In what can be described as a historic diplomatic triumph, the Ramappa temple in Warangal, Telangana, has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The tag was given despite a few countries objecting to its nomination, making it the first in the Telugu-speaking states to get the honour. In a run-up to the tag being conferred on the temple, a team headed by Vasu Poshyanandana, (a stone expert from Thailand), from the International Council for Monuments and Structures (ICMOS) visited the site on September 25 and 26, 2019.
Apparently, Vasu’s report to UNESCO was one of the key factors that earned the Ramappa temple the Heritage Site tag. Vasu says he was surprised when he first saw the Ramappa temple. He had the impression that Indian cultural heritage sites were large edifices but the 13th Century Ramappa temple is not very big.
“However, when I saw the detailed craftsmanship and special construction techniques, and learned the meaning, values, and especially, of the bond between local people and the site, my image of Indian cultural heritage sites changed,” he explains. (Vasu has been engaged in conservation work on Hindu sites in Thailand, most of which are in ruins.)
Ramappa is special in its continual use as a place of worship, from the past to the present, not only by locals but also by believers from other areas. “This is the indication and reflection of the true value of this religious place,” says the stone expert, Vasu, who studied the intricate details of the temple carvings, was particularly mesmerised by the way the Nandi, Lord Shiva's sacred bull, was sculpted. On seeing it, he instantly felt that Ramappa would surely be inscribed on the UNESCO list, he says, adding, “I was sent to observe the integrity, authenticity and management of the site.”
It wasn't only the temple that impressed the stone expert. He also learned about the sophisticated ancient water management system. “Such a great number of water sources linked together, and still functioning, is so remarkable that, in my opinion it should be included in the World Heritage Inscription as a testimony of the greatness of the Kakatiya dynasty,” he says.
The Ramappa Temple was inscribed on the World Heritage Sites list on Sunday.
The proposal to include it in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list was initiated in 2012, and the Government of Telangana (Department of Youth Advancement, Tourism, and Culture) in 2014, appointed G.V.S. Suryanarayana Murthy, conversation architect, to prepare a dossier on the monument.
The result was a 160-page document as well as maps and drawings of the site, according to Suryanarayana. The aim of the dossier was to identity the Outstanding Universal Values of the site.
“In the dossier, we have incorporated how we are upholding and preserving these values. It was first submitted in 2016 to Government of India, which in turn sent it to the Indian Ambassador in Paris for the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), an advisory to UNESCO,” he says, adding that the final, revised dossier was submitted in 2019.
Later, ICOMOS invited Suryanarayana, along with retired IAS officer B.V. Papa Rao and Prof Panduranga Rao (both members of The Kakatiya Heritage Trust) to Paris, for a presentation on the Ramappa temple.
Historian and archaeology enthusiast Aravind Arya Pakide, who has done extensive research on the Ramappa temple, says that three unique aspects of the temple enabled it to make the cut. He explains that the monument was constructed using strong dolomite stones, the Rajagopuram was built using lighter bricks, and the entire foundation used sandbox technology.
“These techniques were used 800 years ago! No wonder the temple is an architectural marvel,” says Aravind, who assisted Vasu Poshyanandana during the latter's visit to the temple.
Harikrishna Mamidi, Director of Language and Culture, Department of the Telangana, says that the recognition of Ramappa temple in the World Heritage Site means a lot. “The temple is a part of our land, but its contribution to human civilisation as a whole is immense,” he enthuses.