Generally, there are stories weaved into every temple about its heritage and history. Some are references in the Hindu scriptures, some are based on travellers descriptions, some are based on research on inscriptions and well, some others range from an emotional thermometer of jaw-dropping to shivers down your spine!
The Kakanmath temple is tucked away in the small village of Sihoniya in the Morena district of Madhya Pradesh. On first glance, it looks to be a temple in ruins seated in the middle of a flat countryside. However, as you walk towards the temple, your attention is drawn to a rather astounding and imposing stack of stones that appear to be placed in a rather hurried fashion and lacking symmetry.
On a closer look, it really appears that the building that has stood for a thousand years would probably fall with a gentle push or a breeze! Local legend is that no one stays in this temple or in its vicinity after dark and the reason is that they believe that this temple was built by ghosts. It is said that this temple was built in one night by ghosts and at daybreak, as it was unfinished, it remained incomplete.
However, certain inscriptions suggest that this temple was built by King Kirttiraja of the Kachchhapaghata dynasty for his beloved queen Kakanavati in the 11th century. The queen was extremely devoted to Lord Shiva and hence, the presiding deity is known as Lord Kakanmath after the queen Kakanavati. As both the king and queen were unable to worship Lord Shiva in a satisfactory manner because there was no Shiva temple close by, this temple of Kakanmath was dedicated to their chosen lord.
The interesting aspect about the temple architecture is that it follows the typical Nagara style but in terms of construction, there is no use of mortar or lime. The stones are placed on top of each other in such a manner that there is perfect balance between them and even a storm or an earthquake cannot dislodge them.
The temple stands on an ornate platform quite similar to the other temples in Madhya Pradesh. The shikara is about 30 metres in height of which only the inner part with a bell member has survived. The remains of decorated balconies are seen with intricate work on the columns, beautiful carvings, detailed sculptures and stunning designs on the roofs and in all the niches. The pillared corridor leads to the sanctum sanctorum where a huge Shiva Linga sits whose depth is yet to be identified.
There are four smaller temples surrounding the main one that have been destroyed by invaders and probably by an earthquake. The ruins of the smaller temples look quite abstractly placed in the countryside but yet are marvellous on their own.
This majestic temple that is almost stripped bare to a skeletal fragile state set in the picturesque Morena district is now a protected monument by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Even today, people throng this temple on the auspicious occasion of Maha Shivaratri offering Gangajal brought from Kanwar. It is indeed an interesting experience to wander through this complex in constant worry of stones falling on your head!
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)