Breathtaking ruins

Published : Jan 29, 2010 00:00 IST

The sculptures of lions at the base of the steep flight of steps leading to the fort.-

The sculptures of lions at the base of the steep flight of steps leading to the fort.-

FROM outside, it looked like a small fort with ramparts. There were two big sculptures of lions at the base of a steep flight of steps that led up to the fort. As we climbed the steps and reached the entrance, we could not believe our eyes. A pillared mantapa teeming with thousands of miniature sculptures came into view. The carvings, made of sandstone, were of ethereal beauty. The panels depicted Surya, the sun god, riding a chariot drawn by seven horses and holding sunflowers in his hands; Dasavatara, the 10 incarnations of Vishnu; erotic sculptures; scenes from Krishnas life, including a gopika churning butter in a big pot, Krishna fighting the bull Kesi, and Devaki suckling infant Krishna; and Siva flanked by four-headed Brahma and Vishnu holding a conch, a chakra, a gadha (club) and a padma (lotus) in his four hands; and Vishnu seated on Garuda.

It was hard to believe that this pillared mantapa was in ruins until four years ago. The entire fortification had collapsed. While one lion at the entrance had broken into three pieces, another lay in two pieces. We did the restoration of both the mantapa and the fort in three years, said K.K. Muhammed, Superintending Archaeologist, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Delhi Circle.

The complex is called Garhi Padavali as it is a fortified temple. It is situated at Padavali village. While the temple belongs to the Pratihara dynasty of the 10th century A.D., the fortification around it was built by the Jat Ranas of Gohad in the 19th century. The temple was dedicated to Siva as is evident from the sculpture of a big Nandi (sacred bull) found among the ruins.

Muhammed said: There is not an inch of space that is left uncarved. The sculptures are fantastic. Breathtaking sculptures are found everywhere, on the walls, pillars and even the roof slabs. The frieze decorations include those of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva; Chandi; Ravana fighting Jatayu; Siva marrying Parvati; a fierce-looking Siva, armed with a trishul, dancing on the demon Apasmara. Muhammed, who has a passion for Sanskrit, was so impressed by the image of Siva armed with a trishul that he broke into an explanation about what the three tips of the trishul stand for: They are kal (time), lok (the world) and agni (fire). He went on to quote from Siva Purana that spoke about the three gunas of Siva: icha shakti (the will to do a thing); gnana shakti (the knowledge to do it) and kriya shakti (the act of doing it).The restoration of the mantapa was tough as it was totally in ruins. Besides, its roof slabs leaked profusely. The slabs had to be dismantled, brought down and re-assembled and tightened to make them leak proof. But Muhammed plays down the big effort that would have gone behind the restoration claiming that it was not so challenging.

The restoration of the temple complex at Bateshwar was really more challenging, he says. Behind the mantapa lie the ruins of the sanctum sanctorum, which will soon be rebuilt to its original glory.

T.S. Subramanian
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