The Fort of Chunar

Situated on the banks of the venerated River Ganges in the district of Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh, this fort has a history that goes back to the time of King Vikramaditya of Ujjain who reigned circa 56 BCE. It has witnessed the ascent and descent of several powerful kingdoms and empires, and has been a gateway to Bihar and Bengal for rulers in the north western part of the subcontinent. Other names of Chunar include Chunargarh, Chunda, and Chandalgarh.[1]

Chunar Gur North End Colour BL Online Gallery 1787

Source: William Hodges, Select Views in India Drawn on the Spot in the year of 1780, 1781, 1782 and 1783 and executed in Aqua Tinta, from British Library Online Gallery

Chunar From SW Side 1787 BL Online Gallery

Source: William Hodges, Select Views in India Drawn on the Spot in the year of 1780, 1781, 1782 and 1783 and executed in Aqua Tinta, from British Library Online Gallery

The Fort, due to its location on the banks of the Ganges and its high elevation, provided great strategic advantage to any ruler wanting to control the critical water highway of the Ganges. The Fort, thus, was one of the most coveted forts of the region.

A pipal (Ficus religiosa) tree located in the fort is believed to be the shrine of Bhartri Nath who was the brother of King Vikramaditya of Ujjain.[2] Several historians contest the existence of a King Vikramaditya of Ujjain, who supposedly reigned in the first century BCE. According to them, this Vikramaditya was a member of the Gupta dynasty that ruled in the 3rd and 4th century CE. If we accept the latter argument, even then the antiquity of the fort is quite remarkable.

In the seventh century of the Common Era, it is believed that Bilagar Deo, the founder of Baghelkhand took control of a large territory from Kalpi to Chandalgarh, which meant the fort came under his rule during the period.[3]

Importance of Chunar as an extremely strategic place along the north-east corridor of north India can be gauged from references made to it during the tumultuous era of medieval India when the expansionist policies of the Delhi Sultanate and later the Mughals towards Bengal required the capture of this fort as an expression of military hegemony. In 1528, Sultan Mahmud Lodi, the chief of Bengal, rebelled against Babur by taking control of Bihar. To bring the rebellion under control Babur set out towards Bengal and on his way he was informed that Sher Shah Suri, on whom he had bestowed many favours, including rewarding him with several parganas, and having given him charge of the territory, had joined the rebels who were planning to capture the Fort of Chunar. Babur made a stop at this fort during his campaign against the rebellious Sher Shah Suri in late 1520s.[4] In 1530, Sher Shah took control of Chunar Fort which is considered by some historians as the beginning of Sher Shah Suri’s aggressive policy that culminated as the ruler of Delhi.[5] Adil Shah, the Afghan ruler and successor of Sher Shah Suri, used the fort as a base from where he despatched Hemu, a Hindu general, with a large force to defeat Ibrahim Shah, another contestant to the throne left vacant by the death of Sher Shah Suri. Subsequent to defeating Ibrahim Shah, Hemu went on to defeat Tardi Beg Khan, a Mughal who was made in charge of Delhi post the death of Humayun by Bairam Khan, the regent to the young king Akbar. In 1545, the fort was taken by the Mughals after a siege of six months. The long siege tells us that the fort was built with strong fortifications. Caunter describes it as having ‘walls protected by towers rising one behind another, and covering the citadel with an impregnable array of ramparts, which were manned by a numerous garrison’.[6]

Gulbadan Begam, daughter of Babur and half-sister of Humayun, and author of Humayun-nama, called Chunar Chunda in her description of Humayun’s march to defeat the Afghans of Bengal.[7] The fort finds a mention in the Ain-i-Akbari which gives the description of the people residing in the area. According to the description, the people had no clothing and carried bows and arrows as weapons, suggesting the fort was under tribal territory.[8] In the eighteenth century, the fort came under the control of the rulers of Awadh.

Closer View of Chunargarh 1795

Source: Unknown artist, ‘North View of the Fort of Chunargarh on the Ganges from across the river’, work dated 1795.  From British Library Online Gallery

Water Colour Chunar Fort Seeta Ram

Source: Water colour by Seeta Ram, 1814, from British Library Online Gallery work titled ‘Views by Seeta Ram from Benares to Nazibghur Volume III’ produced by Lord Moira afterwards Marquess of Hastings. This painting is titled ‘The Fort of Chunargarh seen from across the River’.

For the Khaljis, Lodhis and Mughals Chunar Fort was the gateway to the eastern territories of Bihar and Bengal, for the British, however, Chunar Fort proved to be a crucial base from where they led military expeditions to fulfil their political ambition of acquiring territories of north India.[9] It was in the latter half of the eighteenth century post the battle of Buxar that the fort fell into the hands of the British. In the battle between the armies of the British and Shuja-ud-daulah, the Nawab of Awadh, in 1764, the fort was valiantly defended by the Nawab’s forces. However, the Fort was briefly besieged by Capt. Hector Munro of the British Army when he made a surprise attack on the Fort in the middle of the night. But the Abyssinian commander in charge of the Fort was prepared for such an assault and easily defeated the British soldiers who made attempts at climbing the walls in the cover of darkness. The siege of Chunar Fort by the British, however, continued for many months until the Fort of Allahabad fell to the British in 1765. The Abyssinian commander of Shuja-ud-daulah, on realising that his master was in a very disadvantageous situation, surrendered to Major Stibbert on 7 February 1765.[10] Soon after, the British returned the Fort to the Nawab of Awadh who subsequently, in 1772, exchanged it for the fort of Allahabad.[11]

Under British occupation, Chunar Fort housed a magazine of ammunition and provisions for the brigade located at Kanpur.[12] Kanpur was a critical forward military station which was at a distance of over 400 km via a circuitous Ganges channel from Chunar. The British for some years possessed just a narrow strip of territory along the Ganges between Chunar and Kanpur, and since Chunar was within reach from their Bihar territory, it was the best place to locate back-up for their forward posts such as Kanpur in the north-western regions of the sub-continent. At that time any boat passing on the Ganges near the Fort was minutely scrutinised before being allowed to proceed further.[13]

Chunar Garh ISRM 1928 1

Source: The Chunar Fort, ISRM, Volume 1, June 1928.

Chunar ISRM 1928 2

Source: ‘Chunar Fort from the Ganges’, ISRM, Volume 1, June, 1928.

Chunar fort was a refuge and a sanatorium for British soldiers. It also became one of the most secure prisons for the British adversaries and their families. Hastings retired to the fort after the quelling of Raja Chait Singh’s insurrection in 1781. In 1817, the British incarcerated Trimbakji Dainglia (Dengle), a minister of Peshwa Baji Rao II, in this Fort. In the late nineteenth century, some leaders of the Kuka movement of Punjab, which was brutally suppressed by the British, were confined in the Fort.[14]


[1] ‘The Grand Trunk Road – Its Localities’, The Calcutta Review, Volume XXI, July – December 1853, p. 223, pp. 170-224.

[2] The Indian State Railway Magazine, April 1928 to September 1928, June Issue, Volume 1, no. 9, pp. 639-640

[3] W. W. Hunter, The Imperial Gazetteer of India, Volume VIII, pp. 56-58.

[4] ‘Tuzuk-I Babari’, The History of India as told by its own Historians, Muhammadan Period, Volume IV, John Dowson, ed. (London: Trubner and Co., 1872), pp. 218-287, p. 282

[5] S. R. Sharma, Mughal Empire in India 1526-1761, Part I, (Bombay: Karnatak Printing Press, 1934), p. 128.

[6] Hobart Caunter, Oriental Annual, Or Scenes in India(London: Charles Tilt, 1838), p. 198.

[7] S. R. Sharma, Mughal Empire in India 1526-1761, Part I (Bombay: Karnatak Printing Press, 1934), p. 82 fn.

[8] Thomas Pennant, The View of Hindoostan, Volume II Eastern Hindoostan (London: Henry Hughs, 1798), pp. 208-210.

[9] See Sita Ram Kohli, ed., Fort William – India House Correspondence, Military Series, Volume XXI, 1797-1800 (Delhi: National Archives of India, 1969).

[10] William Hodges, P. 57

[11] Thomas Pennant, The View of Hindoostan, Volume II Eastern Hindoostan (London: Henry Hughs, 1798), pp. 208-210.

[12] William Hodges, P. 57

[13] Hobart Caunter, The Oriental Annual, or Scenes in India (London: Edward Bull, 1834), p. 182.

[14] Jaswinder Singh, Kuka Movement: Freedom Struggle in Punjab (Documents, 1880-1903 A.D.) (New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers and Distributers, 1985), p. 200.

The Bilhari Fort

(To protect my work from plagiarism, I have decided not to disclose my sources. Check profile for info)

A small town called Bilhari, located in the Katni District of present day Madhya Pradesh, once had an impregnable fort. The town is supposed to be very ancient since during the British rule explorers described the place as having numerous ruins of ancient temples and step-wells. In the past, the town was supposedly called Babaot Nagri or Babaotee, and then Papaot. The inhabitants of the place were of the belief that the name Bilhari was derived from a kind of Pan (Betel Leaf) that grew in abundance in the area. In 1873-74, fifteen years after the destruction of the Fort, A. Cunningham, who was the Director General of Archaeological Survey of India, toured the area and gave an account of the ruins of Bilhari. By then the British referred to the place as Bilhari. According to Cunningham, Bilhari was founded by Raja Karn Dahariya at the time of Bhartri or Bhartrihari, the brother of Vikramaditya. It was called Puphavati or Pushpavati (the town of flowers). This name lasted until tenth century of Samvat and was superseded by Bilhari.

The fort that was located in Bilhari was built of red sandstone quarried from the spurs of the Kymore Range which bordered the same district. It was built by Luchmann Singh Pudhae Chutree in AD 1489 and destroyed by Capt D. C. Vanrenen in August 1857. The order to destroy was given by Major Erskine, Commissioner, Saugor Division. Records of 1874 show the name as of the ruler as Lakshman Sinh Parihar who lived in the tenth century.

According to sources, several centuries ago the town had a circumference of 24 miles, which suggests that it was an important flourishing town of the region. The centre of the town had a building, which was in all probability a town hall. From this building, in middle of the eighteenth century, the Deputy Commissioner of Jabalpur removed a stone etched with the names of thirty seven rulers of the area. The last one mentioned in the list was crowned as ruler in 1758 AD. It is also believed that Aurangzeb had visited this city during his reign and was responsible for getting many of the temples demolished and statues disfigured.

During the First War of Independence of 1857, the Bilheri (Bilhari) Fort was occupied by a group of rebels under Raghunath Singh Bundela of Panna. As soon as the British authorities became aware of this, they sent troops from Jabalpur and Nagod to attack the place. However, the rebels had decamped before the troops arrived. Nevertheless, the British decided to destroy the Fort.


This Fort was situated ‘56 miles N. N. West of Jubbulpore.’ However, the location of the village is to the north east of Jabalpur, just about 15 km west of Katni (called Murwara Katni).

Present day location Bilheri

Source: Google Maps – Screen shot taken on 3 March, 2019. The name of the town is Bilhari and the location of the tank on the east of a set of old structure suggests that this was the location of Bilhari fort. Some fairly recent social media posts show the an old temple in the said location which corresponds with the layout map of the fort given ahead in the article. 


The description of the Fort by its destroyer Captain Vanrenen is critical for our understanding of its condition and situation before it was consigned to gun fire. Vanrenen wrote that the fort was square in shape with a side of 234 feet. At the corners stood circular towers of diameter of 14 feet. The principal gateway had ‘octangular bastions, one on each side.’ The north wall of the Fort was irregular and was in line with an ‘impassable swamp.’ The ends of the wall had towers. To the east, there was an unfordable tank. The only clear space to reach the Fort was in front of the principal gateway, which was located in the south. The south and west were protected by deep ditches that were 12 feet deep and 30 feet wide.

The walls of the square redoubt, were about 40 feet high, and 4 ½ feet thick, the bastions being 10 feet higher, and the whole was carefully loopholed for musketry fire. The fire through these loopholes was obtained from the roof of a line of buildings, or verandah, open at the rear. This banquet was of great solidity, being supported on cut stone pillars. Single stone slabs spanned these pillars, which were faced with line cement.

The northern wall, which faced the swamp/jheel, was 25 feet high and 3 feet thick. Just behind this wall was another wall that was 5 feet thick and higher than the first wall. The difference in height was sufficient enough to send musketry fire over the first wall. The ‘curtain wall,’ which connected this second wall to the square redoubt, was 18 feet high and 5 feet thick. The material used for these walls was stone and lime cement. Capt Vanrenen writes that ‘all the works were of immense strength… and were found [by him] to be in excellent preservation.’

He goes on to describe the interiors:

The open colonnade, with a few interior apartments, would have afforded ample cover for a large body of men, with space for their supplies. Water was obtained from the pucka well within the works, with an additional supply from the eastern tank, by means of a flight of stone steps leading down to it.

Bilheree Fort boasted of an Aamkhass, or Audience Hall, which with some interior apartments, occupied a space of 78 feet by 51 feet. This was a fine hall of elegantly shaped stone pillars, supporting a roof also of stone slabs and lime cement.

Situated in nearly the centre of the redoubt was the Ranee’s or Queen’s apartment, a two- storied building 78 feet by 68 feet. This and the Aamkhass were of the most solid construction.

A place of worship was provided (contained within a rectangular enclosure) in front of the Aamkhass.

The Captain believed then that the walls and fortifications would have held on for a considerable period of time against attack and they would have even ‘resisted the action of field guns.’ According to him, ‘without guns of come calibre the place was unassailable from the north and east, and (unless the attacking party first occupied the town of Bilheree, which is within range of musketry fire) it was unassailable from the west.’ Nevertheless, in order to make the Fort ‘untenable, and uninhabitable,’ Captain Vanrenen managed to completely destroy the walls on the south and south western parts.

Bilheree Fort map

Source: Withheld. The map is copied from a black and white facsimile of the original printed in a nineteenth century periodical. 

According to papers recovered by the British from the Kanungo Mundlah Ram, Lakshman Singh held a jagir from the Nagode Raja which consisted of three hundred villages and which went on to form the Pargana of Bilheri. Lakshman Singh and his descendents possessed the jagir for seventy years, that is until 1559. In 1559, the jagir was taken by ‘strategem’ by Gond Raja Mugru Duj who had married the grand-daughter of Lakshman Singh. The Gonds under the Mundlah chiefs retained the jagir for 115 years. Failure to pay taxes levied by the Mundlah Raja, the jagir was taken away and given to Jaswant Rao Maratha in 1674. Jaswant Rao held the government under the Mundlah Raja. On his death, Jaswant Rao’s son, Munga Rao took charge and reigned for 78 years. In 1742, when the Mundlah Raja was at war with the Raja of Nagpur, Mundlah Raja suspecting Munga Rao of treachery got him killed and transferred the jagir to his favourites Nawab Ajeet Khan and Ahmad Khan. On the deaths of these latter two in 1767, the jagir of the place lapsed to the Mundlah Raja who managed it on his own and derived yearly revenue of 20,000 rupees. In 1779, the Sagar Raja Balwant Rao Pundit defeated and ousted the Mundlah Raja and he soon lost the place to Raghoji of Nagpur. In 1816, the British took control of the area.



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.