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#27: A Weekend Getaway from Hyderabad
Exploring Telangana’s first world heritage site and more.
‘How many countries have you visited?’
This is the first question people ask me when I mention that I like to travel. I never understood why this metric was important – does it mean that domestic travel doesn’t count? As much as I love traveling abroad, there’s nothing quite like exploring the nooks and corners of India, my home country. I could spend a lifetime here and still feel like I have barely scratched the surface of all that it has to offer. Whenever I’m abroad, the desire to explore all of India only intensifies. I think it’s important to know your roots before you can fully immerse yourself in another culture – ‘roots’ here being open to interpretation. What I’m referring to is anything that helps you a) feel secure in who you are and where you come from (especially, when you’re feeling out of place in foreign land); b) strike a conversation with foreigners curious about India and Indians; and c) better understand how different dynamics play out between countries, cultures, races, religions, and genders in the world at large. Traveling in India is a lifelong journey, a lifelong education, but I’ve found that the more I travel within India, the more I enjoy my international travels and interactions.
I’m also often asked how I fund my travels and how I choose my destinations (I’ve covered this briefly in issue #5: What’s It Like to Be a Solo Female Traveler?). Unfortunately, I haven’t found any easy way to earn a lot of money quickly, work less, and travel more. I fund my travels with my personal savings (which I have saved for many years before starting to spend - although there is a fair amount of privilege involved in being able to save as well). I have a remote job (now) so that helps, but I do not travel full-time. I’m also not attached to specific destinations, which means that I go where I can, keeping in mind how much time and money I have. Yes, I do want to travel to South America, Central Asia and the Middle East, Africa, and parts of Europe, among other places — but these are expensive trips. So it’s always a trade-off between saving up for an expensive trip in the future versus doing multiple smaller ones at home, or closer to home. When work travel comes up, I try to club it with a few days of personal travel, so it saves me some expenses and the brain space needed to plan a separate trip. I also try to explore my own city and do short weekend trips whenever possible.
Some summers ago, I visited my ancestral village in Telangana with my parents. It was a short road trip from Hyderabad and we made a bunch of pitstops along the way. We visited the Ramappa temple, Thousand Pillar temple, Warangal Fort, Medak Church, Pandava Guttalu, and a few private farms. Even though we were just a few hours away from Hyderabad, we were able to explore several places en route and experience the underrated beauty of the Telangana countryside. I don’t know a lot of history about these places, but here’s a quick glimpse:
Ramappa Temple, also known as the Rudreshwara temple, is Telangana’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is located 15 km from Mulugu, 66 km from Warangal, and 209 km from Hyderabad. The temple took 40 years to be built and was constructed between 1212 and 1234 by Recharla Rudra, a General of Kakatiya ruler Ganapati Deva.
What makes it unique is that it is the only temple in India that is named after its craftsman - Ramappa - the chief sculptor. The main structure is made of sandstone, while the columns outside have large brackets of black basalt which is rich in iron, magnesium, and silica. The bricks are believed to be so light that they can float on water. The temple features walls, pillars, and ceilings with intricate carvings of mythical animals, female dancers, and other deities – considered to be masterpieces of Kakatiya art.
Thousand Pillar Temple
The Thousand Pillar Temple in Warangal is located at the base of Hanamkonda Hill, approx. 170 km from Hyderabad. It was built by the Kakatiya King Rudra Deva in the 12th century and is dedicated to Lord Shiva (Rudradeva), Lord Vishnu (Vasudeva), and Lord Sun (Suryadeva).
It is also known as Sri Rudreshwara Swamy Temple and is considered an architectural masterpiece by the ancient Kakatiya Vishwakarma Sthapathis. The temple has one thousand pillars that feature perforated screens, exquisite carvings and icons, rock-cut elephants, and the monolithic dolerite Nandi. It was desecrated by the Tughlaq dynasty during their invasion of the Deccan and renovated in 2004 by the Government of India.
The Warangal Fort dates back to the 13th century under the reign of the Kakatiya King Ganapati Deva. It contains the remains of the capital city of the Kakatiya dynasty and is spread over a radius of 19 kilometers between Warangal and Hanamkonda.
The Warangal Fort is also known for its finely carved arches and pillars, ornamental gates, and striking walls.
The Pandava Guttalu (Caves) are located in Thirumalagiri village of Jayashankar Bhupalpally district. It is believed that the Pandavas spent a part of their exile here. The complex contains large boulders, caves, and rock paintings, and makes for a fun place to do some rock-climbing.
The rock art paintings depict wildlife (bison and antelope), geometric shapes (circles and squares), the swastika symbol, and weapons (bows, arrows, swords, and lancer).
The Medak Cathedral was built under the stewardship of Reverend Charles Walker Posnett of the British Wesleyan Methodists and is one of the largest churches in India. It is located in Medak district of Telangana and is now under the jurisdiction of the Church of South India.
The architecture has a Gothic Revival style and features British mosaic tiles, Italian flooring, and massive pillars. The bell tower stands at 175 ft, though the most spectacular aspect of the cathedral is the beautiful stained-glass paintings on the windows.
The Telangana Countryside
Since I’m not a big fan of temples, my favorite part of the road trip was driving through the countryside and visiting my father’s friends’ farms. Napping under the shade of big mango trees, watching chickens and goats run around, learning about permaculture, and walking through cotton and wheat farms was a delightful experience.
Even though my family hails from Telangana, I haven’t explored the state as much as I would’ve liked. This short excursion from Hyderabad was a start – and this newsletter is my way of prodding you to put on your travel hat (and shoes) and explore places close to you.