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This monumental Siva Temple in the small village of Palampet is the best-preserved example of Kakatiya architecture. Unusually, the temple is named not after its patron but after its principal architect, Ramappa. It was built in the early 13th century by Recherla Rudra Deva, a general of the great Kakatiya ruler Ganapatideva. The Kakatiyas became the dominant power in Andhra Pradesh, at about the same time as the Hoysalas emerged in Karnataka. Their temple-styles have striking similarities such as lathe-turned, multifaceted pillars, and star-shaped mandapams with projecting porches and balcony seating. This is probably because they were both derived from late-Chalukyan examples.

Sanctuary Wall
The red-sandstone walls of the sanctuary are raised on a high plinth. A wide projection at the centre of each wall consists of shrines at three diminishing levels, probably intended for Navagraha images, but now empty. Each shrine has a projecting eave, sharply cut base-panel, and side-walls with pierced screens and pilasters. A continuous frieze of circumambulating elephants occupies the centre of the mouldings at the base of the wall.

Wall Shrine
This, the lowest of the tiered wall shrines on the west, has three sculpted base panels. At the bottom, below a deep moulding, is a krittimukha-rudraksha pattern. Above this is a row of wrestling elephants and a diety, portion of the continuous elephant procession of the sanctuary walls. Next is a row of alternating hamsa and yali between miniature pilasters.

Sculpture Panels
The red sandstone is streaked white in this part of the wall, so that the sculptures seem almost painted. A diety framed by makaras forming a torana is at the centre of the composition. More makaras interrupt the row of circumambulating elephants. Above this is a panel of framed hamsa, yali and a human. Below is a Nandi image framed by pilasters.

Vimanam and Eave
The projections and recesses on the sanctuary walls are carried up to the eave and the massive four-storied brick-and-plaster vimanam. At the top of the vimanam is a square kuta block while an unusual apsidal-ended projection occupies its east face. The unusually wide eave is adorned with eight rows of pendant lotus buds. Yalis replace madanikas as brackets in this part of the mandapa wall, since this is the inauspicious junction of the mandapa and the sanctuary.

The open mandapa is laid out on a stepped plan with porch extensions on three sides. Its walls, raised on a wide and high plinth, have several rows of projecting and recessed sculpture panels above moulded bases. The outer pillars of the mandapam seen here have sharply-cut discs at the top and square blocks at the centre to which granite figures of madanikas and yalis are attached to form angled brackets reaching the eave.

Mandapa Walls
Above the triple mouldings of the lower wall is the ubiquitous row of circumambulating elephants. Next is a recessed band of six-petalled lotuses. Above this are two friezes, first a row of dancers and musicians and finally a row of four-petalled lotuses. In this portion of the mandapa wall, near the south porch, the row of dancers and musicians is replaced by unusual figures - tirthankaras, men in armour, Narasimha, Ganesa, wrestlers, and mithuna.

Mandapa Basement
A sandstone Mahishamardhini image is placed on the wide plinth. Next to this (not seen in the picture) is an image of Ganesa and the broken remains of the stone elephants which once flanked the main eastern entrance.

Bracket Figures
These polished black granite figures are considered masterpieces of Kakatiya art. Pairs of figures on each side of the mandapa porch entrances are madanika figures while the rest of the figures are of rearing yalis standing over elephants. All the twenty-four madanika images have intricate details of clothes, jewelry, and facial expression. The best preserved madanika images are on the north wall.

Mandapa Ceiling
An elaborate sculptural programme, one of the most remarkable in all of South India, fills the interior of the mandapam. Four massive, intricately carved and polished pillars stand at the centre of the hall, each divided into several sections filled with sculpture. Square panels, at the base and top have dieties, mithuna, musicians, a samudra manthan panel, composite dancers, and a vastraharan scene. Polygonal sections in centre have devahamsa and rudraksha patterns, while the scroll capitals have Yali and Apsara brackets. Above the pillars is an ornate ceiling at the centre of which is a Nataraja image surrounded by layers of lotus petals. This is surrounded by eight triangular Ashtadikapala panels. Framing the centre are wide projections with sculpture panels on each of the three surfaces, scenes from the Siva Purana. Seen here Siva in Tripurantakamurti, rides a horse-drawn chariot, surrounded by Brahma, Vishnu, and Ganesa. Other panels include the marriage of Shiva and Parvati and the Samudra Manthan scene (west), Amrita-Daan, Tripurasura Samhara and Narakasura Samhara (south), Daksha Yajna (east), and Gajakasura Samhara and Vishvamitra (north).

Sanctuary Entrance
Elaborate sculpture in polished granite also surrounds the santuary entrance. Groups of shalabhanjikas stand at the base in exaggerated tribhanga poses, all with curiously elongated faces and bodies (like the mandapa bracket madanikas). Above them, three columns of foliage circles rise to the top, each circle containing figures of dancers (centre) and musicians. This constitutes a pierced screen that lets light and air into the ardhamandapa. To the right of this is a multisection pilaster with octagonal, square and circular sections, as the base of which is a Venugopala image. A wide overhanging eave covers the entrance, above which is a lintel panel with an ornate Daksha Samvaram scene with Nataraja at the centre. The panel below the threshold is also carved, a diety at the centre, surrounded by maidens.

This small shrine to the right of the sanctuary entrance is one of the four placed at the corners of the mandapam. It has a striking granite idol of the goddess standing over two asuras. Sandstone pilasters with Siva dvarpalakas frame the entrance to this shrine. On the other side, to the left of the sanctuary entrance is a Ganesa shrine, and two large saptamatrika panels.

Nandi Pavilion
This detached pavilion to the east of the mandapa has a large Nandi. Steep stairs lead to a high platform on which the polished and intricately carved image is placed so that it is at the same level as the lingam inside the sanctuary. A well-preserved Siva dvarpalaka guards the entrance, leaning on a gada and holding the damaru and trisula. The sculptural pattern of the mandapa walls is repeated here: a deeply moulded plinth and lower wall, then rows of lotuses, elephants, dancers, musicians and dieties. The roof of the mandapa has collapsed (its decorated stone slabs lie in a heap to the left). Behind it is a hidden ruined gateway to the temple compound, with a decorated frame and dvarapalaka figures.

Sabhamandapa Entrance
Several subsidiary structures stand within the temple compound. This is a partly-collapsed mandapam on the south. Its entrance is surrounded with the usual sequence of carved frames: kumbhapanjara (overflowing pot), kalpalata (rounded vines), a pilaster in several sections, and finally a column of rearing yalis. A Siva dvarpalaka and salabhanjikas are positioned at the base on either side. Above, at the centre of the lintel is a diminutive shrine with deity.

Sabhamandapa Interior
One of the central pillars of the sabhamandapam stands precariously balanced. It is in several sharply cut sections, circular at the top, square and octagonal in the middle and rectangular with sculpture panels at the bottom. The panels here show composite dancers and a group of musicians. The ceiling has a deeply carved lotus with three layers of petals.

Subsidiary Shrine
This is another structure within the temple compound, a comparatively well-preserved Siva temple. Stone steps with balustrade lead up to a plinth and on to a small mandapa. The wall decoration is more restrained compared to the Ramappa temple.

Photos and Text © Amit Guha