Saturday, 31 December 2016

Lost Beauties Of The Chambal Badlands - Bateshwar, Padhavali & Mitawali


I hitchhiked with about eight different people for about 30km that day. I hitchhiked on motor-bikes, on mini-trucks having traces of animal-waste, a rickshaw, a jeep and on a tractor. I hitchhiked for distances ranging from 300m to 10km. I had my lunch of roti-sabzi laden with desi ghee on a khat (cot) outside a small house in the middle of nowhere. That day I hitchhiked from the village of Bamore, a little to the north of Gwalior, to Bateshwar, Padhawali and Mitawali and then returned via Rithora and Malanpur.

The Chausath Yogini Temple of Mitawali

The day's exploits were certainly rewarded with not only some amazing monuments, but also a good insight to the lives of the people. All this happened, as I later learnt, in a region which until 2005 was the last stronghold of the feared dacoits of the Chambal ravine. Hindsight says it was an incredibly stupid idea.


Bateshwar Temples

The Bateshwar Temple complex was my first stop for the day. This site has a staggering 221 temples from the sixth through ninth centuries bunched together in an area of not more than 5-6 acres. These temples, attributed to the Pratihara dynasty, have been painstakingly renovated by the ASI. The site has a resident caretaker who can show you around the complex. Also ask for the album that details the restoration efforts by the ASI at the site post 2005. The scale of restoration here is a testament to what ASI could achieve if left to do its job without interference.

The first temple is located outside the main complex

Inside the first temple

Lord Hanuman crushing Rathi and Kaamdev under his feet ...
... shrines of Bateshwar in the background

 Inside the Bhuteshwar temple

 Tank and the Mughal era gallery

 Section of Bateshwar under renovation


Garhi Padhavali

A few kilometers down the road from Bateshwar is the Garhi Padhavali. The structure is predominantly a fort (garhi) built in the nineteenth century by local rulers. The fort is built around what was once an ornate temple. The fort has regular defenses and has a section which was once used as a jail.

 Approaching the fort

 The main entrance

 The jail section of the fort

As for the temple, only the elevated Mukhamandapa (outer hall) remains, the sanctum having long been destroyed during the Islamic invasions. But even this, the crumbling hall is so intricately carved that one only craves to imagine what the original temple would have been like. The temple is attributed to lord Shiva and considered to have been constructed in the tenth century.

The entrance to the temple

Inscription on the pillar

The insides of the Mukhamandapa

Shiva scenes

Some more art

Looking up to the ceiling

The Mukhamandapa from the outside


Ekattarso Mahadev Temple (Chausath Yogini) - Mitawali

Welcome to the Indian Parliament - or at least the building which the locals say it is based on. The building has the circular architecture of the Chausath Yogini format - the main temple occupies the centre of the circle, while numerous small temples occupy the circumference, each in turn opening in to face the main temple. The main temple and some of the circumferential ones have shivlings, while others are empty. The temple is located on top of a hillock and has views of the surrounding countryside. The construction of this temple is attributed to the Kachchhapaghata dynasty, at about 14th century.

Ascending the stairs

First views

Before entering

The entry to the temple

From the inside

The main sanctum

A larrger shivling exposed to the elements

The village of Mitawali at the base of the hillock itself has been a location where numerous beautiful artifacts have been unearthed. One statue of a cow watches over the path that leads to the temple, while the others are now displayed at the ASI museum inside Gwalior Fort.

The cow at the gate ...
... the temple in the background

A shrine near the temple

Some ruins in the village


Getting In

Bateshwar, Padhavali ad Mitavali are located close to each other and about 30km from Gwalior which is the main access point. From Gwalior, one can approach the places via Bamore and Nurabad in the north or Malanpur-Rithora in the east. The eastern access is the most preferred as there are frequent connections on this route at least till Rithora which is about 5km from Padhavali. This was the route I took for my return journey.

The route from Bamore on which I had set off, is mainly used by the numerous mining quarries that have occupied this area after 2005 and also tourists with vehicles. The road is understandably narrow and winding with the scrub-land terrain. In all good sense, keep away from this road unlike what I did.


The Parting Shot

Well, been there - done that. Head to these off the route places when you are somewhere near Gwalior. These places are beautiful, but have been relegated to the lost chapters of history due to the prevailing situations. Now is the time to give these a chance. Let them enthrall you enmasse.
View from my royal chariot

Also, if you happen to come here with a dedicated transport, then do give Kakanmath a go (25km further) or Naresar even, though I've not yet been to either. Give it a go still!


© One Of The Road

Friday, 23 December 2016

Exploring The Monuments Of Gyaraspur


In the heartland of central Madhya Paradesh, lies a sleepy tehsil place called Gyaraspur. The small village surrounded by lush green fields is home to some striking monuments from the ninth and tenth centuries. The monuments bear a mixed stamp of Shaivism and Jainism - indicating the homogeneity and evolution of culture in these parts. The monuments here are the Maladevi and Bajramath temples, the Hindola Toran and the Chaukhamba-Aathkhamba pillars. Gyaraspur was also the home of the iconic Shal Bhanjika - the tree-goddess, revered as the Indian Monalisa.

The Maladevi Temple of Gyaraspur


Aathkhamba - The Eight Pillars

This is a group of eight pillars located next to the bus-stop. The pillars were a part of an ornate Shaiva temple leading to the main sanctum. All other remains of the temple are destroyed and only the pillars remain. The pillars - contrary to expectation feature a high degree of artistic work and detailing.

The eight pillars

A closer look at the pillars

The artwork on the lintel


Hindola Toran - The Swing Arch
Chaukhamba - The Four Pillars

These two monuments are located on a hill to the east of Aathkhamba. The Hindola Toran is an entrance of an old Bramhinical temple. The entrance features two arches on the underside giving it an appearance of a swing - hence the name. The old temple that the entrance led to is in complete ruins except for the four pillars (Chaukhamba)

The Hindola Toran, Chaukhamba and remains of the temple

The entrance features detailed artwork depicting the dashavatars (ten forms) of Lord Vishnu, figurines depicting mythological scenes and ornamental patterns.

The swing - or hindola

The detailing of the toran pillars

The four pillars of the main temple feature moderate artwork with mythological scenes and divine apsaras.

The four pillars amid the ruins

The finer details ...


Maladevi Temple

Further moving south across the hill, one comes to the magnificent temple of Maladevi. This temple dates to about ninth century. The temple is an architectural wonder in itself and has been built seamlessly on an outcrop of the hill. The higher ground of the temple lends it some beautiful views of the surrounding lush countryside.

The Maladevi temple against the sun

The front facade

The view of the countryside from the temple

Over a period of time some portion of the hill has eroded into the temple and the main structure has considerably weakened. The original idols have been replaced by Jain idols as the religion began to spread its roots in the region. The temple has balconies at the higher levels which feature grill work in stone. These are delicate, yet rugged and are a wonder of craftsmanship.

The side profile

The balcony with grill work (lower side)

A closer view of the front

The insides of the temple


Bajramath (Vajramath) Temple

This temple is located just outside the village proper and is accessible from the tehsil office. The tenth century temple has three shrines originally meant for Shiva, Vishnu and Surya. Over a period of time, these idols have been replaced by those of Jain Tirthankars in the later periods. The temple, though now weak, features fantastic artwork on its nagara-style shikhara (spire) and sides.

The front of the Bajramath

The inner idols

The shikhara from the rear

The panels on the rear


Shal Bhanjika - The Tree Goddess

The Shal Bhanjika is iconic in stature. The idol is a poetry in stone with one of the most natural and beautiful of all smiles - done about half a millennia before Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece with which its smile is often compared. The idol is also known for its hair-style - the ornamental arrangement being a rarity - and is one of the prized possessions of Indian archeology. 

The Shal Bhanjika

The idol found at Gyaraspur has been subsequently relocated and exhibited at the Gujari Mahal museum in Gwalior.


Getting In

Gyaraspur is located about 100km north-east of Bhopal and 40km north-east of Vidisha on the Bhopal-Sagar highway. The highway passes through the centre of the village. Local buses ply this route every 15-20 minutes. Vidisha is the closest rail head.

On the map


Other Places On The Bhopal Circuit

Sanchi || Bhimbetka || Bhojpur


© One Of The Road

Thursday, 22 December 2016

The Massive Bhojeshwar Temple At Bhojpur


The founding of the city of Bhopal is attributed to the Parmara king Bhoj. The king also founded another place, about 50km South-East of Bhopal on the banks of the river Betwa - Bhojpur. Bhojpur never really took-off, much like the monument around which it was based - the temple of Bhojeshwar. The temple in question is simply massive and lies incomplete to this day. It houses India's largest shiv-ling at more than 2m.

The icon of Bhojpur - Bhojeshwar Temple

The village of Bhojpur


The Bhojeshwar Temple

The construction of the massive temple dates to the early 11th century and is attributed to King Bhoj. The temple faces west and has a cuboid plan.

 The last crowds of the evening

The main sanctum occupies the whole of the temple and houses the huge shiv-ling and its base platform. All offerings are set at this platform only, while access to the shiv-ling is restricted to the priests. The sanctum is open (does not have a door), but access is restricted by means of human-sized gates.

The sanctum

The shiv-ling with humans for comparison

The walls of the sanctum measure a massive 20m on the outside, and about 13m on the inside. The main shiv-ling in itself has a height of 2.3m and circumference of 5.4m.

 The inner pillars

The sanctum facade features some divine images (apsaras and ganas for most part). The external walls are plain but feature faux balconies on the three walls. A magar (crocodile) serves as an outlet for the shiv-ling.

The front facade

 The faux balconies

There are two smaller shrines in front of the sanctum. These belong to a sarpa (serpent) and a small shiv-ling.

 The two minor shrines

 Another angle

The construction of the original temple was left incomplete due to some reason - war, calamities or structural issues are possibilities. A ramp located to the north-east gives an indication to the original construction efforts.

 The ramp


Conservation At Bhojpur

The temple was structurally weak during the post independence era when conservation was first initiated. Major work was carried out in 2006-07 under the leadership of K. K. Mohammad of the ASI. The ASI has repaired the facade, added a missing stone coloumn and set a fibre-glass ceiling to complete the structure.

The evening aarti at the temple


Getting In

Bhojpur is best approached from Bhopal. The Bhopal city buses plying to the industrial area of Mandideep halt at a stop called 'Gyarah Meel' (11miles). Local rickshaws ply from here to Bhojpur for Rs20 per seat. There are direct buses from Bhopal too. The last one leaves Bhojpur at 6pm.

On the map

Time is critical for visiting Bhojpur, since there is hardly any transport available after sunset (or temple closing time) and you would be at the mercy of a handful of vehicles that ply the route.


Other Places On The Bhopal Circuit

Sanchi || Bhimbetka || Gyaraspur


© One Of The Road