Just a stone’s throw from the foot of Yadagirigutta at Pathagutta in the arid land dotted with just palms amidst the heat and dust is a group of 35 Muslim sculptors led by Shaik Rabbani of Turakapalem near Perecherla village in Guntur district. These sculptors are giving the Yali pillars, a mythical creature seen in Hindu temples a perfect shape.
Living in make-shift tents, performing namaz and going on fast during the holy month of Ramzan but never leaving the site to meet the deadlines, these sculptors are a part of the 800-strong team of sculptors working for the mega temple project.
A majority of the sculptors are from Tamil Nadu, but the group from Guntur is special for their skill and know-how on working with black granite. “What makes them so sought after?” To this, Shaik Rabbani says, “Our forefathers used to go to Tamil Nadu and work in various temples and it is from them that we learnt sculpting.
We are well-versed with the Chola, Pallava and even Kakatiya style of architecture. Our sculptors know exactly how to carve faces of lions, elephants and horses that are so integral to the temple architecture.”
Yali pillars (part lion, part horse and part elephant sculpted onto pillars) at the entrance of the temples keep evil away and the combination of an elephant, lion and snake is believed to express speed, ferociousness and strength.
When asked why they are working only for the temples, Younus, a sculptor, says: “We are just carrying forward a legacy that our forefathers left behind. We are happy to be a part of the project that would change the face of Yadadri forever.”
Speaking about the black granite stone which is sourced from Gurijepalli in Prakasam district in Andhra Pradesh, CEO of Yadagirigutta Temple Development Authority (YTDA) G Kishan Rao says, “There is absolutely no usage of cement and all parts of stone are joined with lime mortar. The granite stone also called as Black Pearl can survive for over 1,000 years. It has another quality though.
It is soft when sourced out of the earth, and as days pass, it gets hardened and has a capacity to absorb oxygen and keep the place cool. All Kakatiya temples were built with similar stone.”
Thanks to the brisk pace at which the work is progressing, 80% of the stone work is complete and 50% of joint works are done, says Dasa Ravinder, one of the eight contractors the YTDA has outsourced the work to. Venkat Reddy, who has worked in over 20 temples across the country and a deputy sthapati, says,
“The role played by the Muslim sculptors from Guntur is unique in more ways than one as this is proof of the unity in diversity that the country stands for and is a lesson for all those who speak of divisiveness.” The temple is slated to be thrown open on Dasara later this year.