Tigawa – A Hidden Jewel


Tigwan (तीगवां/तिग्वान) (also spelled Tigawa in earlier accounts) is a small village in the Katni district of Madhya Pradesh. Based on its architectural antiquity, the place once would have held considerable importance. Alexander Cunningham1 visited the site in 1873-5 and mentions the name Tigawa means “three villages”. These three villages would be Tigwan, Amgawan (आमगाव), and Deori (देवरी), all located adjacent to each other.  Cunningham mentions finding remains of not less than 36 temples in the village, many of these were destroyed by the railway contractors who broke down these for ready materials utilized for rail construction. He mentions three groups of temples, ones with dimensions 4 to 6 feet were constructed with three sides leaving the fourth side open, ones with dimensions 7 to 10 feet were constructed with a doorway on the fourth side, and the ones with dimensions 12 to 15 feet were constructed with a mukha-mandapa (portico) in the front. Tigwan was located on an ancient route connecting Bharhut to Tripuri via Rupnath. Being an important trade center on this ancient route, the town was fortified at a certain period and as evidenced by the fort of Jhanjhangarh.

Kankali Devi Temple


Two lions with a mango tree in the middle

Kankali Devi Temple – This is the only surviving temple in the complex of around 36 temples, the rest had been demolished and materials were used for railway construction. The temple faces east and is built over a low-rising jagati (platform). It is composed of a garbha-grha and a mukha-mandapa, the latter is an open mandapa supported on four pillars. At some later point in time, the lateral open spaces of the mandapa were covered with a wall, and sculptures were installed inside. The garbha-grha is 12.75 feet square outside and about 8 feet square inside. It is covered with a flat roof. The pillars of the mukha-mandapa are heavy in appearance as their bottom part is plain octagonal. Above it is an octagonal section succeeded by a sixteen-sided section and then a circular section. Over the circular sections rests a purna-ghata (overflowing vase). Above it is a square abacus supporting a square capital. Each face of the capital is carved with two lions with a tree in the middle. In one instance the tree is a mango tree but the tree in the rest cannot be satisfactorily identified. The base of the capital has a design of two chaitya arches with a human head inside.

The doorway of the garbha-grha has four shakhas (bands). Two shakhas have floral decorations and two are left plain. The side pilasters are of the same pattern as found in the mukha-mandapa. On the top of the pilasters are placed the river goddesses, Ganga stands over a makara under a custard apple tree, and Yamuna stands over a tortoise under a mango tree. Both the river goddesses are shown plucking the fruits, thus they are a reminiscence of the earlier shala-bhanjika motif being merged with the river goddesses’ iconography. The lintel is plain and the architrave above it has thirteen plain square bosses. Inside the garbha-grha is an image of Narasimha which belongs to the same period as that of the temple. However, it does not appear to be the mula-bera (main idol) of the temple.




Cunningham mentions four sculptural panels inserted in the lateral walls of the mukha-mandapa. However, now there are only two panels found on the south wall, one of Chamunda and another of Sheshashayi-Vishnu. The panels of Kali and Varaha mentioned by Cunningham are no more on the lateral wall of this mandapa. It may be very probable that these panels are the ones now found in the debris and published below. A sculpture attached to the north wall of the mukha-mandapa has a very complex iconography. It shows a seated mendicant with elongated ears and wearing a large crown over his head. The long crown suggests the divinity status however the hand-mudra is that of a yogi.

Close view of sculpture slabs in the mandapa of the Kankali Devi Temple, taken by J D Beglar in 1875 | British Library
Varaha panel with Shiva Kalyanasumdara scene above
Dikpala Panel
Chamunda Panel
The upper part of the Chamunda panel with Vishnu avataras in the above section

In the absence of a foundation inscription, the dating of the temple is attempted on the basis of its architectural style and sculpture. The regular architectural styles associated with the Gupta period, i.e. T-shaped doorways, and larger intercolumniation between the middle pillars are evident in this temple leading scholars to assign the temple to the Gupta period. Cunningham2 dates the temple between the fifth and third century CE stating it cannot be later than the fifth century CE and as old as the third century CE. Vincent Smith dates the temple to the reign of the Gupta king Samudragupta (350-375 CE) which is also the opinion of S K Saraswati.3 Percy Brown4 puts the temple in the first half of the fifth century CE. Joanna Williams5 assigns the temple to 445-470 CE stating she prefers to ascribe the temple to some unidentified small potentate, still under the waning suzerainty of the Guptas and deriving his taste from the network of imperial centers of north and central India. She does not agree with Mirashi that the latter has taken the temple as a Vakataka monument on the basis of the Nachna inscription of the Uchchhakalpa king Vyaghra.

Inscriptions –  There is a pilgrim’s record on one face of the pillar.

  1.   On the face of a pillar5 – not dated, dateable to the eighth century CE on the paleographic study – in the Sanskrit language – the inscription is a pilgrim record of one Umadeva of Kanyakubja (Kanauj), son of Samanya Bhatta, to pay his devotion at the temple of Setabhadra (probably Svetabhadra).
  2. There are two more pilgrim records, one is highly floriated and the other very indistinct.
Devi Temple

Devi Temple – This temple is in worship at present. A doorway installed at the entrance of the temple platform belongs to the late Gupta period, about a century later than that of the Kankali Devi Temple.7 The rest of the building belongs to a later period and is majorly reconstructed. Inside the garbha-grha of the temple is an image of a goddess. Various images have been embedded over the external wall of the garbha-grha. Among these is an image of Vishnu with his ten avataras carved around the prabhavali. The original temple would have been significantly larger than the Kankali Devi temple as the doorway is more than a foot higher than the doorway of the Kankali Devi temple. The sculptures embedded on the temple garbha-grha walls are dateable to the eighth-century CE.8

1 Cunningham, Alexander (1879). Report of a Tour in the Central Provinces in 1873-74 & 1874-75, vol. IX. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. p. 42
2 Cunningham, Alexander (1879). Report of a Tour in the Central Provinces in 1873-74 & 1874-75, vol. IX. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. p. 47
3 Saraswati, S K (1940). Temple Architecture in the Gupta Age published in the Journal of the Indian Society of Oriental Art vol. 8. p. 149
4 Brown, Percy (1959). Indian Architecture: Buddhist and Hindu Periods. D B Taraporevala. Mumbai. p. 48
5 Williams, Joanna Gottfried (1982). The Art of Gupta India: Empire and Province. Princeton University Press. New Jersey. ISBN 0691039887. p. 94
6 Lal, Hira (1916). Descriptive List of Inscriptions in The Central Provinces and Berar. Government Press. Nagpur. p. 21
7 Deva, Krishna (1988). Kalachuris of Tripuri: Mandapika Shrines published in the Encyclopaedia of Indian Temple Architecture – North India – Foundations of North Indian Styles, vol. II, part 1. ISBN 0195623134. p. 164
8 Deva, Krishna (1988). Kalachuris of Tripuri: Mandapika Shrines published in the Encyclopaedia of Indian Temple Architecture – North India – Foundations of North Indian Styles, vol. II, part 1. ISBN 0195623134. p. 164

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.


  1. गुप्‍तकालीन आरंभिक मंदिरों का इतिहास तिगवां के बिना पूरा नहीं होता.

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