Anwa – Vishnu Temple

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Amwa is a village in the Jalna district of Maharashtra. The village held significant importance among archaeologists and historians for its twelfth-century CE Seuna period temple. It is among very few temples depicting twenty-four shaktis, corresponding to Vishnu’s twenty-four forms, over its exterior walls. Burgess first described the temple in 1914. He states, “…Hindus also have shown that they could, and did frequently, employ the dome very successfully. Among examples of their use of it, few are more pleasing than the little temple at Amwa or Amvar, near Ajanta.”1 Yazdani surveyed the temple in 1914 and described it briefly in the archaeological report of the Hyderabad state.2 The temple and the village did not attract any further attention for a long time. In 1973, P R Deo submitted his Ph.D. thesis on the temples of Marathawad and described the temple at Anwa in detail.3 Deglurakar, who has written extensively on the temples of Maharashtra, discusses this temple and the iconography of sculptures on its exterior walls in his paper in 2016.4 Later in 2019, he published his compendium on the Maharashtra temples and the temple was discussed in detail.5

Madha Temple – The temple is inside a courtyard and stands on a jagati (plinth) about four feet high. The courtyard walls have been repaired later except for its original foundation course. The jagati follows the contours of the temple vimana, the latter is stellar in plan. The jagati is approached through a flight of eight steps on the east. Niches, one each, are provided on either side of the lowest steps. Images of Jaya and Vijaya, the guardians of Vishnu, occupying these.6 Stairs are also provided on the north and the south of the jagati to approach the platform. The temple vimana is a little away from the edge of the jagati leaving a circumambulation space of about four feet. The temple faces east and its vimana consists of a garbhagrha (sanctum), antarala (vestibule), and sabha-mandapa (open pillared hall).

Parapet wall of the mandapa

sabha-mandapa

The mandapa measures 44 feet square.7 It has a mukha-mandapa (main porch) in the east and ardha-mandapas (semi-porches) on its lateral sides. The only entrance into the temple is from the mukha-mandapaThe parapet walls of the ardha-mandapas and mukha-mandapa are decorated with horizontal friezes comprising kirtimukhas, geese, lions, and niches for sculptures. The parapet wall runs through the mandapa forming kakshasana (seats) and support pillars resting over. A total of thirty pillars are supported over these kakshasana. The square plan of the mandapa is modified into a cross-shaped design on the inside. It has a total of twenty pillars. Four pillars are placed at its corners, one in each corner. The rest of the sixteen pillars are distributed in the middle of its sides, with four pillars on each side as two on either side of the opening in the middle connecting to ardha-mandapas, mukha-mandapa, and antarala

The square ceiling of the mandapa is supported on heavy beams rearranged octagonally and resting over pillars scattered around the periphery. The ceiling comprises seven concentric cusped circles with diminishing diameters moving up. In the center of the ceiling is a pendant of an eight-petaled half-blown flower encircled by eight flowers of smaller size. In the center of the flower is the torso of some deity, however, the identification is not certain due to the deterioration of the sculpture. The lowest and fifth tiers of the concentric rings are decorated with scrolls of chakra and floral motifs. The lowest tier also has projected bracket figures, only two remain in situ. Mortise holes over the fifth tier suggest the presence of madanika (apsara) sculptures once supported and inserted in these holes. A raised circular platform in the center of the mandapa presently has an image of Nandi. Two niches in the mandapa are empty at present. The antarala is a rectangle measuring 8 feet by 4 feet and separated from the mandapa by four pillars.8 It has a domical ceiling above.

The garbhagrha is an 8-foot square chamber. The doorframe is panchshakha (five bands). The innermost shakha (band) is decorated with interwoven lion images. The next shakha and the fourth shakha have floral decorative motifs. The third and the middle shakha is a pilaster or stambha-shakha carrying miniature images of Vishnu and Lakshmi. The fifth and the outermost shakha has vidhyadharas holding garlands. An image of Ganesha is found over the lalata-bimba. An architrave above the lintel has five pilastered niches housing different deities. In the central niche is an image of Vishnu as Keshava holding shankha (conch), chakra (discus), gada (mace), and padma (lotus). Garuda is shown below the niche. On Vishnu’s right are Brahma and Brahmani in two separate niches. On his left are Shiva and Maheshvari in two separate niches. Inside the garbhagrha is a Shivalinga, however, the temple was originally dedicated to Vishnu or a goddess of the Vaishnava pantheon as suggested by sculptures over the garbhagrha doorway and exterior of the temple.

Varaha in the southern bhadra niche
Narasimha in the northern bhadra niche
Shiva-Gajasuravadha in the southern kapili niche

The adhisthana comprised multiple moldings arranged in a projected and recessed manner. The lowest molding is jagati decorated with padma (cyma reversa). Above it rests an upana molding decorated with lozenges string. The next molding is a kumuda molding however it is very damaged. The next molding in order is kani. The next molding is plain bereft of any decoration. It is topped with another molding decorated with kirtimukha frieze. The last molding is decorated with a frieze of hamsas (swans). The jangha starts with a square molding decorated with sculptures of various deities. In the center of this molding runs a scroll of lozenges. Above this rises three moldings, kumbha, padma, and another kumbha. Niches carrying sculptures are provided in the middle of each projection and recessed portion of these moldings. Above this are three bands carrying sculptures, the lowest band is the largest. This largest band carries images of various goddesses belonging to the Vaishnava pantheon. The bhadra niche in the west might have an image of Surya-Narayana. The bhadra niche in the north and south has an image of Narasimha and Varaha.

Lakshmi, shakti of Vasudeva, holding shankha, chakra, padma, and gada
Kirtti, shakti of Keshava, holding shanka, chakra, gada, and padma
Sugandha, shakti of Achyuta, holding padma (?), chakra, shankha (?), and gada
Shraddha, shakti of Padmanabha, holding padma (?), chakra, gada, and shankha (?)
Uma, shakti of Janardana, holding chakra, shankha, gada, and padma
Lajja, shakti of Damodara, holding shankha, gada, chakra, and padma
Tushti, shakti of Madhava, holding chakra, shankha, padma, and gada
Tushti, shakti of Madhava, holding chakra, shankha, padma, and gada (repetition)
Vidhya, shakti of Upendra, holding gada (?), chakra, padma (?), and shankha (?)
Lakshmi, shakti of Vasudeva, holding shankha, chakra, padma, and gada (repetition)
Pushti, shakti of Govinda, holding gada, padma, shankha, chakra
Harsha, shakti of Hrishikesha, holding chakra, padma (?), shankha (?), and gada
Shanti, shakti of Madhusudana, holding shankha, padma, gada, and chakra
Saraswati, shakti of Samkarshana, holding shankha, padma, chakra, and gada
Shuddhi, shakti of Hari, holding chakra, padma, gada, and shankha
Daya, shakti of Vamana, holding chakra, gada, padma, and shankha
Vidhyuta, shakti of Narasimha, holding padma, gada, shankha, and chakra
Kanti, shakti of Narayana, holding padma, gada, chakra, and shankha

The goddess sculptures over the various niches on the jangha are of much importance as these represent the twenty-four shaktis associated with twenty-four forms of Vishnu. Vishnu is generally depicted with his four attributes, padma (lotus), chakra (discus), shankha (conch), and gada (mace), held in his four hands. Distribution of these four attributes among the four hands generates twenty-four combinations. These twenty-four different combinations pertain to Chaturvimshatimurti of Vishnu. T A Gopinatha Rao has enumerated these twenty-four murtis (icons) providing a name for each. However, he does not provide names for shaktis corresponding to each murti.9 While describing the iconology of Vishnu in Nepal in the context of the tantric mode of worship, Pratapaditya Pal comes across the shaktis corresponding to these twenty-four murtis.10 G B Deglurkar has identified many icons over the temple jangha corresponding to the shaktis.11 For the convenience of readers, a list of twenty-four forms and corresponding shaktis is provided below.

Name of the Murti Upper right hand Upper left hand Lower left hand Lower right hand Shakti
Keshava Shankha Chakra Gada Padma Kirtti
Narayana Padma Gada Chakra Shanka Kanti
Madhava Chakra Shankha Padma Gada Tushti
Govinda Gada Padma Shanka Chakra Pushti
Vishnu Padma Shankha Chakra Gada Dhrti
Madhusudana Shankha Padma Gada Chakra Shanti
Trivikrama Gada Chakra Shakha Padma Kriya
Vamana Chakra Gada Padma Shankha Daya
Sridhara Chakra Gada Shankha Padma Medha
Hrishikesha Chakra Padma Shankha Gada Harsha
Padmanabha Padma Chakra Gada Shankha Shraddha
Damodara Shankha Gada Chakra Padma Lajja
Samkarshana Shankha Padma Chakra Gada Saraswati
Vasudeva Shankha Chakra Padma Gada Lakshmi
Pradhyumna Shankha Gada Padma Chakra Priti
Aniruddha Gada Shankha Padma Chakra Rati
Puroshottama Padma Shankha Gada Chakra Vasudha
Adhokshaja Gada Shankha Chakra Padma Trayi
Narasimha Padma Gada Shankha Chakra Vidyuta
Achyuta Padma Chakra Shankha Gada Sugandha
Janardana Chakra Shankha Gada Padma Uma
Upendra Gada Chakra Padma Shankha Vidhya
Hari Chakra Padma Gada Shankha Shuddhi
Sri-Krishna Gada Padma Chakra Shankha Buddhi

 

In the absence of epigraphs in the temple, the dating is essentially attempted on its architectural and sculptural styles. Yazdani dates the temple to the twelfth century CE and it is a generally accepted opinion among scholars.12 Early scholars suggested that the temple was dedicated to Shiva as evidenced by the presence of a Shivalinga inside the garbhagraha. However, the presence of Vishnu in the central niche over the architrave above the garbhagrha door lintel, the presence of Vaishnava dvarapalas on the doorway jambs, images of Varaha and Narasimha in the bhadra niches, and the presence of twenty-four Vaishnava shaktis over the jangha walls, all these points to the fact that the temple was originally dedicated to Vishnu or a goddess of the Vaishnava pantheon.


1 Burgess, James & Spiers, Phene (eds.) (1910). History of Indian and Eastern Architecture, revised and edited with additions, vol. II. John Murray. London. p. 57.
2 Annual Report of the Archaeological Department of His Exalted Highness the Nizam’s Dominions – 1914-15. p. 7
3 Deo, Prabhakar Raghunath (1973). Temples of Marathwada, a Ph. D. thesis submitted to the Marathwada University.
4 Deglurkar, G B (2016). Caturvimasatimurtis of Visnu and their Saktis published in the Jnana-Pravaha Research Journal No.XIX. pp. 65-75
5 Deglurkar, G B (2019). Temple Architecture and Sculpture of Maharashtra. Aprant. Pune. ISBN 9788194013143. pp. 152-157
6 Deglurkar, G B (2019). Temple Architecture and Sculpture of Maharashtra. Aprant. Pune. ISBN 9788194013143. p. 152
7 Deo, Prabhakar Raghunath (1973). Temples of Marathwada, a Ph. D. thesis submitted to the Marathwada University. p. 84
8 Deo, Prabhakar Raghunath (1973). Temples of Marathwada, a Ph. D. thesis submitted to the Marathwada University. p. 86
9 Gopinatha Rao, T A (1914). Elements of Hindu Iconography, vol. I, part I. The Law Printing Press. Madras. pp. 229-230
10 Pal, Pratapaditya (1970). Vaisnava Iconology in Nepal. The Asiatic  Society. Calcutta. appendix iv-v
11 Deglurkar, G B (2016). Caturvimasatimurtis of Visnu and their Saktis published in the Jnana-Pravaha Research Journal No.XIX. pp. 65-75
12 Annual Report of the Archaeological Department of His Exalted Highness the Nizam’s Dominions – 1914-15. p. 7

Acknowledgment: Some of the photos above are in CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain from the collection released by the Tapesh Yadav Foundation for Indian Heritage.