Tigawa – A Hidden Jewel

Introduction – Tigawa is a small village which was once a large town with a fort named Jhanjhangarh. The literal meaning of Tigowa, as it is referred by Cunningham, is ‘three villages’, the other two are neighboring villages, Amgowa and Deori. Tigawa was located on an ancient route connecting Bharhut to Tripuri via Tigawa and Rupnath.

Alexander Cunningham visted Tigawa in 1873 and reported the antiquities of the town. He mentions a rectangular mound of 250 feet long and 120 feet wide which was entirely covered with large blocks of cut-stones. These stones were parts of ruins of various temples, all fallen except one which was in good state of preservation. He was told that the mound was utterly destroyed by a railway contractor who collected all the squared stones in a heap together to be used in railway construction. It is mentioned that two hundred carts were used to bring this heap to the foot of hill. This rapacious and destructive activity was stopped by an order from the Deputy Commissioner of Jabalpur but damage was done till that time.

He counted basements of at least thirty six temples on this mound. The temples were in varying sizes from 4 feet square to 15 feet square. The temples of modest size, 4 to 6 feet square, were covered on three sides and open on east. Temples of medium size, 7 to 10 feet square, were covered on all sides with a doorway on the eastern sides, whereas the large temples, from 10 to 15 feet square, were having an additional portico in front. All these temple, which ruins are only left, were having a shikhara with amalaka on top. No Buddhist or Jaina antiquity was found by Cunningham.

It may assumed that the religious activity witnessed a tremendous growth at Tigawa after the construction of the first temple, which is the same one which is standing at present as well. That earliest temple is dated to the Gupta period, hence all the other temples would have been built after this one only. It may be also assumed that after the disintegration of the Gupta empire, rulers of small kingdoms were forced to focus over a small region for all their activities and Tigawa was one such center. It would be hard to say in which time all these additional shrines were constructed however as the region was under influence of the Kalchuris for a long period, these activities may be assigned to them.

Monuments – The monument complex at Tigawa contains ruins of about 36 temple as counted by Cunningham. However only one temple is standing at present which is described in detail below.

Kankali Devi Temple

Kankali Devi Temple – The original temple was constituted of a sanctum and an open portico supported on four pillars. At a later stage, the portico was covered with walls containing panels and an addition extension in front of the portico. The sanctum is 12.75 feet square outside and about 8 feet square inside. It is covered with a flat roof. Doorway of the sanctum is done in T-shaped style with over-hanging lintel beyond the door-jambs. Foliage decoration is found on two bands of this doorway. Two pilasters, one on either side, are executed in the typical Gupta order, topped with images of Ganga and Yamuna where both are shown plucking a fruit from a tree. There are seven square bosses on a lintel above the door frame. Cunningham suggests that these bosses might be the representation of the ends of horizontal beams as found in the wooden architecture. An image of Narasimha is placed inside the sanctum.

Pillar abacus
Sanctum door

A portico in front is supported on four pillars which are designed in typical Gupta order. Square at base, followed by octagonal and then sixteen sides shaft and then circular at last. This shaft is topped with a purna-kalasha (vase-of-plenty) capital. Above this capital is a square abacus with two lions on each face, seated side by side and a tree in between. Lions on corners share their heads similar to the arrangement seen in Assyrian sculptures. Though all the pillars are same, difference can be noticed in the tree, which is placed in between the lions, on its various faces. On some face it is a mango tree then on others it is palm tree or some unidentifiable trees. There are two chaitya-arch bosses on each face of the lower part of the capital. There is head of a lion or a man inside the arches.

Sheshashai Vishnu

Cunningham suggests that open portico was later converted into a closed mandapa. At the same time, various sculptural panels were also inserted in the side walls of this mandapa. He mentions four such panels however I found only two panels at the site which are adorned in the south wall of the mandapa. One panel depicts Chamunda or Kankali Devi which probably gave the present name of the temple. Another panel shows Vishnu resting on the coils of Adi-shesha in his Sheshashai icon. Another portico of quite a different style was also added at later stages. There is a sculptural panel on this portico which iconography is difficult to understand. The panel shows a seated mendicant with elongated ears and wearing a large crown over his head. The posture of the mendicant is usually seen in Buddhist and Jainism sculptures however I am not very sure of its religious nature.

Though no Gupta inscription is found on this temple or a among the ruins at this site, this temple is dated to the Gupta period by all scholars on the basis of the similarities, which we discussed above, with other Gupta temples. In this situation, the temple may be dated to fourth or fifth century CE.

Inscriptions –  There is a pilgrim’s record on one face of the pillar.

  1.   On a face of a pillar – Descriptive List of Inscriptions in The Central Provinces and Berar – undated, dated to eighth century CE on paleographic study – in Sanskrit language – the inscription mentions about the visit of UmaDeva of Kanyakubja (Kanauj), son of Samanya Bhatta, to pay his devotion at the temple of Setabhadra (probably Svetabhadra).
  2. There are two more pilgrim records, one is highly floriated and other very indistinct.
Devi Temple

Devi Temple – This is a live temple at site and probably the largest one. Only the ornamental torana has survived from the original temple which is about 4 feet wide. Cunningham estimated that the temple would have been about 19.5 feet square. There is an image of Vishnu of later period inside the temple. Various incarnations of Vishnu are depicted around the main image.

How to Reach – Tigawa is situated near Bahuriband at a distance of about 5-6 kms. From Jabalpur, take NH7 which goes to Katni. After crossing Sihora there is turn towards Bahuriband. Tigawa is on Bahuriband-Bakal road, state highway 31 after crossing Bahuriband. Tigawa complex is on main road only and road condition was very good when I visited the site.


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  2. Bhandarkar, D R (1981). Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum Vol III. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi.
  3. Brown, Percy (1959). Indian Architecture (Buddhist and Hindu Periods). D B Taraporevala. Mumbai.
  4. Cunningham, Alexander (1879). Report of a Tour in the Central Province in 1873-74-75-76 (Vol IX). Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi.
  5. Deva, Krishna (1969). Temples of North India. National Book Trust. New Delhi. ISBN 9788123719702.
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  7. Lal, Hira (1916). Descriptive List of Inscriptions in The Central Provinces and Berar. Government Press. Nagpur.
  8. Michell, George (1989). The Penguin Guide to the Monuments of India Volume I: Buddhist, Jain, Hindu. London. Penguin Books. ISBN 9780140081442
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  10. Rai, Uday Narayan (2006). Bhartiya Kala (in Hindi). Lokbharati Prakashan. Allahabad. ISBN 8180310973
  11. Sampath, M D (2001). Epigraphs of Madhya Pradesh. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi.

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