I visited historic Warangal (ancient Orugallu) recently. And had a great time. The Orugallu Fort and Veyyi Stambhala Gudi (Thousand Pillar Temple) have history, architecture and sculpture and are probably among the best of Indian temples. Kakatiya dynasty, that ruled Andhra region from 750 AD – 1325 AD – for 575 years, still lives in the ruins of the fort and almost intact temple.
1000 pillar Temple Warangal

1000 Pillar Temple, Warangal from the front. Nandi is to the extreme left (not in picture). To the right is Surya’s shrine. The left side of the temple has Shiva’s shrine.

You can get a first hand of the dynasty’s taste for sculpture in Veyyi Stambhala Gudi or 1000 Pillar Temple. It has a catchy and apt name. Are there thousand pillars? Yes there are – of many varieties and sizes; some of them are even part of others! The pillars that support the central ‘Natya Mandapam’ (dance floor) are large and made of multiple blocks of stone.

The other catch is psychological. When you hear “Veyyi Stambalu” (thousand pillars) you imagine a farm of pillars. For my expectation, the temple was much smaller. More so because a mandapam (see left of the picture below), that contributes 400 of 1000 pillars, was dismantled by the Archeological Survey of India for reconstruction. Unlike pillars in other temples of India, pillars of the main temple, are tightly knit and form its walls and so don’t seem like there are 600 of them.
Mandapam 1000 pillar Temple Warangal

There’s the mandapa now dismantled. This picture was taken from behind the 1000 pillar temple, Warangal.

The temple is star shaped with three shrines devoted to Rudradeva (Shiva), Vishnu, and Surya (Sun). Interestingly, the third deity is not Brahma who is part of the Trinity of God [as in the Trinity (which consists of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva) in Suchindrum] because the Kakatiyas worshipped Lord Shiva and Lord Surya and not so much Brahma. On the fourth side is Shiva’s vehicle, Nandi or Bull.
Nandi 1000 pillar Temple Warangal
Nandi at 1000 pillar temple, Warangal

Nandi looking east (above). Carving on Nandi (below)

Unlike most temples in India that face east, 1000 pillar temple faces south. Because, the Kakatiyas, worshipers of Lord Shiva, wanted early morning sun rays to fall directly on Shiva Lingam. So, of the three shrines, Shiva’s shrine faces east and other shrines face south and west. On the fourth side is Nandi. Adding to the uniqueness, the Nandi in 1000 pillar temple looks east, unlike most Nandis in Indian temples that look west.

Between these four is the Natya Mandapam (dance floor) where dancers performed.
The guide who helped. 1000 pillar temple, Warangal

The guide who shared with me his knowledge about 1000 pillar temple, Warangal

More interesting is the architectural prowess of the Kakatiyas. Hearsay is that ASI, when it dismantled the Mandapam for reconstruction, found about 30 feet of sand and three wells below it! Unbelievable. This temple was built in 1163 AD and took 72 years to construct!

In addition to architecture, I loved the rich carvings and sculpture. You have to see it to believe it. The Nandi had on its back, a chain made of bells which seemed real. And the bull was life like.

Impressive Bull was a beginning. The 1000 pillar temple takes it to a whole new level. Enter the temple, you will see four magnificent pillars supporting the Natya Mandapam (dance floor). Each richly carved with exquisite designs. A pillar has multiple designs, 2 centimeters to about 30 centimeters, on the perimeter of circular pillar. They used designs of jewelry of the age. Chains, bangles, rings, crowns and the Kakatiya Dynasty’s symbol, Kalisam, can be seen one after another on each pillar. The design also had flowers finely carved. So fine, the sculptures carved gap between petals. A guide showed us such gaps by inserting a tiny stick into those holes. “This is how fine Kakatiya’s sculptures were.”

Main pillar 2 1000 pillar Temple Warangal

One of the main pillars in the 1000 pillar temple. You can see designs of chain, ring (ungaram), bangle and Kalisam at the bottom.

Kakatiya Kalisam 1000 pillar Temple

Kalisam, the symbol of Kakatiyas. You can see multiple tiny holes amplified by inserting a tiny stick into them.

Intricate sculpture, 1000 pillar temple, Warangal

Exquisite design on one of the pillars in 1000 pillar temple. The guide demonstrates how fine the sculpture is by inserting a tiny stick into a gap between two flowers.

The roof of the Natya Mandiram in 1000 pillar temple is a master piece in itself. It has Gayatri, the goddess of learning, and Chaturmukam (four faces) that guards against ill. In fact, the roof has 3 Chatur mukhas or 12 such faces in all.
Mukham Chaturmukham 1000 pillar Temple Warangal

NatyaMandapam Roof 1000 pillar Temple Warangal

Roof of the Natya Mandapam (Dance floor)

I have posted a few more pictures of the 1000 pillar temple. I hope you enjoy them. But seeing the real thing is an experience in itself. It taught me more about myself, from where I am and the about the legacy of my ancestors. Thanks so much for building such structures which could withstand the test of time and be there to show us who you were!

A parting thought. I discovered a great video on Kakatiyas called Mana Kakatiyulu (Our Kakatiyas) made by Dr. Ambati Srinivas Raju. A well researched documentary with video footage of all the temples and Sila Sasanas (stone inscriptions) detailing the history of Kakatiya Dynasty. If you are someone from Andhra or anyone from India, you will enjoy this video. Thankfully, they published their numbers if you want to contact them. +919849333795 or +91 9949568285. Get drenched in history!

More pictures of 1000 pillar temple

Some more! (Updated! Feb 23, ’08)



9 Responses to Veyyi Stambhala Gudi (’1000-Pillar Temple’), a Symbol of Our Culture. Thanks Ancestors!

  1. Dolly says:

    nice pictures.. Amazing that people in 12th century had such fine skills..

  2. Chaitanya says:

    Thanks Dolly. True. Their skills are unbelievable! Not sure what tools they had. I dont think they used electrical equipment or had crains to lift such heavy stones but am sure they had lot of patience to chisel such fine sculptures out of stones.


  3. subhashini says:

    Hi Chaitanya,
    Thank you very much for the information
    I liked your article alot..
    This temple really is a wonderful gift to us from the history

  4. Thanks Subhashini. I am glad you liked the article.

  5. manisha says:

    wonderful article.. i have also visited veyyi stambhaala gudi and i was elated at the constructions…i am proud to be an indian . ramappa, pakal lake, lakhnavaram are very good places of interest in warangal

  6. kishore says:

    It’s really a wonderful art of construction

  7. Ramana says:

    Very Great 1163 AD they took 72 years to complete such a beautiful temple without having much of engineering tools and facilities, out of passion and respect to art. But we are unfortunate even to protect it, i don’t know after dismantling such a great engineering masterpiece, how long our ASI will struggle to bring it alive. such is a pathetic condition of our country, we don’t know how to protect heritage and can easily break it to make some dirty politician rich on the name of restoration project. it is rightly said, panditha putra parama shunta our ancestors were great promoters and we are great destroyers.

  8. sai kiran says:

    Hi ,
    Thank you very much for the information
    I liked your article alot..
    This temple really is a wonderful gift to us from the history kiran

  9. P.Venkateshwara Rao says:

    I am really impressed seeing the place where I spent my total child hood days. I am reminded of my great days where I used play in the evening every day and on Sundays totally we used be in the temple, swimming in KONERU. I am really thankful to those whose have taken pains in making the place to the world.
    Thank you

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