An amateur archaeologist has discovered the remains of a temple supposed to have been built in the 5th Century A.D. during the Gupta period, when the concept of installing statues of deities in temples was introduced, in dense forests 35 km away from Bundi district town in Rajasthan. The temple has a ‘Shivalingam' with the face of Lord Shiva engraved on it.
The temple, found near Bhimtal village, has the remnants of a square sanctum and pillared porch. Built with bricks, the temple makes a significant addition to the handful of sites in the country where the remains of places of worship from the Gupta era have been unearthed.
Archaeologist Om Prakash Sharma alias Kukki, who has spent two decades discovering the pre-historic rock art in Bundi, Kota and Bhilwara districts, told The Hindu on Wednesday that the latest discovery had confirmed the presence of the thriving ancient empire in Hadoti region of Rajasthan during the 5th Century, when magnificent temple architecture was gradually evolving.
The Gupta empire, that existed approximately between 320 and 550 A.D. and was described by historians as the golden age of ancient India, covered much of the Indian subcontinent and was marked by scientific and cultural creativity, including the outstanding architecture and sculptures, and crystallisation of the elements of Hindu culture.
Mr. Sharma said the presence of the dilapidated Shiva temples of the later period amid thick vegetation in surrounding areas such as Jalindri, Nathun, Deojhar, Banganga, Umarthuna and Kheruna indicated that the Shaivite religion held sway over much of the Hadoti region for several centuries.
“The characteristic elements of Shiva temple [that] emerged in the Gupta period are found even in the present-day shrines.”
The five-foot long and two-foot thick ‘Shivalingam' is reportedly the third of its kind from the Gupta era found in the country so far. Similar statues were earlier discovered at Udaigiri in Vidisha and Bhumra in Satna district of neighbouring Madhya Pradesh.
Mr. Sharma said the ‘Shivalingam,' built of white sandstone, has embellishments like earrings and ornaments with Lord Shiva's face, while the sanctum where it was installed is encircled with hundreds of undamaged and broken bricks. In the local parlance, this statue is called ‘Mukhling.'
There are traces of a covered processional path in the temple for circumambulation, which formed part of the worship ritual. A methodical study of the Bhimtal temple could provide important clues to various dimensions of early Hindu architecture in ancient India, said Mr. Sharma.
The gradual evolution of the Gupta style architecture led to the construction of shikhara (dome) in the temples and ornamentation on the pillars and door-frame. Later, the decorative motifs like goblins, couples, flying angels, door-keepers and a figure relief in the centre of the lintel emblematic of the deity consecrated in the temple were introduced.
A barely-literate grocer with a passion for history and archaeology, the 54-year-old has discovered rock paintings and objects and tools of the Copper Age and Mauryan and post-Gupta period in the vast hilly tracts of the Hadoti region in south-east Rajasthan over the past two decades.
Mr. Sharma said his latest discovery had demonstrated that Hadoti did not merely have a pre-historic human habitation, but was also rich in archaeological wealth which could throw a new light on the evolution of Hinduism with the dissemination of Vedic civilisation by Aryans.