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Bateshwar Group of Temples, Morena, M.P. – India

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.

Travel Information

  • GPS Coordinates : 26.42628771992289, 78.19691509945514
  • Best Time to Visit : November-February
  • Nearest Landmark : Padavali Fort & Temple 1.2kms away
  • Nearest Airport : GwaliorAirport,26kms away
  • Nearest Railway station : Gwalior Railway station 30kms away
  • Nearest Bus Stop : Gwalior Bus station 30kms away
  • Where to Stay : Gwalior City
  • Where to Eat : MP-0-SIX – House of Curries, Morena ; Shukla Hotel,Morena
  • Other Places Nearby :
    • Padavali Fort & Temple 1 km’
    • Chausath Yogini Temple 5 kms
    • Tomb Ganna begum,15 kms
    • Nurabad Bridge 16kms
    • Nareshwar Group of temples complex 19.6 kms
    • Kakanmath temple 26 kms
    • Morena Museum 29 kms
    • Deoria Gharial Eco Park 35kms
  • Waypoint Route Map :https://www.google.co.in/maps/d/u/0/viewer?mid=1-9Z78FzN6tsKRFXCuIPn8h361OuwUHhI&ll=26.399701724680224%2C78.12055000000001&z=11

I, personally a fan of heritage & architecture, & like to cover various types of architecture be with forts, caves, temples, monuments, museums etc., was keen to visit various places in my one-day tour of morena district, although it takes 3 days to cover the district fully, visiting the temple complex, was my second day, of our 3-day trip in Madhya Pradesh with my close friends, after covering Gwalior city, we were actually doing a temple run with so many temple sites in one route to visit in the Morena district, it took more than 2 hours to reach the place as we had visited 2 heritage sites enroute, the roads are uneven not so well maintained in the interiors & dusty & had to close the windows, & could see the chambal valley all around, as we reached the temple complex, very delighted to see being well maintained manicured gardens, as we moved inside the complex, visited first the vishnu temple on top of the hill, & could overlook the mesmerising beautiful rows of temples, restored from the top, & excited to visit each one of them, the three most striking features that caught my eyes were the hanuman statue, worshipped by the locals coloured in red vermillion & the huge water tank & the exquisite carvings inside the antarala(inner chamber),before enter the garba griha(inner sanctum) of each & every temple, all the sculptures designs on the temples were different as though telling a different story, would take almost a day to admire all the sculptures one by one, took 2-3 generations to make so many temples in one single complex, we could still see staff of the ASI undergoing restoration work undergoing of the remaining temples & the largest temple Bhuteshwara temple, I personally would like to visit one day once again to see once all the temples are rebuilt to have a closer look at the various relief panels to study in depth. For other travellers visiting this complex do keep drinking water & some snacks handy as there are no such facilities as such in the complex nearby. If one would like to try out the specialities of the region, “Gajak” is a well-known sweet made of sesame & jaggery specially made in the winter season.A very famous dessert or sweet in the morena region is “Malpua” which is made by jaggery & flour, both can be tried out in any of the sweetshops in Morena city. Also if planning to visit during the months of november-december, a fair is organised in the memory of Nagaji saint who lived during the period of Akbar. It is held in the porsa village of morena district for about a month, previously, monkeys were sold here but now other domestic animals have also been added to them.

Today, the Bateshwar group of temples is a world tourism site, the restored temples draw praise from politicians & the public. “Let’s not forget that the dacoits helped preserve & conserve these temples. Philanthropists like Mrs Sudha Murthy & Mr Gururaj Deshpande have visited the complex & promised support, as of today a total of 80 temples have been restored out of 200, with a total expenditure of three crores, so we all hope the support continues so that not only the all the temples get restored but also to set up schools for the children of the artisans who work on restoration project as well. 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. It is declared as a protected monument by State ASI, hence there was a need to conserve this cultural property by restoration, retrofitting etc.

About the Temple complex

  • Address : Near Mitawali Padawali Banmore, Morena, Madhya Pradesh
  • Protected ASI Circle : Gwalior Circle Zone
  • Timings : 8am to 5pm
  • Closed on : National Holidays, Monday
  • Entrance Tickets : None
  • Facilities Available : Toilets, Parking Lot, Wheelchair Accessible entrance
  • Travel Agency : OLA/UBER from Gwalior city

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.

Written by:

Viraat Kothare

Mr Viraat Kothare, professionally a private investor, & have completed certification in Travel & Tourism, & just recently completed my Diploma in Indian Arts & Architecture from DACRI (Deccan Archaeological & Cultural Research Institute & Heritage Foundation, recently received fellowship from ASSSR (Asiatic Society & Social Science Research), New Delhi, for technical writing documentation, & currently pursuing another diploma in Indian History & Archaeology, also key active participating in regular quiz workshops “Dekho Apna Desh” series conducted by Ministry of Tourism, under “Incredible India” initiative.

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