Sesai Sadak is a small village in the Shivpuri district of Madhya Pradesh. It is a famous Jaina pilgrimage site. The antiquity of the village can be safely taken back to the Pratihara period of the ninth-tenth century CE. The location of the village would have provided the impetus for its rise. The Pratiharas built two temples, a Sun temple and a small temple dedicated to Shiva. The antiquities of the village were first reported in 1913 by M B Garde, the Director of the Archaeological Department of Gwalior. However, that report was never published. He again visited the site in 1929-30 and he discovered a new inscription and a dilapidated Shiva temple.1 The temples in detail were first described by R D Trivedi in 1990.2
Monuments – There are two temples of interest in the village, a Sun Temple and a Shiva temple. Both are located in the vicinity of each other and altogether near the famous Jaina temple complex. A museum inside the Jaina complex has the excavated Jaina statues.
Surya Temple – This west-facing temple is built on a high-rising jagati (platform) and consists of a garbha-griha (sanctum), a small antarala (vestibule), and a mukha-mandapa (portico), the latter is supported on two front pillars and two back pilasters. The vimana is in pancharatha plan. The shikhara has not survived except its lowermost course, and from its appearance, it appears that it was also of pancharatha style.
The antarala doorway is exquisitely carved. The doorway is composed of five shakhas (bands), patra-shakha, naga-shakha, rupa-shakha, stambha-shakha, and bahya-shakha. Ganga and Yamuna standing over their respective mounts, makara and kachchapa (tortoise), are present over their usual position, at the bottom of the door jambs on either side. They are accompanied by a chatra-dharini (holding parasol) and two female attendants with a dvarapala at the extreme end. The panels on the door jambs, over the rupa-shakha, display all dashavatars (ten incarnations) of Vishnu in four panels on each side. On the left side, top to down, are Matsya, Kurma, Narasimha, Parashurama, Balarama, and Kalki. On the right side, top to down, are Varaha, Vamana, Rama, and Krishna. A large image of Surya, spanning over two levels, riding over his seven-horse chariot is placed over the lalata-bimba. The recessed space at the lower level, on either side of Surya, is filled with flying figures of vidhyadharas holding garlands. The upper level has various images, starting from the left, two females shown worshipping shiva-linga, Sarasvati holding a vina, Lakshmi holding a lotus, and eleven Adityas holding a danda in their hands. The eleventh Adityas over the recess portion and Surya over the lalata-bimba completes the group of twelve Adityas. The sur-lintel has five prominent images, starting from left to right, seated Lakshmi holding a lotus-stalk, seated Brahma holding akshmala (rosary) and kamandalu (water pot), seated Vishnu holding shankha (conch) and padma (lotus), seated Shiva holding trishula, akshmala and kamandalu, and seated Sarasvati holding vina with her two hands.
The adhishthana (base) has regular four moldings, khura, kumbha, kalasa, and kapotika. Niches are provided on the karna and bhadra projections. The niche on bhadra, bhadra–rathika, has been projected outward supported on two pillars, like a small shrine attached to the main temple. Bhadra-rathika in the north has a damaged statue of Uma-Maheshvara, in the east is a damaged statue of Surya and the niche in the south is empty. The image of Uma-Maheshvara appears as a later addition as it probably did not belong to this temple. The niches over the karna have ashta-dikpalas (eight directional guardians) placed at their usual position as per the direction. Niches on kapali position have Brahma in the south and Kartikeya in the north.
Willis mentions the notable feature of the temple is its mandapa ceiling which consists of a cusped dome with two tiers of carved ribs set against a chequer ground. The drop-finial at the apex is missing. The dome is flanked by an elliptical coffer, also with cusped edges and curved ribs. Willis concludes these features are without precedent or parallel in the Gwalior region as the earlier temples generally have a flat ceiling. This type is ceiling is more observed in Western India and if this temple would have not survived then we would be tempted to assume that such forms were not part of the architectural vocabulary of the ninth-century CE temple architecture prevalent in and around the Gwalior region.3 R D Trivedi4 dates this temple to the first quarter of the tenth-century CE while Willis5 prefers dating it to 875-900 CE.
Shiva Temple – This small temple has lost many of its features including its shikhara and mukha-mandapa. The temple is built on a low-rising broad platform and faces west. The sanctum doorway has river goddesses at the base. There is a Shivalinga placed inside the sanctum. Parvati in panchagnitapa is in the northern bhadra niche while Surya is in the eastern niche. The southern bhadra niche is empty at present. The temple appears coeval to the above Surya temple.
- Pillar Inscription of the time of Gopaladeva6 – language Sanskrit, script Nagari – dated to Vikrama Samvat 1341, equivalent to 1284 CE – The inscription refers to the reign of Maharajadhiraja Paramabhattaraka Paramamaheshvara Gopaladeva mentioning that he was a great devotee of Shiva. Gopaladeva is identified as the homonymous king of Narwar. The inscription further mentions the illustrious Jaitujamahadeva, a slave of the devotees of Brahmanas who was then governing that region. The relation between Gopaladeva and Jaitujamahadeva is not specified in the inscription, D C Sircar identifies the latter with Mahakumara Jaitravarman who was a subordinate ruler under Yajvapala. The object of the inscription is to record the death of Ra Malayadeva in a battle fought in connection with a case of cattle lifting on the street in the village of Sesai. His two wives also died with him probably, murdered by the cattle lifters as suggested by the inscription. The elder wife was Mahinidevi and the younger one was Navuladevi. The pillar was erected by their sons, Ra Hirmana, and Ra Hamsaraja to bring fame to the family.
- On a memorial pillar – This inscription was first reported by M B Garde under Sesai in his report of 1929-30. As Sesai of Garde is between the description of Gudar and Tongra, it appears his Sesai was the same as the modern Sesai Sadak village. His mention of a Jain pilgrimage site as well as a dilapidated Shiva temple in the village further corroborates this identification. However, Micheal Willis7 reports this inscription was found at 25°10′, 77°42′, the place is about 25 km far from Sesai Sadak. Therefore, it is not clear whether this inscription was originally found at Sesai Sadak and later moved to its location shared by Willis or it was originally found at the location shared by Willis. The inscription is important as it dates to the seventh century CE and is written in Gupta script. It mentions the self-immolation of the sorrowing mother after her sons had met death on a battlefield.
1 Annual Administration Report of the Archaeological Department, Gwalior State for the Samvat 1986, Year 1929-30. p. 26
2 Trivedi, R D (1990). Temples of the Pratihara Period in Central India. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. p. 168
3 Willis, Michael D (1997). Temples of Gopaksetra. British Museum Press. London. ISBN 0714114774. p. 77
4 Trivedi, R D (1990). Temples of the Pratihara Period in Central India. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. p. 168
5 Willis, Michael D (1997). Temples of Gopaksetra. British Museum Press. London. ISBN 0714114774. p. 77
6 Epigraphia Indica vol. XXXI. pp. 325-326
7 Willis, Michael D (1996). Inscriptions of Gopaksetra. British Museum Press. London. p. 119
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.