Sri Mukhalingesvara and Somesvara Temples at Mukhalingam, Andhra Pradesh


Sri Mukhalingasvara Temple – Mandapam  entrance

These are two of the three ancient temples located in the village of the same name as the first temple mentioned in the title. It took many wrong turns to finally get to the right road to this village. When I visited (two years ago) Google Maps was of little help as the temple was marked way before its actual location. In fact, a recently built temple was at the place where Google Maps directed me to and on seeing it, I was disappointed. I had not travelled four and half hours from Vishakhapatnam to visit a new temple. Overcoming language barriers and tolerating the heat, I doggedly stuck to my plan and that helped me find the place. Though by the time I reached Sri Mukhalingersvara Temple it was time for the deity’s afternoon rest, so I found the doors of the sanctum shut. Nevertheless, I was elated to find myself standing in front of this majestic temple. Going past the shining gilded Dhwaja Sthambha, I climbed a couple of stairs to enter the first small enclosure of the temple through the Simhadvara[1] (entrance facing east) and then through a vestibule, which hosts sculptures that depict how Siva revealed himself to Savaras,[2] to enter the main compound in which stands the main mandapam and sanctum, and other smaller temples. I decided to spend my time exploring the beautifully sculpted subordinate temples located on the four corners and, also, two other smaller shrines. The temple was under renovation, so scaffolding obstructed my viewing a few of them from close quarters.


Being a Siva temple, a very dignified sculpture of Nandi graces the entrance of the main building. it is made of black stone and sits on a raised platform under a canopy. On the four corners of the courtyard stand smaller versions of the main temple and all are dedicated to Siva. The gopuram of each possess sculptures that depict characters and scenes from Hindu mythology. Despite being quite worn out, the sculptures are beautifully crafted and embellishments that adorn the exterior of the walls of these temples add to the magnificence. Besides these on the right hand of the main temple is a small temple, rather more of an alcove, dedicated to nine forms of Goddess Durga. This was locked too but I could see the deity made of silver through the metal bars that formed the door.

Goddess MukhalngamMukhalingam

Top photo is of the temple dedicated to Goddess Parvati. The second one is a closeup of the beautifully sculpted walls and entrance of one of the subordinate temples located in the four corners of the courtyard.

The legend behind the origin of the temple as given in Kshetramahamatya.

Brahma, the creator, who is deprived of his divnity, goes to Mahendragiri, a mountain in the Kalinga country, a cursed tract, unworthy to be the abode of an Arya. He undergoes there a severe penance. Siva, who is pleased with his austerities, offers a boon. Brahma requests him to sanctify the Kalinga country by his presence on the bank of the Vamsadhara river, to which Siva assents. The Fates so contrive that certain Gandharvas are cursed by Vamadeva, for an act of indiscretion with the Savara women, to be born as Savaras, but they are to regain their former status on seeing the divine form of Siva which is in time to be revealed to them. So Gandharva-Saravas live in the forest of madhuka tress, to the west of the Mehendra Hill, on the bank of the Vamsadhara, near the city of Jayanta. The Savara chief has a wife and a Saiva concubine of Srisailam. The two women quarrel for a madhuka tree, which the chief cuts off; when lo! The divine light of Siva issues forth from the hollow of the broken trunk… Brahma, Vishnu, and all the gods come to glorify the event. Brahma brings there ten millions of lingas. Visvakarma builds beautiful temples of gold and gems.[3]


The temple doors opened dot at 2 PM and I managed a very fulfilling darshan as very few people were present. The Sanctum Sanctorum is a very tiny room in which the huge swayambhu Lingam occupies a considerable space. After the darshan I tried to get some information from the head priest but again language barrier caused me much trouble. Nevertheless, one important thing I could glean from him was that the temple was built in the fourth century of the Common Era.

Standing on the left bank of the Vamsadhara River and about 20 miles from the town of Parlakimedi. Up until the twentieth century, the Zamindar of Parlakimedi kept the temples in good repair and made adequate endowments for their upkeep. The three temples are dedicated to Siva. This tract was considered as holy as the city of Benares. G. V. Ramamurti, a highly respected Telugu scholar, visited the locality In the 1890s. A few months before his visit, the local Talukdar, at the behest of the Government, made extensive arrangements for the Shivaratri celebrations when thousands of devotees made their way to the temples,[4] confirming the importance of this place as a religious centre till at least the end of the nineteenth century.

Ramamurti gives a detailed account of his findings in the three temples and ruins lying scattered in the area and presents a convincing argument to suggest that Mukhaligam village was once the capital Kalinganagara of the Kalingas.[5] This contention got legitimacy in 1927 when the Andhra Historical Research Society celebrated ‘Kalinga Day’ in the Mukhalingam village. To mark this occasion a commemorative volume titled ‘Kalingadesacharitra’ written by the R. Subba Rao was released.[6] Subba Rao in his another article mentions that many inscriptions record land grants by public officials to the deity called ‘Kalingavani Nagare Srimanmadhukesvaraya’ which shows that Kalinganagara or capital of the Kalingas was this village.[7] The earliest name of the village was Jayantapuram, and since the idol in the Mukhalingesvara temple is referred to in the inscriptions found on the walls of the temple as Madhukeshvara, the village was called Madhukesvaram and its name was changed to Mukhalingam a few years before Ramamurti’s visit.[8] But Ganjam District accounts published previously to his visit refer to the place as Mukhalingam and not as Madhukesvara.[9] This Mukhalingam village is identified as Moccalingam mentioned in Pliny’s account of India.[10]

Ramamurti discovered some inscriptions on the walls of the Mukhalingesvara temple which were accidently exposed when plaster covering them came off over a period. Thus, other inscriptions still lie hidden behind the plaster that form the covering of the ancient original walls and therefore are not available to expand our understanding of the history of the temple and its surroundings. Those few inscriptions that have been revealed by the coming off of the plaster reveal the name of King Anantavarmadeva (Anantavarma Chodagangadeva) as being the ruler during the time when significant private donations of gold, land or money were made to the temple.[11]

One of the intriguing finding by Ramamurti from among the eleven exposed inscriptions was that one of the inscriptions was in Bengali Nagari characters. This he found on the southern gateway of the temple. Ramamurti could not read this inscription so we have no clue as to its contents. Regretfully, I was not able to see the inscriptions inside of the temple as it was dimly lit and, also, photography was prohibited. The finding of a Bengali inscription is exciting because it raises several important questions. Who were the people who visited this place from Bengal? Did Bengali traders make their way this far south? What were the goods or products they traded in? Was Mukhalingam a flourishing mart or a place of production of something important? Or was it that this temple was an important place of pilgrimage those days which drew devotees from Bengal? It is extremely vital that more inscriptions should be unearthed from behind the plaster to further our understanding of the Ganga Dynasty, or even their predecessors the Kalinga, as also the socio-religious conditions of the time. Not only does this apply for the area in which these temples are located but also for other regions from where people or traders flocked to this place. This possibility is confirmed by the inscription in Nagari characters located on the wall of the storeroom right next to the garbagriha.[12] Such findings increase the likelihood of the existence of inscriptions in other languages and scripts, and also from a far ancient time, behind the plaster. According to R. D. Banerji, the temples and ruins in the area extending to the sea near Kalingapatnam suggest that these belong to the early centuries of the common era when the Kalingas ruled over the area. Banerji contends that some remains of the Kalinga empire go back to the first and second century BCE. One of these remains is the temple at Mukhalingam.[13] According to Douglas Barrett, the oldest amongst the three temples is Sri Mukhalingesvara Temple. Barrett quotes Ramamurti extensively in his short article on the temples but disagrees with him on the question of the oldest temple.[14]

Subba Rao, an accomplished scholar whose focus of study was the Kalingas, has written extensively on the copper plate inscriptions and about their bearings on our understanding of the Kalingas and their successors the Eastern Ganga dynasty that ruled over an area encompassing modern north Andhra Pradesh and south Orissa – the area falling within the Ganjam and Srikakulam districts.[15] He provides a detailed analysis of epigraphic sources found in the area and agrees with Ramamurti’s inferences of the temples. Similarly, H. C. Ray presents a detailed account of the Ganga dynasty based on epigraphic sources found at Mukhalingam.[16]

Ganga Kalinga Dynasty

Mukhalingeswar Plan

Layout of the temple complex.


As for the rest of the inscriptions studied by Ramamurti, Anantavarmadeva finds mention in several. The years mentioned in the inscriptions range from Saka 1004 to 1100 and Anantavarmadeva is mentioned in the ones dated 1004 and 1042 Saka,[17] indicating his years of reign. Ramamurti states that the antiquity of the temple could be older because some inscriptions of older characters were found which he was unable to read.

The four subordinate temples located on the four corners of the compound are dedicated to dikpalakas (guardians of the directions) – Indresvara (southeast), Angesvara (southwest), Yamesvara (Northwest), and Varunesvara (northeast). The temple is without a pradakshinapath so is a nirandhara style of temple.[18]

On the left is Yamesvara Temple and on the right is Varuneswara Temple. Both are subordinate temples to the main one.


The Someswara Temple located short of a kilometre from the first mentioned temple, opens to the west. This is a peculiarity, according to Ramamurti. The structure that still stands today is just the garbagriha, therefore a much larger complex would have existed, as deduced by Ramamurti from the existence of stone debris lying around the temple.[19]

He mentions that part of the top part of this temple was damaged by lightening some time before his visit. According to him, the construction of this temple calls for special consideration as it a rare form of architecture. The temple is built with loose sculpted stones which are placed skilfully to fit into one another like a jigsaw puzzle without the aid of cement like substance. The style of the temple is Orissa style.

Somesvara Temple: The photo on the left is of 1981 from M. Krishnamurthy, ‘Some Important Temples of Andhra Pradesh’, in Itihas, Journal of Andhra Pradesh State Archives, Volume III, no. 1 (1981), Plate VII, pp. 159-172. The one the right was taken by the author of this article in 2018.

Everything here is skillfully executed. The carvings are all of exquisite workmanship and elaborately ornamented. The figures, representing various deities of the Hindu mythology, are excellent specimens of Hindu sculpture, tastefully executed, graceful in form, and chaste in design. Each of these deities occupies a splendidly carved cell or niche standing in bold relief; in some cases it is a monolith, in others it is formed of loose stones fitted into one another. The forms of these niches are various, triangular, circular and so on. The gateway is surmounted by an excellent frieze, representing the Navagrahas, the nine Hindu planets – very beautiful figures.[20]

Somesvara Temple Nine Planets

Nine Planets or Navagraha on the doorway
Some of the sculptors of gods and goddesses in niches on the exterior wall of Somesvara Temple


Ramamurti contends that this temple to be the oldest of the three temples located in Mukhalingam. Based on the inscriptions, the temple structure and architecture, and mythological account in the Kshetramahatmya, Ramamurti came to the conclusion that Mukhalingam village had been in existence since the eight century of the common era, and he credits the Ganga Prince Kamarnava for having founded the town. Another prince of the same dynasty and same name as Kamarnava built the temple in the ninth century. By the twelfth century, during the rule of Anantavarman, the place achieved a flourishing status. He further adds that Prince Madhukarya repaired that temples in the fourteenth century. All the named princes belonged to the Ganga dynasty, and so did the zamindar who was in possession of the temples at the time Ramamurti visited which led Ramamurti to conclude that Mukhalingam temple and the town had been in ‘uninterrupted possession’ of the Ganga Dynasty and its descendants for eleven centuries. [21]


[1] Ramamurti, Gidugu Venkata, ‘An Account of the Antiquities of Mukhalingam and its Neighbourhood’, in Madras Journal of Literature and Science for the sessions 1889-94 (Madras: Madras Literary Society and Auxiliary of The Royal Asiatic Society, 1894), pp. 68-102.
[2] ibid.
[3] ibid.
[4] ibid
[5] ibid
[6] Journal of the Andhra Historical Research Society, July 1931, Volume VI, Part I, p. 3.
[7] Rao, R. Subba, ‘The History of the Eastern Gangas of Kalinga, Chapter 2’, Journal of Andhra Historical Research Society, Volume VI, July 1931, Part 1, pp. 57-62. Another group of scholars claim that Kalingapatanam was the capital of the Kalingas. For example, read G. Ramdas in Calcutta Review, March 1931 issue.
[8] Ramamurti, Gidugu Venkata, ‘An Account of the Antiquities of Mukhalingam and its Neighbourhood’, in Madras Journal of Literature and Science for the sessions 1889-94 (Madras: Madras Literary Society and Auxiliary of The Royal Asiatic Society, 1894), pp. 68-102.
[9] Maltby, T. J., G. D. Leman, ed., The Ganjam District Manual (Madras: W. H. Moore, 1882), p. 62.
[10] Rao, R. Subba, ‘The History of the Eastern Gangas of Kalinga, Chapter 2’, Journal of Andhra Historical Research Society, Volume VI, July 1931, Part 1, pp. 57-62, pp. 59-60 fn.
[11] Ramamurti, Gidugu Venkata, ‘An Account of the Antiquities of Mukhalingam and its Neighbourhood’, in Madras Journal of Literature and Science for the sessions 1889-94 (Madras: Madras Literary Society and Auxiliary of The Royal Asiatic Society, 1894), pp. 68-102.
[12] ibid.
[13] Banerji, R. D., History of Orissa: From the Earliest Times to the British Period (Calcutta: R. Chatterjee, 1930), p. 11.
[14] Barrett, Douglas, ‘Mukhalingam Temples’, in Heritage of Indian Art Series 2 (Bombay: Bhulabhai Memorial Institute, 1960), pp. 1-12. Barrett was a curator in the British Museum London and wrote on art and architectural antiquities of the Indian continent. Barrett mentions that there are hundreds of inscriptions on the temple walls which means plaster cover has been removed at most places to uncover more inscriptions since the time Ramamurti visited this temple in 1890s.
[15] See R. Subba Rao, ‘The History of the Eastern Gangas of Kalinga, Chapter 2’, Journal of Andhra Historical Research Society, Volume VI, July 1931, Part 1, pp. 57-62; ibid, Chapter 3, Part 2, October 1931, pp. 69-86; ibid, Part 3 and 4, January and April 1932, pp. 193-216; R. Subba Rao, ‘The Administrative System of the Early Eastern Ganga Kings of Kalinga from the close of the 5th Century A. D. to the close of the 9th century A. D.’, Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, Volume 5, (1941), pp. 187-194. JSTOR,  accessed 23 July 2020.
[16] See H. C. Ray, The Dynastic History of Northern India (Early Medieval Period), Volume I (Calcutta: Calcutta University Press, 1931).
[17] Ramamurti, Gidugu Venkata, ‘An Account of the Antiquities of Mukhalingam and its Neighbourhood’, in Madras Journal of Literature and Science for the sessions 1889-94 (Madras: Madras Literary Society and Auxiliary of The Royal Asiatic Society, 1894), pp. 68-102.
[18] Krishnamurthy, M., ‘Some Important temples of Andhra Pradesh’, in Itihas, Journal of Andhra Pradesh State Archives, Volume VIII, no. 1 (1981), pp. 159-172.
[19] Ramamurti, Gidugu Venkata, ‘An Account of the Antiquities of Mukhalingam and its Neighbourhood’, in Madras Journal of Literature and Science for the sessions 1889-94 (Madras: Madras Literary Society and Auxiliary of The Royal Asiatic Society, 1894), pp. 68-102.
[20] ibid.
[21] ibid.

Bhojeshwar Temple, Bhojpur

Bhojeshwar Temple, Bhojpur

Bhojpur side Nuggets


On the auspicious day of Mahashivratri, I decided to restart my blog with an article on the old Bhojeshwar Temple that houses the largest Shiv Ling in India. I visited this temple a couple of days ago and was awestruck by the simplicity in the design and the architecture that in fact enhanced the grandeur of the monolith Shiv Ling in the sanctum. This marvel is located at about half an hour’s drive south from Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh.

Built by Raja Bhoja I in the eleventh century (A.D. 1010-55[1]) the temple stood on the banks of a manmade lake created by the same ruler by damming of Betwa and Kaliasot Rivers. It is estimated that the lake covered an area of 250 square miles as it stretched from “Dumkheda, near Bhopal city, to Amoha in the south, and from Chaplasar in the east to Barkhedi in the west.” [2] Map given below shows the location of these places, the first having been swallowed by the city of Bhopal. Ostensibly, Sultan Hoshung Shah breached the dams in the fifteenth century and thus the lake is not to be seen today.

Bhojpur Lake

Map Source: C. Eckford Luard, “Gazetteer Gleanings in Central India: The Great Dam and Temple at Bhojpur in Bhopal State,” The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland for 1914 (London: 1914), p. 309,



To reach the sanctum of the temple one has to climb a flight of stone steps to the platform that leads to the temple. This large rectangular platform on the western side of the temple has two small raised platforms covered with chhatris (Gazebo). One has a small marble Shiv-ling and the other has the sculpture of a serpent. Both these are worshipped by devotees who visit this temple. Besides the two chhatri-adorned platforms, there is a third raised but uncovered platform which has a Shiv-ling and serpent figures atop it and on the western side a small alcove houses a deity of Mahadev.

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has set up barricades in the area between the three joined platforms and the main entrance of the temple thus preventing devotees from performing the parikrama (circumambulation) of the marble Shiv-Ling. The main temple itself is at an elevation from the platform and there exists old slabs of stones as stairs, which are both small and quite low from the threshold of the entrance for use of devotees. The ASI has installed two flights of stairs at the entrance for people to conveniently enter and exit the sanctum. Also, ASI should be commended for building a ramp to enable the feeble and the disabled to reach the sanctum without having to climb the large stone steps to the platform.

Standing at the threshold of the sanctum the view is to behold. The Shiv-Ling is set on a large platform which is situated much below the level of the threshold. Stone steps lead to the base of the Shiv-ling where devotees worship the Lingam with flowers and fruits. The single square sanctum has a high ceiling with a dome in the centre. According to Wikipedia, sections of the roof were missing until the beginning of the twenty first century when they were covered by fibreglass. It has been contended that the temple construction was abandoned midway leaving many features incomplete. Archaeologist K. K. Muhammed successfully completed the creation and installation of a missing pillar by sourcing the right kind of stone and by employing trained stone artisans. He also holds the view that a mathematical error by the medieval architect resulted in the collapsing of the roof that caused the abandonment of construction of the temple.[3]

The entrance of the temple is both extremely broad and high, very unlike Hindu temple architecture. Probably the entrance was made so big so as to allow the shifting of the monolith Lingam into the sanctum. Prof. Kirit Mankodi terms the temple intriguing because of several peculiar features. This west facing temple lacks a mandapa (a pillared outer hall for devotees) and instead of a shikhara (a tall spire), which is a standard for Hindu temple structure, this temple has a samvarna (a dome shaped) roof. He echoes the view of Shri Krishna Deva and Prof Dhaky who surmise that this temple was a commemorative temple in memory of a departed person. [4]

The gigantic Lingam and the pedestal on which it sits occupy the whole space between the four pillars on each corner of the room. The space between the pillars and the walls adjacent to them is pretty narrow hardly allowing two people to pass through. However, in a single file devotees can easily complete circumambulation of the Lingam if they wish to.

Inside the temple on the southern wall, ruins of a balcony are visible (photos end of the para). In all probability, if completed this would have extended just over the Lingam to enable the king or other royalty to perform Hindu religious oblations of pouring milk and water on the Lingam as is done by devout Hindus over Shiv-Lings all over the country. Similarly, on the outside of the wall, one can see highly ornate remains of a balcony. Both the balconies are faux balconies as there are no approaches or exits to them. Since the superstructure could not be built, seemingly the stairs leading to these balconies remained unexecuted. The fact that these balconies exist on the inside and outside of the same wall and that to perform oblations on such a gigantic Lingam an elevated approach was necessary, it is highly plausible that the balconies were meant to be functional and would therefore have had stairs leading to them if the construction of the temple had been completed. The northern and eastern walls too have faux balconies on the outside but these truly seem to be faux balconies as on the inside of these walls there are no indications of balconies like that on the inside face of the southern wall. These balconies on the outside face of the northern and eastern walls may have been constructed to present a symmetrical design from the outside of the temple. Surprisingly, Kirit Mankodi has not mentioned the presence of an incomplete balcony projecting from the southern wall towards the lingam, and, therefore, has missed taking into consideration the possibility of the balconies on the outside and inside of the southern wall as being functional features of the final completed temple. If the balconies were meant to be used for rituals then would this temple still be called a commemorative one? Or as Mankodi states, built as a funerary temple?

Bhojpur interior nuggets


in the above photo the incomplete balcony can be seen on the right wall, right behind the column in the foreground. Photo taken by author on 10 February, 2018.

Bhojpur Bracket Nuggets


This photo was taken from the floor of the sanctum. The broken beam located right below the balcony suggests that the balcony was intended to be extended further to reach the lingam. Photo taken by author on 10 February, 2018.


Several European travellers and officers of the East India Company who traversed these parts of central India in the nineteenth century have described this temple in their writings. In a travelogue of 1839, the author mentions that the Gosains of the temple ‘resided in a small court in front of the temple.’[5] In another description of 1847, it is said that the pedestal of the Lingam carried an inscription “achintya dhwaja” which meant ‘the sign of incomprehensible.’ The author also states that the temple possessed four pillars.[6]

A remarkable feature of this temple site is the finding of a large number of stone carvings in various stages of completion in the quarries nearby. Along with the carvings, stones pieces have been found that have plans and names of masons etched on them. These are crucial in augmenting our understanding of the mechanics of Hindu temple construction of the medieval period and before. Also, a ramp used to carry the pieces to the top part of the temple is found on the eastern side of the temple.

Louis Rousselet visited this temple site in the 1860s and has given a detailed description of the temple:

The temple is situated on a high mount, part of which has been converted into a terrace and it is reached by a dilapidated flight is steps, overlooked by the poor buildings of the convent; where, passing under a little doorway, we found ourselves at once before a great façade. A vast pointed gap, the archwork of which has partly disappeared, occupies the centre, leaving the interior of the sanctuary visible; and the façade is very remarkable from the marked contrast of is simplicity and mode of construction with the other monuments of India. Large monoliths not measuring less than from thirty to forty feet in height, standing side by side, form the exterior wall; both sides of which had no other ornament than two heads of monsters, of graceful design, from which issued a chain terminating in a bell. The chain and the bell are well known as being one of the favourite adjuncts of Jain architecture.

I have said that the walls had no other ornaments besides these sculptures, but a short time since they were decorated with statues taken from another ancient temple. A flight of a few steps leads to the threshold of the portal, and then descends again to the base of the sanctuary, which slopes downwards. There you face an altar of such gigantic proportions that it fills the entire temple. It covers, in fact, a surface of forty-four square yards; and this enormous mass composed of three superposed granite monoliths, is finished by elegant cornices.

A staircase, concealed so as not to injure the general effect, leads to the summit of the altar, in the centre of which stands a polished cylindrical stone post, perfectly rounded at its summit, and, at the corners of the hall, four superb monolithic columns support the roof of the temple. These columns are considered by the Indians as marvels of their national architecture; and they maintain that he who has never seen the Bhojepore-ka-khoumbas has seen nothing. It is, indeed, impossible to conceive a more graceful form combined with so imposing a mass. Each shaft, which rests on a pedestal two yards in height, is divided into three equal sections; the first and the second are octagon, and the third had twenty four sides, which has the effect of adding wonderfully to the perspective, and augmenting the apparent height of the columns; and the capital forms a graceful campanile, whence issue heavy consoles, supporting the extremities of the four massive architraves on which the roof rests. It is on this roof, a magnificent concentric Jain dome, that the architect appears to have bestowed all the ornamental riches of which he has been so sparing in the rest of the edifice. Each of the circles of the cupola is a continuous network of lace, flowers, fruits, and arabesques, in the midst of which sport innumerable figures of musicians and dancing girls.[7]


Bhojpur bell nuggets

Photo taken by author on 10 February, 2018. This shows the bell on the chain sculpted on the doorway as described by Rousselet above. The chain and bell column was missing before the repairs as is visible in the photos below. Also, the closeup of the doorway clearly shows the broken part on the top and left jamb.


If we ignore Rousselet’s incorrect ascription of certain features to Jain temples, such as the bell on chain which is an inalienable aspect of a Hindu temple as well, his description of the temple augments our understanding of the temple architecture as well as corroborates other descriptions. From the description given above and from the mention in the 1839 travelogue of Gosains residing in front of the temple, it is clear that the convent which housed the Gosains of the temple existed on the platform that today stands barren except for the three raised platforms mentioned earlier. Since Rousselet calls the convent structures as ‘poor buildings,’ it indicates that the convent structure was not temporary in nature but was possibly made of stone. Thus, when were these convent structures removed, by whom, and why?

Interesting to note is that these travellers noted a saying common among the local people about Raja Bhoj’s contribution to our rich cultural heritage:

Muchalpoor ka baolee our [aur] Bhojpoor ka Kumbh

Udayapoor ka Dehura (was built by one man)[8]

‘Kumbh” here refers to the imposing tall pillars of the Bhojeshwar Temple.

Even more interesting is the description written in the early twentieth century. In an article written in 1914, the courtyard in front of the temple is described as nothing but a long and narrow “collection of mud and rubble.” This narrow courtyard extended to enclose some small “huts used by the local Mahant and his chelas.” Interestingly, in this description the author mentions the existence of four pillars within the temple.[9] Thus, the destruction of the pillar gets pushed to sometime after 1914.

As to the reasons for this temple’s incomplete state, the finding of finished statues lying in the quarries indicates an abrupt abandonment of the site while the temple was still under construction. Archaeologists conjecture several reasons – such as flooding, earthquake, mathematical error, or war- for its abandonment. On seeing the temple, especially the doorway which clearly looks broken at places rather than being left incomplete as can be inferred from the rather jagged edge on the top of the doorway, I got a sense that the temple faced deliberate destruction. Whether the destruction took place while the temple was still under construction or after it was abandoned, is not clear. Nevertheless, if one studies the photographs of the temple taken before the renovation (given below), the roof does not look caved in but rather broken with force. Since Luard theorises that Sultan Hoshung Shah deliberately breached the dam out of “wantonness” it is highly possible that the Bhojeshwar temple too faced his “wanton” wrath which resulted in the damage visible to many travellers until the repairs were made recently.

The following two photos were taken before renovation of the temple as is seen from the extensively damaged roof. In the second photo one can see that the left column of the doorway which should have the chain and bell sculpture is missing.

Bhojeshwar Temple before repairs 2


Bhojeshwar Temple before repairs 1


Outside Bhojpur1 Nuggets


Photo taken by author on 10 February, 2018

Bhojpur Ceiling Nuggets


Photo taken by author on 10 February, 2018.

Sculptures Bhojpur Nuggets


Photo taken by author on 10 February, 2018.

[1] M. N. Deshpande, “The Siva Temple at Bhojpur: Application of Samarangansutradhara,” Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bombay, Vols. 54-55/1979-80 (Combined) (New Series), ed. Devangana Desai (Bombay: 1983), pp. 35-39. Hathitrust

[2] C. Eckford Luard, “Gazetteer Gleanings in Central India: The Great Dam and Temple at Bhojpur in Bhopal State,” The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland for 1914 (London: 1914), pp. 309-316,


[4] ,Kirit Mankodi, Scholar-Emperor and the Funerary Temple, Eleventh Century Bhojpur from

[5] “March between Mhow and Saugor, 1838,” The Journal of Asiatic Society of Bengal, Vol. VIII January to December 1839 (Calcutta: Bishop’s College Press, 1840), pp. 802-822, Google Books.

[6] J. D. Cunningham, “Notes on the Antiquities of the Districts within the Bhopal Agency &c,” The Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Vol. XVI Part II July to December 1847 (Calcutta: 1847), pp. 739-744, Google Books. Cunningham was the Political Agent at Bhopal.

[7] Louis Rousselet, India and its Native Princes: Travels in Central India and the Presidencies of Bombay and Bengal, New Edition (London: Bickers & Sons, 1882), 471-472, Google Books.

[8] “March between Mhow and Saugor, 1838,” The Journal of Asiatic Society of Bengal, Vol. VIII January to December 1839 (Calcutta: Bishop’s College Press, 1840), pp. 813-814, Google Books.

[9] C. Eckford Luard, “Gazetteer Gleanings in Central India: The Great Dam and Temple at Bhojpur in Bhopal State,” The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland for 1914 (London: 1914), pp. 309.