An eye-catching, black limestone temple surrounded by water has been built in Andhra Pradesh in India to serve as a new gathering area and place of worship for the community. Designed to be beautiful and functional, it is open to the public to visit now.

Built and operated by JSW Cement Ltd, the Balaji Temple is located in Bilkalguduru Village and was built as part of a community outreach programme for the residents of the villages around Nandyal. The site was initially planned to be near the JSW plant but was moved further towards settlements and fields on the request of local people.

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The temple is also a water source © Edmund Sumner

The temples have two black limestone shrines to the deities Balaji and Varahaswamy, which people can visit by entering the buildings. There are also green spaces where the local community can meet up and use for recreation, and the temple is built around a newly created water source. The area is known for its cotton and chilli farms, which in the past benefitted from a natural canal that has since dried up. When creating the temple, the architects looked for a way to get water back to the dry area, eventually managing to do it by redirecting the source from a nearby limestone quarry and installing a water tank as a way to make it permanent.  It also helped created more space where people can gather and relax by the banks. The shape of the building and the water source is similar to the country’s iconic stepwells. Also known as baolis, vavs and kunds in parts of the country, they are manufactured storage systems that allow people to access a water source by descending steps.

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The temple houses two shrines to Balaji and Varahaswamy © Edmund Sumner

The tall temple was designed by sP+a architects and made from stacked locally available black limestone. “This unique aspect of the temple's architecture was challenging to develop, design and build. The other aspect was also to work with the traditional form of the temple but also make it of its time and for performance reasons and not only for aesthetics,” the company told Lonely Planet.

The limestone temple in India
The temple was made from local black limestone © Edmund Sumner

The planning of the temple was based on a 10th Century temple for the same deity at Tirupathi in Southern India, and similarly includes the Balaji and Varahaswamy shrines, as well as a Pushkarini (water tank).

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