Sihoniya – A Jewel of Chambal Valley

1
3686

The Kakanmath temple is located near the village of Bawadipura in the Morena district of Madhya Pradesh. However, as the earlier accounts of this temple associate it with the town of Sihoniya (सिहोनिया), therefore, we continue this to avoid confusion. Sihoniya is situated on the west bank of the Asan River, about 3 km away from the temple site. Though the temple site is located a little away from the present town of Sihoniya however it was once part of the town. As late Harappan remains have been discovered at Sihoniya, the antiquity of the town can be safely taken back to that period.1 The historical remains of the town were first reported by Alexander Cunningham stating traditions assigns the overall periphery of the town spanning about 24 miles. Cunningham tells this tradition does not appear true to exact measurements however we can take it as a reminiscence that the city commanded a large area. With the extent of its remains, Cunningham measures the city spanning 3 miles in length from east to west and 1.5 miles from north to south, altogether a circuit of 9 miles. The local traditions mention the ancestors of Suraj Sen as the legendary founders of the city some 2000 years ago. The same traditions take Suraj Sen as the founder of Gwalior city. These traditions mention the miracle of Suraj Sen being cured of leprosy after taking a bath in a tank near the Ambika Devi temple. After this miracle, Suraj Sen took the name Suddhana (or Sodhana) Pala and renamed the town Suddhonopura or Suddhaniya which later corrupted to Sudhinpur or Suhaniya. His queen Kokanavati is said to have built the kokanpur-math temple, said to be visible from the Gwalior Fort.2

Rama-Sita from Sihoniya, now in the Gujari Mahal Museum, Gwalior
Brahmani from Sihoniya, now in the Gujari Mahal Museum, Gwalior
Narasimha from Sihoniya, now in the Gujari Mahal Museum, Gwalior

M B Garde of the then Gwalior Archaeology Department surveyed the town in 1925-26 and identified it with ancient Simhapaniya explaining an inscription from Sas-Bahu Temple, Gwalior mentions that Kachchhapaghata king Kirtiraja (1015-1035 CE) erected a grand temple for Shiva at Simhapaniya.3 The earliest branch of the Kachchhapaghatas started their rule from Sihoniya. The first Kachcchapaghata king, Lakshmana, did not leave any inscription and he might have ruled as a small feudatory. The next king in line, Vajradaman, left his inscriptions in Sihoniya suggesting their early association with the town. The Sas-Bahu temple inscription, dated 1207 CE, that refers to the reign of the Kachchhapaghata king Mahipala, mentions that his great-grandfather, King Kirtiraja, constructed a Shiva temple at Simhapaniya.4 A few scholars believe Queen Kakanvati, after whom the temple was named, was the wife of Kirtiraja however the Sas-Bahu inscription does not throw any light on this matter. Garde tells the temple was buried in a mount till its platform. The total height was estimated at about 100 feet. The main temple was surrounded by a set of subsidiary shrines, the latter had survived only in mere traces. As it was among the finest and largest temples in the Gwalior region, Garde prepared a conservation plan that was sanctioned for the next year. Due to the paucity of funds, the conservation was only taken up partially, including clearing the jungle around the platform and over the temple, resetting disrupted stair steps, heavy debris lying over the lower platform removed to ascertain its original plan, a few sculptures were reset to their original location, staircase leading to the mandapa was repaired and reset, heavy debris from the temple removed, iron girder support provided to broken lintels, garbha-grha doorway was reset and repaired, and two decaying pillars were encased in stone masonry.5

Shiva from Sihoniya, now in the Gujari Mahal Museum, Gwalior
Shiva from Sihoniya, now in the Gujari Mahal Museum, Gwalior
Yama from Sihoniya, now in the Gujari Mahal Museum, Gwalior
Agni from Sihoniya, now in the Gujari Mahal Museum, Gwalior
Panchagni Parvati from Sihoniya, now in the Gujari Mahal Museum, Gwalior

Though the town lost its shine soon after the fall of the Kachchhapaghatas, the religious activities continued as we have got inscriptions till the third quarter of the sixteenth century CE. The 1508 CE Narwar campaign of Sikandar Lodi would have caused severe damage to Kakanmath temple as the last pilgrim record in the temple is dated 1507-1508 CE. After the onslaught of Lodi, the religious activities ceased at Kakanmath but shifted to a new temple, Ambika Devi Temple, in the town as we find inscriptions in support. A few other temples in the town, i.e. Ambika Devi Temple, Hanuman Temple, etc., are contemporary to Kakanmath, and although those are renovated, older remains can still be seen in their components. Various Jain images have been discovered at Sihoniya suggesting it was an important Jain center in the medieval period, the position it still commands at the present.

Kakanmath Temple

Kakanmath Temple – This east-facing temple is built over an extensive platform approachable through a flight of stairs on the east. It was originally surrounded by subsidiary shrines however, only mere traces of those have survived. The temple is composed of a sandhara garbha-grha, antarala (vestibule), a closed mandapa (hall) with lateral transepts, and a mukha-mandapa (porch). The vimana is pancha-ratha composed of vedibandha, jangha, and shikhara.

garbha-grha doorway

The garbha-grha doorway is composed of seven shakhas (bands). At the base of the jambs are the river goddesses, Ganga and Yamuna, standing over their respective mounts, makara and kachchhapa. They are attended by female attendants and accompanied by dvarapalas. Large panels housing deities of the Shaiva family are present over a shakha that is sandwiched between two rupa-shakhas, the latter carrying images of amorous couples in different niches. The lalata-bimba carries an image of Shiva.6 Inside the garbha-grha is a shivalinga, not in worship. The shikhara above has survived to its full height however all its facing is already gone and now it stands in its bare skeleton topped with an amalaka. Willis suggests the damage to the shikhara was probably due to an earthquake.7 From what remains, the height of the shikhara is estimated at 100 feet putting this temple among the largest ones in north India.

Lion from Sihoniya, now in the Gujari Mahal Museum, Gwalior
Lion from Sihoniya, now in the Gujari Mahal Museum, Gwalior

The antarala is supported by four tall pillars. The mandapa is supported by sixteen pillars arranged in four rows in alignment with the antarala. The ceiling is lost except for a few remains suggesting it was built in a coffered cusped design with an amalaka on the top.8 The mukha-mandapa was reached through a flight of steps on either side of which majestic lions were placed. These lions have been moved to the Gujari Mahal Museum, Gwalior.

Vimana in the west
Parvati in the south
Shiva in the west
Kartikeya in the north

Large niches spanning across vedibandha moldings are present over the bhadra. These niches carry Parvati in the south, Shiva in the west, and Kartikeya in the north. The corresponding niches on the transepts have images of various goddesses, i.e. Parvati, etc. The jangha has niches provided on all its projections. The bhadra niche has been given special treatment by providing a transept in its front supported by pillars. The bhadra niches are empty at present. The niches on the karna projection are flanked by apsaras supporting a vyala (leogryph) above. These niches have asta-dikpalas images facing their respective direction. The niches over the partiratha projection have images of surasundaris. The recess portion between the rathas is filled with vyalas and shardula motifs.

Varuna over makara
Vayu
Vishnu
Indra
Agni
Brahma
Vishnu over pranala
Kalyana-sundara
Gaja-Lakshmi
Sitala (?) with donkey
Ganesha
Kaumari (?)

Niches housing various images are also provided on the vedibandha of the mandapa. In these niches are found Kalyana-sundara-murti, Ganesha, Kaumari, Gaja-Lakshmi, Brahma, and Sitala among others. As discussed above, the temple can be safely assigned to the first quarter of the eleventh century CE, as evident from the Sas-Bahu Temple inscription as well as comparative study of other Kachchhapaghata period temples.

Inscriptions:

  1. On a stone lion, now in Gwalior Museum9 – not dated – two lines, characters of 10th century CE, language uncertain – damaged
  2. On the pedestal of a Jaina image near Ambika Devi temple10 – dated Vikrama Samvat 1013, corresponding 1071 CE – one line, characters old Nagari, language Sanskrit – mentions Mahendrachandra
  3. On a Jain sculpture11 – dated Vikrama Samvat 1034, corresponding 1092 CE – two lines, characters old Nagari, language Sanskrit – mentions king Vajradaman of Kachchhapaghata line
  4. On a pillar in Kakanmath Temple12 – not dated – two lines, characters Nagari of 11th century CE, language Sanskrit – reads 1)Sri Paliyata, 2) purahitah
  5. On a slab in the wall of Ambika Devi Temple13 – characters Nagari of 14th century CE, language Sanskrit – fragmentary, purpose not clear
  6. On an image of Chittanatha14 – dated Vikrama Samvat 1447, corresponding 1505 CE – characters Nagari – much damaged
  7. On a pillar in Kakanmanth Temple15 – dated Vikrama Samvat 1[4]50, 1508 CE – characters Nagari, language Sanskrit – mentions renovation of the Mahadeva temple by Durgaprasada
  8. On a pillar in Ambika Devi temple16 – dated Vikrama Samvat 1467, corresponding 1525 CE – five lines, characters Nagari, language Sanskrit – mentions maharajadhiraja sri Virama (Viranga) Deva Tomara and sutradhara Haridasa
  9. On a pillar in Kakanmath Temple17 – dated Vikrama Samvat 1497, corresponding 1555 CE – nine lines, characters Nagari, local dialect – pilgrims record from the time of Dungara, mentions the name Dekhana, son of Kakala, who was a resident of Nala-puragadha
  10. On a pillar in Ambika Devi Temple18 – dated Vikrama Samvat 14[99], corresponding 1557 CE – characters Nagari, local dialect – much damaged, purport not clear
  11. On a pillar in Ambika Devi temple19 – dated Vikrama Samvat 1516, corresponding 1574 CE – characters Nagari, local dialect – much damaged, fragmentary
  12. On a pillar in Kakanmath Temple20 – not dated – characters Nagari, local dialect – purport unclear, at the end is written vimalapurasthiti
  13. On a pillar in Kakanmath Temple21 – not dated – characters Nagari – reads Kaupala

1 Chakrabarti, Dilip K (2009). Indian: An Archaeological History. Oxford University Press. Oxford. ISBN 9780198064121.
2 Cunningham, Alexander (1872). Four Reports made during the years 1862-63-64-65, vol. II. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. pp. 399-401
3 Annual Administration Report of the Archaeological Department, Gwalior State for the Samvat 1982, Year 1925-26. pp. 6-7
4 Trivedi, H V (1989). Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum, vol. VII part III. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. No. 155
5 Annual Administration Report of the Archaeological Department, Gwalior State for the Samvat 1983, Year 1926-27. pp. 5-6
6 Ali, Ahmed (2005). Kachchhapaghata Art and Architecture. Publication Scheme. Jaipur. ISBN 8181820142. p. 25
7 Willis, Michael (1996). Architecture in Central India under the Kacchapaghata Rulers published in the South Asian Studies no 12. p. 16
8 Deva, Krishna (1996). Temples of India. Aryan Books International. New Delhi. ISBN 9788173050541. p. 177
9 Willis, Micheal (1996). Inscriptions of Gopaksetra. British Museum Press. London. ISBN 0714114758. p. 120
10 Willis, Micheal (1996). Inscriptions of Gopaksetra. British Museum Press. London. ISBN 0714114758. p. 3
11 Willis, Micheal (1996). Inscriptions of Gopaksetra. British Museum Press. London. ISBN 0714114758. p. 3
12 Willis, Micheal (1996). Inscriptions of Gopaksetra. British Museum Press. London. ISBN 0714114758. p. 120
13 Willis, Micheal (1996). Inscriptions of Gopaksetra. British Museum Press. London. ISBN 0714114758. p. 120
14 Willis, Micheal (1996). Inscriptions of Gopaksetra. British Museum Press. London. ISBN 0714114758. p. 27
15 Willis, Micheal (1996). Inscriptions of Gopaksetra. British Museum Press. London. ISBN 0714114758. p. 27
16 Willis, Micheal (1996). Inscriptions of Gopaksetra. British Museum Press. London. ISBN 0714114758. p. 28
17 Willis, Micheal (1996). Inscriptions of Gopaksetra. British Museum Press. London. ISBN 0714114758. p. 30
18 Willis, Micheal (1996). Inscriptions of Gopaksetra. British Museum Press. London. ISBN 0714114758. p. 31
19 Willis, Micheal (1996). Inscriptions of Gopaksetra. British Museum Press. London. ISBN 0714114758. p. 33
20 Willis, Micheal (1996). Inscriptions of Gopaksetra. British Museum Press. London. ISBN 0714114758. p. 120
21 Willis, Micheal (1996). Inscriptions of Gopaksetra. British Museum Press. London. ISBN 0714114758. p. 120

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.

1 COMMENT

Comments are closed.