Introduction – Janjgir is the district headquarter of Janjgir-Champa district of Chhattisgarh. It has been referred as Jehangir, probably on the name of the Mughal emperor Jahangir, in the Indian Atlas as stated by J D Beglar who visited this town in 1873-74 CE. Janjgir may be the new name of the old town Jajallapura which is mentioned to founded by the Kalchuri king Jajalladeva I as recorded in his Ratanpur inscription. If it is accepted that the town was founded by Jajalladeva I then the antiquity of the town can be dated from twelfth century CE onwards.
From archaeology perspective, I am not very sure about the excavations however the existing monuments are not of antiquity prior to twelfth century CE. Which further suggests that the town was probably founded by Jajalladeva I in twelfth century CE.
Monuments – There are two temples of interest, one incomplete and other complete.
Incomplete Vishnu Temple – This profusely carved temple is constructed over a high raised platform. Temple construction above a high-raised platform is very common among the temple in Chhattisgarh. This east facing temple is dedicated to Vishnu. A local tradition states that one fine day Vishvakarma, the celestial architect, started the construction at dusk to be finished by the dawn. However he was unable to finish the temple so the temple is left incomplete, without tower (shikhara).
Many small miniature panels are embedded into the platform walls. Scenes of Ramayana and Krishna-life are the common theme of these panels. Among these panels, you will notice Rama shooting arrow through seven trees to display his strength to Sugreeva, Rama and Lakshmana chasing golden deer, Rama killing the deer with his arrow, monkeys carrying stones to build a bridge, Rama worshipping Shiva-lingam at Rameshvaram etc. Secular panels like musician and dancers are also found along with these religious panels.
The temple stands in middle of a quite wide and large floor of a platform. It consists of a mandapa (hall), antarala (vestibule) and garbha-griha (sanctum). An elephant frieze and a lion/vyala frieze run above the usual temple basement elements. Two large horizontal friezes adorn the wall of the mandapa and vimana all around the temple. The continuity is broken with large niches at regular intervals. Various celestial icons are depicted in these two large friezes.
Various incarnations of Vishnu are found on the external walls, Varaha, Narasimha, Krishna, Rama, Vamana etc. There would have been astha-dikpalas on the eight corners of the temple however I was not able to locate all the eight, as few seems to be missing or broken-off. Among the ashta-dikpalas, you will find Agni, Yama, Nrrtti, Varuna, Vayu. Various apsaras and celestial maidens are adorning the walls of the temple, which looks very familiar to the Khajuraho like conception.
Few Shiva icons are also present, like Shiva as Ardhnareeshvar. Harihara and Shiva in his usual iconography. Lakshmi and Saraswati are few goddesses who can be spotted among the icons. Brahma and Surya are present in the main central niches of north and west vimana walls respectively. In overall aspect, the temple walls are deluged with carvings and decoration.
The main door to the temple has life-size images of river goddesses, Ganga and Yamuna. They are accompanied with similar size images of dvarapala and ayudha-purusha (anthropomorphic conception of weapons) of Vishnu. This makes three images on each side. An image of Vishnu is in centre of the door lintel, while Brahma and Shiva are on either extreme sides. In between these are nava-grhas (nine-planets). An image of Vishnu riding over Garuda is present in the second slab of the lintel.
Shiva Temple – This small Shiva temple is located near to the Vishnu temple, opposite side of the road. Though it is a complete temple however it appears that it might have been repaired in later times. The shikhara (tower) is executed in Nagara style. An image of Shiva is put in the center of the door lintel while images of Brahma and Vishnu are placed at the extreme ends. In between are placed nava-grhas (nine planets). Shiva in Nataraja posture is put up in the second slab of the lintel. Life-size statues of the river goddesses are present over the door jambs, along with similar size dvarapala images.
Though the exterior walls of the temple are simple however two niches on each side are present over the vimana and two niches on each side of mandapa. Various Shaiva icons are decorating these niches which includes, Kartikeya, Ganesha, Chamunda, Gajasamharamurti, Harihara Veenadhara etc. Entrance to the temple inside is restricted with barbed wires at present.
Inscriptions – No inscription of importance is found at Janjgir.
How to Reach – Janjgir is situated on NH200, about 65 km from Bilaspur and 175 km from Raipur. Janjgir has a railway station named Naila, there were few initiatives to rename this station to Janjgir but still it keeps its old name. Naila is connected to Bilaspur and Raipur railway stations and you will find good frequency of trains. Raipur is the nearest airport. Public buses ply from Bilaspur on regular intervals.
- Cunningham, Alexander (1872). Report of a Tour in Bundelkhand and Malwa and in the Central Provinces (Vol VII). Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi.