Khor – Nau Torana Temple


Khor is a small village situated in the Neemuch district of Madhya Pradesh. The village would have held considerable importance during the medieval period as attested by ruins and step-wells scattered in and around the vicinity.

Nau Torana Temple
Toranas on south-north axis
Torana on east-west axis

Nau Torana Temple – The temple faces east and stands over a low-rising platform. The temple has not survived with all its components except its garbha-grha, antarala, mandapa, and three ardha-mandapas. The ceiling and shikhara have totally disappeared. The temple is named after its toranas adorning the pillars of its ardha-mandapa, mandapa, and antarala. Originally there were ten toranas, four on the east-west axis and six on the south-north axis, however, the temple started being called as nau torana (nine toranas).1 Only five toranas have survived, one in the east-west axis and four in the south-north axis.

The toranas are mounted over two pillars and emerge from makara-mukha (makara heads) resting over a rampant lion mounted over a pillar shaft. Each torana has five arches in an open cinquefoil pattern. The central arch is the largest and touches the beam mounted over the pillar tops and supported by bhara-vahakas. Each torana arm has garland-bearers in the middle sandwiched between leaf and scroll decorations. Niches have been provided at the junction of arches and these carry a figure of a deity. Inside the garbha-grha, a shivalinga has been set up suggesting that the temple might be dedicated to Shiva. However, it cannot be made certain if this is the original dedicatory deity or a later appropriation. The primary reason for this confusion is a Varaha image that is set up in the center of the mandapa. As this Varaha image is fairly large, it is very probable that the temple was dedicated to Vishnu. The temple is generally dated to the 11th century CE, and to the Paramara kings.

The Varaha image is installed over a low pedestal and it measures about 6 feet long, 2 feet wide, and 3 feet high.2 The face of the image is broken and its broken part is kept in a storeroom near the temple. Over the eyes of the Varaha are the figures of Surya and Chandra, both shown seated in yogasana-mudra. On the head, a figure of Brahma is carved inside a circle. Two four-armed pot-bellied male figures, one each below the ears, are shown seated in yogasana-mudra. One is holding gada (club), and chakra (discus) and another is holding gada (club) and shankha (conch). Haripriya suggests they are the human personification of Ishtaputra, Srauta, and Smarta of Dharma.3 Two garlands are over the neck, one consists of a bell design, and another is made of twenty-eight male figures. Seven rows of figures are carved all around the body of Varaha. On its vertebra is a stump-like structure, provided with four niches on four sides. All niches were provided with images however only the image of the east niche survived, it is a male figure.

The first row of figures from the top has Yashoda and infant Krishna surrounded by gopis, the rest of the row is covered with male figures, all two two-armed and holding a water pot. The next row has two sets of seven sages are carved. One set where the figures are shown two-armed, one arm in abhaya-mudra and another placed over their lap may represent the Saptarshi group. The other set also has two-armed figures, one arm in varada-mudra and another in another holding a water pot is identified by Rangarajan as personification of seven sacrifices, Agnihotra, Atyagnishtoma, Uktya, Sodasi, Vajapeya, Atiratra, and Aptoryama. Next to this set is a fairly large male figure with big eyes seated in the virasana-mudra. Identification of it is not certain. The rest of the row has female figures. The third row has Vishnu-Dashavataras, Ganga, Yamuna, Narmada, and Ekadasha-Rudras. Among the avatars of Vishnu, Buddha is shown after Kalki. The rest of the row has male deities. The next row has Dwadasha-Adityas seated in ardhalalitasana-mudra, Ashta-Vasus, and fifteen different forms of Vishnu out of his known twenty-four forms. The next row has fourteen Bhairavas, five Ganapatis, and nineteen gandharva and garland-holders. The next row has Sapta-matrikas accompanied by Ganesha and Virabhadra, and other female deities. The last seventh row has divine couples, Brahma-Savitri, Shiva-Parvati, Vishnu-Lakshmi, Indra-Sachi, and naga-nagi figures. On the right foreleg is a figure of Parvati and Mahishasuramardini. A kirtimukha is visible at the start of the tail.

1 Garde, M B (1934). Archaeology in Gwalior. Alijah Darbar Press. Gwalior. pp. 98-100
2 Rangarajan, Haripriya (1997). Varaha Images in Madhya Pradesh. Somaiya Publications. New Delhi. ISBN 8170392144. p. 113
3 Rangarajan, Haripriya (1997). Varaha Images in Madhya Pradesh. Somaiya Publications. New Delhi. ISBN 8170392144. p. 114
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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. Some of the photos above are in CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain from the collection released by Tapesh Yadav Foundation for Indian Heritage.