Hyderabad: When you drive to the airport or to the Bengaluru highway on the P.V. Narasimha Rao elevated expressway, it is difficult to miss this orange flag, waving merrily in all seasons, atop what looks like a cluster of hillocks. Then you see a little gopuram and you know for sure that it is a temple.
It has now been made easier to locate the temple, thanks to the pillars numbered below the expressway. With a pillar number, you cannot lose your way to the Sri Ananthapadmanabhaswamy Aalayam, though this temple is more famous for its Kala Hanuman: Turn left at Pillar No. 161.
Believed to be 1,100 years old, much of the temple has been left in its original state. Some of it has changed and the modern touches tend to take away from the beauty of this temple.
For example, the Swayambhu Sri Ananthapadmanabhaswamy is on the face of the hillock and the flowers and the eyes tell you of this self-marked rock. To reach this point, you have to climb a few steps, which unfortunately are clad in granite tiles.
Since the main icon sits on top, there is a little bit of a climb. A few stone steps take you to a beautiful stone arch which opens to a stepped compound with huge peepul and neem trees. Under the shade of these trees are naga stones and the statue of a Mother Goddess. There is also a stone deepa stambha.
To the left of the compound is quite a large space, currently unused, and a doorway without a door — probably the Vaikunta dwaram used during Vaikuntha Ekadasi.
In the centre are a few more steps leading to a closed mandapam with beautiful vernacular pillars and dwarapalikas.
A few more steps later is the sanctum sanctorum. If you look out or down from there, you can see a Lord Hanuman etched on one of the walls.
Earlier, this temple used to be on seven acres of land, which probably includes the hillocks, and one hopes these don’t get touched. There is a main gate with huge wooden doors as you wind down a small dirt road, now being used to park trucks.
A newly built Jagannath temple stands opposite these old gates. Surprisingly this arched gateway has a Qutb Shahi touch and is slightly narrow. A wall has been broken to allow larger vehicles.
As you enter you can barely spot the old chataram on the left, which is now filled with cows belonging to the Sri Krishna Goseva Trust, housing anywhere between 300 and 500 cows.
The small path to the temple is filled with pigeons, shocked into flight at the merest disturbance. Otherwise these are so used to people that they even eat off the palms of some of the regular visitors.
The hillock looms large on the left as an old ratham stands slantingly in its ratha shala. Opposite is a newly constructed Lord Hanuman temple. This is all outside of the temple.
There is a small entrance, with short, beautifully carved stone deepams and with pillars and you realise the size of it as you enter the temple. While huge trees dominate the scene, there is also a large tin shed, with paintings of various lords. New additions, obviously.
On the right is the more famous Kala (black) Hanuman. Before you worship Lord Hanuman is a Navagraha temple, added in the late 80s by hereditary priest Madhavacharygaru.
The Lord Hanuman temple entrance is newly-built but the tall pillars which hold an old arched stone roof speak a lot of the time gone by.
There is a huge metal bell held by a strong chain. The gong has been removed. This Lord Hanuman is also known as Das Janmajeya Hanuman and the idol is actually six feet tall. About 300 years ago, legend says, a voice said, “I am Vishnu Swaroopa avatar.” It is said that this particular idol was re-propitiated by Sri Raghavendraswamy.
While this Lord Hanuman is unique because He is all black, He also faces South, literally worshipping Anantapadhmanabhaswamy, so to speak. Normally Lord Hanuman’s body is in the South while he faces the East.
The outer perambulation has a beautiful chataram with orange painted pillars, the walls featuring the pantheon of gods. The flooring is entirely granite-tile clad. As you come out of this old temple, on the right is a huge peepul tree surrounded by four small mini temples on its pedestal.
As you amble along, you see one of the most beautiful konerus, which is a kind of star-shaped. Anantacharygaru says it has never dried up till date. It is home to several tortoises and a huge cat fish. The tortoises come out to sun-bathe in the small niches.
“Though there is no proof of it, but I was told by my 105-year-old grandmother that a sarpa yagam was performed here,” says the current temple priest.
In fact there is a koneru within the koneru and most of it is filled with water flowing down from the hillocks around the temple.
Just beyond the huge shed, we leave behind a pantheon of gods and see a small goshala with a few cows and tinkling bells. Abutting this is an old Lord Shiva temple. While He is Swayambhu, there is a stone Nandi, beautifully carved outside of the sanctum which has a small mandapam. On top of the mandapam are two small Nandis, basking in the sun.
Stone tiles lead to another gopuram, with rooms and chairs, obviously the residences for the priests. But the one with the gopuram is a Lakshmi temple, the family goddess.
The temple is almost 150-years-old and she is Tulja Bhavani worshipped as Lakshmi. She is gorgeous and colourful and a stack of saris and blouses are kept on the window ledges for Her to change.
Outside this room, where the goddess resides, is a beautiful granite carved roof.
The rooms are very old and a few broken steps lead from here to the Ananthapadmanabhaswamy temple. You have to actually bend down and walk on the side as the swayambhu lord is on the wall of the hillock and this dip makes it difficult for more than two or three people to stand at the sanctum sanctorum at one time. Also, there are Lord Venkateswara and Mata Maha Lakshmi temples in the compound.
Worshipping and performing pujas at the temple are five generations of hereditary archakas. The first among them was Raghavacharygaru, followed by Pandurangacharygaru and Anantacharygaru. Madhavacharygaru is followed by his descendant, also called Anantacharygaru.
Being close to the road, the sound of traffic is a constant hum and even the chirps of birds and the buzz of dragon flies do not take away the sense of sound from you.
Women and men come and recite the Hanuman Chalisa before the Kala Hanuman and worship the lords at the base of the peepul tree.
People come to worship at this temple for wealth and health....