These temples, situated just sixty seven kilometres from the Taj Mahal, were built about three hundred years before the Khajuraho temples. Well, that sums up how old these temples, dedicated to the Hindu Gods Shiva and Vishnu, are; and yet many are oblivious of their existence. The Bateshwar Temples in Madhya Pradesh – a cluster of two hundred temples – were built in the eight century. Post restoration by the Archaeological Survey of India, only sixty stand so far. The Official responsible for the miraculous restoration from pure rubble that these were found as, is Mr. K. K. Muhammed. He had to cut a deal with the armed robbers of the region to allow him to restore these great temples that their ancestors had built, a story worthy of being made into a Bollywood movie.
The grandeur of these temples can still be seen from a distance. In the middle of an illegal mining area they decay, yet stand tall as a symbol of greatness of a now forgotten empire. The temples stand in a hierarchical symmetry, and the tallest temple in the area stands taller than the others as if to announce its supremacy among these humble godly abodes. Neither people who live have much information about these temples, nor adequate information is available online, and it was tough for an untrained enthusiast like me to understand how much of the architectural treasures have been lost already.
The temples have ornate carvings inside and many of them have small statues of Nandi (the bull gate-keeper of Kailash, Lord Shiva’s abode) sitting outside the main doorway. The ones which have Nandi sitting quietly in front of them are Shiva temples which have small Shivlings (abstract representations of Shiva) inside (at least, most of the restored ones do). The ornate carvings on the both sides of the temple walls are tough to miss.
There is a small shrine which still has a roof and surrounding walls; and you are allowed to climb onto the first floor of the shrine to get a breath-taking panoramic view of the temples. These temples take you down the memory lane into the rich heritage of India and how it is spotted with numerous known and unknown architectural miracles; and represent an artistic brilliance barely found today. If you are ever visiting anywhere near Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh, do take out a few hours to visit these temples.
– Text and images by Shankh Chatterjee
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