Madkhera – An Eclipsed Sun Shrine

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Madkhera (or Markhera) is a small village in the Tikamgarh district of Madhya Pradesh. The village is of no specific interest except for a Sun Temple which is located in the west of the village. Literally, Madkhera translates as “the village of the temple”  suggesting that the name of the village was derived from the temple and the temple became an important shrine to be recognized by the name of the village.1

Sun Temple: This east-facing temple is built over a high jagati (platform) that has been extensively repaired. The temple consists of a garbha-griha (sanctum), a small antarala (vestibule), and a mukha-mandapa (portico). The latter is supported by two front pillars and two pilasters in the back. The temple is of pancharatha plan composed of central bhadra, two pratiratha, and two karna sections. The vertical elevation is composed of adhishthana, jangha, varandika, and shikhara. The adhishthana is composed of five moldings decorated with niches at different rathas. The shikhara follows the pancharatha plan as of the jangha.  It has nine bhumis (stories) demarketed by bhumi-amalakas over the karna-ratha.  A large amalaka is placed over the shikhara.

Southern facade of the temple
Ganesha
Kartikeya
Parvati
Matrika with a child in the southern kapili niche
Gaja-Lakshmi in the northern kapili niche
Decoration over the adhishthana on the pratiratha

The adhishthana molding above the inverted lotus-petals (jadhya-kumbha), called kumbha molding, has small niches topped by a large shikhara, the latter covers the whole adhishthana on the bhadra, karna, and kapili. In these niches, over the bhadra are Ganesha in the north, Kartikeya in the west, and Parvati in the south. The other niches over this region have images of female dancers. The niches at the same level at the kapili portion have Gaja-Lakshmi in the north and a matrika with a child in the south. The pratiratha region on adhishthana in its kalasa molding is decorated with tula pattern, two separate stones carved with one motif, each sharing half of the motif.

Surya in the south bhadra niche
Surya in the west bhadra niche
Surya in the south bhadra niche over a chariot of single wheel
Indra
Agni
Vamana
Balarama
Narasimha
Vayu
Goddess Sitala (?) in the kapili niche
Durga in the southern kapili niche

The bhadra niches at jangha have images of Surya in the north, south, and west. The images in the south show Surya seated over a chariot of a single wheel. The niches over the karna-ratha have images of ashta-dikpalas, Indra, Agni, Yama, Nrrtti, Vayu, Varuna, Kubera and Ishana, all shown two-armed and standing. Other niches in the partiratha and salintara (recesses) have images of Vishnu Dashavatara, Ganesha, Chamunda, Varahi, and apsaras. The niches in the kapili section have Durga in the south and a goddess riding over an animal, Sitala (?) in the north.

The front portion of the shikhara is adorned with a sukanasa composed of two tiers. The lower tier is in form of a doorway that is protected by a chadya supported by two pillars. Next to these pillars are vyala motifs. Beyond the vyala motifs are two niches, one on either side, with standing figures of Brahma and Vishnu. The second tier of sukanasa has a double chaitya motif, both emitting from a large kirtimukha.  The outer chaitya has figures of lions trampling over elephants and geometrical designs. The inner chaitya has a figure of a deity shown two armed, carrying an aksamala (rosary) and a water pot. R D Banerji2 identifies the deity with Shiva and Krishna Deva3 identifies him with Surya. Surya appears appropriate as the temple is dedicated to Surya as well as the third eye of Shiva is absent in the sculpture. As the adhishthana niches have Ganesha, Parvati, and Kartikeya, all from the Shaiva pantheon, therefore, the identity of the image also has some credibility.

Middle tier – Navagrahas

 

Middle tier – Sapta-matrikas with Ganesha and Virabhadra
Surya over his seven-horse chariot
Yamuna over kachchapa (tortoise)

The pilasters beyond the main doorway have images of Ashvinikumaras, depicted with a horse-face. The main doorway of the antarala is composed of five shakhas (jambs). Ganga over Makara and Yamuna over kachchapa are present at the bottom of the door jambs. They are accompanied by attendants, one holding an umbrella, the umbrella over Yamuna is in form of a chamara. The middle jamb of the doorway has panels depicting amorous couples. Surya, accompanied by Danda, Pingala, Usha, and Prtyusha, is present over the lalata-bimba. He is shown seated over a seven-horse chariot driven by Aruna. Over the lintels, on his right are shown nava-grahas and on his left are Sapta-matrikas with Ganesha and Virabhadra. The top-most lintel has three vimanas, the middle one is directly above the Surya image at lalata-bimba. On this lintel, to the left of Surya are shown two scenes separated by a vimana, the first scene is of a few horse riders, and the other scene is of a Sage holding a discussion. To the right of Surya are two scenes separated by a vimana, at the extreme end is a sage and a few disciples, and a cow at the bottom, and the other scene is of a few horse-riders. The scene of sage with a cow (or bull) may be taken as Shiva with Nandi and Parvati as suggested by Banerji. The scene of the horse riders appears to be of Revanta as one rider is seated under a parasol held above him. on either side of the central vimana.

The main image inside the garbha-grha is of Surya standing over his chariot drawn by seven horses. Aruna is driving the chariot. Danda and Pingala are standing on either side of Surya. Usha and Pratyusha are shown over makaras with their bows. Two flying vidhyadharas are also present on either side of Surya. In comparison to the Sun Temple at Umri, this temple is better preserved and shows various advancements in style and architecture. R D Trivedi4 dates this temple to the late ninth century CE, and Krishna Deva5 dates it between 850-875 CE. Both scholars have assigned this temple to the Pratihara dynasty.


1 Trivedi, R D (1990). Temples of the Pratihara Period in Central India. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. p. 143
2 Trivedi, R D (1990). Temples of the Pratihara Period in Central India. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. p. 146
3 Deva, Krishna (1995). Temples of India. Aryan Books International. New Delhi. ISBN 8173050546. p. 110
4 Trivedi, R D (1990). Temples of the Pratihara Period in Central India. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. p. 148
5 Deva, Krishna (1995). Temples of India. Aryan Books International. New Delhi. ISBN 8173050546. p. 110

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.