Sihoniya – A Jewel of Chambal Valley
Sihoniya is a small village in Morena district of Madhya Pradesh. This otherwise non-descript village is famous for its Jain temple and Kakanmath temple, the latter is a protected monument under ASI (Archaeological Survey of India). The history of the village before the tenth century CE can only be traced in legends. Cunningham1 mentions that it is believed that the city was built by the ancestors of Suraj Sen, the founder of Gwalior. The time assigned for this event is about 2000 years back. Cunningham refers the town as Suhaniya and tells that the old name of the town had lost, and the present name refers to the miracle of Suraj Sen being cured of leprosy after taking bath in a tank near the Ambika Devi temple. After this miracle, Suraj Sen took the name Sodhana Pala and renamed to town as Suddhanapura or Suddhaniya which later corrupted to Sudhinpur or Suhaniya. As per the same legend, his queen Kokanavati is said to have built the kokanpur-math temple, presently known as Kakanmath Temple.
The earliest epigraphical evidence puts the history of the town back to the fifth-sixth century CE of the post-Gupta period. Among the other ruins, Cunningham mentions finding a stone slab which was inscribed with numerals 1 to 14. He assigned the slab to fifth or sixth century CE. The numerals 1 to 9 were inscribed with ciphers and 10 to 14 were inscribed in Roman way, 10 succeeded with the respective cipher for 1, 2, 3 and 4. This slab was sent to London by Cunningham.
Sihoniya also has a famous Jain center, known as Shri Shantinatha Digambar Atishaya Kshetra. The Jain connection of the village can be traced back to tenth century CE as evident from the inscribed images found in and around Sihoniya. The village would have been a prospering Jain center till the end of eleventh century CE.
The Kachchhapaghatas brought the shine upon the town when they started ruling from here. The earliest branch of the Kachchhapaghatas started ruling from Sihoniya. The first Kachcchapaghata king, Lakshmana, did not leave any inscription and he might have ruled as a small feudatory. The next king in line, Vajradaman, left his inscriptions in Sihoniya suggesting the early association with the town. Kachchhapaghata king Kirtiraja (1015-1035 CE), built a Shiva temple here. An inscription found at Sas-Bahu temple in Gwalior, dated 1207 CE and refers to the reign of the Kachchhapaghata ruler Mahipala, mentions that his great-grandfather, King Kirtiraja, constructed a Shiva temple at Simhapaniya. H N Dwivedi2 and H V Trivedi3, editors of this inscription, agree with the identification of Simhapaniya with the present Sihoniya and the Shiva temple with the present Kakanmath Temple. Few scholars are of opinion that this temple was built by Kakanvati, queen of Kirtiraja, however this inscription does not warrant this fact4.
Though the town lost its shine soon after the fall of the Kachchhapaghatas, the religious activities continued as we have got inscriptions till the third quarter of the sixteenth century CE. An inscription, dated 1508 CE, mentions renovation of the Shiva temple by Durgaprasada. Few pilgrim records of sixteenth century are also found. After sixteenth century CE, though we do not find inscriptions, however the village would have shared its fate same as of its neighbors, i.e. Gwalior, under the Mughal and later British empire.
- On a stone lion, now in Gwalior Musuem – undated – characters of 10th century CE, language unclear – damaged
- On the pedestal of a Jaina image near Ambika Devi temple – dated Vikrama Samvat 1013, corresponding 1071 CE – characters old Nagari, language Sanskrit – mentions Mahendrachandra
- On a Jain sculpture – dated Vikrama Samvat 1034, corresponding 1092 CE – characters old Nagari, language Sanskrit – mentions king Vajradaman of Kachchhapaghata line
- On a pillar in Kakanmath Temple – undated – characters Nagari of 11th century CE, language Sanskrit – reads Sri Paliyata purahitah
- On a slab in the wall of Ambika Devi Temple – characters Nagari of 14th century CE, language Sanskrit – fragmentary, purpose not clear
- On an image of Chittanatha – dated Vikrama Samvat 1447, corresponding 1505 CE – characters Nagari – much damaged
- On a pillar in Kakanmanth Temple – dated Vikrama Samvat 1450, 1508 CE – characters Nagari, language Sanskrit – mentions renovation of the Mahadeva temple by Durgaprasada
- On a pillar in Ambika Devi temple – dated Vikrama Samvat 1467, corresponding 1525 CE – characters Nagari, language Sanskrit – mentions maharajadhiraja sri Virama (Viranga) Deva Tomara and sutradhara Haridasa
- On a pillar in Kakanmath Temple – dated Vikrama Samvat 1497, corresponding 1555 CE – characters Nagari, local dialect – pilgrims record from the time of Dungara, mentions the name Dekhana, son of Kakala, who was a resident of Nala-puragadha
- On a pillar in Ambika Devi Temple – dated Vikrama Samvat 1499, corresponding 1557 CE – characters Nagari, local dialect – much damaged
- On a pillar in Ambika Devi temple – dated Vikrama Samvat 1516, corresponding 1574 CE – characters Nagari, local dialect – much damaged
- On a pillar in Kakanmath Temple – undated – characters Nagari, local dialect – purport unclear, at the end is written vimalapurasthiti
- On a pillar in Kakanmath Temple – undated – characters Nagari – reads Kaupala
Monuments – There are two temples of importance in the village. The most famous is the Kakanmath Temple and this is described in details below. The other important temple complex is the Jain temple complex.
Many images from this temple have been restored to the Gujari Mahal Museum at Gwalior. Among these, the important ones are ten armed Vishnu in Vishvarupa form and Rama with Sita holding a bow.
Kakanmath Temple – This temple, standing in partial ruined state, is a remarkable edifice as evident from its surviving state. It is built on a raised platform, approached through a staircase on the east. The temple complex was originally a panchaytana design, with four subsidiary shrines around the central Shiva temple. All the subsidiary shrines are no more visible, except their minimal vestiges. The temple faces east and comprised of a sanctum, antarala, ardha-mandapa and mukha-mandapa. The temple falls under the sandhara category because of a pradakshina-patha (circumambulatory path) around its sanctum. This pradakshina-path has three transepts.
The mandapa doorway has river goddesses, Ganga and Yamuna, with dvarpalas. The antarala (vestibule) has four pillars. The ardha-mandapa has two transepts, on its lateral sides. This mandapa is supported on sixteen pillars. The tower of the temple is only survived in its elementary construction members. It is a 30 m (about 100 feet) high structure.
The temple is very rich in its sculptures and carvings. Ashta-dikpalas (eight guardians) are adoring the external walls of the temple facing their respecting directions. Being a Shiva temple, his various icons are also present on the walls. Kalyanasundaramurti is a beautiful such icon.
Various members of Shiva’s family, Ganesha, Kartikeya and Parvati are present on the external walls. We also see various mother goddesses including Kaumari, Brahmi, Maheshwari etc. however not all seven. It may be that the remaining goddesses are either lost or got destroyed. Vishnu and Brahma are also present in the sculptural arrangement.
An interesting icon, which is repeated multiple times on its external walls is indeed a confusing one. From resemblances and attributes, it is very familiar to Brahma however there are many objections to this identification. The main objection to Brahma identification is that this icon is not shown with three heads. Another objection would be that why it is repeated multiple times over the three walls of the temple.
Link to Photo Album – https://goo.gl/photos/inVcJZD8N7pkW3LB8
How to Reach There – Suhaniya is a famous Jain teertha therefore locating it on Google map would not be an issue. It is located about 55 km from Gwalior and 31 km from Morena. Morena is the nearest major rail station and Gwalior is the nearest airport.
1 Cunningham, Alexander (1872). Four Reports made during the years 1862-63-64-65, vol II. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. pp 399-401
2Dwivedi, H N (1947). Gwalior Rajya ke Abhilekh (in Hindi). Madhya Bharat Puratattva Vibhag. Gwalior. P 46
3Trivedi, H V (1989). Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum vol VII part III. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. No 155
4 Jain, K C (1972). Malwa Through the Ages. Motilal Banarasidass, New Delhi.
5 Willis, Micheal (1996). Inscriptions of Gopaksetra. British Museum Press. London. ISBN 0714114758
- Ali, Ahmed (2005). Kachchhapaghata Art and Architecture. Publication Scheme. Jaipur. ISBN 8181820142
- Deva, Krishna (1996). Temples of India. Aryan Books International. New Delhi. ISBN 9788173050541
- Willis, Maroo & Misra (2010). The Chambal Valley – A Heritage Treasure. Bookwell. New Delhi. ISBN 9789380574011