Balsane

0
295

Balsane (बलसाणे) is a village in Dhule district of Maharashtra on the north bank of River Burai. The old name of the town was Balasanake (बलसाणके) as mentioned in an inscription dated 12th century CE. Not much is known about the early history of the town. However, it appears the town gained significant importance during the 11th-12th century as many temples with monasteries were established here. An inscription found in one matha here mentions reconstruction of the matha for the inhabitation of Brahmins in 1184 CE.1 There are opinions among scholars related to the dynasties ruling over the region around the 11th-12th century. The first view is proposed by S C Majumdar stating this region was under the Nikumbhavanshas of Patana (पाटणा). A king named Krishna is mentioned in the Balsane inscription and Majumdar identifies him with Krishna II of the Nikumbhavanshas. However, the suggested date for Krishna II is 1070 CE and the Balsane inscription is dated in 1184 CE. Acknowledging this difference in periods, M G Dikshit opines that King Krishna may be a king in the Abhira family of Bhambhagiri. His other argument is related to the distance between Patana and Balsane, about 140 km, stating that a local dynasty ruling over such a distance is highly improbable. In the absence of any further details in the inscription related to King Krishna, Dikshit asserts that his suggestion is only tentative and provisional. The region came under the Yadavas of Devagiri in the early 13th century CE.

The earliest modern reference to the town is found in the Khandesh district gazetteer composed during the British period. The Gazetteer mentions a series of old temples and caves in the village. However, it describes only the principal temple mentioning that it was a small temple but graceful because of its rich carvings from base to summit. It does not provide many details except for the pillars and their capitals with bharavahaka (or kichaaka) brackets supporting the beams above.2 The next reference comes from Burgess who includes the antiquities of the village in his list of historical remains in the Bombay Presidency. However, he does not improve much from the details in the Gazetteer except by adding that the village has seven more temples and an inscription.3 Cousens revised the list and improved significantly the details.4 He mentions there are the remains of some nine separate temples and buildings – three in a field just above the bank of river Burai on the south-east of the village, four on a high ground to the east of the village, one matha north-east of the last, and a small temple in a field across the river to the south of the village. Among these, the finest are in the first group, and one temple is in the second group.5

R D Banerji surveyed the village and described its temples in his report in 1920. He says the temple described by Cousens was indeed a matha as mentioned in an inscription over its lintel. This was the principal shrine of the group but has suffered badly at the hands of Muslim zealots. He describes other temples in the village, however, the description is very brief.6 Cousens produced the first detailed and descriptive accounts of the temples in his magnum opus on the temples of Deccan. He mentions the inscription over matha’s lintel and interprets the river’s name as Kesara.7 However, this interpretation was later challenged when M G Dikshit edited the inscription stating no name for the river is mentioned in it. The next significant improvement in the documentation of the site comes from A V Naik who submitted his Ph.D. thesis in 1947. Naik visited the village in 1942 and mentioned that the account of Banerji was misleading while that of Cousens was properly correct.8 He asserts that the temples show influences of the Paramara style in their shikhara and of the Chalukyas of Gujarat in their jangha and pitha. He asserts this influence is also evident on the political stage as Deccan was in close contact with Gujarat and Malwa during the 10th-11th centuries. The friendly attitude of the Silharas of North Konkan towards the Paramaras brought them directly into clashes with the Chalukyas of Kalyana. Whereas the Yadavas remained friendly towards the Chalukyas, thus they were in clashes with the Paramaras. He concludes that whether the temples at Balsane derived their style, form, and ornamentation from the Ambarnath or independently and directly from the Paramara and Chalukya temples cannot be said definitely. Stylistically they seem to be later than the Ambarnath temple and the first alternative may be correct.9

Percy Brown covers the temples in the town under the Indo-Aryan style of Deccan Temples. Brown says one of the most prominent characteristics of the Deccan temples is the design of their shikhara (tower) which is decidedly different from any other region. In other regions except for Deccan, miniature shrines (or urushringa) are generally distributed at the lower level of the shikhara. However, these urushringas are distributed between the central vertical band (or lata) of different faces in Deccan temples. The central vertical bands on every face are very pronounced and act as spines holding the entire shape within its firm outlines. The spaces between these central latas are filled with rows of small urushringas. Brown compares Temple No. 1 at Balsane with the Ambarnath temple, stating both are of the same design and no doubt of approximately the same date, i.e. 1060 CE. He says all the temples at Balsane were constructed within one hundred and fifty years, Temple No. 1 being the earliest.10 Majumdar covers the temples in his chapter on the arts of the region, however, he repeats mostly earlier accounts in his brief note.11

G P Kanhere included Balsane in his study of Maharashtra temples. Taking cues from Burgess and others, Kanhere says the temple complex appears to have some link between the Ellora caves of the 8th century CE and the 11th century CE Govindeshwar Temple at Sinnar. About the town’s political history, Kanhere opines that it was under the Silharas of Sholapur and became an important center during Bhojaraja’s regime when eight temples and one matha were constructed.12 The latest study of the temples is from G B Deglurkar. He is silent on the political history of the town. He only covers two temples in detail, Temple No. 1 & 4. His coverage of Temple No. 5 is very brief.13

Temple No 1 | Amar Reddy

Temple No 1 – This temple is perhaps the earliest known instance of a triple shrine temple in the Deccan. The three shrines are connected to a central mandapa via respective antarala. The mandapa faces west and the shrines are arranged on its lateral sides in the east, north, and south. The shrine in the east is the main shrine dedicated to Shiva. The shrine in the south is dedicated to Vishnu. The northern shrine is dedicated to a goddess as evidenced by female dvarapalas, probably Parvati.14 The mandapa is a square hall measuring 17 feet square. It has four pillars in the center supporting a dome roof above. The ceiling has two ascending rings of cusped moldings terminating at the center in a cusped rosette pendant. The corner space is decorated with kirtimukhas. The pillars have square bases. The shaft runs square for its half-height before turning octagonal and then circular. The capitals are circular and support bharavahakas (or kichaka) brackets supporting a beam above.

Central shrine dedicated to Shiva

Chamunda

Vaishnavi

The antarala has niches on its lateral walls. These niches are empty. The doorways of all the garbhagrhas are similar in decoration and embellishments. These are modeled on the pancha-shakha (five bands) style. The innermost shakha is decorated with scroll designs. The next shakha has a floral decoration with musicians in insets. The middle shakha is a stambha-shakha (pillar band). The fourth shakha has vyalas with riders. The fifth shakha has scroll designs. Above the lintel block of the doorway are two architraves. The lower architrave is a projecting eave with five miniature pillared shrines occupied by images of deities. The elephants and lions occupy the space between the niches. The upper architrave has eight similar shrines, mostly housing female dancers except in three niches that carry images of Ganesha, Mahishasuramardini, and Parvati. An altar niche is provided at the rear wall of the garbhagrha. This niche probably had a statue of Parvati.15

The adhishthana (or pitha) has multiple moldings consisting upana, padma, kani between two deep recesses, and grasapatti with a running rieze of kirtikumkhas. The jangha starts over the grasapatti with moldings, upana, kumbha, padma with chaitya window motifs, followed by three padma moldings. The niches over the jangha have images enclosed within ringed pilasters. Above the niche is an eave or chajja. Above the niche area is again a set of moldings, a broad padma molding with toothed projections at the base, a double cornice made of two padma (cyma recta and cyma reversa) moldings set opposite. The last molding marks the start of the shikhara. The bhadra niches of the east shrine have Natesha in the east, Bhairava in the south, and Mahakali in the north. The bhadra niches of the south shrine have Narasimha in the south, Durga in the west, and Trivikrama in the east. The bhadra niches of the north shrine have Parvati in the north, Mahishasuramardini in the east, and the niche in the west is empty.

The shikhara has a prominent vertical band (or lata) on each face. The lata rises to the top where an amalaka would have been placed originally. Multiple rows of mini-shrines (or urushringas) are inserted between the central latas of two adjoining faces. Percy Brown says multiple rows of urushringas between the central lata of adjoining faces is the unique character of Deccan temples. The inspiration would have come from the Paramaras of Malwa.16  The roof of the mandapa is lost however from the ruins it is clear that there was an upper chamber over the principal garbhagrha. The objective of the upper chamber is not clear. Sukanasikas were provided for all the antaralas. The sukanasika above the principal antarala has four niches on either side inset with images of deities.

Temple No 2

Temple No 2 – This is the earliest temple in the group. The temple faces west and consists of a garbhagrha, a closed mandapa, and a mukha-mandapa. The mukha-mandapa has survived only with its basement and the mandapa has survived without its ceiling and shikhara. The temple is built over a stellar plan. The mukha-mandapa probably occupied the same width as the mandapa, a feature also seen in a few other temples at Balsane. The mandapa has four pillars in the center supporting a roof, the latter has not survived. The pillars are devoid of sculptures. The capitals are devoid of bharavahakas. A band of kirtimukha runs over the round shaft at the upper end of the pillar. A framed niche is provided in the center of each side wall of the mandapa. These niches are empty at present. An altar niche is provided at the rear wall of the garbhagrha. The niche has an image of a female figure, Cousens suggests it may be Parvati. The temple exterior walls are also devoid of sculptures and the only decoration is arabesque and geometric designs.

Temple No 4

Temple No 4 – This triple-shrine temple faces east and has three garbhagrhas attached to a common mandapa, similar to Temple No 1. Nearly three-fourths of the temple has collapsed with its shikhara and mandapa roof.  The temple is constructed on a stellar plan.  The central garbhagrha in the west is dedicated to Shiva, the affiliation of the other garbhagrhas is not clear, however, taking cues from Temple No 1, it is probable that either the temple was dedicated to the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu & Shiva or Shiva, Vishnu and a goddess.

The mandapa has four central pillars supporting a ceiling above with the help of pilasters on the edges. Two ardha-mandapas (porches) are provided on the north and the south and a mukha-mandapa on the east marks the main entrance into the temple. The ardha-mandapas have two pillars in the front supporting its ceiling. These porches were provided with seats with backrests. On the west, the mandapa has two niches, one on either side of the antarala doorway. The central garbhagrha doorway has pancha-shaaha (five bands) with Ganesha on its lalata-bimba.

Temple No 5 – Kanbai Mata Mandir | Dashavatara Temple

Central ceiling of the mandapa

Ganesha on lalata-bimba
A shrine on the lateral side of the mukha-mandapa

Temple No 5 (Kanbai Mandir/Dashavatara Temple) – The temple is presently under worship and an image of a goddess has been installed in the garbhagrha. The goddess is locally known as Kanbai Mata, a name for Parvati. The temple faces north and is built on an unusual plan. It consists of a garbhagrha, antarala, mandapa, and a mukha-mandapa.  Ten extra cells are provided inside to accommodate ten incarnations of Vishnu. Unlike regular temples, the mukha-mandapa in this temple occupies the same width as the mandapa. This was required to accommodate two cells on its lateral sides. Six cells are distributed on the two lateral sides of the mandapa, three on each side. Another unusual characteristic of the temple is that its antarala is wider than the main garbhagrha. The reason was to accommodate the remaining two cells on the lateral sides of the antarala. Thus, ten cells are distributed around the mukha-mandapa, mandapa, and antarala on their lateral sides. Each cell represents a small shrine fitted with a carved doorway and an altar for an image. The mukha-mandapa has a niche flanked on either side of the entrance. The mandapa has four pillars in the center supporting beams for the ceiling. Eight pilasters are distributed around the mandapa to lend support for the ceiling. The antarala has a niche on either side of its entrance.

Mandapa interior
Garbhagrha doorway
Pediment over a niche in mandapa, Vishnu in Varaha avatara in the center
Pediment on a mandapa niche, Vishnu-Narasimha in the center
Typical doorway design of shrines dedicated to dashavatara
Kalki avatara, now worshipped as Kanbai Mata
Vishnu statue placed over a pedestal inside the shrine

The ten shrines dedicated to the ten incarnations have similar designs and styles. The doorway is carved with three shakhas (bands). The outermost shakha is stambha-shakha comprised of a pilaster. Ganesh is present over the lalata-bimba. The architrave above the lintel has five framed niches with images of deities. The central niche has an image of Vishnu while Shiva and Brahma are in the terminal niches. The deities in the other two niches are indiscernible. Inside the shrine is a pedestal supporting an image, mostly a form of Vishnu. The mandapa has four central pillars supporting a domed ceiling.

Varaha Temple

 

Varaha Temple – A zoomorphic image of Varaha is placed inside a mandapa made of four pillars. The image is heavily colored with vermilion and most of its features are hidden. It is broken below the belly and all four legs are missing. Similar to the other zoomorphic images of Varaha, the whole body of this image is also carved with the images of various deities, sages, and others. Many examples of similar zoomorphic images have come from Madhya Pradesh, but Maharashtra does not have a large number. A very primitive image of zoomorphic Varaha, devoid of images over its body, has been reported from Ramtek. The Ramtek Varaha sculpture is probably the earliest such example however the art of installing such images in Maharashtra did not remain in vogue in later times.

Inscriptions – Only one inscription has been reported from the village.

  1. Inscription over the lintel of the matha16 – The inscription is carved over a lintel on the entrance door of a matha. It is composed in the Sanskrit language. The inscription opens with an invocatory stanza. The next verse mentions Someshvara-Pandita, born in the Gargya family to Padmanabha, a poet of great renown. His son was Mahaluka-Pandita who helped a king named Krishna obtain the earth. He was well-versed in mathematics and dharma. Mahaluka-Pandita repaired the Royal Matha (raj-matha), standing on the banks of a river, at Balasanaka, for the inhabitation of Brahmins. The last verse mentions a hope that the matha should last through hundreds of kalpas. The record was engraved by architect Danda. The inscription is dated to Saka year 1106, equivalent to 1184  CE.

1 Epigraphia Indica, volume XXVI. pp. 309-313
2 Campbell, James M (ed.) (1880). Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency, volume XII, Khandesh. Government Central Press. Bombay (now Mumbai). pp. 432-433
3 Burgess, James (1885). Lists of the Antiquarian Remains in the Bombay Presidency. Government Central Press. Bombay (now Mumbai). p. 119
4 Progress Report of the Archaeological Survey of Western India for the months May 1892 to April 1893. p. 12
5 Cousens, Henry (1897). Revised Lists of Antiquarian Remains in the Bombay Presidency, volume VIII. Government Central Press. Bombay (now Mumbai). pp. 54-55
6 Progress Report of the Archaeological Survey of India, Western Circle, for the year ending 31st March 1919. p. 55-56
7 Cousens, Henry (1931). Medieval Temple of the DhakanCentral Publication Branch, Government of India. Calcutta (now Kolkata). pp. 23-27
8 Naik, A V (1947). Structural Architecture of the Deccan published in the New Indian Antiquary vol. 9, no. 7-12, July-December 1947. Karnatak Publishing House. Bombay. p. 226, footnote 111
9 Naik, A V (1947). Structural Architecture of the Deccan published in the New Indian Antiquary vol. 9, no. 7-12, July-December 1947. Karnatak Publishing House. Bombay. pp. 230-31
10 Brown, Percy (1956). Indian Architecture – Buddhist and Hindu Period. D B Taraporevala Sons & Co Private Ltd. Bombay (now Mumbai). pp. 153-155
11 Majumdar, R C (ed.) (1957). The History and Culture of the Indian People, vol. 5: The Struggle for Empire. Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. Bombay. p. 602
12 Kanhere, Gopal Krishna (1988). The Temples of Maharashtra. Maharashtra Information Center. New Delhi. pp. 133- 137
13 Deglurkar, G B (2019). Temple Architecture and Sculpture of Maharashtra. Aprant. Pune. ISBN 9788194013143. p. 146, p. 245, p. 275
14 Naik, A V (1947). Structural Architecture of the Deccan published in the New Indian Antiquary vol. 9, no. 7-12, July-December 1947. Karnatak Publishing House. Bombay. pp. 225
15 Deglurkar, G B (2019). Temple Architecture and Sculpture of Maharashtra. Aprant. Pune. ISBN 9788194013143. p. 245
16 Epigraphia Indica, volume XXVI. pp. 309-313

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. A few photographs in the paper are reproduced with courtesy and permission from Mr. Amar Reddy.