Pawaya is a small village in the Gwalior district of Madhya Pradesh. The village is situated on the west bank of the Sindh River. Though reduced to a small hamlet now, this town had a glorious past. The town has been identified with the ancient city of Padmavati which once was ruled by the Naga kings. It is an interesting story that how the present Pawaya got identified with the ancient Padmavati. The first reference to the city of Padmavati appears in the Malati-Madhava of Bhavabhuti, a composition dated to the eighth century CE. The play is set in the city of Padmavati and narrates the love story of Malati and Madhava. Malati was the daughter of a minister Bhurivasu, employed in the court of the king of Padmavati. Madhav was the son of minister Devarat, employed in the court of the king of Vidharbha. Devarat and Bhurivasu studied under the same teacher and became good friends. Reference to Padmavati and its environs are found at multiple places in the play. During a dialogue between Kamandiki and Avalokita where the former tells about the agreement between Devarat and Bhurivasu about the marriage of their son and daughter. She tells that Devarat sent his son, Madhava, from Kundinpur to Padmavati, to study metaphysics.1 Madhav and his friend, Makarand, met Malati at a fair outside the city. Being enamored by Malati, Madhav decided to enter the city with his friend. Before entering the city, Madhav suggests a bath at the confluence of the rivers Sindhu and Varada.2 In another manuscript of the play, the names of two rivers are said to be Para and Sindhu.3 An elaborate description of Padmavati city and its environs is found when Saudamini arrives at Padmavati. She extolls the beauty of the city being situated at the confluence of rivers, Sindhu, and Para, and adorned with high-rising palaces, temples, city gates, and various multi-story buildings. She continues her narration by describing the river Lavana. She also mentions a waterfall on the river Sindhu. She compares the forest area and its trees with the same kind of forest areas found in the south and adorned with the Godavari River. She further mentions a Shiva temple, the god known as Suvarnabindu, situated at the confluence of the Madhumati and Sindhu rivers.
पारा सरित्परिकरच्छलतो बिभतिम
“This city of Padmavati bears under the guise of its environment of the large rivers Sindhu and Para of limpid water the fallen parts of the sky torn by the towers of lofty mansions, temples and city-gates that collided with it”4
अपि च सैषा विभाति लवणा वलितोमि पङ्क्ति-
“Here flows the river Lavana of lovely waves”5
स एष भगवत्या सिन्धोदार्रितरसालस्तटप्रपातः
अयं च मधुमती सिन्धु संभेद पावनो भगवान्भवानीपतिरपौरुषेयप्रतिष्ठ सुवर्णबिन्दुरित्याख्यायते6
“Here is the holy god Shiva called Suvarnabindu, not installed by any human being, who sanctifies the confluence of the river Madhumati and Sindhu”7
In addition to the literary evidence, we also have a few epigraphical references to the city of Padmavati. A stone inscription from Vaidyanath Temple, Khajuraho, dated 1000-1001 CE, extols the beauty of Padmavati. The inscription mentions, “There was on the surface of the earth a matchless (town), decorated with lofty palaces, which is recorded to have been founded here between the golden and silver ages by some ruler of the earth, a lord of the people, who was of Brahman’s race, (a town which is) read of in histories (and) called Padmavati by people versed in the Puranas. This most excellent (town) named Padmavati, built in an unprecedented manner, was crowded with lofty rows of streets of palaces, in which tall horses were curvetting: with its shining white high-topped walls, which grazed the clouds, it irradicated the sy; (and) it was full of bright palatial dwellings that resembled the peaks of the snowy mountain.”8 H H Wilson was the first who attempted the identification of Padmavati and he identified it with Ujjain but also stated there were some serious objections to that identification. The problem was with the rivers Para and Madhumati as it was impossible to find their union with Shipra that washes Ujjain. Thus Wilson suggested that Padmavati should be looked for more to the south, somewhere in modern Aurangabad.9 While editing the Vishnu Purana, Wilson once again comes across a reference to Padmavati and he identifies that with modern Bhagalpur on the banks of Ganga.10 Padmavati is mentioned in the Vishnu Purana among the cities being ruled by the Naga kings.11 At another place, the Purana tells that the nine nagas will reign in Padmavati, Kantipuri, and Mathura.12 Keeping this in view, Cunningham identifies with Narwar as he thought that Padmavati should not be located very far from Mathura.13 His discovery of a few Naga coins at Narwar strengthened his identification. He identifies the four rivers mentioned in the Malatimadhava as, Sindhu with Sindh, Para with Parvati, Lavana with Nun, and Madhumati with Mahuar. As Narwar was in the vicinity of these four rivers, his identification was accepted till challenged by M V Lele.
In support of Lele, Garde states Malatimadhhava clearly mentions the environs of the city of Padmavati and we must take those into account while the identification. He took five points from the play as below:14
- that Padmavati was enclosed by the two rivers Sindhu and Para
- Not only was it enclosed by the two rivers, but it stood on their confluence
- that there was a waterfall in the river Sindhu in the vicinity of the city
- that the confluence of the Sindhu and the Madhumati was not far away from the city, and that this confluence was a linga of Shia known by the name Suvarnabindu
- that the river Lavana flowed close to the town
The village of Pawaya is situated at the confluence of the Sindh and Parvati rivers. About 3 km southwest of the village is a waterfall on the Sindh River. The temple of Dhumeshvar Mahadeva is situated next to this waterfall. River Mahuar joins Sindh about 3 km away in the south. At this confluence is a platform supporting a Shiva linga, probably the spot where ancient Suvarnabindu mentioned in the play was. River Nun meets Sindh about 7-8 km far from Pawaya. Apart from the literary evidence, Garde also supported his identification based on the archaeological remains found in the village suggesting the village was in existence in about 1st-2nd century CE as well as numerous Naga coins were also found in the village. Garde tells a local legend connecting Pawaya and Padma was still in vogue as the locals refer to the village as Padma-Pawaya. Another tradition mentions in the city of Padmavati was ruled by a chakravartin (universal ruler). One day, while seated at his coursed, he perspired and felt offended by Sun, as the latter was the reason behind it. He ordered his soldiers to seize the Sun. Vajaga Devi, the guardian deity of the city, got enraged over this act and cursed the city and the king would be subverted.15
The antiquity of the village was first described by M B Garde in 1916. He tells the ruins were not confined in the fork formed by the confluence of the Sindh and Parbati rivers, suggesting that the city proper stood in the form while its suburbs spread beyond it. Brick walling was found underground at several places and the ruins served as quarries for brick for a long. The material was also utilized in the building of a fort during the Muslim period. The first trial excavation was carried out in 1925. Garde tells Sir John Marshall visited the site with him in 1920 and agreed that the site looked promising for excavation. However, as it was an expensive affair and funds were limited, only a trial excavation was taken up in 1925. The spot for the excavation was the conspicuous artificial mound from the foot of which the Palm Capital was discovered a few years back. This trial excavation exposed a large solid brock platform constructed using large size bricks laid in clay mortar. The platform was composed of a number of stages, each marked by an offset. Each side of the platform measures about 140 feet and the height is about 30 feet. A second platform, above the former, is also exposed. This second platform measures about 56 feet square. This platform is decorated with vertical pilasters at regular intervals. Garde was not able to decide on the nature of this monument however he felt it might be a stupa. However, as no distinct Buddhist or Jain sculpture was found on the site, he did not pursue the idea. Instead, the discovery of various Brahamical sculptures, fragments of torana bearing scenes of Bali’s yajna, Kartikeya, and churning of the ocean, suggests that it was a Brahmanical monument, a temple built over a large platform. Garde tells if this is correct then there is no hope of finding the temple remains as it has all disappeared. Garde tells that strangely no coins were found in the excavation though numerous were on the site of the village after rains.16
Financial difficulties halted the trial excavation, and it was only resumed in 1934 when the ex-Home Member of the Gwalior State proposed to take an excursion of tourists to Pawaya and Dhumeshwar and asked the Archaeological Department to develop the excavations of the mound so as to make it an object of interest to visitors. As the purpose was specified and funds were lacking, this excavation lasted only for a month and involved the removal of debris from the east face of the platform and leveling and tidying of the premises.17 Excavation was further resumed in 1940 for about 2 weeks. This time north and a part of the south face of the platform was taken up. The most notable find was the life-size statue of a four-armed Naga king dateable approximately to the 4th-5th century CE.18 In 1941, the site was again picked up for excavation that lasted for about three months. This excavation exposed the third platform, located between the two platforms exposed during the trial excavation. This platform measures about 93 feet square. A stone sculpture of Vishnu in Gupta style was discovered suggesting that the temple was dedicated to Vishnu.19 The excavation was again taken up in 1942 however it did not result in any new important findings except the original ground level of the lowermost platform was identified at about 4 feet below the ground. A few new mounds were taken up for excavations that resulted in a few brick-built structures however were not very promising.20 Once the brick platform and its remains were tagged to the Gupta dynasty, Pawaya started being included in almost all the architectural studies focusing on the Gupta period. This kept the village in the focus of the scholar community however no further excavations or explorations were carried out.
The history of the village can be safely traced back to the 1st century CE on the evidence of the inscribed Yaksha statue when the city was under the rule of the Naga kings. The chronology of the Naga dynasty is primarily derived from their coins as other epigraphs and artifacts are still wanted. Padmavati would have come under the Kushanas when the latter were ruling in their prime. However, with the decline of the Kushanas towards the end of the 2nd century CE, the Nagas would have gained control over Padmavati. Evidence of the same is found in the Puranas that tell the Nagas would rule over Padmavati, Kantipuri, and Mathura while the Guptas would be ruling at Magadha. Pawaya yielded a maximum of the Naga coins among all three sites, suggesting its Naga rulers were strong and affluent, and the city commanded considerable importance during their reign. Though Vayu Purana mentions nine Naga kings21, however, the coins found at Pawaya have given more than nine rulers, Bhava, Bhima, Brihaspati, Deva, Ganapati, Prabhakara, Pum, Skanda, Vasu, Vibhu, Virasena, Vrisha, and Vyaghra.22 The Naga dynasty came to an end in the second half of the 4th century CE when their kingdom was dissolved into the dominating Gupta empire. No relics belonging to the period between the 5th and 16th century CE have been found in Pawaya. In 1506, Pawaya came under Sikandar Lodhi and install Safdar Khan as its governor. He built a fort at Pawaya in 1516 and called it Aksandarabad. Jahangir conferred this region to the Bundela chief Virasimhadeva of Orchha. Virasimhadeva built the Dhumeshwar Mahadeva near the waterfall on the Sindh River. From the middle of the 18th century, Pawaya got included in the dominion of the Scindias of Gwalior.23
Brick Temple – No remains except the base of this brick temple have survived except for the terraced platforms over which it was built. The whole structure is constructed in two phases, the first phase includes the top two platforms, and the topmost is the base of the original temple that once stood there. Sometime later, the whole structure was enclosed by a large platform all around, hiding the base of the previous platform.24 Why this extra platform was required cannot be ascertained as the older platforms do not show any sign of deterioration that required this safeguard. Various scholars including Williams25 have proposed a possible sectarian change or conversion as the reason behind this modification. The original shrine as constructed by the Nagas might be dedicated to Shiva however when the city came under the Guptas, the shrine got converted into a Vaishnava temple. The lowermost platform is a square of about 140 feet. It is plain throughout its sides. The next platform is a square of about 93 feet leaving ample space all around. This platform is decorated with slender pilasters, also of brick, all around the sides. The third platform is a square of about 56 feet, leaving space for circumambulation. This third platform is in fact the base of the original temple. As no remains of that temple have survived therefore its conjectural design is not possible. The overall height of the present structure is about 31 feet.
Garde has assigned the temple, the upper two platforms, to the 3rd-4th century CE attested by the inscribed Naga image found here. The third platform is probably added during the 5th century CE as evidenced by incised bricks used in the construction.26 The temple might be dedicated to Vishnu as a sculpture of him has been found in the excavations. The entrance might be from the east as the remains of a torana were found in the debris on the east side of the platform. The Palm Capital found near the site was perhaps once adorned by a pillar set up in the front of the temple. As another capital of two addorsed human figures has been found, it may be the case that there were two pillars in the vicinity of the temple. However, no pillar shafts have been found during the excavations. The staircases inside and the entrance door is the additions by the Archaeological Department for the convenience of a visitor and were not part of the original structure.
Manibhadra Yaksha – This image was discovered by M B Garde during his exploration in 1916.27 It was found lying in a field, a short distance from the gate of the Pawaya fort. It is a headless statue and stands over a pedestal. The total height from neck to foot is 4 feet 10 inches. His right arm is broken and in his left arm, he holds a moneybag. He wears a dhoti that reaches below his knees and is tied in the front by a plain band. He is wearing a yajnopavita and also a scarf across his arms. A halo or nimbus was behind his head, traces of it are left. The front face of the pedestal is inscribed in the Brahmi characters of the 1st-2nd century CE. The inscription reads, that this image was installed by some members of an association in the fourth regnal year of King Sivanandi.
Fan-Palm Capital – This capital was founded by M B Garde in 1916, it was lying in a field near a large brick mound about a mile to the northwest of the village and a short distance from the northern bank of the Parvati River.28 It is made of white sandstone and carries a well-polished surface. The capital carries three courses of palm leaves with a closed bud at the top and bunches of fruits in the intervals between the leaves. An animal with its head broken is shown seated on the lowest course of leaves. It measures 5 feet 3 inches. A mortice hole in the bottom suggests that this capital was once installed over a pillar, the latter might be standing in front of the terraced brick temple discussed above.
Door Lintel – This lintel is one of the finest pieces of art discovered at Pawaya. It was once part of a doorway that stood at the entrance at the base. As no other parts of that doorway have been discovered, from the remains of this lintel piece it appears that the doorway was executed in the same style as the majestic doorways adorning the Sanchi Stupa. It has three different sections which narrate the story of the yajna of King Bali and Vishnu taking Vamana form and asking Bali for land equal to his three strides. The middle part is the sacrificial hall depicted with three stories. The first and the second stories are fitted with windows and an entrance door. Female heads pop out of windows and a female figure is standing in the doorway. The ground floor has the yajna-agni with a priest sitting with the royal couple donor. A sacrificial animal is tied to a post, installed next to the fire. Williams tells the yajna scene is very accurately depicted with a sacrificial platform, three fires, the curved wooden post (yupa), and a sacrificial sheep. Vedic implements are meticulously represented, such as three ladles (juhu) lying on the altar, and the double-bowled vessel for rice husks (phalikaranapatra) in the hand of the Brahman beside the yupa.29 To its right is shown Vishnu as Vamana (dwarf) and Bali pouring water in his hands as a toke for granting boons. Behind Bali stands his preceptor Shukracharya, the latter has raised his hand probably to warn Bali. Williams treats it differently stating the person pouring water is Shukracharya and Bali raises his hand in the gesture of the omnipotent ruler (chakravartin).30 However, I would go with Bali as the person pouring water as it is the king who granted the wish of Vamana. The panel flanking the right, partly broken, shows Vishnu in his giant form taking steps. He is eight-armed and holds various attributes such as chakra (discus), a khadga (dagger), a garland, and a bow. In the upper left corner is Chandra shown driving his chariot. Identification of the animals employed in this chariot is not yet ascertained as a few go with horses and a few with stags. In the counter position on the right would be Surya however the panel is broken leaving only traces. The panel flanking left is also partly broken. It shows a musical assembly, a woman dancing, and others playing various musical instruments, vina, flute, violin, drum, and cymbals. The other face of this lintel has a scene of Samudra-Manthan where four figures are shown churning the rope. In the center, we see two figures, one is the cow Surabhi and another of Lakshmi holding a jar, both emerged as an outcome of the ocean churning. To the right are four seated figures, which may be part of the Ashta-Dikpala group as one holds a noose and another a rod. Above them is a figure of Garuda. The right end of the panel depicts Kartikeya who is shown with twelve arms and six heads. Williams suggests as Kartikeya has appeared on the Yaudheya coins in his multiple heads and multiple arms form, his depiction here probably reflects the recent conquest of the Yaudheya tribes in the hands of the Guptas.31
Vishnu/Surya Capital – This capital was also found during the first exploration of M B Garde in 1915. As it was also found near the brick temple, it might be serving as a pillar capital to a pillar standing in front of that temple. The capital has two addorsed figures, standing with their backs to each other, and a chakra (wheel) in between their heads. The identification of these figures is not yet satisfactorily done as various scholars have proposed different identifications. Garde identifies both figures as Surya. Stella Kramrisch identifies them as a Bodhisattva32, however, it is evident that we have not found any except one sculpture of the Buddhist theme. Therefore identifying them as Bodhisattva poses problems. P K Agrawala identifies it with the Chakravartin form of Vishnu.33 Dikshit34 identifies them with Indra and Upendra as two Adityas and Begley35 identifies them as Chakra-purushas. Williams36 prefers the Chakrapurushas over other identifications and this appears apt as the figures are shown with two hands but not multiple as essential to represent a deity. Also, other traits of the usual Vishnu iconography of that period, i.e. vanamala (garland), kaustubha, etc. are missing here. The only similar capital is the capital of the Eran pillar. However, the figures on the Eran capital are of Garuda. This also supports the hypothesis that not the deity but his subordinate attendants were usually depicted as pillar capitals and thus the figures here may represent Chakra-purushas.
Inscriptions – Not many epigraphs are found at Pawaya except a few which are described below.
- On the pedestal of Manibhadra Image37 – 6 lines, Brahmi characters, Sanskrit language – dateable to 1st century CE – the inscription records the installation of this image of Yaksha Manibhadra in the fourth regnal year of Svami Sivanandi.
- On a loose slab found at the northern edge of the village38 – dated 911 of the Hijra Era, equivalent 1533 CE – 10 lines, naksh characters, Persian language – mentions the construction of the fort, named Iskandarabad, on the orders of the minister Safdar Khan during the reign of Sikandar Lodi
- On a brick39 – 1 line, Brahmi characters, Sanskrit language – reads (Go)vinda (deva)
- On an image40 – 2 lines, Gupta script, Sanskrit language – suggested reading (1) deyadharma, (2) devasya
1 तदिदानीं विदर्भराजस्य मंत्रिणा सता देवरातेन माधवं पुत्र मान्वीक्षिकीश्रवणाय कुण्डिनपुरादिमां पद्मावतीं प्रहिण्वता सुविहितं | Shastri, Shesharaja Sharma (2004). Malatimadhava. Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series. Varanasi. p. 22
2 वरदासिन्धुसंभेदमवगाह्य नगरीमेव प्रविशावः | Shastri, Shesharaja Sharma (2004). Malatimadhava. Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series. Varanasi. p. 196
3 पारासिन्धुसंभेदमवगाह्य नगरीमेव प्रविशावः | Garde, M B (1916). The Site of Padmavati in Archaeological Survey of India, Annual Report 1915-16. p. 101 | Mirashi, V V (1974). Bhavabhuti. Motilal Banarasidass. New Delhi. ISBN 8120811801. p. 77
4 Mirashi, V V (1974). Bhavabhuti. Motilal Banarasidass. New Delhi. ISBN 8120811801. p. 78
5 Mirashi, V V (1974). Bhavabhuti. Motilal Banarasidass. New Delhi. ISBN 8120811801. p. 78
6 Shastri, Shesharaja Sharma (2004). Malatimadhava. Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series. Varanasi. pp. 378-381
7 Mirashi, V V (1974). Bhavabhuti. Motilal Banarasidass. New Delhi. ISBN 8120811801. p. 78
8 Epigraphia Indica Vol. I. P. 151
9 Wilson, H H (1871). Select Specimens of the Theatre of the Hindus, Vol. II. Asian Educational Services. New Delhi. pp. 95-96
10 Garde, M B (1916). The Site of Padmavati in Archaeological Survey of India, Annual Report 1915-16. p. 103
11 उत्साद्याखिलक्षत्रजातिं नव नागाः पद्मावत्यां नाम पुर्यामनुगङ्गाप्रयागं गयायाञ्च मागधा गुप्ताच्श्र भोक्ष्यन्ति | (4||63)
“annihilating the Kshatriyas, Nagas will rule over Padmavati while Guptas of Magadh will rule over Ganga region of Prayag and Gaya” | Vishnu Purana. Geeta Press. Gorakhpur. ISBN 8129301172. p. 300
12 नव नागाः पद्मावत्यां कान्तिपुर्या मथुरायाम – “The nine Nagas will reign in Padmavati, Kantipuri and Mathura” | Garde, M B (1952). Padmavati. Indian History Congress. Gwalior Session.
13 Cunningham, Alexander (). Four Reports Made During the Years 1862-63-64-65, Vol. II. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. pp. 307-309
14 Garde, M B (1916). The Site of Padmavati in Archaeological Survey of India, Annual Report 1915-16. p. 102
15 Garde, M B (1916). The Site of Padmavati in Archaeological Survey of India, Annual Report 1915-16. p. 104
16 Annual Administration Report of the Archaeological Department, Gwalior State for the Year ending 30th June 1925, Samvat 1981. pp. 9-11
17 Annual Administration Report of the Archaeological Department, Gwalior State for the Samvat 1990, Year 1933-34. p. 9
18 Annual Administration Report of the Archaeological Department, Gwalior State for the Samvat 1996, Year 1939-40. pp. 15-16
19 Annual Administration Report of the Archaeological Department, Gwalior State for the Vikram Samvat 1997, Year 1940-41. pp. 17-20
20 Annual Administration Report of the Archaeological Department, Gwalior State for the Samvats 1998-2000, Year 1942-46. pp. 14-15
21 नव नागास्तु भोक्ष्यन्ति पुरीं पद्मावती नृपा | मथुरान्च पुरीं रम्यां नागा भोक्ष्यन्ति सप्त वै || – “The nine Nagas will reign over Padmavati and the seven Nagas will reign over Mathura.” – Trivedi, H V (1957). Catalogue of the Coins of the Naga Kings of Padmavati. Department of Archaeology & Museums, Madhya Pradesh. Gwalior. p. Introduction-i
22 Garde, M B (1952). Padmavati. Indian History Congress. Gwalior Session. p. 28
23 Garde, M B (1952). Padmavati. Indian History Congress. Gwalior Session. p. 7
24 Garde, M B (1952). Padmavati. Indian History Congress. Gwalior Session. p. 15
25 Williams, Joanna Gottfried (1982). The Art of Gupta India: Empire and Province. Princeton University Press. New Jersey. ISBN 0691039887. p. 52
26 Garde, M B (1952). Padmavati. Indian History Congress. Gwalior Session. p. 19
27 Garde, M B (1916). The Site of Padmavati in Archaeological Survey of India, Annual Report 1915-16. p. 106
28 Garde, M B (1916). The Site of Padmavati in Archaeological Survey of India, Annual Report 1915-16. p. 107
29 Williams, Joanna Gottfried (1982). The Art of Gupta India: Empire and Province. Princeton University Press. New Jersey. ISBN 0691039887. p. 53
30 Williams, Joanna Gottfried (1982). The Art of Gupta India: Empire and Province. Princeton University Press. New Jersey. ISBN 0691039887. p. 53
31 Williams, Joanna Gottfried (1982). The Art of Gupta India: Empire and Province. Princeton University Press. New Jersey. ISBN 0691039887. p. 54
32 Kramrisch, Stella (1933). Indian Sculpture. Oxford University Press. London. p. 162
33 Harle, J C (1974). Gupta Sculpture. Munshiram Manoharlal. New Delhi. ISBN 8121506417. p. 40
34 Williams, Joanna Gottfried (1982). The Art of Gupta India: Empire and Province. Princeton University Press. New Jersey. ISBN 0691039887. p. 55
35 Begley, W E (1973). Visnu’s Flaming Wheel – The Iconography of the Sudarsana-Chakra. New York University Press. ISBN 0814709737. pp. 46-47
36 Williams, Joanna Gottfried (1982). The Art of Gupta India: Empire and Province. Princeton University Press. New Jersey. ISBN 0691039887. p. 55
37 Willis, Michael D (1996). Inscriptions of Gopaksetra. British Museum Press. London. p. 103
38 Willis, Michael D (1996). Inscriptions of Gopaksetra. British Museum Press. London. p. 88
39 Willis, Michael D (1996). Inscriptions of Gopaksetra. British Museum Press. London. p. 118
40 Willis, Michael D (1996). Inscriptions of Gopaksetra. British Museum Press. London. p. 119
40 Willis, Michael D (1996). Inscriptions of Gopaksetra. British Museum Press. London. p.
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.