Penukonda had served as the second capital to the Vijayanagara kings and was called "Ghanagiri" or "Ghanadri". It was the residence of the Vijayanagara Rajahs from as early as 1354. The various inscriptions at the place and inside the edifice assert that King Bukka I of the Vijayanagara dynasty entrusted the province of Penukonda to his son Vira Virupanna Udaiyar. It was under the latter's rule that that Penukonda fort was built.
The ruins of the citadel crown the summit of the hill within the fort area, while the dilapidated remains of Hindu and Muslim buildings lie in great profusion. Some exhibit an incongruous mixture of styles and details.
Historical Monuments in Penukonda
The Penukonda fort is an outstanding testimony to the artistic and engineering expertise of the time. There is an inscription at Kallodi in Mysore which reveals that Bukkaraya had a channel dug in order to bring water from the Penneru to this town. It would appear that the town was originally intended as a summer resort of the Vijayanagara Kings of the second dynasty, which is called "Gagana Mahal".
The Gagana Mahal or Ancient palace was built in 1575 AD. There are seven bastions along the circumference of the fort. At the Yerramanchi gate which is the main entrance, there is a huge image of Lord Hanuman which is almost 11 feet tall. It has a basement of Hindu construction and a ground floor of elaborate Muslim detail, later altered to improve the relationship with the Hindu work. Built in the courtly style typical of the period, it is similar to several structures at Vijayanagara, with Islamic-style-arches, vaults and plaster decoration combined with temple-like elements. The upper level is capped with an octagonal pyramidal tower. An adjoining three-storey square tower with projecting balconies overlooks the approaches from the east. Nearby stands a small, square structure, also with a pyramidal roof. The palace is similar to many constructions at Hampi and is witness of the glory and grandeur of the Royalty.
Religious Monuments in Penukonda
It is believed that the fort had 365 temples, one for each day of worship. However, most of these have been unable to withstand the ravages of time and have been destroyed. A number of ruins and fragments of stone lie scattered all over the hill as well as the plains and are the only remnants of a glorious past. 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.
The Pache Parshvanatha Swamy Jain Temple is also found in Penukonda. It has a shrine dating back to the 12-13 century, the era of the Hoysalas. The presence of Jainism here is due to the rule of the Hoysala kings who practiced Jainism. The statue is of Bhagwan Parshvanatha, 23rd Jain Tirthankara, in the Kayotsarga posture. This temple consists of a Jain sculpture which depicts a naked Jain savior, standing in front of an undulating serpent. Nearby are the twin temples of Lord Rama and Lord Shiva. In the Rama temple are found carvings from the Ramayana and Krishna legends. On the Shiva temple there are scenes from Shaivite mythology.
Another important monument of Penukonda is the Babbaya Dargah.The Dargah is symbolic of the religious harmony in the place where Hindus and Muslims co-existed peacefully. It is the mausoleum of Hazarath Syedna Baba Fakhruddin Saharwardy, a great Sufi saint of the twelfth century. It is believed that before coming to Sistan and Shahpur in Iran before renounced the world for Allah. Legend has it that when he came to Penukonda, he was looking for a place to settle down. In in his pursuit he was given a twig by his guru who asked him to set up place wherever the plant bloomed. He planted the twig and slept under a tree only to awake and see it become a beautiful plant and he stayed there. He is called Babaiah by the local people and due to the love and respect he garnered, many men of various faiths have taken his name over centuries and the Dargah is visited and revered by men of different faiths.
The Mosque of Sher Khan is a handsome building of dark-grey granite with jet-black stone moldings of hornblende.It has a Telugu inscription of 'Sadashiva' (dated 1564) in its courtyard. The architecture of the temple is almost Hindu in style.
Penukonda is one of the major attractions of Andhra Pradesh. More remarkable than the fort is the level of religious toleration that existed in the ancient times, with both Hindu and Muslim monuments and places of worship existing side by side and resembling each other in their architectural designs. The town is a must-visit when on a trip to Andhra Pradesh.
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