Sri Raja Rajeshwaraswamy Temple
Sri Raja Rajeshwaraswamy Temple

It actually began as a long-due trip to Sri Rajarajeswara Swamy Temple in Vemulawada village in Karimnagar district. The famous Shiva temple has drawn countless visitors for centuries. We had hoped also to have a quick glimpse of the nearby forts and do some shopping for silver-filigree items, which the place is renowned for, after the darshan. An 80th birthday celebration of a family friend's uncle provided the perfect opportunity. 

Karimnagar city, which is the capital of Karimnagar district, is about a three-and-a-half hour drive from Hyderabad. From there, it is a mere 35 km (approx) to the Vemulawada village which houses the temple of Sri Rajarajeswaraswamy. The deity is in the form of a Neela Lohitha lingam and said to be a swayambhu or self-manifested. His consort is the goddess Sri Rajarajeswari. 

Karimnagar located on the banks of Manair River, a tributary of the Godavari, is headquarters of Karimnagar district and the fourth largest city in Telangana. It has many major attractions, which stand as testimony to its rich history and tradition

The interesting aspect of this temple is that being a Shaiva one, it also houses Vaishnavaite shrines i.e. worship to Vishnu's forms. So, one also finds Seetharamachandra Swamy temple and the Sri Ananthapadmanabhaswamy temple here. 

Equally interesting is that there is a dargah within the temple precincts! The priests will tell you that Sri Rajarajeswaraswamy deity is so powerful that it was here that the Sun God i.e. Surya Bhagavan aka Bhaskara worshipped in order to recover from a disability; and where the lord of the devas – Indra worshipped to free himself from the Brahmahathya dosham or sin. The first story is what has given the temple its alternative name, Bhaskara Kshetram.

A guide told us that this village was the capital of the Vemulawada Chalukyas, who ruled from 750 to 973AD. However, certain rock-cut inscriptions found in this place, name this village Lemulavatika. An archaeologist told us there is evidence that the history of Karimnagar goes back to the Old Stone Age and that is was also once a prominent centre of Vedic teaching. 

The area is known for talented filigree artisans. Their work is indeed impressive. With some housewarming and birthday functions coming up I picked up a few items from small stores in Karimnagar city. It turned out to be a great idea. 

On my return to Hyderabad, I found similar products being sold for nearly twice the price! 
Actually, Karimnagar does not figure high on the tourist's itinerary. It is one of the less-visited destinations of Telangana. For years, Karimnagar came into the news only because of happenings at two big industries in the region, the NTPC Thermal Power Plant at Ramagundam, and Singareni Collieries. 

NTPC is considered the largest power station in south India and a certified super thermal power station. The other big industry here is related to granite given that the area is known for tan brown and maple red variety of granite. We came across scores of stone quarries on our drive to and through the region.
Yet, Karimnagar has several tourist attractions besides the pilgrim centre of Vemulawada temple. The Jagityala aka Jagathiyala Fort has been built in a star-shape, which is said to be a rarity in the State and many of its cannons are still intact though the entrance and other features have been ruined over the years. A moat is part of its structure. 

There were a small group of college students checking out the Elgandal aka Yelagandula Fort near Karimnagar city when we reached. There was a mosque and Neelakantha Narasimha Temple here too. This fort is not widely known, which is a pity given its historical importance –right from the Kakatiya dynasty through the Qutub Shahi rulers and up to the period of the Nizams, it had an important place in Deccan history. 

Since we had only a few minutes here, we could not check out the legend of the shaking minarets here – apparently, the minarets near the Brindavan Tank here oscillate when shaken!

We had no time for the Nagunur monuments and Molanguru Fort which we were told that it is worth at least a brief visit. What we regretted more was the lack of time to visit the Stupa of Dhulikatta aka Dhoulikatta Stupam, which is the biggest evidence of Buddhism having flourished in this region. 

There is a mud fort here, and archaeological excavations around this area have brought up several buildings like granaries, broken tools, chatram, wells, bangle pieces, ivory combs, gold objects, punch-marked coins and Roman coins too. The Dhulikatta Stupa is located nearby. 

The name is said to have been derived from the words Dhuli and Kota, which are Telugu for mud and fort, respectively.  As already mentioned there is a mud fort here. However, our sources told us that access to this stupa is difficult given the absence of a proper road. Many of these above-mentioned artefacts found here have been shifted to the State Archaeological Museum in Hyderabad.

We hoped to include this stupa and the other must-dos in this area – the Shivaram Wildlife Sanctuary, Kaleswara-Mukteswara temple, and also Sircilla textile town which boasts highly talented weavers.