Nemawar – Sky Reaching Spires

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Nemawar is a small town in the Dewas district of Madhya Pradesh. It is located on the north bank of the Narmada River. The antiquities of the town were first noticed and described in the progress report of the Archaeological Survey of India, Western Circle for the year 1921.1 In 1934, R C Banerji publishes a detailed article on the two temples of the town in the Modern Review.2 These temples were also included in the compendium on temples of India by Krishna Deva.3 Later in the 1980s, Rahman Ali also describes these antiquities in his study of the Paramara Art and the Bhumija temples.4 The city remained in oblivion during its early history and would have followed the political fate as that of the Malwa region. Sometime in the 11th-12th century, the town gained particular prominence, and a few temples were constructed there. This was the period when it was under the rules of the Paramaras. Though we have not got any epigraphical evidence that the Paramaras were involved in the temple construction activities here, however judging from the scale of construction and the overall decoration of the temples, it is evident that it would not be possible without a royal or ministerial patronage. The Paramaras would have ruled the Malwa region till their final defeat in the hands of the Delhi Sultanate in around 1338 CE. Since then the region would have remained in the early and later Muslim rulers. During Akbar’s time, Nemawar and its adjoining area was known as Nemawar Panch Mahal in sarkar Handia of the subah of Malwa and comprised the five paraganas of Nemawar, Satwas, Rajor, Kataphor, and Harangaon, the first three being the headquarters of Mahals.

After the Maratha conquest of the Malwa region in around 1726, Nemawar went into possession of Ranoji Scindia, the latter established his capital at Ujjain in 1731. Holkars of Indore were the arch-rivals of the Scindias. Scindias sought help from the Pindaris against the Holkars. Nemawar was strategically located on the northern bank of the Narmada at a point where the river was affordable. The area was not easily accessible. Pindaris were ready to take up such inaccessible areas in grants as this allowed them to safely continue their activities hidden from the British forces. Scindias granted Nemawar to Chitu, a prominent Pindari chief of that time, who constructed a cantonment in the town.5 The situation got reversed during the Third Anglo-Maratha War when Pindaris’ anti-British sentiments became not favorable for the Scindias. Daulat Rao Scindia cut his ties and asked his generals not to support Pindaris. However, Jaswant Rao continued his support of Chitu. The conclusion of the Third Anglo-Maratha War in 1818 witnessed many changes. Jaswant Rao surrendered to the British and his territories went to the Scindias. Chitu was killed by a tiger in the forest while on a run from the British, and Nemawar also went to the Scindias. The Scindias accepted the terms of a subsidiary alliance with the British and became a protectorate state shifting their base from Indore to Gwalior. After many appeals and petitions, the Scindias restored the territory of Nemawar to Jaswant Rao in 1821. The Scindias ruled the region till the independence of India in 1947 and later their princely state was merged into the new Indian state of Madhya Bharat.

Entrance to the temple compound
Siddheshvara Temple

Two different color of sandstone used in the construction

Siddheshvara Temple – The temple is also known as Siddhantha Temple by locals. It is dedicated to Shiva and is presently under worship. The temple is built over a hillock and surrounded by a rampart with bastions at regular intervals. This raised platform enhances the overall height of the temple making it a prominent edifice visible from distance. The temple faces west and is composed of a sabha-mandapa, antarala, and garbha-grha. The sabha-mandapa is provided three mukha-mandapas, one each in the south, east, and west, allowing three entrances. The temple was built of sandstone of two different colors, the yellowish sandstone is used in its original antarala and garbha-grha, however, the later repairs and restoration have been done using pink sandstone.

Sapta-ratha stellate plan
Northern facade
Chamunda
Eastern facade
Nataraja
Southern facade
Tripurantaka-Shiva (?)/Andhakanta (?)

The temple is built on a stellate plan with sapta-ratha pattern. The vedibandha is composed of the usual moldings of khura, kumbha, kalasha, and intervening antarapattas. Niches are provided over kumbha carrying various divinities. All the rathas are also provided with niches. The bhadra-ratha has a large niche carrying avarana-devatas, Chamunda in the north, Nataraja in the west, and Andhakantaka in the south. Krishna Deva identifies the deity in the south as Andhakata6 however Rahman Ali suggests it to be Tripurantaka-Shiva7. In my opinion, identification with Andhakantaka appears proper. Ashta-dikpalas are placed over the karna niches. The niches of the pratiratha and pratikarna have divinities of Shiva family, carrying a snake and trishula. The shikhara has nine bhumis (tiers), and each side contains five kutastambhas (pillars carrying a mini temple top). The temple falls under the Bhumija style of sarvangasundara variety.8

Sabha-mandapa ceiling
Kaumari
Maheshvari
Ganesha
Indrani
Chamunda
Varahi
Vaishnavi

The sabha-mandapa is square in plan with three mukha-mandapas (porches) on its three cardinals. Each porch rests on four pillars raised over a parapet wall. This arrangement allows benches without backrests inside the porch. The intermediate space between the pillars of the adjacent porches is fitted with stone-work jalis. The ceiling is supported by twelve pillars. The ceiling is made of multiple frames. The lowermost frame is square in shape and is made of four beams carrying niches housing divinities. The next frame is octagonal in shape and carries various kirtimukha figures. This is topped by a sixteen-sided frame supported by sixteen brackets carrying female figures. Above this frame rises circular frames diminishing in size. A large lotus-bud shape pendant hangs from the middle of the ceiling. The external facade of the sabha-mandapa and mukha-mandapa are exquisitely carved with various figures of divine and semi-divine nature. Two registers of images run over the vedibandha and jangha portion of sabha-mandapa. The topmost register carries large-size images including those of sapta-matrikas, Ganesha, and dvarapalas. The presence of sapta-matrikas along with Ganesha and Shiva at this place as well as over the garbha-grha doorway suggests the temple had some affiliation with shakta tradition and goddess worship.

The garbha-grha doorway is sapta-shakha (seven bands). On either side of the jambs, a large Shaiva dvarapala is standing over the third band. He is accompanied by various female figures standing over different bands. The lintel has Ganesha in lalata-bimba. The entablature beam has nine compartments, the central compartment has a figure of Shiva and the rest have ashta-matrikas, Brahmani, Maheshvari, Kaumari, Vaishnavi, Varahi, Indrani, Chamunda, and Mahadevi. The garbha-grha is plain and fitted with a linga.

Inscriptions: No foundation inscription has been found, but a few pilgrim records are present. Among those, only two are dated, the rest are mere proper names.

  1. Pilgrim record on a pillar in mandapa9 – it mentions a visit of a man named Thakura Vijadhara (Vidhyadhara) of the Gauda-Kayastha family, in Vikrama Samvat 1253, equivalent to 1196-97 CE (Banerji, A C (1934). The Temples at Nemawar published in the Modern Review for January 1934. pp. 61-65)
  2. Pilgrim record on a pillar in mandapa10 – It mentions a visit by Raja, son of Sihada, of the Gauda-Kayastha family on Vikrama Samvat 1281, equivalent to 1224-25 CE

1 Archaeology, Progress Report of the Archaeological Survey of India, Western Circle, for the year ending 31st March 1921. pp. 98-99
2 Banerji, A C (1934). The Temples at Nemawar published in the Modern Review for January 1934. pp. 61-65
3 Deva, Krishna (1995). Temples of India. Aryan Books International. Delhi. ISBN 817305052X. p. 184
4 Ali, Rahman (1987). Bhumija Temples of Malwa and Maharashtra: An Observation published in Proceedings of the Indian History Congress Vol. 48. pp. 754-759
5 Farooqui, Amar (2011). Sindias and the Raj, Princely Gwalior c. 1800-1850. Primus Books. Delhi. ISBN 9789380607085.  p. 24
6 Deva, Krishna (1995). Temples of India. Aryan Books International. Delhi. ISBN 817305052X. p. 184
7 Ali, Rahman (2002). Temples of Madhya Pradesh – The Paramara Art. Sandeep Prakashan. New Delhi. ISBN 8175741201. p. 54
8 Ali, Rahman (2002). Temples of Madhya Pradesh – The Paramara Art. Sandeep Prakashan. New Delhi. ISBN 8175741201. p. 54
9 Banerji, A C (1934). The Temples at Nemawar published in the Modern Review for January 1934. p. 65
10 Banerji, A C (1934). The Temples at Nemawar published in the Modern Review for January 1934. p. 65

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.

2 COMMENTS

  1. C’est splendide. Cela faisait 2 heures que je cherchais “Siddheshwaa Temple”. On “m’expédiait dans le Karnataka…
    Merci. C’et trop beau !

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