Between 1 and 500 CE, Guptas, Madhya Pradesh

Pawaya – Glamour of the Ancient Padmavati

Introduction – Pawaya (पवाया) is identified with ancient Padmavati by many scholars. Padmavati is mentioned in the Puranas and many Sanskrit literature works. Vishnu and Vayu Purana mention that the Nagas will reign over Padmavati, Kantipuri and Mathura. Padmavati is also mentioned in the Malatimadhavam (मालतीमाधवं) of Bhavabhuti (भवभूति), Harshacharita (हर्षचरितं) of Bana (बाण) and Kanthabharam (कंठाभरम) of Bhoja (भोज). H H Wilson identified Padmavati with some unknown city in Berar south of Narmada and afterwards with Bhagalpur on the river Ganga. Cunningham mentions that as Padmavati is quoted along with Mathura so its location should not be very far from the latter. He takes a reference from Malatimadhavam of Bhavabhuti which helps in identifying this ancient city. Padmavati is referred in this drama in the following verses:

पद्मावती  विमलवारीविशालसिन्धु
पारा सरित्परिकरच्छलतो  बिभतिम
संघट्टपाटितविमुक्तमिवान्तग्क्षिम ||9/1||

“How wide the prospects spreads – mountain and rock,
Towns, villages, and woods, and glittering streams,
There where the Para and the Sindhu wind,
The towers and temples, pinnacles and gates,
And spires of Padmavati, like a city
Precipitated from the skies, appear
Inverted in the pure translucent wave !
There flows Lavana’s frolic stream, &c.;”

The drama further mention that the river Lavana (लवणा) also flows nearby. The forest on the nearby hilly area is full of sandal, kadamba and jamun tress. This area is also graced by the presence of Godavari river. At the south of the foot of this hill is graced with the junction of Sindhu and Madhumati rivers. Lord Shiva is gracing this junction and known as Suvarnabindu.

Cunningham indentifies this Padmavati with present Narwar near Gwalior. The river Sindhu of the drama is river Sindh on which Narwar is situated. Para is identified with river Parvati which flows about 7 km north of Sindh and river Lavana is river Lun or Nun which rises near Paniar and falls into Sindh at Chandpur-Sonari. River Madhumati is identified with present Mohwar or Madhuwar which meets Sindh about 12 km above Sonari. The identification of these four rivers in the immediate neighborhood of Narwar with that of the drama warrants the conclusion that Narwar is the ancient Padmavati.

M B Garde carried out excavations at Pawaya in 1924-25, 1933-34 and 1941. He identifies Pawaya with ancient Padmavati rejecting Cunningham’s identification with Narwar. He states that as Narwar is about 40 km from the junction of Parvati and Sindh rivers hence it is not a proper identification. Also river Nun or Lun (ancient Lavana) flows at a distance of 7 km from Pawaya which suggests that Pawaya would be a proper identification. The ruins and excavations at Pawaya revealed that it is a very old settlement and enjoyed considerable importance during earlier days. A large number of coins are discovered here, more than that of Narwar. It has surviving remains of the Gupta era while Narwar does not have any. Though Garde’s identification is widely accepted among scholars however I am little confused about mention of Godavari along with other rivers, or it may be that the text I have referred is somewhat a corrupt copy of the original manuscript as neither Garde nor Cunningham mentioned about the mention of Godavari river.

There is no name mentioned of any Naga king in the Puranas. There are not many inscriptions found at Pawaya which may help in constructing the chronology of kings here. Only one inscription is found, at the pedestal, which records the installation of the image of Manibhadra in the fourth regnal year of King Sivanandi. This king is not known from any other sources. The only source of information is coins, which are found in abundance at Pawaya and other places nearby like Narwar. Cunningham constructed a Naga chronology with the help of coins, which is later modified by R D Banerji.


Bhima 210-231 CE
Skanda 231-245 CE
Vasu 245-260 CE
Brihaspati 260-275 CE
Ravi 275-290 CE
Prabhakara 290-305 CE
Bhava 305-320 CE
Deva 320-335 CE
Ganapati 335-340 CE


Banerji’s chronology of the Naga kings of Pawaya starts with Bhima who is referred as Maharaja in his coins. He assigns the period of 210-231 CE to Bhima. He is succeeded by Skanda who adopted the peacock emblem of Bhima in his coins. Skanda is succeeded by Vasu who also continued the peacock emblem. The coins of these two rulers were counter-struck which suggests some political instability during their time. Brihaspati was the next ruler who used couchant bull in his coins. Ravi, Prabhakara, Bhava, Deva and Ganapati were next rulers. Only Bhava and Ganapati are known from other inscription, however these are not specifically mentioned as Nagas and also no mention of their country or capital.

Bhava is mentioned in a Vakataka record which states that Rudrasena I was the daughter’s son of Bharasiva Naga family who seized the Gangetic valley by its valor and performed ten ashvamedha sacrifices. Ganapati is mentioned in the Allahabad Pillar Inscription of Samudragupta. Coins of Ganapati are found at Ujjain in which he is referred as Dharadhisha, Lord of Dhar. Harshacharita of Bana mentions Nagasena as the ruler of Padmavati.

Many coins of otherwise unknown kings are discovered at Pawaya. These kings are Sukhadeva, Mahata, Sabalasena, Amitasena and Yatga. Only the coins of Sukhadeva are found at Ujjain. However presence of these coins at Pawaya suggests that the area around Pawaya was probably ruled by these kings for some time.

Terracotta in Gujari Mahal Museum
Terracotta in Gujari Mahal Museum

Terracotta found at Pawaya are considered the most beautiful form the artistic point of view. These are among the best examples of the Naga and Gupta art. As these are mostly remains of images in form of heads of various human figures so the most noticeable features are their hair styles and their expressions. There are many secular forms like animals and birds. All these terracotta are displayed in the Gujari Mahal Museum at Gwalior. These terracotta are included in my picasa album which is linked in this article.

General Epigraphs – Not many epigraphs are found at Pawaya except one which is on the pedestal of an image.
1. On pedestal of Manibhadra Image – this image is exhibited in Gwalior museum – the inscription records the installation of this image of Yaksha in the fourth regnal year of Svamin Sivanandi.

Monuments– Various artifacts were discovered during excavations carried out by M B Garde. Most of the findings are exhibited in Gwalior museum. These exhibits are there in my picasa album, which is linked in this article as a slideshow. Few artifacts are exhibited in the National Museum at New Delhi. The only monuments of interest at Pawaya is a brick temple which is described in detail below.

Gupta Brick Temple

Brick Temple – This is probably the biggest brick temple of the Gupta period. It is a three terraced structure raised upon a high raised plinth. There are ordinary passages built into this plinth which leads a visitor inside onto the first storey of the temple. The first tier above the plinth is built with pilasters all around, all of bricks. Above this tire are two more tiers. There would have been more tiers as the structure looks pyramidal in shape however those have not survived now. Stairs on two sides leads to the second tier. As per an official information board, this temple is dated to fourth century CE.

There are few remarkable piece of art discovered at Pawaya so a mention of these is very much necessary here.

Surya Capital in Gujari Mahal Museum

Vishnu/Surya Capital – As per J C Harle this is an unparalleled piece of art. This Pawaya capital has two figures standing back to back and a wheel in between. There are few theories about the identification of these figures. Stella Kramrisch identifies it as a Bodhisattva, while J C Harle goes for Vishnu or Surya because of the wheel in between and P K Agrawala identifies it with the Chakravartin form of Vishnu. The only similar capital is the capital of the Eran pillar. However the figures on the Eran capital are of Garuda.

Fan-Palm Capital in Gujari Mahal Museum

Fan-Palm Capital – This unique piece of art was once a capital of some high pillar standing at Pawaya. It is made of white-sandstone. Fan-palm is supposed to be a symbol of Sankarshana or Balarama. The capital is in form of a stem of a tree on which nine roundish fruits with two large bending dovery fan-shaped leaves have been created. Above this are two more leaves which are parallel to the below ones. The whole model is superbly conceived and admirably executed.

A door lintel from Pawaya in Gujari Mahal Museum

Door Lintel -  A superb piece of art is reflected in form of a door lintel discovered at Pawaya. It has three different sections which narrate the story of Vishnu as Vamana conquering over Bali. The left most part depicts a dance assembly probably held at the Bali’s court. The middle section shows the Bali’s palace equipped with windows and balconies. Here Bali is shown granting wishes of the Vamana by pouring water in the latter’s hands. The rightmost panel shows Vishnu in his Trivikrama posture.

How to Reach – Pawaya is located about 20 km from Dabra on Dabra-Bhitarvar road. Dabra is about 30 km from Gwalior on Gwalior-Jhansi route. Approach to Pawaya is very bad as you need to go about 6 km inside on a road where only bike, bicycle or tractors can travel. The monument is called Pahadhiya these days and has a 4th century CE  Gupta brick temple whose platform only is left. Once you cross the 1 KM Bhitarvar milestone on Dabra-Bhitavar road, you need to take a left turn to village Pawaya which is situated near river Mandar. You need to ask a lot from local people to reach this place, better take some local with you if he/she knows the place.


  1. Agrawala, V S (1977). Gupta Art. Prithivi Prakashan. New Delhi.
  2. Cunningham, Alexander (1872). Four Reports Made During the Years 1862-63-64-65 (Vol II). Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi.
  3. Deva, Krishna (1969). Temples of North India. National Book Trust. New Delhi. ISBN 9788123719702.
  4. Harle, J C (1974). Gupta Sculpture. Munshiram Manoharlal. New Delhi. ISBN 8121506417
  5. Jain, Kailash Chand. Malwa Through the Ages, from the earliest times to 1305 AD.  Motilal Banarasidas. New Delhi.
  6. Michell, George (1989). The Penguin Guide to the Monuments of India Volume I: Buddhist, Jain, Hindu. London. Penguin Books. ISBN 9780140081442
  7. Mishra, S N (1992). Gupta Art and Architecture. Agam Kala Prakashan. New Delhi.
  8. Rai, Uday Narayan (2006). Bhartiya Kala (in Hindi). Lokbharati Prakashan. Allahabad. ISBN 8180310973
  9. भवभूति कृत मालतीमाधवं | चौखम्भा प्रकाशन | वाराणसी 
  • Rahul Singh

    पवाया, भितरगांव और सिरपुर के ईंटों के मंदिर प्रसिद्ध हैं ही, छत्‍तीसगढ़ ईंटों के मंदिर की दृष्टि से बेहद संपन्‍न हैं. लेकिन पवाया की मृण्‍मूर्तियों की कला अप्रतिम सुंदर है.

  • PN Subramanian

    It could be very difficult to establish chronology of the rulers on the basis of coins. The palaeography may not undergo much change in a short span of even 100 years. The coins of Nagas are cute. Thanks.

  • Bhushavali

    Thanks for the detailed post. I esp. love the Gupta Brick Temple…
    Kalangal Kalyana Perumal

  • Pankaj Saksena

    One question. They don’t let you take pictures in the Gujarai Mahal Museum, how did they let you? :) Please do tell! I am a fellow traveler who wants to photograph every thing he ever sees.

    • Saurabh Saxena

      Gujari Mahal they allowed photography with some fees. They do not allow photography in ASI museum which is also in Gwalior fort.

      • Pankaj Saksena

        Ah, okay. Now I remember. So the displays inside the glass panels, they are also from the Gujari Mahal museum?

        • Saurabh Saxena

          Not from there but from Gwalior Palace museum.

          • Pankaj Saksena

            Okay, thanks!

  • Shwetank

    Those terracotta pieces are amazing, some show sense of movement and detail I don’t much find in stone sculptures from the period, it seems their finest art was in terracotta and we might not be able to ever see it in its full glory.

    But more than that, that lintel is very interesting!! The first close up shows a domestic scene on the bottom and there seems to be some kind of box like contraption with holes out of which flames are projecting and one individual is clearly holding something over the flame to cook and there seem to be some tongs or other tools on the box. The second close up shows a musician with two small circular drums placed vertically and being struck on the top end, just like a tabla, heck this might be the earliest definitive evidence for the Tabla ever!!! It certainly demonstrates that drums of that nature were known well before medieval age when some claim the Mridangam was split in two by people like Khusro!
    Also another musician on the bottom left is playing a lute like instrument with bridge and nuts on the neck, demonstrating this was known before persian/islamic influence in north.