Sculptors take centre stage at Yadadri

Sculptors take centre stage at Yadadri

In a first of its kind, the sculptors build all gopurams using only black stone and comply with Agama Sastra guidelines, informs chief sthapathi Anandachari Velu

When Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy temple at Yadagirigutta — renamed as Yadadri — opens shortly after the renovation, the devotees will be treated to a spiritual and aesthetic grandeur. The temple on the hillock, in an area of four acres, is set to become a significant pilgrim-cum-tourist destination for the Telanganites and the faithful across the world. A dream venture of the Telangana CM K Chandrashekar Rao, the Yadadri project, started in October 2016, is “98% complete”, according to the chief advisor Anandachari Velu Sthapathi. The renowned sculptor is excited and says it is his purva janma sukrutam (boon from his previous birth) that he’s part of this project now.

Yadadri yatra

  • Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy temple is located in Yadadri Bhuvanagiri district — 60 km from Hyderabad, on the way to Warangal
  • Significant features of the temple are Sapta rajagopurams, Ashta bhuji prakarams, Mirror chamber, krishna shila sculptures reflecting Kakatiya tradition
  • In addition to the main temple, a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is getting spruced up
  • A four-lane approach road, tourist facilities like cottages, multilevel parking, green landscape, beautifying of Gandi lake, Presidential and VVIP suites, shopping centres are getting completed
  • The complex can accommodate nearly 40,000 devotees at a time

Anandachari Velu is overseeing the final stages of sculpting work with his 11-member team of assistant sthapathis. Over 500 sculptors from Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are engaged at different aspects of sculpting. “Through ancient times, temple architecture and sculptures significantly contributed to a region’s culture and civilization,” points out Anandachari Velu who’s been a part of the mammoth Yadadri project along with renowned sthapathi Sundar Rajan, art director Anand Sai, Yadadri Temple Development Authority vice-chairman Kishan Rao and temple executive officer N Geetha. “Shilpa Kala (the art of sculpting) is an integral part of the temple construction and sculptors are the main enforcers of Agama Shastra in temple building. Agama Shastra, which lays down rules for temple construction, idol installation and worship rituals, was revealed by no less than Lord Shiva to his consort Parvathi. We have conformed 100 % to Agama Shastra guidelines while blending it with Shilpa Shastra, to construct this temple,” he informs.

Backed by black stone

Touted to be the first of its kind, the seven-storied 80-feet Maharajagopuram on the western side of the temple is built entirely with black stone, traditionally called Krishna Shila. “The gopurams are usually built in stone till roof level and brick is used beyond that. Even the temples in Tanjore are built that way except for the main gopuram. But in Yadadri, we are using black stone all the way, from top to bottom for the Maharajagopuram and other six gopurams in the expanse of the temple,” says Anandachari Velu.

The Sthapathi team with advisors Dr Anandachari Velu and S Sundara Rajan at Yadadri

The garbha griha (Sanctum sanctorum) where the presiding deity swayambhu Narasimha resides, is intact; the only renovation here being the construction of a 48-ft five-storied vimana gopuram, which now awaits gold plating.

The centrally air-conditioned Mukha Mandapam facing the sanctum sanctorum is adorned with pillars that have the imposing statues of the 12 Alwars carved on them, and depiction of Prahlada’s story in brass. “Our sculptors worked with devotion and passion to bring alive the epic narratives,” says Anandachari Velu before adding, “The work on Prakara Mandapams in the periphery of the temple, meant for various ‘puja’ rituals is another sculptural marvel that the artists have worked on to enhance the aesthetics of the temple.”

Doing away with the cement to bind the slabs together, a mix of lime mortar, karakkaya (Indian hog plum), jaggery, aloe vera and jute has been used instead, informs the Sthapathi. An ancient practice, this mix is believed to withstand all vagaries of nature. “The sculptures may break, but will not melt,” he affirms.

More than two lakh tons of granite was quarried from Gurijepalli mines in Prakasam district, AP, after the experts from IIT Chennai, approved of its quality and durability.

The Mukha Mandapam facing the garbha griha (sanctum sanctorum) at Yadadri Temple; (left) Temple Development Authority chief adviser Anandachari Velu Sthapathi.

The Mukha Mandapam facing the garbha griha (sanctum sanctorum) at Yadadri Temple; (left) Temple Development Authority chief adviser Anandachari Velu Sthapathi.

“With the technology that’s available now, made it possible to speed up the construction — what could have taken a few decades in the past — to a matter of four years, says the proud 68-year-old Shapathi who’s had an illustrious career with the Endowments Department, AP before his retirement in 2010. Reappointed in 2013 at Srisaila Devasthanam as an Aasthana Sthapathi till 2014, Anandachari Velu became the Sthapathi Advisor YTDA in 2018.

Exemplary skill

Born in Chittoor in AP, Anandachari did his master’s degree in Archaeology and trained in the art of temple architecture and sculptural work at the TTD Silpakalasala. He has done thousands of temple architecture and sculpture works and received more than 100 awards, significant ones being the State Government’s Kalaratna in 2013 and Pratibha Puraskar from the Telugu University.

Just after his training, Anandachari had the opportunity to work on sculptures that adorned the Venkateswara temple in New York in 1975. He gained immense experience as part of the Srisailam Submergible Transplantation of Temples work. Under Ganapathi Sthapathi, he participated in the sculpting of Buddha statue in Hussain Sagar.

Statues at Prakara Mandapam in Yadadri

He left his mark at the rebuilding of the Srikalahasti temple’s rajagopuram, Hathiramji Mutt’s Venugopala Swamy temple in Tirupathi and many more.

“Not many are aware but the S.V. Institute of Traditional Sculpture & Architecture at TTD has been producing graduates (sthapathis) in the last 50 years. A similar one is being set up at Yadadri now,” informs Anandachari Velu, who’s perhaps the only sthapathi in the country to have a PhD from the Theological University, New York, in ‘Religious architecture and construction methods of Hindu, Muslim and Christianity’.

Is there a commonality that he finds? “All three worship places have domes – a great indication of unity in diversity,” he signs off.

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