The ancient town of Malinithan situated at the foothills of the Siang Hills in Likabali is steeped in religion, history, culture and architecture. Legend has it that when Lord Krishna kidnapped Rukmini Devi, they passed this beautiful location on their way to Dwaraka from Vidarbha. They found Lord Shiva and Parvathi Devi deep in tapas in this dense forest. Parvathi Devi asked them to rest awhile and presented them with exquisite garlands made of sweet-smelling flowers. Lord Krishna touched by this gesture praised Parvathi Devi and gave Her the title of Sucharu Malini. This town derives its name from the word Malini.
Though the famed Shakti Peeta of Akashiganga is a mere 12 kms away from Malinithan, Malinithan remained largely in obscurity for centuries. The excavations in the late 1960s and early 1970s revealed the ruins of temples built in the 14th – 15th century by the Chutiya king, Lakshminarayan as well as valuable scriptures. This archaeological site is situated on a hill at a height of 21 metres and offers a panoramic view of the plains around it and the Brahmaputra River.
The site has an intricately designed and decorated plinth of a temple, stunning animal motifs, carvings, sculptures of Gods and Goddesses, floral patterns, four sculptures of lions on two elephants at the four corners of the ruins of the temple, columns and panels. The granite sculptures are of Indra on Airavata, Surya on a chariot, Lord Karthikeya on a peacock, Lord Ganesh on a mouse, a massive Nandi, Shiva Linga and others. A sculpture of a woman without a head unearthed is believed to be of Malini, who is considered to be the lover of Lord Shiva. Maithuna sculptures in erotic poses were also discovered revealing the prevalence of the tantrism. The sculpture of Goddess Durga found here is known as Pupane meaning ancient Mother indicative of the Shakti cult practised in this region. A copper plate inscription of the Pala kings found here suggests that an Aryan colony flourished on the northern bank of the Brahmaputra.
As the Vasudeva cult thought to be the earliest form of Vaishnavism was strong in nearby Assam, archaeological evidence found in this region marks down the temple to the early medieval period. There is a temple dedicated to Goddess Durga built in the traditional style of Odisha architecture.
The Malini temple is accessed by a flight of steps and another 600 metre hike leads you to Rukminithan. There is a museum which houses statues and other objects unearthed in the excavations in the area. The Akash Ganga waterfalls is close by and revered by the locals.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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