Mahua (or Mahuwa, माहुवा) is a village in the Shivpuri district of Madhya Pradesh. The village would be of considerable importance between the seventh-ninth century CE during the Pratihara reign. As many as three temples, two for Shiva and one for a goddess, were constructed in the village during this period. This Shiva-Shakti character would have led to its fame during the Kalachuri period when we find Mahua as one of the important Mattamayura centers, like Kadwaha, Ranod, and Terahi. Mirashi identifies Madhumati, mentioned in various Kalachuri inscriptions, with the present village of Mahua.1 The city of Madhumati is praised in the Gurgi inscription of Prabodhasiva as an abode of the Siddhantikas and Mattamayura clan, “There in this world, Madhumati, the abode of the Siddhantikas, where the peacocks dance and shriek with joy at the unseasonal rise of clouds formed by the mass of smoke….. and which is smiling as it were, at the heaven through the mass of the rays of the big jewel shining on high in the rows of mansions. Where appeared the foremost of ascetics whose minds were restrained by vows and who taught the great doctrine of Shiva which is devoid of all faults; whose well-known fame the splendor of which (was as white as it had been) washed with nectar, whitens the universe even today like the rays of the moon gladdening the mass of kumuda flowers which were the prosperous and learned men.”2 A line of Shaiva ascetics adorned the city of Madhumati, and the first in line was probably Sikhasiva who is referred as the lord of Madhumati in the Chandrehe inscription, dated 973 CE.3 He was a disciple of Purandara, the latter was the royal preceptor of the Kalachuri kings. The Bilhari inscription of the Kalachuri queen Nohala mentions sage Madhumateya Pavansiva suggesting the sage was the chief of Madhumati matha.4
Monuments – There are three temples of considerable antiquity at Mahua.
Shiva Mandapika Temple – This east-facing temple stands over a jagati (platform) and is composed of a square garbhagrha and mukha-mandapa, the latter is supported on two front pillars and two back pilasters. The elevation is composed of adhishthana, jangha, varandika. The adhishthana is made of four moldings, khura, kumbha, kalasa, and kapota. The lowermost two moldings are plain, but the kalasa moldings have tulapithas (rafter-ends) on the bhadra portion. These tulapitha are decorated with foliage, kirtimukha, birds, etc. The kapota molding is decorated with chaitya windows, geese, and ganas. The doorway is composed of three shakhas (jambs). The bottom of the doorjamb is decorated with the river goddesses, only Yamuna over kachchapa has survived. The middle door lintel has three chaitya windows, two regular at the ends, and one valabhi in the middle. Inside the valabhi chaitya is an image of Ganesha. Two triratha nagara shikharas are at the terminals of this lintel. The topmost lintel has a grotesque face, maybe a kirtimukha, just above the latala-bimba position. The garbhagrha is empty at present.
The temple is triaratha in plan composed of a central bhadra and two corner karna sections. The bhadra niche is framed within two pillars and is topped by a simhakarna, a trefoil chaitya decoration. A human head is shown within the chiatya window of the simhakarna. Bhadra niche in the south has an image of Ganesha, Mahishasuramardini in the west, and Varaha in the north. The recess portion between bhadra and karna is decorated with foliage issuing from the navel of a yaksha. The karna-pilasters are decorated with ghata-pallava design, one inverted over the other. An inscription on the architrave of the mukha-mandapa mentions this mandapika of Dhurjati (i.e. Shiva) was caused to be constructed by Vatsaraja. H N Dvivedi dates the inscription to the seventh century CE based on paleographic comparisons.5 Krishna Deva confirms the characters cannot be taken later than the third quarter of the seventh century CE, and he assigns the temple to 650-675 CE.6 Meister also agrees with Krishna Deva on the dating of the temple.7 However, S Sankaranarayanan and G Bhattacharya, who are the latest editors of this inscription, state that the characters may be assigned to the period between 738 and 838 CE but not earlier.8 The confusion now arises as the temple style is primitive enough dateable to the seventh century CE however the accompanying inscription is dated to the eighth century CE. As I am not an expert on paleography, my opinion is that we must take cognizance of the latest editors of the inscriptions, and even if the temple shows affinity to the early period temples, but should be dated as per the inscription.
- An inscription engraved on an architrave of the porch9 – written in four lines, Siddhamatrika characters, does not carry a date – the record is in form of a prashashti, and starts with a salutation to Paramtattva. Then genealogy of Vatsaraja family is given, saying there was a king named Aryabhasa alias Vyaghrahela. His son was Nagavardha, followed by Tejovardhana, followed by Udita and his son was Vatsaraja. It then tells the mandapika of Dhurjati (Shiva) was constructed by Vatsaraja, for the increase of the religious merit of his parents. The inscription was composed by Bhatta Isana, son of Bhatta Somanka, and the younger brother of Bhatta devasvamin. The author is said to hail from Kanyakubja. The record was engraved by Ravinaga. The inscription is dated to the latter half of the eighth century CE based on paleographic studies
Shiva Temple – This east-facing temple is built over a jagati (platform) and is composed of a garbhagrha, antarala, and a mukha-mandapa. The temple is in pancharatha style and Meister explains this temple implements the 64-square plan of Vastupurushamandala as specified in the Brihat Samhita. The sanctum occupies 4×4 = 16 squares of this 64-square plan. The bhadra, partiratha, and karna are in proportions of 2:1:2:1:2 as specified by the text.10 The elevation is composed of adhishthana, jangha, varandika, and shikhara. The adhishthana is made of four moldings, khura, kumbha, kalasa, and kapota. The regular kalasa molding at pratiratha is broken by the insertion of rafter-ends, these are decorated with foliage, kirtimukha, birds, etc. The bhadra niche is topped by an elongated udgama resting over seven rafter-ends (tulas) carrying a large chaitya window above. The shikhara is very much damaged and restoration work is in progress. On the top is a large amalaka.
The antarala doorway is composed of five shakhas (jambs). At the bottom of the doorjamb are the river goddesses, Ganga over makara and Yamuna over kachchapa. They are accompanied by parasol holders and an attendant. The third shakha from inside, called pramatha-sakha, has niches, four on each side, carrying images of dancing ganas. The second inner shakha is naga-shakha, the nagas are placed over the river goddesses, and their tail goes to the middle of the lintel where it is held by Garuda. On an upper lintel, vidhyadharas hold a large crown over the figure of Garuda. The lintel above it extends beyond the jambs, in the shape of a T, a feature generally observed in the early Gupta period temples. Inside the garbhagrha is a shivalinga. A figure of Nandi is installed opposite the antrala. The temple is dated to the early eighth century CE by Trivedi.11 However Krishna Deva assigns this temple 650-675 CE stating it is the earliest example of a fully developed Latina shikhara temple in central India.12
Chamunda Temple – This north-facing temple is locally known as Kherapati temple.13 It consists of a rectangular garbhagriha (sanctum) and a narrow antarala (vestibule). The shikhara of the temple has not survived, however, as the garbhagrha is rectangular in plan therefore its shikhara would be of the valabhi type. The adhishthana (vedibandha) is composed of four moldings, khura, kumbha, kalasa, and Kapotika. The temple is tri-ratha in plan however due to its rectangular plan, it has two bhadra niches in the south. Niches topped with udgama design are provided on bhadra and karna projections. the recess portion between bhadra and karna is decorated with foliage patterns. The bhadra niche in the east has Kartikeya, in the south has Ganesha and a standing goddess holding a sword, and in the west has Parvati. Ashta-dikpalas are present on the karna-niches. Kapili niches in the east have Durga and in the west Narasimhi.
The doorway is composed of four shakhas (jambs). At the bottom of the doorjambs are the river goddesses, Ganga over makara and Yamuna over kachchapa (tortoise) accompanied by umbrella holders, an attendant, and a dvarapala at the extreme ends. The second inner jamb has panels over the jamb depicting amorous couples. Vishnu riding over Garuda is present at the lalata-bimba. An almost life-size statue of Chamunda is placed inside the garbhagrha. She is shown with ten arms holding khatvanga, snake, human head, trishula, damaru,, kapala, etc. Her body is emancipated showing sagging breasts and projecting ribs above her empty stomach. She is accompanied by various goblins, ghosts, and similar characters engaged in various activities. She stands over a human body. The temple is dated to the mid-ninth century CE by Trivedi.14 Morris convincingly proves that the temple belongs to the first half of the ninth century CE however the image of Chamunda is much earlier, dateable to the eighth century CE. She tells the image was not originally part of the temple and was installed here sometime after 1938.15
1 Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum, vol. IV, Inscriptions of the Kalachuri-Chedi Era, part I. p. 208
2 Epigraphia Indica, Vol. XXII. p. 133
3 Epigraphia Indica, Vol. XXI. p. 151
4 Epigraphia Indica, Vol. I. p. 267
5 No. 701 of द्विवेदी, हरिहर निवास (1947). ग्वालियर राज्य के अभिलेख. मध्य भारत पुरातत्त्व विभाग. ग्वालियर. p. 95
6 Encyclopedia of Indian Temple Architecture, Vol. II, Part I. ISBN 0195623134. p. 134
7 Meister, Michael (1979). Mandala and Practice of Nagara Architecture in North India published in the Journal of the Americal Oriental Society, vol. 99No. 2 (Apr-Jun 1979). pp. 206-207
8 Epigraphia Indica, Vol. XXXVII. p. 53
9 Epigraphia Indica, Vol. XXXVII. pp. 53-55
10 Meister, Michael (1979). Mandala and Practice of Nagara Architecture in North India published in the Journal of the Americal Oriental Society, vol. 99No. 2 (Apr-Jun 1979). pp. 206-207
11 Trivedi, R D (1990). Temples of the Pratihara Period in Central India. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. p. 70
12 Encyclopedia of Indian Temple Architecture, Vol. II, Part I. ISBN 0195623134. p. 135
13 Trivedi, R D (1990). Temples of the Pratihara Period in Central India. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. p. 119
13 Trivedi, R D (1990). Temples of the Pratihara Period in Central India. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. p. 121
15 Morris, Rekha (1996). The Chamunda Temple in Mahua published in the Archives of Asian Art, vol. 49. pp. 92-110
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.