It was quite easy to get to Alampur from Bangalore. I took an overnight train, the Wainganga Express bound for Korba. Strangely I don’t know this destination, where is it and how far. It didn’t matter because the town of Kurnool en route is where I got off this morning. My destination is what really mattered to me, not the destinations of my fellow passengers.
Having got a reasonalbly good sleep, but not quite sufficient, I reached Kurnool Town not too long after sunrise. It was quite something to begin this trip waking up to a light morning mist cloaking fields of sunflower. The dust of arid Deccan plains does not matter at this hour. There is quiet and calm not just in the landscape but in the songs of birds. A scene like this can make an entire day.
Alampur is a slow bus journey from Kurnool. I should have had my breakfast at Kurnool because Alampur is a village with not much in offer. This overgrown lies on the banks of both Krishna and Tungabhadra. The fame of this village comes from a temple complex of nine temples called the Nava Bhramma. These are temples dedicated to Lord Shiva although the presence of Garuda on the door lintels indicate that might have been Vaishnavaite shrines in the past.
The temples come from the 7th-8th century AD. They are executed in a style very similar to the Chalukyas of Badami. In fact, I had first heard of Alampur during my tours in Aihole and Pattadakal region of Karnataka. Alampur is not far from the Karnataka border. At Kurnool, I overheard people speaking in Kannada a couple of times.
The temples are in various stages of repair. Only the Bala Bramma temple is used for prayer while the others are looked after by the ASI. Many of the temples have excellent details. Shikaras are in the rekhara nagara (curvilinear) style. Many temples have an inner pradakshina patha. The perspectives of aedicules are wonderful although the images they originally contained are no longer present. There are amorous couple but erotic art is not seen anywhere in these temples, perhaps too early for its time. Sculptural reliefs on pillars, their capitals and lintels are preserved well. One temple has an interesting two-pillared porch at the back to house the image of an 16-armed Nataraja. Sadly, all the arms are missing. The Bala Bramma temple has excellent stone sculptures, particularly of Sapta Matrikas. An outer corridor is created around the main shrine of the Bala Bramma. Half pillars from the parapets and full pillars within the corridor make this a unique study of its architecture. The ASI museum nearby has some good sculptures.
More than the temple, the most poignont moment for me was the entry into Alampur. There is a thick black layer of mud and clay covering all the streets of the village. Villagers are forced to walk without shoes since their slippers are useless. Their feet are webbed with clay-mud which accummulates with every step. Little girls carry their slippers in one hand and their lunch box in their other as they walk to school. There is a rotting stench that hangs heavily in the air everywhere. There are plenty of skid marks to indicate that many have slipped while walking these streets.
It was about 8 weeks ago that the flood came to this region of Andhra Pradesh. The waters of the rivers had risen so high that even the 30-foot wall separating the temple complex from the reservoir on the other side could not contain the flood. I was told that all temples were flooded.
‘The water came up this high,’ an ASI worker commented raising his hand waist high. ‘We have been cleaning the temple complex every since.’
Indeed, thick deposits of mud, some 2 feet high were seen at places. A handful of workers were busy scooping them up and loading them into a truck.
‘When will the streets be clean?’ I asked.
‘Heavy rain will wash them clean; or intense sun can dry them to dust so that we can sweep them away.’
But with the continous traffic pounding the clay, I just wonder how long it will take. The flood waters took 2 weeks to drain out, I am told. I just can’t imagine the situation at the time of the flood. Families were paid Rs. 8000 for rebuilding.
On the approach to Alampur, the bridge over the river is being repaired. Road sides are lined with embankments of rubbish. The rotting stench is unbearable not just for city folks like me but even for villagers who cover their nose and mouth as we speed by in a shared jeep. Little clumps of dried hay cling strangely out of place on electric lines festooning the landscape from pole to pole.