Hyderabad: Tucked away on Kesavagiri hillock in the congested Chandrayangutta area of the Old City of Hyderabad, five kilometres from Charminar, is the Swayambhu Chennakesava Swamy temple, which is believed to be over 600 years old and is a rare example of a temple built to reconcile the warring Shaivites and Vaishnavaites.

Though there is no proper record of when the temple complex was built, Srinivas Rangachary and his brother Vendantacharya, hereditary trustees, assert that their family has served the temple for seven generations and the temple was built during the Vijayanagar dynasty.

The presiding deity of Chennakesava Swamy is housed in a 28-pillored mantapa. Smaller temples of Brahmarambha and Chenna Mallikarju-naswamy, Shivalayam and a rare idol of Lord Hanuman with ‘Shanku and Chakra’ are also part of the temple complex. Devotees also pray to the famed Ganesh Vruksham, which represents Lord Ganesha. One has to climb 200 granite steps to reach the temple.

“The temple is a symbol of unity. It’s one of the rare temples that has Shiva and Vaishnava idols and it united warring Shivaite and Vaishnavaite groups in ancient days. Hence it’s called Shaiva Keshava Keshtram,” says Sagar Kumar, priest of the Mal-likarjunaswamy temple.

Devotees are appalled at the neglect of the ancient temple which gives a bird’s eye view of Hyderabad city, including the Falaknuma Palace.

A part of the parapet wall of the temple complex and some rooms have collapsed, some have developed deep cracks, and the flooring is uneven. Bushes have sprung up along the granite steps leading to the temple.

The temple was recently whitewashed for the Brahmotsavam slated for December. Endowments Minister Indrakaran Reddy visited the temple recently and promised that it would be renovated, but work has not yet begun.

Prof Madabhushnam Sridhar Acharyulu, the Central Information Commissioner, who belongs to the family of original hereditary trustees, says he owes his present position to Chennakeshava Swamy.

He says there is no recorded history of the temple, but it is certainly 600-700 years old.

A good part of the temple was developed during the period of Chennama Charyulu, hereditary trustee. He saved the temple from vandalism by then Muslim rulers.”

According to Srinivas Rangacharulu, who is a lawyer apart from being one of the hereditary trustees, the temple is constructed on 12 acres of land with another 300 acres of land spread over surrounding areas of Shamshabad, Palamukala, Gurramcheruvu, and Gokavaram (Nalgonda).

Much of the land around the temple has been encroached upon and some leased out. The temple earns revenue of Rs 30,000 to Rs 40,000 a month. The temple’s ownership is being contested by the family of Bansiraja, a military officer of the Nizam era.

“Government should immediately renovate this ancient temple. It reflects our age-old cultural heritage. Barring auspicious days, few visit the temple. Though it has vast properties, revenues are poor. Recently, the temple got street lights. I keep a watch over the temple since young lovers frequent the temple to while away time,” said Mr Ravi Rahul, a staunch devotee and en employee of DLRL.