Sakour – Shiva Temple

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Sakour is a small village in the Damoh district in Madhya Pradesh. The town’s antiquities were first described by Henry Cousens who spelled the village as Sakhor mentioning a temple ascribed to the Chandela kings and bearing an illegible inscription.1 He does not provide any further information and therefore it is difficult to assess if Cousens is referring to the Gupta period Shiva temple that was in ruins during that time or some other structure. J F Blakiston visited the village in 1913 and describes the temple in detail.2 He mentions an inscription over the roof of the temple however does not provide its details. As the Shiva temple in the village has been associated with the Gupta period, it is generally included in the studies targeted towards the Gupta architecture and art. While there is no inscription found in the village dateable to the Gupta period, however, findings of coins of Samudragupta, Chandragupta, and Skandagupta3 suggest that the village was an important art center during the Guptas and the Shiva temple in the village is the mute witness of that glorious period.

Shiva Temple

Shiva Temple – The temple was in a very ruinous condition as mentioned by Blakiston during his visit in 1913. He tells the temple was practically in complete ruin and the only remaining thing of any consequence was the doorway between the mandapa and the garbha-grha. Apart from this doorway, no other temple part carried any carved work. He provides measurements, the sanctum measuring about 10 feet 9 inches square and the mandapa measuring 10 feet 6 inches wide by 10 feet 8 inches long. The walls were 2 feet 3 inches thick. He mentions a short inscription on the top of the roof slab. He concludes that many of the fallen stones were already removed from the site and the temple was past repair.4

The temple has been recently repaired and conserved utilizing the fallen parts as well as new stones. It faces west and stands over a renovated platform measuring 3 feet high, 46.5 feet long, and about 32 feet wide.5 The temple consists of a mandapa and a garbha-grha. The garbha-grha measures 10 by 11 feet internally and around 16 feet square externally. Originally, it was constructed using well-dressed stones set together without the use of any mortar. No shikhara or mandapa ceiling has survived and thus no reconstruction was ever attempted. However, Viennot puts this temple in the category of the Parvati Temple in Nachna and Shiva Temple at Bhumara, suggesting this temple also probably had an upper floor topped with a shikhara.6

The only decoration available over the temple is found on the doorway of its garbha-grha. This doorway is composed of three shakhas (bands). The innermost band has a meandering pattern that emerges above the heads of the river goddesses, from a geometrical design that resembles makara-heads. In this meandering pattern are dispersed various floral designs, primarily lotus, enclosed within semi-circular or half-square frames. This design is very similar to the innermost band of the Shiva Temple, Bhumara. The river goddesses at the base of this band have only survived with their faint outlines. The middle band or rupashakha has seven figures on each side. The outermost band has a twisted garland emerging from a vase held above the head of a gana (dwarf) at the base of the band. This motif is very similar to what we find in the Parvati Temple, Nachna. At the top of this band, on the corners of the lintel, are two panels, one on each side. As the images have suffered much damage, the identification of these couples is problematic. Joanna Williams7 simply identify them as couples, Krishna Deva as mithuna figures8, while Asharfilal9 takes them as Shiva-Parvati. Shiva as Natesha is present over the latala-bimba. He is depicted with ten arms and a few attendants.

Viennot assigns the temple between the Parvati Temple (Nachna) and Meguti Temple (Aihole) and thus dates the temple to the end of the second quarter of the sixth-century CE.10 Williams places the temple immediately following the Shiva Temple (Bhumara) and assigns a date of 530 CE.11 Deva opines that the temple cannot be placed prior to 500 CE owing to the size of its garbha-grha, being the largest among the Gupta stone temples.12

Inscriptions: One inscription over the ceiling of the mandapa has been reported by Blakiston. This inscription is a pilgrim record dating Vikrama Samvat 1361, equivalent to 1303 CE.13


1 Cousens, Henry (1897). Lists of the Antiquarian Remains in the Central Provinces and Berar. Office of the Superintendent of Government Printing, India. Calcutta. p. 33
2 Annual Report of the Archaeological Survey, Eastern Circle, for 1912-13. p. 46
3 Journal of the Numismatic Society of India, vol. 17. pp. 103-04
4 Annual Report of the Archaeological Survey, Eastern Circle, for 1912-13. p. 46
5 Deva, Krishna (1989). Guptas and Their Feudatories in the Encyclopedia of Indian Temple Architecture, North India, Foundations of North Indian Style, Vol. II, Part I. Oxford University Press. Oxford. ISBN 0195623134. p. 52
6 Viennot, Odette (1968). Le problème des temples à toit plat dans l’Inde du Nord published in Arts Asiatiques, tome 18. pp. 34-35
7 Williams, Joanna Gottfried (1982). The Art of the Gupta India, Empire and Province. Princeton University Press. New Jersey. ISBN 0691039887. pp. 123-124
8 Deva, Krishna (1989). Guptas and Their Feudatories in the Encyclopedia of Indian Temple Architecture, North India, Foundations of North Indian Style, Vol. II, Part I. Oxford University Press. Oxford. ISBN 0195623134. p. 53
9 पाठक, अशर्फीलाल (1981). दमोह जिला का ऐतिहासिक पुरातत्त्व, Ph.D. thesis (unpublished) submitted to the Sagar University. p. 115
10 Viennot, Odette (1968). Le problème des temples à toit plat dans l’Inde du Nord published in Arts Asiatiques, tome 18. pp. 34-35
11 Williams, Joanna Gottfried (1982). The Art of the Gupta India, Empire and Province. Princeton University Press. New Jersey. ISBN 0691039887. pp. 123-124
12 Deva, Krishna (1989). Guptas and Their Feudatories in the Encyclopedia of Indian Temple Architecture, North India, Foundations of North Indian Style, Vol. II, Part I. Oxford University Press. Oxford. ISBN 0195623134. p. 54
13 पाठक, अशर्फीलाल (1981). दमोह जिला का ऐतिहासिक पुरातत्त्व, Ph.D. thesis (unpublished) submitted to the Sagar University. p. 115

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.