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The Bateshwar Group Of Temples

The Bateshwar group of temples (or Batesara, Bateśvar,) located in Padavali village of Morena district of Madhya Pradesh, earlier known as Dharon or Paravali, later Padavali was built by Gurjara- Prathihara dynasty, who considered themselves as suryavanshis & are said to be the descendants of Lakshman from the epic Ramayana. Built between 8-11th centuries AD, in the post gupta period, a total of around 200 temples were built during this period. At the end of the 13th century, the temples were destroyed, although not clear if this was by an earthquake or Muslim forces, it was rediscovered by Alexander Cunningham, a British army engineer, having interest in history & archaeology of India, appointed to the newly created position of archaeological surveyor to the government of India in 1861 & in 1882 cited as “a collection of more than hundred temples large & small to the southeast of Paravali Padavali “the latter with a ” very fine old temple”, in his book “Report of tour in eastern Rajasthan in 1882-1883.The Baleshwar group of temples, according to his report the site was a confuses jigsaw puzzled of more than 100 temples of various sizes.


The group of temples, were notified by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) as a protected site in 1920, several scholars like French archaeologist Odette viennot published paper in 1968 that included a discussion & photographs of temples. In the late 19th century, group of local outlaws known as Baghis, who were either oppressed by the higher castes, suffered social injustice or were deprived by the law, under its leader Nirbhay Singh Gurjar, who had as many as 239 criminal charges against him for murder, robbery & kidnapping in his 30 years of dacoity career had made the temples as their secret hideout place, which luckily no one had dared to venture to enter the area,& put one life in danger, due to which the group of temples were preserved in their original state, but the question remained how one could access the temples & restore it to its former glory, so the then ASI Bhopal region superintending Archaeologist chief,KK Muhammed KK,had taken the initiative to interact & invited a surrendered dacoit named Lachu Singh, to his office to discuss conservation work in the area.it was due to his connections that helped him, get the breakthrough & gain trust. He got introduced to Nirbhay Singh, the dacoit leader, who had a bounty on his head by the police, & convinced him that it was his forefathers the Gujjar Dynasty who had built the temples should be persevered, & because of his presence the temples, idols & structures were safe or else it would have been stolen & shipped to auction houses, & he had a mission – to protect & participate in the restoration these temples, unfortunately few days later, he was shot dead soon after in an encounter in 2005, however after their talk, Nirbhay Singh allowed KK Muhammad to work in the area & could bring in special ‘kaarigars’ to help with the restoration of the garba griha (sanctum sanctorum) & the ceiling stones of these temples.” providing protection to the ASI workers & helping them in the restoration work, under his leadership some sixty temples were restored, & called it his place of pilgrimage & passionate about this temple complex.


According to KK Muhammad & Michael Meister an art historian, archaeologist, the temples display the conception & construction of Mandapika Shine “concept in Central India, i.e. reducing the hindu temple idea to its basics, a step further from single cave cell design consists of around small free standing independent hindu nagara style temples, most of them having a similar style & arrangement with a pancharatha style pattern on ie,5 vertical offsets on each side of the shiokara(tower).The temple complex is built on the architectural principles initiated in 2 sanskrit Hindu temple architecture texts, Manasara Shilpa Shastra composed in the 4th century AD & Mayamata Vastu Shastra written in the 7th century AD,following these texts KK Muhammad & his team of over 50 workers collected pieces of the ruins from the site & like a jigsaw puzzle tried to put it back together. The temple building phase has gradually developed from flat roofs to shikharas.

The first temple in the complex is dedicated to lord Vishnu, whose temple located in the north western slope of a hill near the pedestal, & ahead multiple rows of small temples built for lord shiva & goddess Shakti, manifestation of parvati, consort of lord shiva. The temples are constructed using sandstone material without any use of mortar, consisting of architectural elements such as jagati (base platform), vedibandha (foundation block), praggriva(porch), mandapa (outer hall), antarala (inner passage) Garbha-Griha (Inner-sanctum), Vimana/Shikara(Tower), almanaka (Crowning ornament), Kalash(Pinnacle) & Kund (water well), having a simple pillared wall with a broad edge extending beyond the sanctum to shade the entry as well. The reliefs/designs on the various temples depicts Nataraja (lord shiva) in the kirti mukh, exquisite carvings of lakulisa, lord shiva holding the hand of parvati, narrating the legend of Kalyana-sundaram, or the marriage, of Shiva & parvati with Vishnu, Brahma & others attending, small sculptures of women playing the lute, veena or drums in Vishnu temples, suggesting that music profession in pre-11th century India encouraged women to participate as musicians, couples in various stages of courtship & intimacy (mithuna, kama scenes),secular scenes such as men riding elephants, men wrestling, lions, narratives from the Bhagavata Purana,such as Krishna leela scenes such as Devaki holding baby Krishna who is suckling her breasts in prison that is guarded by a woman; baby Krishna draining away the life of the demon with poisoned breasts etc.

The largest temple was of lord Shiva, locally known as “Bhuteshwara”, but to its surprise the temple seems to have been reused & rebuilt as shiva temple, as earlier being a Vishnu temple due to garuda relief on top indicating it the same. It has a square sanctum with a 6.75 feet (2.06 m) side, with a relatively small 20 sq. feet mahamandapa. The sanctum doorway was flanked by river goddesses Ganga & Yamuna. The tower superstructure was a pyramidal square starting off from a 15.33 feet (4.67 m) sided square seated on a flat roof, then rhythmically tapering off. Cunningham also noted that one of the small temples to the northwest of the Bhuteshwara temple had a short inscription dated Samvat 1107 (1050 AD), thus establishing the period of the site. the nagara shikharas that may have been dominant by that time possibly in western India, on the simplest of temple grid plans with more ancient roots in central India.

The significance of these temples is that they fuse & experiment with a variety of temple building ideas, such as topping the nagara shikharas that may have been dominant by that time possibly in western India, on the simplest of temple grid plans with more ancient roots in central India. All these together along with the peaceful ambience gives the entire temple complex a significant value. The temple is now surrounded with an urban fabric but still stands out with its unique values.



Some interesting facts

  • It is considered on the largest group of temple complex in the country.
  • Since the temple complex is a protected site under ASI, there is no temple worship undertaken.
  • It is also considered as India’s largest Jigsaw puzzle.
  • The temples were forgotten for almost 500 years, till it was rediscovered by Alexander Cunningham in the 19th century.
  • Luckily the temples have survived in somewhat dilapidated state, although it intact elements strewn over thanks to the dacoits & Nirbhay singh Gurjar, a blessing in disguise, which prevented others from looting & destroying the temple.
  • It has taken almost a period of 300-400 years to build the whole complex by the Gurjar-Prathihara dynasty.
  • There’s another smaller group of group of temples, also known as bateshwar, near Agra, Uttar Pradesh.
  • The word “Morena” derives from the 2 words “Mor” meaning peacock & “Raina” meaning living place as there were earlier abundance of peacocks in the district now few in numbers.
  • The mention of these temples are found in references through the works of Dr. Rahman Ali in 1987 as he worked on the Prathama art form in India & in the monumental research work of R D Trivedi on the Pratihara Temples of Central India.