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Old 29th December 2010, 16:04   #1
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Default Old world and nether world:A slice of Rayalaseema

Another trip?!!, exclaimed my colleague.
Yeah, why not?

This was mid-October 2010 and I was just back from 3 near back-to-back trips - Mahabalipuram, Kabini and Coastal Karnataka (Coastal Karnataka in a week.).

I convinced another of my colleague and friend, Sandeep, to travel with us. This would relief us from the boredom of travelling solo and also would enrich the experience, as thoughts can be shared. Also, both of us had traveled to Lepakshi (in the same region) two years back and wanted to explore more of the same.

So got about the business of digging up travel details and making our itinerary. Searched the T-BHP travel forum, googled up information spoke to colleagues from the region.
All these were very helpful in deciding the places to visit, accomodation, eating joints and route health information.

But as luck would have it, the trip got postponed (not canceled as we were sure to do this sometime in the future), as one of the children fell ill and we couldn't help it.

December 2010.
The dormant plan came up again while discussing with Sandeep, and we decided to put it to work. The itinerary was ready and we were also.

So, the Christmas weekend it was.

Some pics from our weekend experience...

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Old 30th December 2010, 07:13   #2
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Default Re: Old world and nether world:A slice of Rayalaseema

As you might have guessed from the above photos, the destination was the famous Belum Caves, which had been on my radar from quite sometime now.

We decided to avoid doing a day-trip and as per suggestion of a colleague (Satheesh) from Anantapur, we thought of staying for the night at Tadpatri, the town closest to Belum.

On the way we decided to visit the ruins of the Vijayanagara era at Penukonda as well.

The following is the route that we decided to follow. We were thinking of returning via Gooty, but folks dissuaded us from doing so saying the road condition from Tadpatri to Gooty was bad.

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So we two families started around 7:00 AM from Bangalore, met at Mekhri Circle and took the Bellary Road.

Between Devanahalli and Chickballapur, my car re-experienced an old problem which had been rectified by the Service Centre folks. An issue with the Speedometer wire which causes it to go into a free-fall kind of scenario. The indicator suddenly goes haywire and falls to the maximum speed limit and a whirring sound starts coming from behind the speedometer console.
Initially I thought something with the engine heating up, since the coolant level was real low and I hadn't started the AC. So poured down half a liter of coolant praying that it solves the problem.

Somehow fate seems to have helped me out since the issue didn't re-surface again and I was able to drive smoothly.

We stopped at the Kamat Upachar facility after Chickballapur for breakfast.

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Old 31st December 2010, 13:34   #3
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Default On to Penukonda

After a couple of masala dosas at Kamat's, we started on the way to Penukonda. It was a beautiful drive and soon enough we reached the tri-junction to get into Penukonda town.

Swerved into the 2-lane undivided road to town and slowly made our way ahead hoping for some kind of directions to the fort. And sure enough, the directions were there loud and clear on the right side of the road.
Took left from there and though a maze of small alleys and a gap in the fort walls we were inside the fort premises.

Gagan Mahal?
Mundhe left. (front - left)
Dhanyavada (thanks)


There were no boards to indicate which was the Gagan Mahal - the main palace of the Vijayanagara kings. But one of the last buildings on the road seemed like one, so parked a few feet ahead and came out to survey if this was indeed the palace that we were looking for.

Outside the palace gates we saw this board...

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As we were thinking of calling up this guide on the given number, the dude sure enough emerged from the 1st floor of the palace and opened the gates allowing us to enter.

The palace was sure enough in dilapidated condition, but there were some signs of restoration.

About the Penukonda fort (from this site) -

Quote:
Penukonda Fort is a colossal structure, whose each and every stone boasts of the royalty of the erstwhile era. Penukonda is a small town in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh. In the ancient times, it used to serve as the second capital to the Vijayanagar kings. Perched atop the hill, the fort offers a spectacular view of the town below. It was named after its native region. Located at a distance of 70 km from Anantapur, the Penukonda Fort can be found on the Kurnool-Bangalore Road.

Inside the edifice, there are various inscriptions affirming that King Bukka I handed over the province of Penukonda to his son Vira Virupanna Udaiyar of Vijayanagar. It was during his ruling period this fort was built. The far-fetched architecture of the fort made it inaccessible to the enemies. The region has been mention as 'Ghangari' in the ancient inscriptions. The fantastic edifice of Penukonda Fort is a standing testimony to the expert workmanship of those times. To prevent the entry of rivals, the fort had moats full of crocodiles.

There are seven bastions along the circumference of the fort. At the Yerramanchi gate (main entrance); you can see a colossal image of Lord Hanuman, which elongates to the height of 11 feet. Built in the year 1575, Gagan Mahal used to be the summer resort of the aristocracy. The architecture of this resort has both, Hindu and Muslim styles of architecture. Abiding the Vijayanagar traditions, it is quite similar to numerous structures having Islamic style arches, vaults and plaster decoration at Hampi.

"Babayya Dargah" is another attraction of the citadel that represents harmonious co-existence of the Hindus and the Muslims. Penukonda Fort is believed to have 365 temples, one of which was preordained for worship each day of the year. Amongst these temples, the shrines dedicated to Lord 'Yoga Narasimhaswamy', Lord 'Kashi Vishwanatha' Lord 'Yogarama', Adi Laxmi Devi Temple and Chenchu Laxmi Devi are the major ones.

However, most of the temples could not stand the ravages of the times and are no longer present. One can see several ruins and fragments of engraved stones that are speckled on the hill as well as the plains. Another attraction worth-mentioning is the 'Sher Khan Mosque', which has Telugu inscription of 'Sadashiva' (dated 1564) in its courtyard. To put succinctly, Penukonda Fort is a treasure that has kept poignant memories of the royalty of Vijayanagar.
We spoke to the guide and mentioned the places that we intended visiting and then negotiated the rate which came to Rs.250/-

The Rani Mandir on top of the hill, where the queen used to stay, was a 7km trek and we didn't try that out with babies in the mid-day sun.

The Gagan Mahal palace. It's said that the king used to spend the day here watching dances and holding durbar, and in the evening he used to go up to the Rani Mandir to spend time with his queen.
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A temple next to the Gagan Mahal palace.
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The plaque on top of the palace dates the palace.
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Islamic style arches of the palace.
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Another view of the same.
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Notice that the floor is tiled and renovated recently.
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A resting place on the way to the hilltop. Numerous such structures exist.
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Old statues of Lord Balaji and his consort lying outside in the palace compound.
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Gaps in the palace wall which the army could use during warfare. Note the angles of the openings, which helped the soldiers to point at different directions.
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A photo of King Krishnadevaraya inside the palace.
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View of a mandapam behind the palace. Lots of houses have come up in the same locality. Illegal constructions?
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The palace tower that housed the dance room and the top used to be for the guards manning the place.
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Last edited by aryasanyal : 31st December 2010 at 13:38.
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Old 31st December 2010, 14:09   #4
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Default Re: Old world and nether world:A slice of Rayalaseema

wow! Arya, that is nice trip into histroy. I am always fascinated by Kirshnadeva Raya and Rayalaseema (thanks to its notorious depiction in telugu movies) I am now glued to this thread to see all that through your eyes!!

By the way, I somehow feel that those statues are of Lord Vishnu and Lakshmi but not Lord Balaji. Lord Balaji is two handed not four handed as shown!!

Last edited by anilisanil : 31st December 2010 at 14:24.
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Old 31st December 2010, 14:17   #5
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Default Re: Old world and nether world:A slice of Rayalaseema

Who are those mad buggers who went around putting their autograph on that photograph of Krishna deva raya?

Interestingly, the photo has an uncanny resemblence to NTR!

The Plaque seems to be of British origin, who I guess have preserved the antiquity. Hope to get some bits of lost history here in your thread.

Also the three cow heads with one body seems to be interesting piece of sculpture. Guess, it's early depiction of motion in rocks. Try covering two heads at a time and you get a totally different carving each time.

Last edited by MX6 : 31st December 2010 at 14:19.
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Old 31st December 2010, 14:34   #6
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Default Re: Old world and nether world:A slice of Rayalaseema

Quote:
Originally Posted by anilisanil View Post
wow! Arya, that is nice trip into histroy. I am always fascinated by Kirshnadeva Raya and Rayalaseema (thanks to its notorious depiction in telugu movies) I am now glued to this thread to see all that through your eyes!!
Thanks anilsanil - will try and provide as much details as I got to know.

You bet! And Penukonda is the town of the main character of RGV's Raktha Charitra - Paritala Ravi.
The area gives one a feel of being out in the wild west of the US. Dry, bare mountains, hardy folks and lotsa crime. But the place also has a lot of history with it.

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Originally Posted by MX6 View Post
Who are those mad buggers who went around putting their autograph on that photograph of Krishna deva raya?
I was irritated like hell as well. But this photo seems like a xerox copy pasted onto the wall. Maybe the original will adorn the wall once the restoration of the palace is complete.

Quote:
Interestingly, the photo has an uncanny resemblence to NTR!
Did he play Krishna Devaraya in any movie? For all you know, the photo might be from some movie.

Quote:
The Plaque seems to be of British origin, who I guess have preserved the antiquity. Hope to get some bits of lost history here in your thread.
Bingo! The British not only preserved the antiquity but also modded the palace - the windows bars and frames, the doors and locks were added by them. You can see the window in one of the photos posted above.

Quote:
Also the three cow heads with one body seems to be interesting piece of sculpture. Guess, it's early depiction of motion in rocks. Try covering two heads at a time and you get a totally different carving each time.
Great observation, MX6!
That's correct and is also what the guide told us. I remember having seen something similar in the Lepakshi temple complex as well. This photo is from the lamp post/pillar in the compund of the Ram temple next to the palace.
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Old 31st December 2010, 14:39   #7
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Default Re: Old world and nether world:A slice of Rayalaseema

The palace seem to be well maintained, who is maintaining it now? That is an interesting point about the depiction of motion in sculptures. In fact me too thought about the same thing and was thinking on the grounds whether the multiple limbs shown on sculptures of gods was actually started with an intent of showing motion in sculptures!!

Last edited by anilisanil : 31st December 2010 at 14:52.
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Old 31st December 2010, 14:41   #8
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Default Re: Old world and nether world:A slice of Rayalaseema

Quote:
Originally Posted by aryasanyal View Post
Did he play Krishna Devaraya in any movie? For all you know, the photo might be from some movie.
NTR played Krishna Devaraya in the movie "Tenali Rama Krishna". His son Balakrishna played the same role in the movie "Aditya 369" . I'm sure there must be other movies where NTR played the role, but can't remember right now.
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Old 31st December 2010, 14:45   #9
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Originally Posted by anilisanil View Post
The palace seem to be weel maintained, who is maintaining it now?
The palace is maintained by the Dept. of Archaeology and Musuem, Govt. of AP. I have taken a photo indicating the same. Will post it later today.

Though I didn't see any ongoing work, but I believe that the restoration might be still going on.
It is a beautiful place and deserves to be preserved.
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Old 31st December 2010, 14:53   #10
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Default Re: Old world and nether world:A slice of Rayalaseema

Almost every king's features resemble those of NTR in Andhra Pradesh. Even Gods are not spared. Such was the impact of NTR's screen presence on people, including artists.

Lord Balaji is four handed.

Some of the photographs are good.

Last edited by simplyself : 31st December 2010 at 14:55.
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Old 31st December 2010, 15:01   #11
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Default Re: Old world and nether world:A slice of Rayalaseema

Had been wanting to see Belum for a long time, but somehow, this never happened, always wondering where to stay.

Will learn from your experiences.
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Old 31st December 2010, 15:08   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by anilisanil View Post
The palace seem to be weel maintained, who is maintaining it now? That is an interesting point about the depiction of motion in sculptures. In fact me too thought about the same thing and was thinking on the grounds whether the multiple limbs shown on sculptures of gods was actually started with an intent of showing motion in sculptures!!
Multiple limbs was just to ensure idiots don't go around chewing paan and spitting on them.

Actually, the limbs denoted power. More the limbs, more powerful one was thought off. Rama is supposed to be Ajaanubaahu. Person who's arms are huge and powerful.
Kali with a 1000 hands is supposed to be most powerful form of parvati.
More heads denote brilliance.
Incidentally, my wife and I wanted to make a list of gods with multiple heads.
2 - Agni
3 - Dattatreya
4 - Brahma
5 - Shiva
6 - Karthikeya (or aarumugam as he is known in tamil).

Here's my interpretation

Agni is considered the face of god. Hence we offer things to Agni expecting them to reach god.
He catches and assimilates things quickly. And spreads his brilliance fast. Hence metaphorically speaking, he's more intelligent!

Dattatreya is three headed and is accredited with his own upanishad. He's also the guru of Parasurama to whom he unfolded the Tripura Rahasya, apart from prahalada and others.
Dattatreya is primarily a Guru who opened the eyes of even gods. Hence he comes higher on level of intelligence.

Brahma is the know all god. He is credited with creation. So all the theoretical knowledge is put to use by him in creating the whole universe. So creative brilliance figures yet higher on the level of intelligence.

Shiva with 5 heads is the ultimate truth. There's nothing beyond him. The 5 faces of shiva denote the 5 qualities that sustain and run the universe. Shiva dances his famous tandava on the demon of ignorance, apasmara purusha. Shiva is the destroyer of ignorance. He leads from ignorance to enlightenment - Tamasoma Jyotirgamaya and from death to liberation - Mriyoma Amrutangamaya.
So he's depicted to be the supremely brilliant!

Wait. Then why does Karthikeya have 6 heads?
Poor Shiva had to learn the meaning in the form of upadesha from his own son Karthikeya, of the word Aum, or the Pranava Mantra.
Since Shiva had to bow down to take the upadesha of pranava mantra, his son is accredited to have even taught the mighty shiva, who knew all! Hence this guy gets one more head.

For people who immediately start thinking of Ravana, let me tell you that 10 heads of ravana don't figure in my list. But then he was mighty intelligent too. But pride and avarice and the deadly sin of trying to covet his neighbours wife ensured that the one fire in his belly was extinguished by the strong armed Rama.
As Agastya puts it, Rama Rama Maha Baaho, Sharanu Gushyam Sanatanam.

So to sum up, the intelligence levels proceeds this way. Learn like Agni, Teach like Dattatreya, Create like Brahma, Realize and enlighten like Shiva and re-invent like Karthikeya!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Newpunter View Post
NTR played Krishna Devaraya in the movie "Tenali Rama Krishna". His son Balakrishna played the same role in the movie "Aditya 369" . I'm sure there must be other movies where NTR played the role, but can't remember right now.
NTR has played Krishnadevaraya in many Tamil and Telugu movies. But this photo seems like an authentic replica of a painting from Raya's own times! Krishnadevaraya's rule was the time when Vijayanagaram Samrajya was at it's zenith. And my favourite place on earth - Sringeri has a karmic and dharmic connection to the empire!

Last edited by MX6 : 31st December 2010 at 15:10.
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Old 31st December 2010, 15:11   #13
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Very nice photos and travelogue! A small doubt; why the "nether world" in the title? Surely it is not hellish! Looks rather heavenly to me!

OT: As for resemblance to NTR, I remember a live TV programme I watched sometime in the 90's. A doctor (shrink) was answering viewer's queries / complaints. A fellow from Avadi called and narrated his problem; whenever he closed his eyes to pray after his morning bath or evening ablutions, he could not! Because God Shiva brought to his mind Sivaji Ganesan, Goddess Parvathi was actress Savitri, Rama/Krishna was NTR, Subramanya was Sivakumar and so on! So much so, he just could not pray and felt bad about it, and sought the Shrink's help.

I don't remember what the doctor suggested, but I could sense he was equally stumped!

Last edited by Gansan : 31st December 2010 at 15:13.
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Old 31st December 2010, 16:13   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by simplyself View Post
Lord Balaji is four handed.

Some of the photographs are good.
Thanks!
Is Lord Balaji having four limbs a rare sculpture? Man, I should have asked more questions about this to the guide then.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ampere View Post
Had been wanting to see Belum for a long time, but somehow, this never happened, always wondering where to stay.

Will learn from your experiences.
Sure, my pleasure in helping you out. The place is a must-visit.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MX6 View Post
Here's my interpretation....
A standing ovation to you, MX6!
You've brought this thread alive.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gansan View Post
Very nice photos and travelogue! A small doubt; why the "nether world" in the title? Surely it is not hellish! Looks rather heavenly to me!
Thanks Gansan.
'Nether' doesn't necessarily mean 'hell'. It is to indicate a place below the ground surface, which Belum Caves is. Hence the title.
Hell being a place below the earth's surface has a metaphysical twang to it. My title is purely geographical.

Surely Netherlands is no hell!
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Old 31st December 2010, 17:20   #15
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Default Penukonda ...contd.

Some of our experiences in Penukonda. These are all written from memory and from the guide interaction. Apologies for the grammatical mistakes. I forgot taking a notebook to note down all the other/finer details.

Gagan Mahal:

This was the summer palace of the Vijayanagara king Krishna Dev Raya. He built it in the year 1575. The place is a two-storied structure. The ground floor contains the treasury, an open hall (pictures posted earlier) and a tunnel that leads right up to the mountain fort - Rani Mandir. This tunnel is said to be so high that the king could ride his horse through it right to the hilltop.
The govt. closed this tunnel down 36 roughly years back (all information as per the guide).

The first floor contains the durbar hall, where the king met his subjects. Next to it is the meeting hall where strategies were hatched. The first floor also contains a wide verandah overlooking the front compound. The walls surrounding this verandah also has the same gaps in the walls to hold guns.

The tower of the Gagan Mahal has a narrow staircase (similar to the Charminar) leading to a mezzanine floor that housed the dancing room where the king sat beside one of the windows and watched dances. This room was strategically located so that the queen couldn't see what was going on inside. The windows here offer a great view of the Rama temple next door and the surrounding hills.
Going up from the mezzanine, one reaches the verandah of the first floor, and continuing upwards leads to the top of the tower which serves total military purpose - a watchtower cum great shooting angles to the soldiers.

I simply wonder how this place might have been in it's heyday. After the collapse of the Vijayanagara empire, Penukonda was conquered by the Bijapur sultans and later by Tipu Sultan. Lastly, the place saw British domination.

The Durbar Hall
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Inside the Meeting Hall
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The temple next to the palace. Note that this view is from the window of the mezzanine floor of the tower.
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The Thimmarasu Samadhi nestled between the two hills.
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A closer look at the Thimmarasu samadhi.
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The Rama Temple:
There is a temple dedicated to Lord Rama next to the Gagan Mahal palace. We didn't get time to go inside and explore. Rama, Lakshman and Sita are said to have stopped here on their way to Lanka.

Hanuman on the gopura of the Rama Temple.
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Garuda on the gopura of the Rama Temple. The dude is our guide.
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Ugra-Narasimha on the lamp/post of the Rama Temple.
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Thimmarasu jail:
Thimmarasu was a wise and able minister of Krishna Devaraya and the man instrumental in making him the king of Vijayanagara.

From Wikipedia -

Quote:
In 1524, Krishnadevaraya crowned his minor son Yuvaraja. A few months later the prince took ill and died of poisoning. Accusing Timmarusu for this crime, Krishnadevaraya had the entire family of the minister blinded.
It is said the King later released Timmarusu, on knowing that the conspiracy to kill his own son was hatched by Gajapathi's of Orissa. The Gajapathi's did not want their princess Jaganmohini to wed Krishadevaraya, as they believed he was not of pure blue blood.
The Gajapathis belonged to great Solar Dynasty or Surya Vamsi clan of Orissa. But had to agree to this marriage, owing to Krishnadevaraya's victory over the Gajapathi's. Krishanadevaraya's parents, Narasa Nayaka a chiftain from Dakshina Kannada and Nagaladevi a chieftain's daughter from Uttara Kannada, were not from the royal family of Vijayanagara (Sangama Dynasty).
The king deplored and repented with Timmarusu, later on.
On being released, Timmarusu spent the rest of his life begging in Tirupathi. He refused to take any support from his former King. He died a death in poverty.
The Thimmarasu jail is the place where the king jailed the minister. It is a stone's throw away from the Gagan Mahal and looking inside the jail room I felt that the minister must have spent a very lonely time in there. It's absolutely mind-shattering to live without being able to see the outside world or interact with anybody. According to the guide, Thimmarasu was about 90 years old when he was blinded and jailed.

The Thimmarasu samadhi is also in Penukonda, nestled in the hills. Krishna Devaraya built a samadhi in Thimmarasu's honor to repent his mistake, after the mahamantri died.
We weren't able to go till the samadhi but captured it as much possible with the camera zoom.

The Jail from the front.
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Another view of the Thimmarasu Jail.
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The ceiling inside the Jail. Taken from the small window opening.
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Another view of the ceiling. Note the intricate carvings on the walls.
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The large Gopuram:
This was the actual gate to the palace, and is adorned with numerous sculptures. Now a swamiji's ashram, mostly catering to westerners, has come up in between the gopura and the Gagan Mahal. The guide alluded to some litigation issues as well.
My take - the govt. should have declared the whole zone as heritage and not allowed any modern constructions to come up here. But who cares, this is India my darling.

A broken statue of Krishna Devaraya in the Gopura.
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A carving of two symmetrical snakes.
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Carving of a monkey eating.
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On the gopura ceiling, carvings of fish and crocodiles. These are all meant to protect the place and offer prosperity.
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The Jain Temple of Ajitnath:
As with many other places in the Vijayanagara empire, Penukonda also had a considerable Jain influence and this temple used to be dedicated to the Tirthankar Ajithnath. Now the idol is no longer there.

The Jain Temple.
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An image of Ajithnath on the door of the Temple.
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Inside the temple.
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Another view of the temple.
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The standing Nandi or Basavanna Well:
Next to the Jain temple is a huge structure of a standing Nandi, said to be one of it's kind. There is a well here that used to be the watering hole for the area. The path below the Nandi statue leads to a construction from the Vijayanagara days, but is in extremely poor condition now. It is said to have housed a dancing hall and later served as an office in the British times. Later it was converted to a Govt. Primary School, which has now shifted adjacent to this structure. This structure currently is filled with poo and probably serves as the latrine for the school kids. A pitiable condition indeed.

The standing Nandi.
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Carving of Lord Ganesha on the well wall.
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The standing Nandi from front.
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The Mahaveer Jain Temple:
This is a relatively modern structure and is said to be run by the only remaining Jain family in Penukonda.

The lamp post of the temple.
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The Mahaveer statue, which is said to belong to 1300 AD.
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Yakshas at the temple. They are said to guard the gates of the Gods.
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