Janjgir – Incomplete Work of Vishvakarma

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Janjgir is the district headquarter of Janjgir-Champa district of Chhattisgarh. J D Beglar visited the town in 1873-74 and described its antiquities stating the town had been referred to as Jehangir in the Indian Atlas Sheet.1 A H Longhurst visited the town and published his accounts in 1907-8.2 The old name of the town was Jajallapura and it was founded by the Kalachuri king Jajalladeva I (1090-1120 CE) as evident from his Ratanpur inscription.3 The present name of the town seems a corrupted form of this original name. The inscription mentions the king set up a Shaiva monastery and a temple in the town, the latter is generally identified with the Shiva temple standing opposite to the large Vishnu temple.

Vishnu Temple by J D Beglat in 1873 | British Library

Vishnu Temple – As this temple stand unfinished with its shikhara left incomplete without a crowing member, the temple is therefore locally known as Nakata Mandira, or temple without its nose.4 This is one of the largest temple in Chhattisgarh and is constructed over a high platform of about 10 feet height. It faces east and is dedicated to Vishnu. The temple was never constructed fully, its shikhara being left unfinished. Beglar5 mentions a legend that this temple and the one at Sheorinarayan were begun simultaneously, and were rivals for the favor of the deity, each being pushed on with the utmost vigor towards completion, as the god, it was declared, would take his residence in the one first finished; the Seorinarayan temple won the race, Narayana took up his abode there, and this temple was abandoned and left in an unfinished state. In the Bilaspur district gazetteer6, the same legend is mentioned however the competition in it was between the temple here and that in Pali. Another local tradition states that one fine day Vishvakarma, the celestial architect, started the construction at dusk to be finished by the dawn. However, as he was unable to finish the temple, he left it in an unfinished state.

Rama showing strength to Sugriva cutting seven sala trees
Golden deer episode from Ramayana
Sahastrarjuna/Kartvirya Arjuna-Ravana fight
Ravana abducting Sita
Pandava worshipping linga

Many large and small images are embedded in the platform. The small panels related to Ramayana were described by Beglar7 belonging to the nearby Shiva temple. When the mandapa of that temple collapsed, these panels were restored to the platform of the present Vishnu temple. Among the Ramayana panels, a few important ones are Ravana’s fight with Sahastrarjuna and the abduction of Sita by Ravana. In the first panel, Sahastrajuna is depicted with his many hands and heads in fight with an opponent however the opponent is lost in the panel. As the person is depicted with more than ten hands therefore he should be identified with Sahastrarjuna. Also, Sahastrarjuna is the legendary progenitor of the Kalachuri dynasty therefore his depiction is matches the context. The panel where Ravana is shown begging alms from Sita and thereafter carrying her on his shoulders differs from the traditional accounts where Ravana carried Sita on his flying chariot. Another interesting panel is that of the Pandavas worshipping a linga. In this panel we see only three Pandava brothers, Yudhishthira, Arjun and Bhima. The iconography of this theme was further enhanced as found in Deorbija, Ratanpur, and Gandai where we see all the Pandava brothers, sometimes accompanied by Kunti and Draupadi are shown worshipping shivalinga in form of Nandi.

South facade by J D Beglar in 1873 | British Library

 

The temple now stands with its garbha-grha and antarala. Once there was a mandapa however that had not survived. The adhishthana is composed of six moldings, the upper two moldings are decorated with a frieze of elephants and simha-vyalas with riders. The jangha is divided into two tiers separated by a molding band. The temple follows sapta-ratha pattern with seven projections. The baranda portion between the jangha and shikhara has four moldings. The shikhara was not constructed in full and was left unfinished. Six stories of the shikhara are constructed and the shuka-nasika over the antarala was also left unfinished.

Vishnu
Narasimha
Surya
Brahma

The jangha portion is heavily decorated and adorned with images of various deities and semi-divine personalities. The central bhadra niches in the south have Narasimha in the upper niche and an image of standing Vishnu in the lower niche. In the other niches on the south wall are found Parvati and Agni in the upper tier and Brahma, Ishan, and Vaishnavi in the lower tier, and Agni, Parvati, Ishan, and Vaishnavi in the lower tier. The bhadra niches in the west have Vishnu in the upper niche and Surya standing on his seven-horse chariot in the lower niche. Among the other images on the west wall is Sarasvati in the upper tier and Shiva, Yama, Ishan, and Indra in the lower tier.  The bhadra niches in the north have Vishnu in the lower niche and Brahma in the upper niche. Among the other images are Varuna, and Shiva in the lower tier and Ishan and Vayu in the upper tier. The recess areas are filled up with vyalas on the upper story and ascetics in the lower story. The kapili niches on the antarala space have Varaha and Vishnu in the south and two images of Vishnu in the north.

The antarala doorway is exquisitely carved with its five shakhas (bands). Three large images are present on the door jambs. These include the river goddesses, Ganga and Yamuna, accompanied by Vaishnava dvarapalas. Vishnu is present on the lalata-bimba, with Brahma and Shiva at its terminals. The intervening space is filled with depictions of nava-grhas. An image of Vishnu riding over Garuda is present over the architrave above the lintel. In praise of the sculptures decorating the temple, Misra writes, ‘the sculpture initiated a new type which was unparalleled so far. In them one marks thinner and wiry figures characterized by emphatic elongation. In their mask like faces and stiff torso these sculptures seem to introduce a new sense of idealization and plastic vision, which has no parallel anywhere outside Dakshina Kosala (sic).’8 In absence of a foundation inscription or other epigraphical records, this temple is generally considered a construction during the reign of the Kalachuri king Jajalladeva I (1090-1120 CE) as he founded the town, excavated a tank and raised a few temples.

Shiva Temple by J D Beglar | British Library
Interior of Shiva Temple by J D Beglar in 1873 | British Library

Shiva Temple – This small Shiva temple is located near the above Vishnu temple, on the opposite side of the road. The temple is generally identified with the temple set up by the Kalachuri king Jajalladeva I as mentioned in his Ratanpur inscription dated 1114 CE.9 The temple faces east and originally consisted of a garbha-grha, antarala, and a mandapa as seen in the old photos. At present, it is standing without its mandapa. Beglar10 mentions the north window of the mandapa was much damaged due to a growing Pipal tree and most probably this would be the reason that the whole mandapa did not survive the toll of time. Longhurst during his visit in 1907-08 writes, ‘the smaller temple, which is only a few yards away from the larger one, appears to have been extensively repaired at some remote period, and although much smaller than the other, was a highly decorated temple; the shrine seems to have been ruined, and new walls and a new tower have been built, but very simply, with no attempt o reproduce any of the original sculpture or carving. The mandapa is altogether ruined, the only remaining portions being preserved by the roots and stem of a large peepal tree growing close to the temple, which uphold in a close embrace many of the large, richly carved stones.’11 Unlike other Kalachuri period temples, this temple is not constructed over a high-rising jagati (platform). The adhishthana has four moldings. The jangha is divided into two tiers separated by a bandhana molding. The temple follows a simple pancha-ratha pattern with five projections. Niches are provided only on the central bhadra projection. Apart from the images in the bhadra niches, the external embellishments over the temple jangha are very simple decorations. Above the jangha is the baranda section composed of five moldings. A curvilinear shikhara is raised above the baranda, though Jha12 mentions the shikhara as a recent reconstruction however this shikhara was present during the visit of Beglar therefore it is surely not a recent reconstruction.

Nandishvara worship with shivalinga in the back

The garbha-grha doorway has three shakhas (bands). In the first shakha, in small panels over the door jambs are found Ganesha, Sarasvati, and Vishnu. At the bottom of the door jambs are the river goddesses, Ganga and Yamuna, and Shaiva dvarapalas, each image is supported above a bharvahaka-keechak (weight-bearer). Shiva seated in lalitasana-mudra is present on the lalata-bimba of the doorway lintel. At the terminals of the lintel are Brahma and Vishnu in their respective niches. The recess portion between these three niches is filled with the depiction of nava-grhas (nine planets). An architrave above this lintel has Shiva-Nataraja accompanied by two dancers placed on either side. Beglar13 incorrectly identified the temple as a Vishnu temple as it would have been dedicated to Shiva evident from the iconography over the doorway lintel. The pilasters next to the doorway have decorative panels housing various secular and religious images. One image where Nandi is placed over a linga-pitha and worshipped by two people, each standing on either side, is the first such occurrence of this theme in Kalachuri art14, and in the later period, this icon was enhanced by arranging the Pandavas around the Nandi as seen in Deorbija, Gandai, and Ratanpur.

Kartikeya
Ganesha
Brahma
Natesha
Harihara-hiranyagarbha
Surya
Vinadhara-Shiva
Natesha

The iconographic program around the temple jangha and kapili portion follow the regular Shaivite character. In the bhadra niche in the south, the upper niche has Brahma while the lower niche has an image of twelve-armed Shiva Nataraja. In the bhadra niches on the west, the upper niche has Harihara-hiranyagarbha, a composite image of Vishnu, Shiva, and Surya. The lower niche has an image of Surya, standing holding lotuses in his two hands. On either side, near his feet, are Danda and Pingala. The bhadra niches in the north have Shiva-Vinadhara in the upper niche and a twelve-armed Nataraja in the lower niche. The garbha-grha does not have the main image, fragments of a few sculptures are stored inside the garbha-grha.


1 Beglar, J D (1878). Report of a Tour in Bundelkhand and Malwa, 1871-72; and in the Central Provinces, 1873-74, vol. VII. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. pp 204-211
2 Annual Report of the Archaeological Survey of India, Eastern Circle, 1907-08. pp. 40-41
3 Inscription no 77 of the Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum vol. IV, Inscriptions of the Kalachuri-Chedi Era, part II. pp. 409-417
4 Manwani, S N (1984). The Temple Art of the Kalachuris of Ratanpur, the Ph.D. thesis submitted to the Harisingh Gour University, Sagar, Madhya Pradesh. p. 116
5 Beglar, J D (1878). Report of a Tour in Bundelkhand and Malwa, 1871-72; and in the Central Provinces, 1873-74, vol. VII. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. p. 210
6 Nelson, A E (ed.) (1910). Central Provinces District Gazetteers – Bilaspur District, vol. A, Descriptive. The Pioneer Press. Allahabad. p. 272
7 Beglar, J D (1878). Report of a Tour in Bundelkhand and Malwa, 1871-72; and in the Central Provinces, 1873-74, vol. VII. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. p. 205
8 Misra, R N (1987). Sculptures of Dahala and Dakshina Kosala and their Background. Agam Kala Prakashan. New Delhi.  pp. 124-125
9 Misra, R N (1987). Sculptures of Dahala and Dakshina Kosala and their Background. Agam Kala Prakashan. New Delhi.  p. 54
10 Beglar, J D (1878). Report of a Tour in Bundelkhand and Malwa, 1871-72; and in the Central Provinces, 1873-74, vol. VII. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. p. 206
11 Annual report of the archaeological survey of india, eastern circle, 1907-08. pp. 40-41
12 झा, मंगलानन्द (2008). दक्षिण कोसल के कलचुरी कालीन मंदिर. संचालनालय संस्कृति एवं पुरातत्त्व विभाग.  रायपुर. p. 117
13 Beglar, J D (1878). Report of a Tour in Bundelkhand and Malwa, 1871-72; and in the Central Provinces, 1873-74, vol. VII. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. p. 204
14 Misra, R N (1987). Sculptures of Dahala and Dakshina Kosala and their Background. Agam Kala Prakashan. New Delhi.  p. 117

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