During the Telangana movement, TRS chief K Chandrashekar Rao vowed to develop Lord Lakshmi Narasimha cave temple on the lines of the famous Tirumala temple of Tirupati if Andhra Pradesh was divided. In 2016, two years after the bifurcation and coming to power, he constituted the Yadadri Temple Development Authority (YTDA). On April 21, 2016, the foundation stone was laid. “The temple will last for over a thousand years. Black granite stone, also known as Krishnashila, procured from a quarry in Gurujapalli village in Prakasam district of Andhra, has been chosen,” says G Kishan Rao, YTDA CEO and Vice-Chairman. Originally spread over 2,500 sq yards, the temple complex now covers over four acres (19,360 sq yards).
The authorities blasted a hillock known as Yadagirigutta on which the cave temple was located to level the land and build gigantic retaining walls and gopurams (ornate monumental entrance towers). “The temple has seven gopurams — one seven-storey tower (sapthathala maharaja gopuram) and six five-storey towers. The sapthathala maharaja gopuram is being constructed over the original cave temple, which is now closed and will be opened when the temple is inaugurated next year,” says Rao.
The masterplan was designed by South Indian film art director B Anand Sai under the guidance of seer Chinna Jeeyar Swamy following the “Agama, Vasthu and Pancharatha shastras”. Around 500 sculptors have been employed to carve the hundreds of idols and pillars for the temple. The teak-wood doors are being made at a workshop in Hyderabad. The craftsmen, brought all the way from Mahabalipuram (Tamil Nadu), have been working for nearly eight months on the temple. The varnish has been imported from Singapore.
The original estimated cost of construction was Rs 1,800 crore, including the cost of building cottages, lodges and shelters for pilgrims, a presidential guesthouse, landscaping and road widening. “Till now, Rs 600 crore has been spent and the work is nearly 60 per cent complete. So, we think the total cost would be around Rs 1,000 crore and not Rs 1,800 crore as was originally estimated,” Rao claims.
On September 6, controversy erupted when carvings of KCR’s face were found on some pillars inside the main temple. Apart from that, carvings of a car, the symbol of the TRS, were also found. Says CEO Rao, “Some sculptors carved the CM’s face as they admire him. No one instructed us or the sculptors to do it… It is common for temples to have symbols indicative of the period, culture and traditions during which they were built. There are also carvings of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi in this temple.”
However, given that all the sculptors are either from Tamil Nadu or Andhra Pradesh, such adulation for KCR may be farfetched. BJP MLA T Raja Singh has accused the CM of trying to project himself as god, while state Congress chief N Uttam Kumar Reddy draws a parallel with medieval kings who inscribed their names on the pillars of temples and monuments they built. “KCR is an elected representative and not a king. He is not renovating the temple with his own money, it is public money,” he said.
The temple authority has now decided to remove the controversial carvings.