Heritage wonderland of Warangal

The second largest city in Telangana which was once the capital of the famed Kakatiya dynasty dating back to the 13th century is none other than Warangal. The fabled city replete with age-old forts and shrines opens up a whole new vista of exciting opportunities for discerning travelers. Warangal is a South Indian destination that provides thrilling new experiences to all segments of travelers at a budget-friendly price but its huge potential remains unexplored. In today’s times, the UNESCO-listed World Heritage city of Warangal has emerged as the second-fastest growing city and the cultural capital of the newly formed Telangana. For those looking to visit one of the finest heritage destinations of India, Warangal is the place to be.

Warangal wasn’t the first destination to pop into my mind during my South India sojourn. A few years ago, when I happened to chance upon the city, it was a blend of nostalgic and back-to-school experience since the pages of history depicting the 200-year-old glorious rule of Kakatiyas flashed in my mind.  For the ever-exploring travelers, Warangal is a short break away around 146 km from Hyderabad. A weekend trip from Hyderabad to Warangal is the best option. I had travelled from Bhadrachalam lying at a distance of 181 km from Warangal.

Upon reaching Warangal, I halted at Haritha Kakatiya Hotel in the wee hours of the morning. After relishing a sumptuous South Indian breakfast, it was time to explore the historic quarters and the pilgrim points of the city. Start with Bhadrakali temple, one of the oldest shrines lying on a hilltop amid Hanamkonda and Warangal. A creation of Pulakesin II of the Chalukya dynasty in 625 AD, the shrine honours Goddess Kali and mythology puts forth that Lord Krishna along with the Pandavas had offered prayers to the Goddess at the advent of the Mahabharata war. Legend puts forth that the Kakatiya rulers had placed the renowned Kohinoor diamond in the revered shrine. The sprawling shrine on the banks of Bhadrakali Lake comprises square pillars depicting Chalukyan architecture. 

The next exploration site is the Kakatiya Fort, built in the 12th century by the Kakatiya ruler, Ganapati Deva which forms a significant landmark in the state. The fort is barely 5 km from Warangal railway station. The ruined fort sprawls throughout 19 km between Warangal and Hanamkonda and reflects the architectural grandeur of the Kakatiya dynasty. The chief attractions of the fort are the four ornamental granite gateways soaring 45 feet high which have been designed in the form of a classic arch carved out of a single rock. The ornate arch represented the royal symbol of the Kakatiya dynasty. The Warangal Gate is at the entrance of the fort. One comes across the remnants of the fort with numerous, exquisitely carved pillars bearing motifs and sculptures.  In the bygone era, the fort had as many as 45 huge, ornate pillars.

The fort witnessed the rise and fall of several dynasties in the medieval period. Visiting the medieval-era fort is a well-deserved trip since one can get to gape at the architectural marvels of the Kakatiya reign.

Once the visit to the fort is over, head to the age-old Thousand Pillar temple that came up in 1163 AD. Snuggled in Hanamkonda, the historic, star-shaped shrine has 1,000 intricately carved pillars that are closely erected to form the walls of the structure.  This is incidentally the shrine that honours three deities- Lord Shiva, Vishnu, and Surya and there are three shrines for each deity. The shrine occupies a pride of place for the devouts. The imposing structure has been built on an elevated platform and the entrance has a prominent 6 feet high statue of Nandi carved out of black basalt stone. The Mandapam has been renovated by the Archaeological Survey of India. The shrine flaunts both Kakatiya and Chalukyan architecture.

If you have time, head to Laknavaram Lake, nearly 70 km from Warangal nestling in picturesque surroundings and having a one-of-a-kind hanging bridge in the state that forms the highpoint of the lake. Spread over 20 acres of land area, the lake has boating facilities.

One cannot leave Warangal without picking up Cheriyal scroll painting works- a brilliant ancient art form of Telangana with illustrations of mythological scenes from Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Puranas

The nearest airport is Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, Hyderabad. Warangal is a prominent railway junction on Hyderabad-New Delhi and Chennai-Kolkata routes. There are several private hotels in the city. The best bet is Haritha Kakatiya owned by Telangana Tourism which provides sound accommodation options.

Swaati Chaudhury

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