Kakatiya art: madanikas at Ramappa temple

The Kakatiyas ruled over the area called Andhra Desa or Telugu country with Warangal or Orugollu in South India, meaning ‘one stone’ as their capital. The dynasty ruled between 11th and 14th centuries ,1052 to 1323 A. D. They built a fort, temples and created amazing sculptures. At Palampet , a village in the Mulug taluq of Warangal district in present day Telangana, in south of India,exists a lake, green hills and a temple consecrated to Rudreshwara, known as Ramappa temple situated by the side of Ramappa Lake;it is possible that the sculptor’s name was Ramappa. Built in 1213 by a general of the Kakatiyas, Recherla Rudra ; as is mentioned on the north east pillar inscription .The temple has a main temple and  a nandi manatapa. The temple is built of light brick.  Each wall has a triple storied niche with ornamentation.The other structures include two subsidiary shrines, north and south of the main temple, a dharmashala situated at its southwest. There are two minor temples southwest and north west of the main temple. Smaller shrines are present to the west and the western and eastern end of the bund of the lake.The Kakatiya architects had consulted the Silpa and Agama texts for building the structure.

The Ramappa temple is of a cruciform plan with garbagriha, antarala on the western side.The east, north and south share porticos. The temple stands on a upapitha with space of ten feet around it, which forms the pradakshinapatha. The upapitha has horizontal moldings.The adhisthana and pabhanga are also molded. The pabhanga has elephants and other motifs. The figure brackets which emerge from the outer pillars are madanikas or alasa kanyas and gaja vyalas. These figure brackets spring from outer pillars , appear as supports to the roof projections and have become well-known.image003.png

Ramappa Temple, Palampet.

The temple is five feet higher than the upapitha and to enter the temple one has to climb steps. The pillars are arranged in such a way that the ceiling is divided into compartments and each is carved with rich designs. The central pillars are also richly decorated and one can find puranic episodes here. The Rangamantapa or sabhamandapa where musicians used to perform contains ornate pillars with scenes from Bhagavata including Tripura samharam, Gopika Vastrapaharanam etc. The dance postures in the temple inspired Jayapa Senani to compose Nritya Ratnavali.

Decorative gateways lead to the antarala and garbagriha where the linga stands on a black basalt stone pedestal. The subsidiary shrines on the north stand on upapithas and can be reached by steps. The south shrine has a square hall with garbagriha which has no roof. The hall has pillars in the middle and the ceiling has beautiful carvings. Episodes from Ramayana are carved on the pillars.

The madanikas as the bracket figures at the temple, over the outer pillars of the sabhamandapa supporting the cornices at Ramappa temple, are superb examples of Kakatiya art. They display grace and movement and are maidens who have been called shalabhanjikas, alasa kanyas etc. in many contexts in literature and as depictions in sculpture. The word alasa kanya roughly translates as ‘indolent maiden’!

They have different moods and can be alasa,torana,mugdha,manini,dalamalika,padmagandha,darpana, vinyasa,ketaki-bharana,matrumurti,chamara,gunthana,nartaki,sukasarika,nupura-padika or mrudanga-mardini. The madanikas at the temple are in different  postures and depict delicate hand gestures.


Brackets with madanika figures at Ramappa Temple, Palampet.

The Nagini holds a snake  with another snake hanging over her shoulder. She stands over a serpent with two flying dwarf human figures are on either side.

The dala-malika is wearing high heeled shoes, probably to guard against thorns as she moves through a forest.

The mrudanga- mardini is a beautiful drummer seen in abhanga posture,with two miniature drummers to form an orchestra.

Manini is a shy  woman and is aware of her feminine sensuality. A monkey is seen pulling at her garment.


Nagini and dala-malika, Ramappa Temple, Palampet.


Mrudanga-mardini, Ramappa temple, Palampet.


Dala-malika, Ramappa temple, Palampet.

The jewellery in the Ramappa sculptures are a very interesting study in itself. The madanikas wear a variety of jewels from head to toe. The drummer is seen wearing an ornament on her forehead called cheruchukka. A cheruchukka is worn at the start of the hair parting the simanta and connected to a string of pearls. Another hair ornament is the mutyala jalli, a string of pearls attached to a disc at the hair parting and taken to both sides up to reach the ear ornaments.

The huntress is wearing tatankas, haras, keyuras and manjiras. The ear ornament is disc shaped the kanakakamala,  a circular ear ring with a lotus pattern, usually set with rubies.

The manini has big kundalas with gems studded in the inner tier. Almost all the madanikas are wearing finger rings on all fingers of the hand.

The mekhala is worn by the madanikas; one of them has a waist girdle with three valayas, each having many strands of beads each having a  gem as the centrepiece.

Above the anklet the khadiyas are worn. The nartakis are wearing the one which is a tiered ring with beaded fillet. The hamsakas are worn over the feet. 

Most of the madanikas are wearing a short garment below the navel  up to the mid-thigh and the beaded bands on the thighs help in holding the garment to the body. The nivibandha or kativastra hangs down between the legs. This is also decorated with beads or pearls.  On the upper thigh of the nartakis on each side, are seen a beaded garment folded in the form of a trident or trisula. The manini is seen wearing a piece of cloth with horizontal plain folds around her waist, which the monkey is pulling. The piece of cloth resembling a saree, worn by the dala-malika has flower designs in rows.

The madanikas are seen wearing haras or necklaces and big garlands or kanthikaskeyuras and kankanas on their hands. The hair ornaments are mostly having a single string with small beads with or without a pendant, hanging from the hair parting, the simanta.


Nartaki, Ramappa Temple,Palampet.


Manini,Ramappa Temple, Palampet.


Nartaki, Ramappa Temple, Palampet.

References :

Temples of Telingana by M. Radhakrishna Sarma, Munshiram Manoharlal, New Delhi,1972.

The Kakatiyas by Dr. P. V Parabrahma Sastry, Government of Andhra Pradesh, 1978.

Dress and jewellery of women, Satavahanas to Kakatiya by C. S.Uma Maheswari,Madras : New Era Publications,1995.

The Andhra culture during the Kakatiyan times by Dr.V. Anila Kumari,Delhi : Eastern Book Linkers,1997.

The art and architecture of the Kakatiyas by B. Satyanarayana Singh, Bharatiya Kala Prakashan, 1999.

Images via Wikimedia Commons Varsha Bhargavi and AdityaMadhav

Posted by : Soma Ghosh

7 thoughts on “Kakatiya art: madanikas at Ramappa temple

  1. Naheema

    I am interested in the construction of the temples as I am an architect. the first pic of the disc – a part of a pillar sheds some light on this aspect. Would love to see more such pics which give an idea of the manner of construction in those days. Naheema.



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