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The Glorious Kakatiya Temples and Gateways

Date of Submission: 15/04/2014
Criteria: (i)(ii)(iii)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Warangal District, Andhra Pradesh State
Ref.: 5889
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The proposal comprises the 3 serial sites of:

1.      Remnants of Swayambhu temple and Keerthi Thoranas, Warangal fort (17˚ 57’ 22.75” N and 79˚ 36’ 55.48” E)

2.      Rudreswara Temple (Thousand pillars temple), Hanumakonda (18˚ 00’ 13.37” N and 79˚ 34’ 29.21” E)

3.      Rudreswara (Ramappa) Temple, Palampet (18˚ 15’ 33.73” N and 79˚ 56’ 34.02” E)

The fort of Warangal referred to as Orugallu, Orumgallu or Ekasilanagaram in the inscriptions and literature rose to prominence, when it was the capital of Kakatiya kingdom during the reign of Ganapati Deva Maharaja (1199-1261). The group of temples and temple complex related structures in Warangal of Kakatiyan empire, signify a distinct architectural pattern, style and technology of the period and representative of the distinct regional style, exhibiting local innovation in temple building tradition and establishment of a prominent temple of Ramappa during 1213 AD by General Recherla Rudra, during the period of the Kakatiya ruler Ganapati Deva. The representative temples and temple complexes include Archaeological remains of Swayambhu temple and Keerthi Thoranas at Warangal fort, Rudreswara Temple, locally known as Veyi Sthambala Gudi (Thousand pillars temple) at Hanumakonda and Rudreswara (Ramappa) Temple, which is located about 65 km from Warangal.

Though most of the temples are characterized and evolved from later Chalukyan style of temple architecture and decoration, all the temples, and temple complexes of Kakatiyas have a distinct style, technology and decoration exhibiting the influence of Kakatiyan sculptor. Trikutaalyas and the sculptural art and decoration specific to the time and Kakatiyan Empire are the main justifying components for the Outstanding Universal Value. Keerthi Thoranas is another example of distinct style of Kakatiyas for the gateways to temple complexes, unique only to this region and testimony to highly evolved proportions of aesthetics in temple and town gateways in South India. The Thoranas demonstrate both a creative masterpiece, and a continuity and transformation through interchange of cultural values like that of Buddhist art traditions from 2nd Century BC to 11th Century AD. The initiative and a deviant path of experimentation of skill over dolerite by the Kakatiya sculptors continued to be used by subsequent Vijayanagara artists.

The three proposed serial sites have a common linkage characteristic of Kakatiyan kingdom with Tank, Temple and Town as an example for Creative masterpieces, interchange of cultural values and unique testimony to Kakatiya Cultural Tradition. Though the three edifices may give isolated view of their role of the period, invariably the water tanks (water conservation structures) resulting in raise of Towns flourished with temples and knitted to each other.

The cultural and administrative distinction of the Kakatiyas was greatly referred in contemporary literature like Kridabhiramamu and also later by the famous traveller Marco Polo. Prominent among the rulers are Ganapathi Deva, Prathapa Rudra, and Rani (queen) Rudrama Devi. After the defeat of Pratapa Rudra, the Musunuri Nayaks united seventy two Nayak chieftains and captured Warangal from Delhi sultanate and ruled for fifty years.

1) Remnants of Swayambhu temple and Keerthi Thoranas, Warangal fort:

Warangal fort is 12-km from Hanumakonda, built by King Ganapathi in 13th century and completed by his daughter Rudrama Devi, in 1261 A.D., The fort has two walls, with the traces of the third. The fort has 45 towers and pillars spread over a radius of 19 km, and a temple of Mother Earth called ‘Swayambhudevi Alayam’ in the middle.

The Warangal Fort was a huge construction with three distinct circular strongholds surrounded by a moat. Four paths with decorative and lofty gateways known as Keerthi Thorana or Hamsa Thorana, set according to the cardinal points, lead to the center where a huge Shiva Temple (Swayambhu Gudi) once existed. The archaeological remains through the explored ground plan of the Swayambhu temple suggests the huge dimensions of the temple, as corroborated by the contemporary work of Kridabhiramamu .The gateway is obvious but much of the temple is in archaeologically significant for its clear visibility of the total temple complex along with gateways. The archaeological remains of Swayambhu temple complex and Keerthi Thoranas demonstrate both a creative masterpiece, and a continuity and transformation through interchange of cultural values for many years of Indian and Asian art history. 

2) Rudreswara Temple (Thousand pillars temple), Hanumakonda:

Rudreswara Temple locally known as Veyisthambala Gudi (Thousand pillars temple) is one of the fine and earliest available examples of of Kakatiya art, architecture and sculpture. It was built by Rudra Deva, and named after him as ‘Sri Rudreswara swamy temple with the presiding deity as Rudreswara, in 1163 AD in the style of later Chalukyan and early Kakatiyan Architecture, star shaped and triple shrined (Trikutalaya). The temple is a fine specimen of architecture and sculpture with One thousand pillars implying that the temple has many pillars. There are richly carved pillars, perforated screens, exquisite icons; rock cut elephants and the monolithic dolerite Nandi as components of the temple.

Strengthening of foundations like sand box technique, the skill of Kakatiya sculptors is manifest in adroit craftsmanship and flawless ivory carving technique in their art. The ingenuity of Kakatiya sculptors is visible in likes of lathe turned, and shiny polish in dolerite and granite stone sculpture and craft work of Nava rangamandapa.

3) Rudreswara (Ramappa) temple, Palampet:

Rudreswara (Ramappa) temple is Situated 65 km from Warangal at Palampet. The Ramappa Temple, probably is the only temple in India known by the name of the sculptor who built it. The head sculptor was Ramappa, after whom the temple is known today, rather than after the presiding deity, Ramalingeswara, as is the general norm. The temple of Ramappa was built on behalf of the king, Kakati Ganapathi Deva by his chief commander Rudra Samani at a place called Ranakude in Atukuru province.

This temple has been rightfully described as the “brightest star in the galaxy of medieval temples of the Deccan” a repository of Kakatiyan creative genius, with intricate carvings adorning the walls, pillars and ceilings of this marvellous edifice. The temple is a Shivalaya and stands majestically on a 6 ft high star shaped platform. The hall in front of the sanctum has numerous carved pillars that have been positioned to create an effect that combines light and space wonderfully and the exquisitely chiselled walls and ceiling are unique to the time of Kakatiyan sculptors and empire.

The sculptural work of dance postures in the temple appears like frozen record of dances of the region in stone and was of great inspiration for the famous work ‘Nritya Ratnavali’, by Jayapa Senani. The postures pertaining to Bharata Natya, Shrunga, Bharunga, Rathi, Perini Nritya etc., are engraved on the pillars and top-beams of ‘Mukha Mandapam’, The mythological episodes such as ‘Gopika Vastrapaharanam, Tripura samharm, Daksha Samharam, Ksheera Sagara Madhanam, Girija Kalyanam etc., stand for the highest standards of Kakatiya Sculpture. The ‘Nagini’ and other eleven devanarthakis are arranged as supporting beams on both sides of each entrance. The aesthetic sense which scaled innumerable heights in Kakatiya sculpture is clearly evident in these twelve postures of devanarthakis. The desi (local) varieties of dances such as Perini, Prenkana, Sudda Nartana, Dandarasak, Sivapriya, Chindu and Kolata are some dance forms in the sculptural art of the temple. The famous treatise of dance ‘Nritya Ratnavali’ of Kakatiya period is said to have been inspired by the construction and art work on Ramappa temple.

The Ramappa temple is a best example of the love for art, music and dance as patronized by Kakatiyas. The temple is situated in a valley and is built with bricks so light that they can float on water, established after scientific research conducted indicating the creative master pieces of the time. The temple withstood many wars, invasions and natural calamities.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The creations of Trikutalaya and Keerthi Thorana in temple typology and entrance gateways in India are representative examples in form and design. They demonstrate both a creative masterpiece, and stand as sole examples for continuity of evolved cultural traits and transformation through interchange of cultural values for many years of Indian art history.

Use, selection and making of materials, traditions and construction techniques followed in thousand pillars temple, Ramappa temple and Swayambhu temple have established scientific research base proving the creative master pieces during Kakatiyan era.

Location and setting of serial sites and in particular environs of Warangal fort indicate the important interchange of cultural values as can be seen in the reign of Chalukyan Kings and early and late Vijayanagara rulers.

The sites are not only testimony to Kakatiyan empire who brought major geographical area of Telugu language speaking people under one umbrella and linking reference of valour and might of Kakatiyas.

The establishment and continuity of Kakatiyan power that resulted in emergence of these structural marvels - devoid of any perennial water source, stand as examples and characteristic of Kakatiyan kingdom.

The link to Dance traditions of Kakatiyan empire and as documented in the Dance treatise Nritya Ratnavali by a military general Jayasenapati of the Kakatiyas is displayed in sculpture of Ramappa Temple . This stands as a remarkable example of the link to establish textual renderings of Dance traditions and sculptural renderings in India.

Criteria (i): The sculptural and form modification, evolution of temple art and sculpture and use of technology in material selection and making as displayed in Keerthi Thoranas at Warangal, Temples of thousand pillars at Warangal and Rudreswara (Ramappa) temple at Palampet are master pieces of human creativity.

Criteria (ii): Exhibits an important interchange of human values over 11th to 14th century AD in Kakatiyan empire region of the Deccan in southern India on development in sandbox technology for geo structural strength. Also the later Chalukyan is carried over to Kakatiyan in the sculpture and temple form. This indigenously developed method, treatment of divine, human, animal, floral and geometric designs in most appealing proportions, creation of three dimensional figures, in an immaculate way using tiny tools and implements is a contribution for the human kind universally. This also led to unique style of the region identifiable as Kakatiyan style.

Criteria (iii): Unique testimony to Kakatiyan kingdom in the temple building tradition and art history of South India. The serial sites are an outstanding example of temple architecture evolution illustrating a phase of development in the technology, science and art of temple building and construction in South India.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The proposed serial sites containing Tank, Temple and Town maintain authenticity for their material, form, design and construction techniques displaying the original values of Cultural and building traditions of Kakatiyan Empire.

Creation of Trikutalaya and Keerthi Thorana in temple typology, selection and making of materials, traditions and construction techniques, link to dance traditions of Kakatiya empire and as documented in the dance treatise of the time; display integrity in their form and material.

The site of Swayambhu temple is an Archaeological site , requiring further exploration, as the total complex is yet to be reinterpreted for original link and layout with Warangal fort Town and other historical structures in and around fort.

The serial sites with three locations and components together form a representative of the criteria and demonstrate the attributes of Outstanding Universal Value, without any need of future additions to the series.

Comparison with other similar properties

The Kakatiya temples and gateways are excellent examples of architectural, structural and sculptural ingenuity and can be compared to the following World Heritage Sites sharing common typological aspects of being historic building ensembles comprising temples and/or temple complexes. However, as the description above explains, the Kakatiyan architecture has unique components that are not seen elsewhere. The strengthening of foundations through sand box technique, the skill of Kakatiya sculptors manifest in adroit craftsmanship and flawless ivory carving technique in their art, the ingenuity of Kakatiya sculptors visible in likes of lathe turned, and shiny polish in dolerite and granite stone sculpture and craft work of Nava rangamandapa are some such aspects.

The Kakatiya temples and gateways are comparable to the WHS Group of Monuments at Hampi as both are creative masterpieces in temple building and technology. Developed over three centuries before the Vijayanagara period, the Kakatiya architectural traits and the experimentation on hard granite were indeed proto type of the Vijayanagara art style. For the imposing Jagati and Kakshasanas, the Kakatiya temples are comparable with Khajuraho group and Hemakuta group of temples at Hampi. Though in form and material appear to be similar with Hemakuta group of temples at Hampi, the Kakatiya temples and Gateways exhibit proto type nature standing as testimony to the future Vijayanagara art style.

Kakatiya temples and gateways are comparable to WHS Khajuraho Group of Monuments for the development of distinct style in temple building and depicting balance between architecture and sculpture. However, the manifestation in the former through architectural typologies and features like Keerthi Thoranas, Jagati and Kakshasanas during Kakatiya period is unique and represents a different kind of architectural, structural and artistic ingenuity.

Kakatiya temples and gateways are comparable to WHS Great living Chola temples, in the important interchange of human values within Chalukyan and Kakatiyan regions for the development of distinct style in temple building and Architecture. The sites stand as testimony to Kakatiyan temple building tradition like Chola temple building tradition.

Kakatiya temples and gateways are comparable to WHS Group of Monuments at Pattadakal which is representative of the high point of eclectic art in the 7th and 8th Centuries CE and achieved a harmonious blend of architectural forms from northern and southern India. A similar high point was achieved with the Kakatiya temples and gateways but with a distinct manifestation as seen in the temple complexes with the construction technology of Kakatiyan builders, viz., Keerthi Thoranas, sandbox technology for foundations, use floating bricks in Ramappa temple. The archaeological remains of Swayambhu temple complex and Keerthi Thoranas demonstrate both a creative masterpiece, and a continuity and transformation through interchange of cultural values for many years of Indian and Asian art history.