Photo credit: IANS
New Delhi, July 1: There are a number of ancient temples in India, some of which are in separate and huge complexes. Among them, the Bateshwar temple complex in Madhya Pradesh is located in Morena district as there are more than 200 temples dedicated to Lord Shiva, Vishnu and Goddess Shakti – representing the three main traditions of Hinduism.
Although the temples are small and large, they are spread over an area of more than 25 acres and between the 9th and 11th centuries the Gurjara-Pratihara dynasty built a style of North Indian temples named after them. The complex was named after the Bhuteshwar Temple – the largest temple dedicated to Shiva at this place.
Explaining the significance of the complex, well-known archaeologist KK Muhammad, who has retired as the Northern Regional Director of the Archaeological Survey of India and led the restoration work on these temples, told India Narrative: There are also 108 temples in the Aihole temple complex in Karnataka. Since the temples of Bateshwar are dedicated to different communities – Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu, Goddess Shakti and also Hanumanji – it makes it an important site. “
Some of the interesting aspects of this complex include the relief of Lord Shiva holding the hand of Goddess Parvati and the marriage of Shiva and Parvati with Vishnu and Brahma described in it; Nataraja on the face of Krittimukh or Gaurav – a terrifying monster with huge granular and empty mouth which is considered as the symbol of Lord Shiva; Friezes with interesting narrations from the Bhagavata Purana; And sculptures of women playing musical instruments and wrestling of men riding lions and elephants among others.
Between 2004 and 2012, an ASI team led by Muhammad began restoring these temples. Upon reaching the site, he and his team found it in a state of disrepair.
Sharing his experience with the India Narrative, Muhammad says: “It was like a jigsaw puzzle on a huge scale. Fortunately, unlike other sites where the broken parts of the temple are missing or destroyed, because of the robbers here, they were untouchable.” We cleared the mounds of jungle and debris that grew there and sorted out the parts and matched them. A few standing temples were a great help when we also used ecology and consulted on contracts for temple architecture like Mansar. And Mayamata. “
According to Muhammad, it was a tedious and back-breaking task that required a lot of patience.
ASI is nothing new in restoring the lost glory of temple complexes in India and abroad. Between 1986-93, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) restored the famous Angkor Wat temple complex in Angkor Wat, Cambodia. That work is done under extremely stressful situations. The temple area was in dense forest. The anti-government Khmer Rouge forces appeared there and created an atmosphere of fear. Devinder Singh Sud Sim Repe was the leader of the ASI team that recovered some parts of Angkor Wat.
For Muhammad the restoration of the Bateshwar complex is very close to his heart. “Upon reaching the site, I could feel a tremor. It was as if Lord Shiva was calling the innermost parts of my heart. I knew I had to work, regardless of all obstacles.”
The task was further complicated by the presence of several notorious bandits in the Morena area. Again, Muhammad took up the challenge of communicating with them through intermediaries. “Initially they were skeptical about a Muslim leading a temple restoration project but once I gained their confidence, they assured me of all the help that was not essentially interfering with our workers and their movement.”
It was this passion and dedication of Muhammad and his team that saw ASI restore 80 temples.
(Content is being carried out under an arrangement with indianarrative.com)