Karimnagar, the headquarters of the district with the same name, is the fourth
Karimnagar, the headquarters of the district with the same name, is the fourthlargest city in Telangana. It is a centre of commerce and industry in the region – as is evident by the presence of malls, multiplexes and the latest addition, a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet. The place sees far more business travellers than tourists and if you are a man travelling solo, you are likely to be asked for your business card at most hotels. However, the city and the surrounding countryside also has a lot to offer to other kinds of visitors. With numerous historic temples, forts and lakes, the region has no dearth of picturesque landscapes and heritage structures.
The city has been named after Syed Karimuddin who, as the belief goes, was its founder. In earlier times, the place was known as Sabbinadu and was famous as a centre for learning Vedic scriptures. Archaeological excavations in the district have revealed artefacts from the Old Stone Age – many of which have been preserved at the museum in Karimnagar. The Satvahanas were one of the earliest kingdoms to rule the region, which was later governed by dynasties such as the Mauryas, Kakatiyas and Asaf Jahis.
Karimnagar was historically famous for the Karimnagar silver filigree, a craft that involves using twisted silver and gold wire to fashion intricate jalis (trellises). This craft is used to make jewellery, plates, hookahs and other such items. Thought to have been inspired by French lace designs,the craft originated about 200 years ago in Elagandal town and had its heyday under the Nizams.
Today, there are many industries in the city such as NTPC, Kesoram Cements and Ramagundam-Singareni collieries. With much of the land being watered by the Godavari, it is one of the agricultural centres of the state as well.
There are only a few sights within the city and these can be easily covered in a few hours. The centrally located bus stand is an important landmark – most of the good hotels and restaurant are nearby, as is the museum. The Lower Manair Dam and the Deer Park, on the southern periphery of the town, are 4km away from the bus stand.
THINGS TO SEE AND DO
Gandhi Centenary Museum
Don’t go by the size of the Gandhi Centenary Museum – within this tiny building, you will find a treasure trove of artefacts. Initially, the museum housed objects collected by the State Archaeological Museum in Hyderabad, but later they acquired artefacts unearthed from excavations in Pedda Bunkur, Koti Lingala, Nagunur and other parts of Karimnagar district.
The museum’s entrance opens into a lobby that has photos of various historical sites and a shelf with publications of the archaeology department. On the left, there is a room that contains the remains of the mandapam of a temple and statues from the 5th century CE onwards. However, all of them are labelled in Telugu. The hall on the right has a collection of tools, pottery, coins (with exquisite inscriptions), weapons and paintings arranged in a roughly chronological order. Here, the labels are in English as well as Telugu and provide visitors with basic historical context.
There is a garden behind the museum, where an impressive collection of statues have been arranged around a walkway. Look out for the interesting sculptures of Hanuman, Chamundeshwari and several Jain tirthankaras.
The Gandhi Centenary Museum is so called because it was established in 1969 during the centenary celebrations of Gandhi’s birth. It is located close to the bus stand, on the other side of the road.
Entry ₹3 Photography ₹50
The deer park is one of the green spaces of the city. It has a deer enclosure fenced off by a dry moat, a children’s park, a lake and a basic canteen. There is a mini-zoo with parakeets, pigeons, rabbits, some very friendly emus and monkeys who seem to have escaped their cages and taken over large swathes of the park. If you visit around noon, you can see the zoo staff feeding the animals.
There are pedal boating facilities (₹15) at the lake, whose periphery is populated with water birds and cuddling couples. The park also has a museum, a library and an orientation centre, though at the time of research for this book, all of them were closed.
Entry Adults ₹15; Children ₹10 Timings 10.30am–6.00pm Camera ₹100
Lower Manair Dam
Constructed between 1974 and 1985, the Lower Manair Dam is one of the first sights you will come across as you enter Karimnagar. The catchment area of the dam is so huge – about 6,500sq km – that the water seems to blend into the horizon. There is a dirt track along the periphery of the dam, which makes for a gorgeous, albeit bumpy, ride. As you go north of the sluice gates, you will find locals fishing and swimming.
There are boating facilities at the dam. However, the speedboat ride (3 minutes) is disappointingly short and anything but speedy. The deluxe boat (10 minutes) is a slightly better option, though you might have to pay for all the seats in case you can’t find any co-passengers.
Timings 10.00am–5.00pm Boating Speed Boat ₹350 (maximum four people); Deluxe Boat Adults ₹50, Children ₹30
WHERE TO STAY AND EAT
Hotel Swetha (Tel: 0878-2244333, 2247333, Cell: 0967610033; Tariff: ₹2,600–4,000) is perhaps the best hotel in town. Centrally located opposite the Municipal Corporation, the hotel offers clean and spacious rooms, a restaurant and Internet facility. Maitry Residency (Tel: 2241666, 2243666; Tariff: ₹2,300–3,600) near Circus Ground has 47 comfortable rooms and a suite. There is a restaurant, coffee shop and internet. Prathima Regency (Tel: 2233666, Cell: 08106643545; Tariff: ₹2,100–3,500), opposite Police Parade Ground, offers facilities similar to Maitry Residency.
Others include Hotel Mainair (Tel: 2240425, 2264517; Cell: 09885330302; Tariff: ₹499–1,399) on Kanchit Road with 39 rooms; and Hotel Srinivasa (Tel: 2243201-02; Tariff: ₹800–1,400) on Bus Stand Road with 40 rooms. Meals are provided on order.
There are many messes and canteens around the bus stand, all of which serve remarkably good food. Geeta Bhawan, also near the bus stand, serves delicious meals. Most of the hotels have excellent restaurants serving multi-cuisine fare.
The fort at Nagunoor was a centre of power for many dynasties – the Chalukyas, the Kakatiyas and the Kalyanis – and an important religious site. It is believed that there were once 400 temples inside the fort. Consequently, it was called Nalugunovalu (meaning four hundred), from which the present name has been derived.
However, a visitor today will be hard pressed to find any fort in this concretised village, or even the ruined remains of one. What is left behind are a few temples in a state of utter dilapidation and in threat of disappearance.
As you enter Nagunoor from the road opposite the Prathima Institute of Medical Sciences on SH 7, you will come across a temple that is being reconstructed from scattered ruins. Here you will find a pile of neatly labelled stone bricks and pillars and the foundation of a temple. Keep going straight towards the village market square and at the right turn, you will find the Venkateswara Swamy Temple atop the hill on your left. Just before the market square, a right turn takes you to the Laxmi Narayana temple, a renovated pillared structure painted in orange and white. Further ahead, there is another shrine on top of a hill that can be reached through stairs built along the slope. The shrine, which houses a small idol, is perched above a smooth boulder that has been painted in red and white stripes. Look out for the carved statue on the stairs en route to the shrine.
As you continue ahead of the market square, the road will turn right near a hillock. At the turning, behind the shops, there is a small temple. You can climb the hill to see the ruins in the village that are gradually being swallowed up by newer constructions. Further ahead, there is a trikutalaya (three shrines) Shiva temple, the most remarkable and well preserved of all the temples in the village. The stone temple, built on a raised platform, has many sculpted statues and panels in its interiors. It has three different sanctums where idols of the deity are installed. The entrance faces north, while the three shrines are in the other directions. Next to the Shiva temple, there are two smaller shrines that are completely overrun by vegetation and used as toilets rather than temples. On the other side of the road, there is another ruin and a few pillars. Most of these structures were built between the 12th and the 13th centuries.
While not many tourists visit Nagunoor, the temples, especially the Shiva trikutalaya, might be of interest to history enthusiasts.
Molangur Fort (30km)
The Molangur Fort was constructed by Voragiri Moggaraju, one of the chief officers of Prataparudra, an emperor of the Kakatiya dynasty. The fort is located on NH 563, en route to Warangal. It was built as a stopover for the Kakatiya rulers travelling from Warangal to the Elgandal fort.
At the entrance of the fort, there is the Malangshavali dargah, built in honour of Malang Shah Wali, a Muslim saint after whom the fort and the surrounding village have been named. There are also two Shiva temples inside – Shivalayam and Virabhadralayam. At the foothill of the fort, within its premises, there is a well known as Dudh Baoli (literally ‘well of milk’). It is believed that the water in the well was white as milk and had medicinal properties. Many megalithic burial mounds can also be found inside the fort.
The fort structure has been damaged due to quarrying operations and blasting of rocks. Locals fear that if this continues unchecked, the fort might eventually collapse.
Molangur is 30km southeast on NH563, en route to Warangal.
Located on the banks of the Manair river, Elgandal fort is one of the most frequented tourist attractions of Karimnagar District. The citadel is built along a hill that has a steep cliff on one side and a relatively gradual slope on the other. There are a few ruins in Elgandal village as well, en route to the fort. The entrance to this structure is through a series of gateways, along which there are various structures, including a tomb.
A steep climb up a staircase carved through boulders leads to the top of the fort, where there are cannons perched atop bastions and a mosque with ‘shaking minarets’. There are many other structures within the precincts of the fort, such as stepwells, ammunition rooms, granaries, horse stables and a couple of shrines that are dedicated to Neelakanteshwara and Anjaneya. Some believe that there is an underground tunnel within the fort that connects to the village of Manakondur, about 10km away.
The fort is thought to have been built during the reign of the Kakatiya dynasty. For some time, it was occupied by the Musnuri Nayaks and Recharla Padmanayaks until the Qutub Shahi dynasty captured it in the 16th century. Later, it was under Mughal occupation, after which it passed into the hands of the Nizams.
The hills around the fort and on the road from Karimnagar to Vemulawada have been extensively quarried, which has blighted the landscape. In 2010, bears frightened by the mining operations took shelter in the fort, resulting in its closure for 10 days.
The government is set to make the place more tourist friendly with signs, pathways, toilets, drinking water and a ‘sound and light’ show. There are a few shacks outside, which sell snacks and bottled water. Many tourists also make a stopover at the bird farm of Mohammed Nahed Ali, a resident of Elgandal village who has about 20 varieties of birds and animals.
Entry ₹3 Timings 9.00am–5.30pm Photography ₹20 Closed on government holidays
If there were a contest for the most popular Shiva temple in Telangana, the Raja Rajeshwara Temple would be somewhere near the top of the list. Here, Shiva is worshipped in the form of Sri Raja Rajeshwara and is fondly referred to as Rajanna. The temple has been painted entirely in white and features intricate carvings on its vimana and gopuram.
Next to the temple, there is a reservoir known as GundiCheruvu (literally ‘temple lake’). There is a mandapam with a linga inside the pool. Legend has it that bathing in the tank helps one get rid of problems, both worldly and spiritual – from skin diseases to sins. However, the holy tank has often dried up in the past when the town faced water shortages.
The temple was constructed during the reign of the Vemulawada Chalukyas – a lesser known offshoot of the Chalukyas who ruled from the town between the 8th and 10th centuries. An inscription dating to 1083 CE reveals that Rajadithya, a governor of the western Kalyani Chalukyas, built the temple. The place is also associated with Vemulawada Bheemakavi, a poet who lived in the 11th century.
There are many other shrines in the temple complex, such as the Bheemeshwara temple which was built by the Chalukya king Bhaddega (850–895 CE). The parapet wall of this temple is made of stone and features elaborate carvings. To the left of Raja Rajeshwara, you will find the Kashi Vishveshwara temple. It is famous for its linga, which is pink in colour and is known as the Kashi Vishveshwara lingam. This is why Vemulawada is also referred to as Dakshina Kashi (Varanasi of the south). Behind Raja Rajeshwara lies the Anantha Padmanabha Swamy temple where Shivakeshava Utsavas are conducted. There are various other shrines dedicated to Kodanda Rama, Balatriputra Sundari, Bala Rajeshwari and Vittaleshwara in the temple complex, as well as the tomb of a Muslim saint that is frequented by people of all faiths. At the temple, make sure to have the prasadam – laddoos (Rs. 5 for 80gm) and pulihora (₹5 for 200gm)
Thousands of devotees throng Vemulawada to visit Raja Rajeshwara temple, especially during the month of Kartika and the festival of Maha Shivaratri, when the temple is open round the clock.
Timings 4.00am–10.20pm, daily W vemulawadatemple.org
There are many basic guest houses and lodges around the temple. The Tourism Deparment’s Haritha Hotel (Cell: 09951239018, 08499830815; Tariff: Rs. 599–999) near the Bus Stand is a decent accommodation option. The hotel offers 10 rooms, two dorms and an attached restaurant.
Besides, there are a number of choultries and guesthouses managed by Sri Raja Rajeswara Swamy Devasthanam (Tel: 08723-236040/ 18, 236550, Cell: 09299056118, 09441799555; Tariff: ₹250–2,000) for the convenience of pilgrims. There is a canteen here.
Discovered by archaeologists in 1975, the Buddhist stupa at Dhulikatta dates back to the Satvahana period (2nd century BCE). It is a part of one of the 30 walled cities that were mentioned by the Greek historian Megasthenes in his text Indica. The stupa, located on a raised mound, was built with bricks and decorated with veneer and limestone slabs.
The stupa lies on the outskirts of the village of Eligaid. To reach the site, one needs to trudge through fields and streams. This is easier in the summer when the streams are dry and fields are bare. During and after the monsoon, the land becomes marshy and the streams overflow, making it hard to navigate. The stupa is difficult to locate, so request a local to act as a guide for you. They will readily help you out for a small tip. In January, Dhulikatta is supposedly the site of a 3-day-long festival, which draws Buddhist monks from all over the world. However, it is best to confirm with the tourism department regarding the dates and timing of the event. The monument was in the news in 2011 when misguided treasure seekers dug up a part of the stupa.
Bommalamma Gutta (19km)
No matter where you go in Telangana, you are bound to come across rock formations. But what is special about Bommalamma Gutta is that there are sculptures and inscriptions etched on the surface of the rock.
The statues, carved on the hill of Vrishabhadri during the Chalukyan period, are of Jain deities and Charakeshwari, now known as Seethamma. Bommalamma Gutta is thought to have been a famous Jain centre between the 7th and 10th centuries. The sculptures have been painted red and a diminutive shrine has been built next to them. People come here to conduct prayers and make offerings, as is evident from the heaps of coconut husks
Below the sculptures, there is an inscription of 11 lines in three languages – Telugu, Kannada and Sanskrit. The last three lines in Telugu, considered to be the earliest examples of the language in written form, were submitted to the Indian government as important evidence in the quest to get classical language status for Telugu.
The hills, set amidst lush fields, also offer glorious views of the setting sun.
Directions Bommalamma Gutta is in Kurkiyal village, Gangadhara mandal. From Karimnagar, take SH 10 (Karimnagar-Jagtial Road) and after about 16km, turn right at Kondannapally village. Continue till the end of the village and the turn onto the mud road that leads to Kurkiyal village. You will see a recently constructed temple on your left and Bommalamma Gutta on your right. Park your vehicle near the temple and walk on the path between the fields to reach the hill. There is a staircase at the foothill that leads to a rocky trail. From here onwards, you will have to clamber onto the rocks using all your limbs – a short though relatively steep climb. There are arrows painted on the boulders to guide you to your destination.
TIP The rock surface gets extremely hot during the day, so schedule your trip for the evening
Kotilingala, a town on the banks of the Godavari river, was the first capital of the Satavahana dynasty. Excavations in the region have unearthed the remains of large fort with temples inside. The legacy of this history continues in the Kotilingeshwara Swamy temple, whose present building was built in the 1970s. There is a Vedic school inside the temple premises.
The temple is so called because according to myths, it had 10 million shivalingas. Legend has it that saints meditated in the caves of the nearby hillocks known as Munula Gutta. These sages vowed to construct a temple, for which they asked Lord Hanuman to get a linga. After Hanuman failed to turn up, they installed a linga made of sand gathered from the Godavari. When Hanuman arrived, he was angry to see that they had already mounted a linga inside the temple. The villagers pacified him by assuring him that they would first offer prayers to the linga he brought and only later to the one that they had made.
The temple faces the threat of submergence from the backwaters of the Sripada Yellampalli project. An embankment is being constructed to protect it.
This small town by the Godavari abounds with ruins – ancient temples and statues built during the reign of the Chalukyas and Kakatiyas. There are about 20 temples dedicated to Sileshwara, Anjaneya and Varadaraja, amongst others. Most of the temples are in a state of complete dilapidation, though one of the shrines of the Gautameshwara temple complex has been renovated. There is also a statue of Goddess Kalika Devi at the government guesthouse in Manthani.
Inscriptions suggest the town was earlier known as Mantrakuta (literally ‘village of hymns’ and Manthenya. Manthani lies 72km northeast of Karimnagar and is connected to the city by NH 563.
Spanning an area of 36sq km, the Shivaram Wildlife Sanctuary is a stretch of forests along the banks of the Godavari river. The river is a well-known habitat of the marsh crocodile – fresh water crocodiles that inhabit the Indo-Gangetic plains as well. Mugger crocodiles, as they are also known, outnumber salt water crocodiles and can cover large distances on land as well.
The vegetation of the sanctuary consists of teak, Timan, Terminalias, Gumpena, Kodsha and thorny shrubs. Many animals such as the rhesus macaque, sloth bear and chital inhabit the sanctuary, though sightings are rare.
Shivaram sanctuary is about 10km from Manthani and 50km from Mancherial. There are few restaurants or dhabas near the sanctuary, so it is advisable to carry along food and water. In case you want accommodation near the sanctuary, there are forest rest houses at Mancherial and Eklaspur, though rooms are not always available. There are no tourist facilities or organised expeditions at Shivaram and visitors have to explore the area on their own. In case you decide to venture close to the river bank, it would be a bad idea to get off your vehicle for crocodiles may chase you.
This Shiva temple is one of the three comprising Trilinga Desham (land of the three lingas). The other two temples of the triad are Srisailam and Draksharamam. Kaleshwaram Mukuteeshwara Swamy is unique because it has two lingas on a single pedestal. The place is also known as Triveni Sangam or land of the confluence of three rivers – Godavari, its tributary Pranahita and the mythical Antarvaahini river. According to folklore, a vaishya (Hindu caste) had once an conducted abhishekam (a ritual) for the deity with hundreds of milk pots, after which milk effervesced at this confluence. As a result, the place was accorded with the appellation of Dakshina Gangotri.
The temple is also famous for its Mukteeshwara linga – it has a hole that cannot be filled with water. According to temple folklore, this so because there is an underground passage below the linga that empties into the Godavari.
Devotees throng the temple during the month of Kartika (November–December) and the festival of Maha Shivaratri. Special poojas are conducted on these occasions. There are many lodges and guesthouses around the temple, including one run by the Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanam.
Temple timings 4.30am–1.00pm; 3.00–8.00pm
When to go From October to March is the most comfortable time for travel
District Tourism Officer
Gandhi Centenary Museum
Opp Main Bus Stand
STD code 0878
Location At the centre of the northern Telangana district of Karimnagar
Distances 160km N of Hyderabad
Route from Hyderabad Via SH 1 (Rajiv Rahadari)
Air Nearest airport: Rajiv Gandhi International Airport at Hyderabad (160km/ 3.5hrs) is a served by both domestic and international flights. Taxi costs approx ₹3,000. However, state transport department taxi charges ₹1,800/ 80km, plus Rs. 15 per km extra for outstation hire
Rail Nearest railhead: Warangal Railway Station (70km/ 1.5-2 hrs) is served by trains from Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Thiruvananthapuram, Chennai, Patna, Jaipur and many more. A few good train options are the Kerala Express, Satawahana Express, Sanghamitra Express, Bhagmati Express, Dakshin Express, Machilipatnam Express and Ganga Kaveri Express. Buses and taxis are available for the onward journey to Karimnagar
Road It’s a smooth ride via SH 1 from Hyderabad to Karimnagar. Taxi from Hyderabad would take 3.5hrs to get to Karimnagar
Bus TSRTC buses available from Secunderabad’s Jubilee Bus Stand. The journey takes an extra hour or so
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