A few months back when we (daughter & me) received an invite to attend a wedding in Secunderabad, we were thrilled. The wedding was in December 2018. Winter weddings are fun and if it happens to be in Secunderabad, the fun doubles! TRAVEL!! So the year ended on a high note with a journey to yet another beautiful place. Attending the wedding, meeting new people, enjoying sumptuous Andhra food at the wedding and local sightseeing, it couldn’t have been better.
With an extended stay, it was time to plan what else could be explored nearby! Shopping tops the agenda when mother/daughter duo travel. Call it a hobby or the latest craze, collecting sarees of different weaves interests both of us. So while in Secunderabad, which place would offer us the satisfaction of picking our next new weave, as we pondered, Gadwal popped up instantly. In fact, the place, as well as the popular saree from there, was on the radar for quite some time now and this was a godsend opportunity. But without the help from a very dear friend (from a travel forum I used to post my trip reports, and whom, I am yet meet even after knowing him for more than 5 years now), this drive to Gadwal wouldn’t have been easy. Many thanks, Sekhar Venkatapur for extending all the help apart from suggesting the places to shop and visit. It isn’t easy to make all the arrangements being on the other side of the world! We had a wonderful trip.
Gadwal, now a part of Indian state of Telangana, is located about 195 kms from Secunderabad, the twin city of Hyderabad (India). A small town and district headquarter of Jogulamba Gadwal district, the most notable landmarks of Gadwal are the dam and the fort. Situated between the rivers Krishna and Tungabhadra, presently part of Mahbubnagar, Gadwal or Gadwala is known for its handloom weaving industry. The silk sarees or in the local language ‘jari chiralu’, attracts buyers from not just the surrounding places but people from afar. So, it was time for some shopping and a visit to a very less known temple close by. The morning began by 6.15 am, in a cab hired for the day.
A most enjoyable foggy morning drive and hot idli sambar breakfast en-route saw us through 4 hrs drive to Ganjipeta for our retail therapy. With just one day at our disposal, it was shopping and a bit of sightseeing included in the itinerary. Though I wished to visit the weavers and spend some time watching the weaving techniques, due to time constraints, we headed straight to the pre-decided saree retail outlet. By 10 am, we had reached Ganjipeta. Operating from the residence, the retail unit had a wide choice and a huge stock of sarees. Needless to say, we were thrilled to bits to see the colourful spread of six yards in front of us.
Gadwal sarees have GI tags (Geographical Indications of goods) from Telangana. The sarees have a rich look and it’s lightweight makes for an easy drape. The unique or the striking feature of this saree is the ability to fit into a matchbox when folded. Both cotton, as well as silk sarees, are available in eclectic colour combinations and since a few years the SiCo (silk/cotton) Gadwals have taken over the market. An interesting feature of this weave is that the silk pallu and the excellently crafted zari borders are joined to the main body of the saree and this technique or the art is known as Kuttu. The motifs and the patterns though are still traditional, with globalisation in every field, Gadwal sarees aren’t left behind. Stunningly attractive colour combinations, rich and traditional zari border and pallu and the lightweight all makes this drape irresistible.
Finally, after a couple of hours and a few sarees in our kitty completely satisfied of our purchases, around 12.15pm we leave for our next place of interest – a temple/temple complex which is more popular among the people who are from Gadwal or who has travelled extensively in that part of the district.
It was on the recommendation of my friend whose hometown happens to be Gadwal, I surfed the details about this less known temple on the net. I was compelled to include it in the must visit place while I was in Gadwal. Alampur Jogulamba temple and the Navabrahma temples are not on the itinerary of travellers who dash in and out of Gadwal for saree shopping. About an hour’s drive away from Ganjipeta (65 Kms), on a good road with average traffic and through some green vistas, one reaches Alampur’s Jogulamba temple complex.
It was almost 1.30 pm and we decided to take a break and have our lunch at the Haritha Hotel (Andhra Tourism). It’s important to note that this could the only decent choice closer to the temple complex for some refreshments.
Considered an extremely sacred place by pilgrims, Alampur referred to as the Dakshina Kashi (Kashi of the south), is the place where the 2 rivers Tungabhadra and Krishna meet. The main deities in the temples here are goddess Jogulamba and Brahmeshwara. Alampur or the erstwhile Hamalapuram/Halampuram, which lies hidden in a remote corner has some fascinating bit of history to its credit. At first glance, the sandstone temples in the outer periphery of the complex bear very high resemblance to the rock-cut sandstone cave temples of Badami (Bagalkot, Karnataka, India). It is with curiosity when I checked about the details that it was revealed that Alampur was ruled not just by the Ishvakus of Nagarjunakonda, Rashtrakutas, Kalyani Chalukya, Qutub Shahi rulers of Golkonda and such other royal dynasties but was also under the rule of Badami Chalukyas. So there! No wonder that the temple and its architecture were similar to the Badami temples.
Listed as the archaeological treasure on the official list of monuments of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the temple architecture is remarkable. It should be noted that these temples stand today on the relocated land at Alampur. When the area where the temples stood originally got submerged when the Sri Sailam Hydro-electric project was undertaken, the temples were relocated to higher grounds.
When one walks along the corridors of the temple complex, one constantly traverses between different times! Some newer constructions and the stark white-washed walls surrounding the ancient sandstone temples shrouds the rustic grandeur of these temples.
Located in a separate enclosure, the most popular temple among the locals is the ‘Jogulamba’ temple. It is believed that the original temple was razed to the ground by the Muslim invaders in 1390 A.D. and it was rebuilt after 615 long years. Dedicated to Goddess Jogulamba also known as Yogamba, the temple is in regular worship and is visited by pilgrims from near and far.
The Navabrahma temples stand for the 9 temples of god Brahma (believed to be the creator, in Hinduism). Dating back to 7th century A.D. these temples have been built by the Chalukya rulers of Badami. Though the temples are named after Brahma, they are dedicated to Lord Shiva. One hears about the fascinating mythological story of how Brahma had performed strict penance in this place, in order to please Lord Shiva and duly pleased, the lord in return had granted Brahma the power to create. And hence the name Brahmeshwara. The 9 temples spread over the courtyard are Taraka Brahma, Svarga Brahma, Bala Brahma, Padma Brahma, Garuda Brahma, Vishva Brahma, Veera Brahma, Arka Brahma And Kumara Brahma.
The temples as on today are located on the banks of Tungabhadra and stand on a raised stone platform known as jagati with a square plan. Typical of the temples of this period, a hall inside (mandapa), inner sanctum sanctorum where the deity is placed, the temple tower outside and the Kalasha are the common features. Reflecting the early Nagara style of Hindu temples, it is significant to note that these temples are all east-facing. Believed to be badly destroyed during the Muslim invasion, the carvings, some idols and the beheaded stone Nandi bull outside the temples – all stand testimony to the fact that the place was besieged ages ago. With whatever temple ruins can be observed today, one can appreciate the architectural skill that has gone into the making of these temples.
An intricately carved and it’s windows, niches, and entrance depicting excellent sculptures, Vishwa Brahma temple stands on a raised platform. Though in a state of ruins but well-maintained by the ASI, the outer walls of the temple still has some beautiful work of art and carvings of scenes from Panchatantra. The temple tower and the ribbed Kalasha stand elegantly.
A slice of history and it’s glorious proof stand silently in one of the remote corners of Gadwal. After a leisurely visit and visiting some of these temples, we started our drive back towards Secunderabad by 5 pm. Another 4 hours of drive and back in the hotel for dinner, we thought it was a day well spent.
Some useful tips to visit these temples:
- Knowing the local language (Telugu) would be immensely helpful. But people do understand a bit of Hindi, Kannada and English.
- Try to make a list of temples and places you would like to visit, beforehand. Gather information if possible from people who know the place well. There are many interesting sites and temples that one would miss if the trip isn’t planned well.
- A decent dress code would make the visit comfortable as it is a temple complex
- Rickshaw can be hired to travel to nearby points
- Haritha Hotel seemed to be the best option for refreshments. It’s not a typical touristy place, hence please do not expect the luxuries of good hotels & amenities. It’s an offbeat travel route.
- It would be pleasant to visit the temple complex early in the morning or at leisure in the evening. Post 11 am, it does get hot
- Post monsoon would be an interesting time to visit the place. River flowing and greenery would enhance the pleasure of driving to this place
- Photography is allowed almost in all the places except Jogulamba temple. Better to inquire before taking pictures always