Rajim – Prayaga of Chattisgarh

Located at the confluence of Mahanadi (महानदी) and Pairi (पैरी) rivers, Rajim (राजिम) is the most sacred town of Chhattisgarh (छत्तीसगढ़) state. Being situated on a sangam (confluence of two rivers) and commanding religious importance from ancient times, Rajim is also referred as Prayaga of Chhattisgarh. Sangam at Rajim is famous for after-death rites, pitr-tarpan. Rajim is located on the pilgrimage route to Jagannatha of Puri, therefore it is frequented by pilgrims going to or coming after from Puri. It is said that a pilgrim’s journey to Puri is not complete until he does not visit Sakshi-Gopal at Rajim and making the lord the witness of his pilgrimage. In various accounts, i.e. Central Province Gazetteer sol 18 Raipur, Rajim is said to be situated at the confluence of three rivers, Mahanadi, Pairi and Sondur (सोंढूर). However, Sondur meets Pairi near Pitepani, around 40 km from Rajim.

We do not find mention of Rajim in epigraphs, epics and other literature. Looking at its cultural and religious antiquity, it may be that the town or kshetra is referred with a different name other than Rajim. This lacuna has been filled with numerous legends and anecdotes explaining the etymology behind the name Rajim. Sir Richard Jenkins1 was the first modern scholar who published his accounts of Rajim and its inscriptions in 1825. On the origins of name Rajim, Jenkins tells the then prevalent legend, “At the period of the celebrated Aswamedh, a Raja named Raju Lochan reigned at Raju. The horse Shamkarn having arrived there, the Raja seized him, and gave him to a celebrated Rishi named Kardama who resided on the banks of the Mahanadi. Satrughna who followed the horse with his army, attempting to take him from the Rishi was reduced with his army to ashes by the effects of the holy man’s curse. Ramchander, on hearing the fate of Satrughna, marched in person to avenge his fate. The Raja met him, and obtained favor in his sight. Ramchander told the Raja that there were of two deities at Raju, Utpaleswar Mahadeo, and Nilkantheswar; that Seo and Krishna were one; and that he himself would henceforth take up his abode there in the worship of Seo. Ramchander accordingly ordered the Raja to setup an image in his name, and to call it Raju Lochan, and added that its fame would be great, and that an annual feast should be held in his honor, on the Makar Sankrant in Magh. After paying his respects to Kardama Rishi, recovering his horse, and restoring Satrughna and the army to life, Ramchander returned to Ayodhya (sic).”

Jenkins also mentions another associated legend, that of a telin from whom the lost original image of Rajeevlochan was restored by king Jagatpal. This legend was further elaborated by J D Beglar2 who visited Rajim in 1873-74. He was told by locals that Rajam was named after a Telin named Rajba who used to worship Narayana regularly for twelve years. Therefore, Narayana asked her for a boon and she requested the lord to always stay there and her name should precede his. Hence the lord is referred as Rajib Lochan. Alexander Cunningham3, the next explorer who visited Rajim in 1881-82, improved upon this legend stating that Raju or Rajib was an oil-dealer of Chanda who possessed a black stone using that as a weight while selling oil. Jagat Pal, after having dream, tried to purchase the stone from Raju. She refused to sell it in exchange for money. Finally, she agreed to part with it in exchange of queen’s gold nose-ring and the promise that the temple would be named after her.

This Telin legend was further improved upon, Thakur4 writes that the name of the town is derived from a lady, named Rajim, who used to sell oil. It is told that one day she was going to sell oil as her regular routine. On the way, she fell down over a stone, in result her oil spilled over the ground. She got scared of her husband and mother-in-law. She put her oil vessel over that stone and started crying and praying to god to save her from this situation. After a long time, when no miracle happened, she got up to return to her home. When she lifted the vessel, she found it full of oil. She happily went to market to sell, and was surprised to find that even after selling to many customers, the vessel was still full of oil. She went back home with good money and vessel full of oil. Her husband and mother-in-law were surprised to that she had money but vessel still full of oil. After hearing Rajim’s story, their curiosity increased. To clarify herself from doubts, Rajim took her mother-in-law next day with an empty vessel. They reached the place where Rajim fell the day before. The mother-in-law placed the empty vessel over the stone, and to her surprise the vessel got filled with oil. They went back to their home, and all three decided to take that stone to their house. Next day, they went to pick up the magic stone, and when turned it around, they were surprised to find it to be a statue of Vishnu. They took that statue back to their house and started worshiping it daily. In meanwhile, king Jagat Pal got a dream where the god asked him to build a temple and install an image. The king built a temple however he failed to find a suitable image. Then, the king heard about the statue under worship at Rajim’s house and its background story. The king approached the lady to procure that statue. Rajim agreed for the proposed money in exchange of the statue. However, when the statue was put on a balance, its weight was reduced to that of a grass straw. The lady realized her mistake, and gave the statue to the king after taking promise that her name will be joined with that of the god. And since then, the lord was known as Rajimlochan and the town as Rajim.

Another enhanced version of this Telin legend is mentioned by Ghanaram Sahu5. He provides an improved version including genealogy of Rajim. He says that Rajim was the daughter of sahukar (businessman) Dharmadas and his wife Shanti, living in Kamal-kshetra. She was born to them after a boon from lord Vishnu. In another city of Padmavatipuri was living Ratandas with his wife Paro. They had a son named Amardas. Ratandas and Dharmadas were childhood friends. Once, Ratandas’ bulls fell ill. It so happened that Dharmadas and Rajim visited Ratandas, and Rajim put her hands over bulls and prayed. Soon, the bulls regained strength and got up. People were surprised with this, and soon Rajim started curing people by doing prayers to lord Vishnu. Soon, Amardas and Rajim got married. After some time, when there was no child born them, Ratandas and Paro got worried and spoke with Amardas. However, they were unaware that both, Rajim and Amardas, were following brahmacharya even after marraige. When Amardas talked this issue with Rajim, they both prayed to lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu appeared to Rajim and she took two boons, that she could continue her brahmacharya and get a son. Lord Vishnu gave her a son and a daughter. Then the story proceeds stating that Rajim used to sell oil and her incident with stone which turned out to be a statue. A change of narrative appears when Jagat Pal tried to purchase this statue. As per Sahu, the king tried to weigh the statue for its weight in exchange of gold but the statue always outweighed gold. That night, the king got a dream where the lord told him to put a Tulsi leaf on the balance. When done, the statue side got lighter and lifted up. Thus, the king got the statue and the lord was named after Rajim. And from then this Kamal-kshetra got named Rajim.

Though the above Telin legend cannot be taken as a historical fact, however it carries few resemblances to historical facts. The  mentioned king Jagat Pal might be same as Jagapala mentioned in the Kalachuri inscription found in Rajeevlochan temple. The Telin temple present in Rajeevlochan temple complex has a sati stone which has an engraving of a bull and oil-mill in its middle part. This carving may represent the occupation of the oil-lady Rajim as suggested in the Central Province Gazetteer6. Thakur states that we cannot take this as representation of the occupation of the sati lady since in such sati pillars, occupation is rarely depicted. Also, we should take the fact into account that this Telin temple is not contemporary of Rajeevlochan temple but a construction of a very later period.

About the etymology of Kamal-kshetra, again we find different legends. In one legend, it is said that during the creation of the universe, few lotus leaves, originating from navel of lord Vishnu, fell over Earth. The area where this lotus leaf fell is later known as Padma-kshetra. The boundary of this area is said to be marked by five Shiva-lingas, putting Kuleshvar at the center in Rajim, the other four are Babneshvar, Fingeshvar, Kopeshvar and Pateshvar. These five lingas are covered under the panchkoshi yatra, taken as a very scared and religious important among the pilgrims.

Another variation7 of the lotus legend states that lord Vishnu asked Vishwakarma to find a suitable place on earth to build his temple. His idea of a suitable place was a spot where in vicinity of 5 kos no cremation had happened in the past. Vishwakarma came to earth however failed to find such a spot. He returned and informed the lord. Then lord Vishnu dropped a lotus flower, and asked Vishwakarma to follow it to check where it falls as that place will be selected for his temple. The lotus flower fell at Rajim, and being covered with a lotus flower, the region was named Padma-kshetra or Kamal-kshetra. In the center of this lotus flower is located the Vishnu temple of Rajim and on its petals are located the pancha-kosi dham comprised of five Shiva temples. These are Kuleshwar-nath at Rajim, Champeshwar-nath at Champaran, Brahmakeshwar-nath at Brahmani, Paneshwar-nath at Phingeshwar and Kopeshwar-nath at Kopra. These five Shiva temples represent the five different aspects of Shiva as in Sadashiva form. Pateshwar-nath is the Sadyojata aspect with his shakti Annapurna. Champeshwar or Champakeshwar-nath is the Tatpurusha aspect with his shakti Kalika. Brahmakeshwar-nath is the Aghora aspect with his shakti Uma. Panikeshwar or Paneshwar-nath is the Ishana aspect with his shakti Ambika. Kopeshwar or Karpureshwar-nath is the Vamadeva aspect with his shakti Bhavani.

Another legend8 associated with the town is the Gaja-Grah story. It is said that at this spot Lord Vishnu saved the gaja (elephant) from the grasp of grah (crocodile). The elephant was a great devotee of Vishnu. Once while he was taking bath in a river, his leg was grasped by a crocodile. The elephant called from help and Vishnu rushed forward to the spot and saved the elephant. In the main image of Rajeevlochan, an elephant is shown offering a lotus flower to the god.

In the Kalachuri inscription in the Rajeevlochan temple, the name of the dynasty of Jagatpal is said to be “Rajmal”. Cunningham9 suggests the name Rajim is derived from ‘Rajmal’, the town may be named Rajamalapura which later got shortened to Rajam and further converting into Rajim. Another suggestion is that the town got its name from lord Rajeevlochan which is an epithet of god Vishnu.

Rajim is situated at Mahanadi which is considered one of the most scared river in Chhattisgarh. The river has found mention in many scared texts and epics. Jenkins10 mentions his conversation with the pujaris of the Ramachandra Temple. The pujari told him about Chitrotpala Mahatmya, a portion of some upa-puarana. As per that, river Mahanadi which runs from Utpaleswar, after its junction with Pretoddharini (Pairi river), is called Chitrotpala (Citrotpala). Utpaleswar is said to the present Kuleswar Temple. The pujari further mentioned that Rajim was known as Kamal-kshetra to Odisha brahmans and as Padmapur to Banares (Varanasi) brahmans. Cunningham11 quotes Rajim Mahatmya stating that Mahanadi bore the name of Utpaleswara above the junction of Pairi and that of Chitrotpala below the junction. Not sure if this Rajim Mahatmya of Cunningham is same that of Chitrotpala Mahatmya of Jenkins.

River Chitrotpala is mentioned in the Mahabharata. Bhishma Parva (book 6 section 9)12 mentions various rivers of India, and among these are mentioned Chitrotpala, Mahanad and Utpalavati as three separate rivers. Section 1113 of the same Parva mentions river Mahanadi, situated in Saka island, whose people were all pious and island was sacred to Shiva. Vana Parva (section 84)14 mentions a tirtha named Gaya where was located a Akshaya-vata by the river Mahanadi. All the rivers of that island were said to sin absolving. As both the rivers, Chitrotpala and Mahanadi, were mentioned as separate rivers in the different chapters of the Mahabharata, would it be apt to identify Chitrotpala with Mahanadi?

It appears that the version told to Jenskins and Cunningham, via different mahatmyas, was derived from the Odia Mahabharata of Sarala Dasa. Sarala Dasa15 mentions river Citrotpala as one of the branches of the river Prachi, flowing between the place of Utpalesha and Chitra Mahesvari. At some point in time, the Kuleshwar Temple at Rajim is identified with Utpaleshwar and therefore, the Mahanadi river flowing after this temple is referred as Chitrotpala.

There are divergent views among scholars on the identification of Chitrotpala. Waddel16 identifies Che-li-ta-lo of Xuanzang as Citrotpala, a branch of Mahanadi, and the city with the same name located at the site of an old port near the mouth of this river at Nendra. D C Sircar17 suggests that Citrotpala is either a branch of Mahanadi in Odisha or Mahanadi itself. B C Law18 tells that river Citrotpala does not yield to any identification though it is mentioned in Mahabharata. Vettam Mani19 does not identify Chitrotpala (Citropala) with Mahanadi and takes these two rivers as different. Sometime in 19th century CE, it appears that identification of Mahanadi was established with Chitrotpala. Baghmarakud inscription20, dated around 1886 CE, from the reign of Niladri Singh (1841-1891), whose rule was established in Sonepur, uses name Chitrotpala for Mahanadi stating that the river is as scared as Ganga in kaliyuga. As a matter of fact, there is a river named Chitrotpala, a distributary of Mahanadi, which flows in Cuttak and Kendrapara districts of Odisha.

Antiquity of Rajim is primarily cultural rather than historical. The town did not receive any specific or continued patronage from any of its ruling dynasties, but its development happened mostly because of its religious importance venerated among public across the centuries. This continued cultural heritage has made Rajim to enjoy its religious supremacy till now as the town is frequented by pilgrims round the year.

To ascertain antiquity of any place, a lot depends on the findings of coins, epigraphs and excavated specimens such as broken pottery and beads. Due to its continuous occupation, Rajim does not leave much space for schematic excavations. Two seasons of excavations have been carried out by ASI and State Archaeology Department. These excavations were carried out under the supervision of A K Sharma21.

In 2012-13, joint excavation exercise by ASI Raipur Circle and Department of Culture and Archaeology22, Government of Chhattisgarh, was done for a small scale excavation at the mound of Sita Baree in Rajim. On the basis of findings and the nature of the construction of the structural remains, the site may be ascribed to 6th-7th century CE to 10th-11th century CE.

Sharma was quoted in a news article mentioning that the first season, in 2012-15, revealed a Vishnu temple, a Tridevi temple and a palace complex. Tridevi temple is of special interest as we rarely find such format in other parts of India. This temple has three garbha-grhas, central dedicated to Lakshmi, and other two to Durga and Saraswati. Sharma tells that the findings of these edifices takes the dating back to the Mauryan period.  He also excavated various stones tools dating back to 2.5 lakh years suggesting that the area was inhabited since then. The next excavations season was carried out in 2016-17.

Entrance (pratoli) to Rajiva Lochana Temple Complex
Rajiva Lochana Temple

Rajiva Lochana Temple – This west facing temple is located inside a spacious complex overlooking river Mahanadi. Rajiva Lochana is the main temple of the complex, and is built in panchayatana (quincunx) style. The central temple stands over a high raised jagati (platform), about 8 feet high. The other four temples are located in the four corners. The main entrance into the complex is provided in west through a portico, the latter is supported on two pillars and two pilasters. These pillars and pilasters are adorned with life-size images of damsels and dvarpalas in bold relief. Dikshit23 is of opinion that this portico was constructed during the Kalachuri period. At the eastern end of this portico is an exquisitely carved doorway which Dikshit assigns to Panduvamshi period. There is an image of Buddha placed on one corner of inner chamber. Local people identify this Buddha image with the image of the King Jagat Pal.

 

Pratoli doorway
Acrobatics
Acrobatics
Davarapala/Pratihara
Sheshasayi-Vishnu

This doorway is composed of five shakhas (bands). Two inner-most shakhas are decorated with foliage and scroll-work occupying all the portion except its lalata-bimba on lintel. On its lalata-bimba is carved Gaja-Lakshmi sitting over a lotus. Middle shakha has intertwined nagas with few mithuna images. Lalata-bimba of its lintel has an image of Garuda holding tails of nagas. Fourth and fifth shakhas share a common niche over jambs. In this niche is shown dvarpalas or pratiharas. Fourth shakha has foliage and scroll design. Fifth and the outermost shakha contains mithuna panels. There are two lintels placed over the fourth and fifth shakhas. Lalata-bimba of its lower lintel has Vishnu as Sheshasayi and while the upper lintel has some mithuna figures. Sheshasayi-Vishnu is of particular interest because of its exquisite workmanship. Vishnu is shown lying over Shesha coils, latter is shown with five-headed hood. Vishnu is shown with four hands carrying chakra (discus) and shankha (conch). Goddess Lakshmi is shown seated near his feet. Brahma, seated on a lotus, is shown emerging from Vishnu’s navel. Two of his weapons, Nandaka sword and Kaumaudki gada, are shown in their anthropomorphic forms, standing between Brahma and Lakshmi. Two demons, Madhu and Kaitabha, are shown reaching towards Vishnu. Vishnu is shown pointing his finger towards the demons, probably to instruct his weapons to counter attack.

Shikara | AIIS, Center for Art and Archaeology Photo Archive

Rajiva Lochana temple is built of bricks except of its jagati, pillars and door-frames. It is constructed in tri-ratha pattern and composed of a garbha-grha, antarala and a mandapa. Vimana is composed of vedibandha, jangha and baranda. Vedibandha is made of five mouldings. Niches are provided on bhadra offsets, making provisions for parsha-devatas (subsidiary deities). However, these niches are empty at present. Baranda is of two mouldings. Shikhara is four-tiered pyramidal structure resembling Dravidian order composed of kutas and shalas. On its bhadra are placed four large chaitya-gavakshas, one on each story in ascending order. At the karna, on its each story, is placed a kuta-shrines. This kuta-shrine differs to its usual counterpart found in Dravidian order as here we find a pancha-andaka structure, four mini-shikharas on four corners and main shikhara topped with as amalaka. Dikshit mentions that this shikhara does not seem to be coeval with the original temple, and might have been built during the Kalachuri period.

Garbha-grha doorway | AIIS, Center for Art and Archaeology Photo Archive

The doorway to the garbha-grha is built in three shakhas (band). The innermost shakha is decorated with scroll-work. Mithuna panels are provided in the middle shakha. The outermost shakha has intertwined nagas each shown in anjali-mudra. Lintel has Vishnu over Garuda accompanied with attendants, musicians and ganas. There is a black stone image of Vishnu inside the garbha-grha. He is shown carrying gada (club), shankha (conch), chakra (discus) and a lotus.

Ganga over makara

Entrance to the oblong mandapa is provided on its south-west and north-east corners. Mandapa supports a flat roof over two rows of pillars, six pillars each. The square shape pillars are decorated in the upper portion while left portion is left plain. The pilasters are adorned with life-size sculptures. Dikshit mentions that originally this mandapa was open on all sides. In its next stage of development, side walls with pilasters adorning large image were provided during the Panduvamshi period. To the same period he assigns the exquisitely carved doorway to the garbha-grha. In the third phase of development, a wall around the mandapa was constructed allowing an open-air pradakshina-path. Pilgrim records in shell script left on the pillars suggest that the pillars were coeval with the original temple.

Male figure with a dagger, bow and arrow, locals identify him as Rama
Narasimha
Lady standing over a lion pedestal, local identify her as Sita

All the pilasters are adorned with life size statues. There are total of twelve images. Starting from the south-west on the southern wall, the first image is of a male figure with a dagger in his waist and a bow and arrows on shoulders. Cunningham suggests that it could be Rama however this may not fit into overall scheme. Next image is of a female standing on a lion pedestal accompanied two flying kinnars on top and standing under a tree. She holds a flower in one of her hands. The image is identified as Sita by the locals. Next pilaster shows an amorous couple, male is shown holding a snake and a parrot, mount of Kama, is placed over a tree. Both, snake and parrot are symbols for the romantic nature of the image. The next pilaster has Ganga standing over a makara and accompanied with an attendant who is holding an umbrella. Next in line is a statue of Narasimha. The last pilaster in this line has a statue of dvarpala.

Varaha
Yamuna

Moving on to the northern wall, starting from north-east, first is a statue of dvarapala similar to its counterpart on the opposite pilaster. Next is depicted Varaha. Next pilaster has an image of Yamuna standing over a tortoise. Next in line is a statue of a female standing over a lion pedestal where three lions are carved. Next to this pilaster is an image of Durga who is shown with eight hands and sitting over a lion. Last pilaster on this wall has a statue of a male who is holding a dagger in his waist and riding a horse chariot of five horses, Cunningham suggests that it could be Surya. However, this does not fit with the regular iconography of Surya.

There are two inscriptions, presently embedded in the mandapa wall, which should be taken into account while discussing the origins of this temple. The first inscription is of king Vilasatunga of the Nala dynasty. This inscription mentions that the king constructed a temple for Vishnu. It is undated, however it can be dated to the beginning of the eight century CE (700-725 CE) based on paleographic grounds. The other inscription is dated in 896 year of the Kalachuri era, corresponding 1145 CE. This inscription mentions construction of a temple dedicated to Rama by Jagapala, a subordinate under the Kalachuri king Prithvideva II.

Based upon the style and sculptural art, Rajiva Lochana temple is generally considered belonging to the formative years of temple building activity in Chhattisgarh. M G Dikshit is of opinion that the original temple was constructed during the Panduvamshi period. Krishna Deva24 is of opinion that the original temple, composed of garbha-grha and antarala was at least a generation earlier than the Lakshmana Temple of Sirpur, thus belonging to around 600 CE. He suggests that the Nala inscription of Vilastunga has no relevance to this earlier phase of the temple therefore either Vilasatunga built another temple which has not survived, or the inscription refers to renovations of an ancient temple.

However, the Nala inscription does not mention repair or renovation but construction of a temple. It would be incorrect to assume that a king repaired or renovated an older temple but mentioned it as a new construction in his inscription. As the king constructed a new temple, the question would be whether it was the Rajiva Lochana temples or some other temple. In case it was some other temple, then the present inscription was moved to the Rajiva Lochana temple from that temple when the latter fell or went out of use. Rajiva Lochana is the only Vishnu temple in Rajim, therefore if there was any other Vishnu temple, it had not come down to us. In such circumstances, it would be appropriate to say that king Vilasatunga built the Rajiva Lochana temple.

Thakur25 mentions that with the present knowledge and available material, it would be unreasonable to say that the temple was not built by Vilasatunga. Stadtner26 also takes Vilasatunga as the builder of the present Rajiva Lochana temple.

The Kalachuri inscription of Jagapala mentions construction of a temple dedicated to Rama. Being embedded into the mandapa of Rajiva Lochana temple, few scholars have suggested that Jagapala renovated the Rajiva Lochana temple. However, Rajiva Lochana temple is dedicated to Vishnu and the image inside the garbha-grha is of Vishnu, therefore it would be incorrect that we take that the composer of the inscription took Vishnu as Rama. Iconography of Rama is very different than that of Vishnu and we do not expect the composer getting confused about the same. It was also suggested that originally the temple was dedicated to Vishnu however later in 12th century CE it was known as that of Rama however this also does not seem correct. In all probabilities, Jagapala did construct a new temple dedicated to Rama. It may the same temple as of present Ramachandra or some other temple which has not survived to us. Keilhorn, while editing the inscription in Indian Antiquary vol XVII, mentions that this inscription was embedded in the Ramachandra temple. This information from Keilhorn is somewhat misleading as the inscription was in the Rajiva Lochana temple when first observed by Jenkins in 1825.

Nala Inscription
Kalachuri Inscription

Inscriptions

  1. Rajim copper-plate inscription of the Raja Tivaradeva27 –  This grant was discovered by a Maratha chief in about 1785 while digging ground for building a house. The plates were given to the priests of the Rajiva Lochana temple. These plate were first brought into notice by Jenkins in 1825 via his article in Asiatic Researches vol XV. It is a set of three plates, secured by a seal which has a figure of Garuda, depicted with his upper body as man and lower as a bird. On either side of Garuda are carved a chakra (discuss) and shankha (conch). The legend on the seal mentions king Tivaradeva, the supreme lord of Kosala. The grant was issued from the town of Sripura (modern Sirpur). The genealogy of Mahasiva-Tivaradeva is given, as son of Nannadeva and grandson of Indrabala belonging to Panduvamshi race. The purpose of the grant is to officiate grant of village Pimparipadraka of Penthama bhukti to brahmans Bhatta Bhavadeva and Bhatta Haradatta, sons of Bhatta Gauridatta and belonging to Bharadvaja gotra and Vajaseaneya-Madhyamdina (branch). The last lines of the grant explains the consequences for the future kings if they try to rule over this grant, quoting few verses from Vyasa. The grant is dated to the seventh regnal year of king Tivaradeva (660-680 CE), corresponding to 667 CE.
  2. Stone slab on the left wall of the mandapa28 – proto-Nagari characters and Sanskrit language – dated to beginning of eighth century CE on paleographic grounds – Inscription starts with obeisance to Vishnu and mentions glory of the king Nala, of Nala dynasty of Mahabharata. It then mentions King Vilastunga and his predecessors Prithiviraja and Viruparaja. It then tells that king Vilastunga built a temple of Vishnu. The inscription was composed by Durgagola and engraved by Durghastin. Last few verses are cautionary in nature for the future kings to maintain this edifice in proper manner.
  3. Stone slab on the left wall of the mandapa29 – Nagari characters and Sanskrit language – dated in year 896 of Kalchuri Era (1145 CE) – The object of the inscription is to record construction of a temple of Rama and grant of the village Salmaliya for the purpose of the food offerings to the deity by Jagapala (later referred as Jagatsimha in line 10). After the customary obeisance to Narayana, the inscription traces the genealogy of the donor Jagapala from Thakkura Sahilla, the latter was the spotless ornament of the family of Rajamala and have come from the country of Vadahara. He made brave kings tremble in wars and brought the Vivarabhumi under his sway. Sahilla has a younger brother, Vasudeva, and three sons Bhayila, Desala and Svamin. They conquered the Bhattavila and Vihara countries. Jayadeva, elder son of Svamin, acquired the country of Dandora containing 2100 villages, while the younger son, Devasimha, took Komo mandala. Thakkuraini Udaya, who was the wife of one of the two sons of Svamin, was the mother of Jagapala.  Next six lines detail about the accomplishments of Jagapala. The Mayurikas and Savantas were submitted to him. For his overlord, Jajalla-deva I (1090-1120 CE), Jagapala conquered the Tamanala together with Ratha and Tera. During the reign of Ratna-deva II (1120-1135 CE), he acquired the name of Jagatsimha by his heroic deeds in the Talahari country. But his exploits were even greater during the reign of Prithvi-deva II (1135-1165 CE) when he took the string fort of Saraharagadha and Machaka-Sihava and conquered countries of Bhramaravadra, Kantara, Kusumabhoga, Kanda-dongara and Kakayara. He then established the town of Jagapalapura in the newly acquired territory. He had three brothers, Gajala, Jayatsimha and Devaraja. The inscription was composed by Thakkura Jasananda, son of Thakkura Jasodhara of Ayodhyapuriya family and engraved by artisan Ratnapala.
  4. Pillar inscriptions – Descriptive List of Inscriptions in The Central Provinces and Berar – various pilgrim inscriptions are recorded on the pillars of this temple. Videshaditya, Purnnaditya, Vakaradhavala, Bhagavati, Ratnapurushottama, Manadevi, Salonatunga are the various names of pilgrims found in these inscriptions. However none of these names have any historic value.
Badri-Narayana shrine
Shiva as Ardhnareeshwar
Shiva as Nataraja
Shiva as Ekapada
Shiva as Andhakantaka
Shiva as Maheshamurthi
Yoga-Narayana inside garbha-grha

Badri-Narayana Temple – This temple is located in the north-eastern corner of the complex and faces west. It is built on a slightly raised jagati, about 1.5 feet high, access to it provided through two steps. The temple only consists of a garbha-grha and its vimana is built in pancha-ratha style. The entrance doorway is built in single band, decorated with foliage originating from a nidhi-kalash (pot of plenty). The foliage propagates over lintel where in the middle are carved two makaras sitting opposite. The lateral face of the doorway is carved with images representing various aspects of Shiva, on the left are found Ardhnareeshwar, Nataraja and Shiva-Yogeshvar while on the right are present Ekapada, Gajasura-vadha-murti and Mahesha as Trimurti. Inside the garbha-grha is an image of Vishnu as Yoga-Narayana.

Vamana with Bali

Vamana Temple – This temple is located in the south-eastern corner of the complex and faces west. The temple only consists of a garbha-grha and its vimana is built in pancha-ratha style. Jangha is divided into two stories, tala-jangha and upara-jangha separated by a single moulding. Its simple doorway has a lintel from some different temple on which Vishnu as Anantasayi is carved. The lateral faces of the doorway are carved with dashavataras, five on each side. On the right we have Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, Narasimha and Vamana.  On the left we have Parashurama, Rama with Lakshmana, Krishna, Buddha and Kalki. These sculptures are of later period when considered with image inside garbha-grha. Inside the garbha-grha is enshrined an image of Vamana accompanied with king Bali. Diskhit suggests that this image belongs to the Sarabhapuriya period however he does not provide any comparison or evidence for the same. Thakur30 suggests that the lintel put in this temple was the same reported by Beglar to be lying within the compound.

Varaha as Trivikrama

Varaha Temple – This temple is located in the southern corner of the complex and faces east. It is built in pancha-ratha style. Inside the garbha-grha is an image of Varaha where sheshnaga is shown holding a hala and a bow. Presence of bow signifies Lakshmana who is taken as an incarnation of Sheshanaga as suggested by Thakur31. The lifted leg of Vishnu is shown piercing through a demonic face. It is identified with Brahmanda by M G Dikshit and as Bali by Thakur32.

Narasimha Temple –  This temple is located in the north-western corner of the complex and faces east. It is built in pancha-ratha style. Jangha is divided into two stories, tala-jangha and upara-jangha separated by a single moulding.

Rajeshvara Temple

Rajeshvara Temple – This east facing temple is located opposite to the western entrance of Rajiva Lochana temple. Like most temples in Chhattisgarh region, this temple is also constructed over a jagati, about 3 feet high. The temple is composed of a mandapa, antarala and garbha-grha. Vimana is built in tri-ratha pattern. The mandapa is open on the east and supports a flat roof over two rows of pillars, four pillars each. Ganga and Yamuna are present on two opposite pilasters at the entrance. There are statues on other pilasters as well. Garbha-grha doorway is guarded by two dvarpalas. Inside the sanctum is a Shivalingam known as Rajeshvara. This for sure is a later period temple and Thakur33 assigns this temple of 8th-9th century CE.

Daneshvara Temple – It temple is situated adjacent to Rajeshvara Temple. It is also built over a jagati and composed of a Nandi-mandapa, a mandapa, antarala and a garbha-grha. Unlike mandapas of other temples in Rajim, mandapa here is half-open in the south and north, provisions for seats are provided. It supports a flat roof over four rows of four pillars each. The pillars on outer rows are half the size of the pillars in inner rows, as these are placed over the seats. Vimana is built in tri-ratha pattern. Nandi-mandapa is only found in this Shiva temple in Rajim. Thakur assigns this temple to the Kalachuri period.

Kuleshvara Temple – This Shiva temple is situated on an island formed by Pairi and Mahanadi rivers. Raipur District Gazetteer34 mentions a local tradition about Jhankavati, the wife of Jagatpal. It is told that her image is carved on Kuleswar platform, having an umbrella on her head and attended by female servant. She used to burn a lakh of lamps every night and this is the reason why numerous earthen lamps are found while digging the ground in Rajim. Kuleshwar temple is supposed to be built by Raja Tamradhwaja.

Like all other temples of the site, this temple is also constructed upon a jagati about 17 feet high. This jagati is octagonal in shape. Its octagonal shape and ample height safeguards the temple during the flood times. The temple is composed of two side-by-side garbha-grhas  sharing a common mandapa. Shiva as Kuleshvaralinga is enshrined in one garbha-grha, while the other garbha-grha is having a statue of Jagadamba. This second garbha-grha was originally empty as mentioned by Beglar. Mandapa is supported on two rows of pillars and pilasters on side walls. Pilasters of the mandapa are carved with life-size images. Among these images are found Kartikeya over a peacock, a female deity whom Thakur35 suggest to be Utpalakshi, a female riding a horse and Mahishasuramardini. Based upon an inscription embedded inside the mandapa, the temple can assigned to ninth century CE. However, it has been renovated many times in later periods.

Inscriptions

  1. Kuleshvara Temple inscription – dated to ninth century CE based upon paleographic grounds – This 20 line inscription is badly damaged. Mention of Sri-sangama is found in line 5, which probably refers to the confluence of Pairi and Mahanadi rivers.
Ramachandra Temple

Ramachandra Temple – Though largely renovated, the temple retains few of its original material in form of pillars, pilasters and the sanctum doorway. Due to the large scale renovations in the temple, scholars are divided over the original foundation and period of the temple. Cunningham mentions that during his visit, he was told that the temple was built before 250-400 years by Govind Lal, a banker and merchant, who was also the Kamasdar of Raypur, utilizing material from Sirpur temples. Viennot36 first suggested that the temple cannot be dated to a very later period as there are many reflections suggesting it to be belonging to the main stream temples of 7th-9th century CE. M G Dikshit mentions that the temple was first constructed during the Panduvamshis and later repaired by Jayasimha in Kalachuri period. Krishna Deva37 is of opinion that the temple cannot be earlier than 11th century CE, as evident by the use of knife-edge moulding in the vedibandha. He suggests that it is likely that like other temples of Rajim, this temple is very late and crudely imitates old designs re-utilizing old architectural pieces.

Ganga over makara
Varaha

Like Rajivlochan temple, this temple is also built in bricks and over a jagati. The temple is composed of a garbha-grha, antarala and a mandapa. It is a sandhara category temple, with provisions for a circumambulatory path provided at a later period. Its elaborate and large garbha-grha doorway has seven shakhas in total. However, the outermost three shakhas are of later addition, as evident by the sculptural art present over these shakhas. Krishna Deva suggests that this modification was carried out in 17th century CE. He also suggests that the original door-frame has influences from the Vakataka art. Of the original four shakha doorway, the innermost shakha is decorated with different gem patterns. The next shakha has lotuses with triangular geometrical designs. Both these shakhas are attached to a common panel at the bottom, depicting yaksha over makara. Third shakha has geometrical designs, while the outermost shakha has floral scrolls. On the outermost shakha, at the bottom, are provided goddesses standing under a torana. Lateral faces of the doorway is carved with lotuses, full lotus in middle and half lotus at the terminals. Garbha-grha doorway has Vishnu dashavataras, anthropomorphic Varaha, Matsya, Kurma, Varaha in animal form, anthropomorphic nrsimha, Parashurama, Rama, Kalki, Krishna and Jagannatha.

Mandapa has a flat roof supported over two rows of pillars, four pillars in each row. Images on pillars are of shalabhanjika, amorous couple, shala-bhanjika holding a veena. Thakur mentions that these shalabhanjika images are one of the best specimen of Chhattigarh art. These figure do resemble the ones found in various Buddhist shrines. Krishna Deva is of opinion that these figures belong to 7th century CE, except for two pillars which are coeval with garbha-grha door. Images on pilasters are of Ganga over makara, royal personnel, eight-armed Ganesha, six-armed Varaha, eight-armed Varaha where sheshnaga is shown holding a hala (plough) and again a royal personnel. Presence of three Ganga images over these pilasters suggests that these were once adorning different temples.

Inscriptions –  A short inscription reading Sri-Lokbala is found on one of the pilaster. However as these were brought from Sirpur so what this inscription refer to is hard to say. The characters used are of eighth-ninth century CE.

Other Temples – There are many temples at Rajim however these all are of not much architectural interest. Jagannatha Temple is a 14th century CE temple enshrining a wooden image of Jagannatha. Rajib Telin Temple is located west of Rajeshvara temple and has a sati stone inside the sanctum. Two temples, Pancheshvara Mahadev and Bhuteshvara Mahadeva, stand side by side near the river bank. Someshvara Mahadev is situated little away from the river in residential colony. Rajib Telin temple is located inside the Rajiva Lochana coumpund behind Rajeshwara Temple.

 


References:
1 Jenkins, R (1825). Account of Ancient Hindu Remains in Chattisgher published in Asiatic Researches vol XV. pp 499-522
2 Beglar, J D (1878). Report of a Tour in Bundelkhand and Malwa and in the Central Provinces, 1873-74, vol VII. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. p 154
3 Cunningham, Alexander (1884). Report of a Tour in the Central Provinces and Lower Gangetic Doab in 1881-82, vol XVII. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. pp 7-8
4 Thakur, V S (1972). Rajim (Hindi). Madhya Pradesh Hindi Granth Academy. Bhopal. pp 5-6
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