappa.
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Coming out we can see carvings of beautiful women. Joining the pillars and ceiling are brackets of black stone. We see many Gaja (elephants) and Simhas (lions). The Simhas standing on the Gajas and a man in between the Simhas legs.
Coming to the famous Madanikas or Salabhanjikas.
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Picture 1 Nagini, the Madanika adorned with snakes.
Picture 2 Ragini, the high heeled beauty. Notice the gap between the footwear and foot.
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Picture 1 Tribal beauty among trees with birds. An attendant removing thorn from her feet.
Picture 2 A Dancer
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Picture 1 Nartaki or dancer
Picture 2 Monkey pulling the saree of the Madanika and she angrily raising her hand to beat the monkey. You can see her anger clearly.
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Picture 1 Graceful though damaged
Picture 2 Nartaki with a smile. The hand mudras and delicate fingers with nails also clearly carved.
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Picture 1 Madanika standing on one foot. Her heel and knees finely carved. We can see the shadow of her chain falling below her breasts. How can anyone carve shadows. No matter at what angle the sun shines, this shadow does not change.
Picture 2 Nartaki in dance mudra
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Madanika is holding a bow in a relaxed pose. Notice her feet. You can see the way her big toe is apart.
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Nandi in the Nandi Mandapam. Splendid, huge, beautifully ornamented and Majestic.
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Walls are carved in four rows. Elephants down, on top flowers. Then various dancers, musicians and gods. Again flowers.
Totally 526 elephants are around the temple.
After the fall of the Kakatiyas, for 600 years, this area was deserted and turned into a forest. The temple also was not in use. In the early 1900s, the Asif Jahi rulers and their relatives came to hunt and noticed the temple and lake. They developed it to some extent. The area was developed to some extent by 1911. Then some affluent people gave some land to the temple and nitya Pooja started again.
Ramappa temple, pride of the Kakatiyas which is a jewel of our country. A must visit.

Sri Siddeshwara Temple – Warangal

Built in 3rd century CE, Sri Siddeshwara temple lies 4 km away from Warangal city in peaceful surroundings. This temple is one of the few temples that has west facing doorway (paschima mukha dwaram).

Sri Siddeshwara is a Swayambhu sivalingam.

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Sri Siddeshwara temple

Sthala purana – After many years of tapasya by Sandilya maharshi, Mahadev blessed him by manifesting as a Swayambhu shivalingam, as Sri Siddeshwara Swamy. It is said that everyday between midnight and 3 am, many rishis and devatas do Pooja to Siddeshwara Swamy. It is said that the pranava naadam can be heard by mahatmas during this period. Kanchi kamakoti peetadhipati Jagadguru Sri Chandrashekara Saraswati Swamiji had been blessed with hearing this pranava naadam. He told everyone of the greatness of Sri Siddeshwara Swamy here and said that the wishes of devotees will be fulfilled here. It is said that 9 aushadha siddis did tapasya here and were blessed by Siddeshwara. So this is holy land.

From ages ago, a cobra has been safeguarding the temple. It comes at night and winds itself around the shivalinga. Many people have seen it. People who want to get married or want to have children, pray to this Nagendra on Tuesdays.

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Because there was no source of water to do worship, Mahadev instructed Nandi to make a pond, so a Pushkarini was made by Nandi and was called Nandikeswara Gundam.

Revana Siddeshwara who is considered as the incarnation of Sri Renukacharya, did tapasya here. When this temple was in ruins, the descendants of Siddeshwara did re installation (punah prathista) of the lord. It has been recorded that the Kakatiya rulers worshipped Sri Siddeshwara Swamy. From the time of the Kakatiyas, the descendants of Revana Siddeshwara are the pujaris (archakas) and caretakers (dharmakartas) of this temple.

Another greatness of the temple is that for 3 days in the year the sun’s rays fall directly on the shivalinga.

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The pillars in the mandapam inside the temple signify the age. You can see the utsava vigrahas in the picture above.
Outsiders do not know about this temple. Many of us know about 1000 pillar temple and Ramappa temple, but do not know about other ancient temples in this great land.
I was lucky that my search for ancient temples led me there to seek blessings of Mahadev. I hope people who visit Warangal will take the blessings of Sri Siddeshwara Swamy.

 

Bhadrakali temple – Warangal

Bhadrakali temple is situated on a hillock between Warangal and Hanumakonda. Originally it was built during the time of Chalukya king Pulikesin II in 625 CE after he succeeded in bringing the Vengi region under his rule.

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To celebrate his victory he built a temple for Bhadrakali Amma. In the interior there are a few pillars that are from the Chalukya time. Amma is made of Ekanda Shila (single stone) which was Chalukyan style. Later the Kakatiyas considered Amma as their Kula Devata and contributed to the temple.

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Bhadrakali lake beside the temple was built during Kakatiya reign to serve the water needs of the kingdom. It is spread over 2 and a half acres. It is said that Rani Rudrama Devi wouldn’t take food unless she had the darshan of Amma.
Ganesh temple was added later in the temple premises.
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This is a picture of how Bhadrakali Amma looks. I was expecting to see her in a fierce (roudra) form, but she looks very peaceful (shanta).
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As Amma is always in Alankara (decoration) and we cannot see her full form, the temple authorities got an statue of Amma made which depicts how she looks without the decoration.
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Allauddin Khilji and later Tuglak led to the fall of the Kakatiyas. The area was later under the Bahamani sultans and the Nawabs, hence the temple became neglected. In 1950 after the Warangal area became part of Indian Union, a Devi upasaka Sri Ganapati Sastri started renovating the temple.
Many affluent dharmic locals contributed towards the renovation along with Sastri and brought the temple back to its glory. It is said Bhadrakali Amma transformed as Tripura sundari by holy mantras. She is not only beautiful but a darshan of her fills us with so much joy.