One would have thought we had enough of offbeat places after our amusingly adventurous trip to Dhulikatta but no, our entire itinerary was lined up with such little known destinations, side effects of having someone in your team who is insane about history and ruins ! So, our journey continued to yet another “tourist spot” in the district of Karimnagar, this time to visit a group of temples in the village of Manthani.
The Village of Hymns
The internet tells us Manthani, in ancient times, was called Mantra Kutam or Mantrapuri meaning the Village of Hymns, the place was once a centre of Vedic learning, the village was believed to have been once occupied by scholars of the Vedas and hence the name.
Whatever little information we could find about Manthani from AP Tourism website and several other travel sites (which seemed to have the same information verbatim) spoke about a group of temples spread across the village, from the pictures on the internet, most of the temples seemed renovated except the ruined Gautameswara Temple. Since our Dhulikatta episode took up a lot of time, we decided to visit only the Gautameswara Temple at Manthani.
From Dhulikatta, Manthani is around 52 kms, the road is decent. It took us about an hour to reach Manthani. Manthani is a Mandal headquarter and it has the “look and feel” of one. We drove through the village in search of the Gautameswara Temple and reached the banks of Godavari where the village ends.
Tattered pages of history
To our right, was the Gautameswara Temple complex, there were 3 temples, two in a state of complete ruin and one living temple, whitewashed and renovated.
These temples are believed to have been built during the Kakatiya reign but it is interesting that the Gautameswara temple vimana resembles a Jain temple.
We weren’t expecting the temple to be open at 3 PM but thankfully for us, the gates were open. Close to the temple, there were fragments of what must have once been the temple gopuram or the entrance halls. The ruins overlook the river.
What a sight it must have been in the days of yore ! The Godavari in full flow and these beautiful temples on the bank, the very thought makes you want to go on a time travel ride !
There is hardly any information on these temples except that they were built sometime during the Kakatiya reign but the temples are in such a ruined state that they look like they are from pre-historic times, but ruins have a charm of their own !
The temples have sunk into the ground, ceiling and walls have collapsed, the sculpture has faded, creepers and overgrowth have taken over.
We tried peering into one of the temples, it was dark, smelt of damp mud, bats and ruin.
It feels like you have been transported into an Indiana Jones kind of movie ! We ventured inside cautiously, imagining something would jump up on us any moment.
Inside, there is nothing left of the Garbha Griha except walls that are on the verge of collapsing, we even thought something would collapse on us !
Some of the sculpture is still intact, especially in the adjacent temple, this temple too is as haggard as the first one. It has some beautiful sculpture of Goddesses at the entrance to the Sanctum Sanctorum.
The roof of this temple has collapsed, recent rains have caused the growth of moss on the floor and walls.
We do not know who the presiding Deity was but going by the Kakatiya style, these temples must have housed Siva Lingas.
The main shrine that is still a “live” temple, the Gautameswara Temple is a Siva Temple, the typical Kakatiya Nandi stands guard at the entrance of the Garbha Griha. The ornaments of Nandi are so intricately carved that they almost look real. Check out how real the huge bell chain looks, cascading down the legs as the Nandi sits !
As it was past 3 PM, the main temple was closed for the afternoon, we could have a darshan through the grilled doors though. We then stepped outside and walked around the temple. Fields have come up around the temples and these once glorious temples have been pushed into the background today.
The outer walls look ready to crumble but the sculpture on them, though jaded, still holds your attention.
Here is Lord Narasimha killing the demon Hiranyakasipu with Prahalada at his feet !
Elsewhere, a few pillars and walls stand out in the midst of shrubs and trees, they look like they have grown out of the shrubs ! Was this structure a mandapa or a temple or an audience hall?
These ruins must have been seen glorious days, teeming with people, abounding in riches, today, their silent walls and sculpture speak volumes about the days gone by.
Manthani may not interest those who look for some action because all you have are quiet ruins and the river flowing by but if you are passing close by, you could just make a brief visit. If not anything, you will learn a lesson in philosophy – glory, riches, might, power, no matter how much you have today, someday, all that will have to bow down before time ! History is character building stuff !!
– Manthani is around 64 kms from Karimnagar, you can find buses to Manthani from most major cities/towns in this region as it lies on the route connecting to important industrial centre of Godavarikhani.
– You can find the list of temples in Manthani on the internet, we were interested in visiting only the ancient looking ruins. Most of the other temples are working temples and have been renovated to look like new.
– There are a few shops and stalls in the village, you might find something to snack on. You wouldn’t find accommodation here, Ramagundam, 27 kms away would be the best bet.
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