An ancient temple’s transition over years of neglect

Kakati Devi temple built by Kakatiya ruler Ganapati Deva in Dharanikota converted into an abode of local Goddess ‘Balusulamma’

A temple constructed by emperor Ganapati Deva, a mighty ruler of Kakatiya dynasty, in Dharanikota near present Andhra Pradesh capital Amaravathi has been converted into an abode of local goddess Balusulamma (Goddess Durga).

The presiding deity at this 13th century temple was Kakati Devi, the tutelary deity of Kakatiya rulers. Due to ravages of time and for no upkeep, the presiding deity got damaged. The villagers of Dharanikota, who had no knowledge about the hoary past of the temple, installed Balusulamma idol and started worshipping. Unfortunately, neither the shrines sanctified by her ardent royal devotees nor her venerated images have so far been brought to light. People of the land as well as scholars are lamenting this unpleasant aspect.

While conducting exploration and architectural survey of magnificent temples that flourished during Kakatiya dynasty, D. Kanna Babu, former Superintending Archaeologist of Temple Survey Project, Archaeological Survey of India, Chennai had stumbled upon the splendid and distinctive temple on the bank of River Krishna. After successfully annexing the Andhra region into the kingdom, Ganapati Deva also made matrimonial alliances with Kota chiefs of Dharanikota region by giving his daughter Ganapamba in marriage to Kota Beta Raja.

“It is quite reasonable to infer that probably on that jubilant occasion Ganapati Deva constructed the temple and sanctified the limestone idol of Kakati Devi as presiding deity for his beloved daughter to worship,” Mr. Babu told The Hindu.

Ganapati Deva is the first king who introduced the worship of Kakati Devi into the coastal region of Andhra and outside the dominions of his kingdom, he said. Later, the abode was developed under the patronage of Ganapamba. Narrating the charm of the sculpture, Mr. Babu said that the goddess is gracefully seated in Padmasana with eight hands. Her facial physiognomic features are oval, distinguished with slender cheeks, wide open eyes, an elongated nose and closed tender pair of lips. She has eight hands and poses eight different special attributes. Her lower right hand is benevolently blessing the devotees. “This is a very rare and unique image possessed with best iconographical illustrations of the Kakatiya sculptures and pointing towards a most distinguished cult deity,” he said.

Further explaining the architectural significance of the temple, he said that the ceiling bears decorations of lotus medallions and no sikhara on its top. “These architectural features are totally akin to their counterparts found in shrines at Hanamkonda and Warangal fort etc., – the original home land of Kakatiya dynasty,” Mr. Babu said. With passage of time, when patrons became extinct the shrine was neglected and unpreserved, the idol rolled out from its original place in the sanctum and mutilated, he said. Currently, the idol is placed in a small shelter on the southern side of the temple, locally known as Gollabhama Gudi.

“Fortunately, a cowherd woman (gollabhama) found the damaged idol in a corner of the temple complex, and placed it in a small shelter not knowing the significance of the Goddess” Mr. Babu said. Since then the locals are venerating this tiny sanctuary as Gollabhama Gudi.

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