Hyderabad: Ranganadha an oasis amidst steel structures

400-year-old temple witnesses worship, dance as major rituals.

Hyderabad: A mud road leads to the 400-year-old Sri Ranganadha Swamy temple in Rangbagh, which adds more colour to this place by its name. Ironically, the only active temple which has worship and dance as major rituals is surrounded by new fangled IT firms, all glass and gleam, making this ancient temple almost like an oasis amidst steel mountains. There are old broken mud buildings, which used to be a chataram for devotees to stay. It was located on the Bombay Highway then.

The entrance of the temple is in the vernacular style with a naquar khana, which will be restored soon. The ratha shala is also to be re-built. The style is old Qutb Shahi. There is an unused well right at the entrance, which the temple trust plans to fill up. The trust also plans a garden and a stage for dance and music performances. During the Brahmotsavam, temple dance or vilasini natyam is performed in the traditional way, thanks to the support of the Pitti family and Swapnasundari, probably the first Indian dancer to revive the ritual dancing. In fact, she has been performing this with her troupe since 1996. This is the first and only active temple which has worship and dance as major rituals. They also have included male dancers. To keep this dance form alive, Swapnasundari conducts regular classes in vilasini natyam. In fact, this dance takes place during the Brahmotsavam which lasts eight days. There is a three-day function during Janmashtami and Andal Utsavam.

The old fashioned main gopuram is colourful. No neon colours for this temple. For this, the temple owes it to Delhi-based restorers who undertook the work in 2004.

“We do not want to change too much,” said Ms Pitti. “When there were fewer buildings, it used to be dark here; and then we could see fireflies light up the trees in and around the temple,” she recalled. There was no power then and the silence was all pervading.

The gentle breeze blowing on the leaves is mesmerising and the mantras coming out of the loudspeaker soothing. With the Brahmotsavam going on, there are more activities in this otherwise quiet place. “During the time of my grandfather, Shri Badri Vishal Pittie, and my father, Shri Pannalal Pitti, this place was colourful,” said Sharad Pitti, the current chairman of the temple trust. “My ancestor, Seth Shivalal Pitti, bought this temple from a Nawab in 1861. In fact, I heard that the Nawab used to come to play Holi at the temple those days,” reminisced Sharad Pitti.

“We think that the temple is about 400-years-old because of the materials and the architectural style. This temple was a private property with the Pitti family till 1954, when my grandfather created this trust and I am the sixth generation Pitti taking care of it,” he said, adding, “We are proud of this temple. There is no money and we spend from our pocket.”

The main deity is that of Shree Ranganadha Swamy in shayanam position. It is carved out of a single black stone and his eyes are white in the Rajasthani style. There is also an utsava moorthy, or idol of Godha Devi (Aandal) made out of copper which is supposed to have been found in the temple tank over 100 years.

On the outer praharam is a small temple dedicated to Goddess Ranganayaki or Goddess Lakshmi to the right of the main sanctum. On the left of Sri Ranganadha is the sanctum of all the 12 Alwars of Vaishnavism.

Another unique feature of this temple is a baobab tree. Basically a native species of Africa, this tree grows where nothing else grows and also grows in girth.

This used to be just on the periphery of the temple ground, but now has become a visitor and is on the outside of the trust property. And probably the construction work that is going on at a hectic pace will almost destroy the tree, which really is known as a miracle of nature.

In fact, myths are attached to this tree. According to a blogger, there are a “few trees in the Savanur Fort in Karnataka that are believed to be planted by none other than the divine flautist Krishna himself!”

It is quite possible that saplings or seeds were brought by wandering Sufis, who brought them to India from Africa. In fact, another enlightenment is the fact that the village Nanakramguda, also got its name due to the visit of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith. He must have come here on his way to Bidar and might have planted the baobab tree.

This temple was also considered an auspicious site for film-making. “They always used the temple as a background. There was no shooting inside,” said Sharad Pitti. “About 60 films might have been shot outside,” he added.

While the old vernacular style has been maintained throughout the temple, a few additions have taken place, including the silver doors added to the sanctum sanctorum.

There is a beautiful unjal or swing for religious performances. And this is strictly Rajasthani with coloured glass works. There are about 15 rooms in and around the temple, where only the family stays. Beautifully maintained, all the doors are painted with red oxide, as protection against rain and white ants and in contrast are the white-washed walls.

There is a resident priest and also a standby who conducts the pujas. The temple is known for its gopura darshanam.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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