WORLD HERITAGE STATUS
Journey of Kakatiya Heritage Trust (KHT), which commenced in 2009 when they formed the Trust with the clear aim of getting international recognition for Kakatiya Heritage. Trust asserted that the inscription of Ramappa Temple as World Heritage is only a milestone but not the end of the journey. In fact there is much more to do in the journey ahead to work on number of other Kakatiya monuments in the next decade.
The journey began in 2010 when Telangana agitation was at its peak. The then Culture Minister, Smt. Geetha Reddy, gave initial impetus to the work of the Trust by officially forming a committee of all stakeholders with KHT as coordinators. During this time, the Trust was able to put the Kakatiya proposals in the tentative list of World Heritage. We thank her for providing the initial momentum.
With the formation of Telangana new momentum was gained in KHT’s work to promote Kakatiya Heritage. With the help of Telangana Government, the Trust has started the Nomination Campaign in 2016. But only with the personal intervention of Chief Minister Shri. Chandra Shekar Rao taking up with the Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, the Ramappa could become India’s nomination to UNESCO in 2019. We thank the CM, Minister Culture and all officials of Telangana involved in the nomination process.
The Nomination Dossier was prepared by the Trust with minimal cost of hiring one architect Mr. Surya Narayan Murthy, who did a tremendous job. The policy aspects of dossier were covered by B.V. Papa Rao with his experience in dealing with UNESCO and technical aspects were undertaken by Prof.M.Pandu Ranga Rao with his vast knowledge of geo-technical engineering of Kakatiyas. Mrs.Choodamani Nandagopal’s work was very helpful for defining artistic aspects of the Temple. This challenge of preparing an effective dossier could not have been completed without the active help of Directorate of Heritage, Telangana and Directorate of World Heritage Division of ASI.
When it came to the evaluations stage of the nomination, the Trust was actively involved in helping Heritage Telangana and ASI who made everything possible for smooth evaluation by an ICOMOS expert. The local administration headed by the District Collector, Mulugu, was extremely helpful in the whole process.
Most crucial time was to defend the nomination in front of about 30 international experts of ICOMOS in Paris in November 2019. A three-member committee comprising B.V.PapaRao, M.Pandu Ranga Rao and G.Surya Narayana Murthy did a commendable job to impress ICOMOS.
Though ICOMOS recognised Ramappa Temple’s Universal values, it had identified certain things to be done by the State of Telangana and ASI before the temple was recognised as the World Heritage site. Some of these recommendations were quickly implemented by the District Collector, Mulugu and Department of Culture and Tourism, Government of Telangana in the last few days.
In spite of ICOMOS recommending the nomination to be deferred till certain works are to be completed by the ASI and the Government of Telangana, Indian Ambassador to UNESCO Mr.Vishal Sharma turned the tables in about a month. With help of new Ministers of Culture, Meenakshi Lekhi and Kishan Reddy, he mounted a diplomatic campaign and succeeded in convincing almost all 21 members of the World Heritage Committee. We thank Ambassador Sharma from the bottom of our heart for effectively covering the last mile in this decade-long marathon resulting in the inscription of RamappaTemple as World Heritage Site.
While inscribing the World Heritage Status to Ramappa Temple, the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO recommended that ASI should make boundary changes to the Temple and include two small temples outside its boundary walls.
It also recommended that the Conservation plan be finalised and a Special Development Authority be created to regulate the development around the Ramappa Temple and Ramappa Tank to maintain the natural beauty and serenity of the area.
What is a wonderful surprise is that Kakatiya Heritage Trust was tasked by UNESCO to complete the research on comparative study of Ramappa Temple to other Kakatiya temples and extend to other regional and international context. This is a feather in the cap of Kakatiya Heritage Trust, the Trustees feel.
Ramappa temple got the UNESCO heritage site tag
The 800-year-old Ramappa temple’s unique sandbox technology and ‘floating bricks’ helped it get the global tag
Telangana made history when the majestic Ramappa temple at Palampet village, 210 km north-east of Hyderabad, bagged the coveted UNESCO World Heritage Site tag. The ruins of the majestic temple, built in the 13th century by the Kakatiya line of kings (regarded as one of the brightest periods of Telugu history), is the first site in the state and the 39th in the country to get the honour. It is the best known of the Kakatiya temples with its decorative pillars, exquisitely carved ceilings and the celebrated figures of dancers and musicians.
The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) had initially recommended deferring the nomination during its 44th meeting held online, citing that the monument did not satisfy certain criteria, but 17 countries led by Russia endorsed the inclusion of the Ramappa temple for having “outstanding universal value”. India’s ambassador to UNESCO, Vishal Sharma, and Union ministers Meenakshi Lekhi and G. Kishan Reddy had mounted a diplomatic campaign to impress the world heritage committee.
Among the countries with reservations, Norway suggested an expansion of the site’s boundaries and its buffer zone to include a wider context of the temple’s functional landscape. It felt India could return with a reconfigured nomination by building a stronger case for the structure’s integrity and conservation. The suggestion is in keeping with the loftier goal of conserving heritage for posterity.
The temple dedicated to Shiva is often described as the brightest star in the galaxy of the medieval temples of the Deccan. It reflects a repository of Kakatiyan creative genius, with its intricate carvings adorning the walls, pillars and ceilings of the marvelous edifice. It was built in 1213 AD by Recharla Rudra, the general of King Ganapathi Deva. Though the presiding deity here is Ramalingeswara Swamy, the temple was named after the sculptor Ramappa, who completed the task in 14 years. Built with sandstone and a sandbox foundation, the temple has decorated beams and columns made of granite stone.
The earliest initiative for getting the heritage site tag began with the Kakatiya Heritage Trust (KHT) founded by former civil servant B.V. Papa Rao in 2009. Since 2012, heritage activists have campaigned for Ramappa’s conservation and the 1,000 pillar temple in Warangalthe other remaining masterpiece from the Kakatiya days. Papa Rao, as Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekara Rao’s adviser since 2014, prepared the dossier with the help of historians and forwarded it to the Government of India to process the nomination with ICOMOS. It remained in limbo till UNESCO-deputed stone experts, led by Vasu Poshyanandana of Thailand, assessed Ramappa’s structural and cultural elegance in September 2019. Papa Rao then led a delegation to the UNESCO headquarters in Paris in November 2019 to emphasise the iconic temple’s universal appeal. "KHT should continue its work towards the development of Kakatiya temples,” he says.
Meanwhile, a major challenge to the temple’s very existence came in 2010. “A tunnel was being dug as part of the Devadula irrigation project. It was against the norms of the ASI, and dangerously close to the temple. We had to lobby hard to stop it,” recalls V. Mohan Rao, a former sarpanch and convenor of the Ramappa Temple Protection Committee.
The heritage site status also now implies a new beginning for conservation and management. Telangana’s record in protecting heritage sites so far has been poor. A glaring instance is the Ameenpur Lake in west Hyderabad. Though the government of India declared the water body a biodiversity heritage site in November 2016, KCR’s government has done little to protect it. Instead, it has allowed land sharks and others to encroach on the foreshore of the lake, killing its biodiversity in flora and fauna. The lackadaisical approach notwithstanding, the state is now lobbying for a similar heritage site status for Hyderabad, or at least the fabled Golconda fort and the landmark Charminar.
The Ramappa temple, hereafter, will get financial assistance for the protection of its cultural and natural heritage. India will also receive expert advice from the World Heritage Committee to support activities for its preservation. The site will also have access to global replica luxury watches project management resources if a repair is needed. The site, by default, will also receive protection under the Geneva Convention, in the event of a war.
The Ramappa temple floor was damaged by an earthquake on June 16, 1819. ICOMOS has asked the state to come up with a comprehensive conservation and management project by December-end to protect the historic structure.
The Telangana High Court has also directed the Union government and the state government to launch appropriate conservation measures. An existential threat is from the open cast mining project proposed by the state-owned Singareni Collieries some six kms away. The project to produce 40.43 million tonnes of coal from 1,798 hectares over 19 years. Mohan Rao suggests a 15 km radius around the temple be notified as a special buffer zone to skirt the threat from the open cast mine.