The ancient city of Mahoba in the geographically and culturally important Bundelkhand region in Uttar Pradesh has played a vital role in defining the heritage, art, architecture, literature and regional food of India. This city was called Kekpur in Treta Yuga, Patanpur in Dwapura Yuga and Mahotsava Nagar derived from the grand celebrations held by the Chandelas of Jejakabhukti. There is historical evidence of Lord Rama and Sita Mata residing in this area during their exile with the discovery of Ram Kund and Seeta Rasoi cave in Gorakhgiri.
The Chandelas were visionaries and constructed an ingenious irrigation system with large tanks, reservoirs and lakes which are functional even today. The Pratihara style of architecture favoured by the Chandelas is seen in the temples built by them in Khajuraho, Kalinjar, Ajaigarh and Mahoba which was the capital city.
Located about 3 km from Mahoba in the quaint Rahiliya village, is the 9th century Sun temple. This temple is an excellent example of early Pratihara style of architecture and predates the famous Konark temple in Odisha. This temple built more than thousand years ago is situated near the Rahila Sagar, a water tank built by the formidable Chandela king, Rahila Dev.
This beautiful temple built in granite is dedicated to Lord Surya (Chandelas belonged to Chandravamsha) and built on the tenets of Vastu Shastra with entrances in the east, north and south. According to the research of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), this temple was erected on an adisthana (decorated raised platform) with typical ornamental moldings and built in the panchayatana layout.
The garbha griha is adorned with a 1.36 m high sandstone Surya and a smaller idol of Lord Vishnu. The shikhara over the sanctum is tall and curvilinear in shape and design.
The intricately carved sculptures, detailing on the base of the walls and pillars and motifs suggests that this temple was completed in the early 10th century. The idols of Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu, Lord Ganesh and Lord Mahesh are stunning and exhibit extraordinary skill and artistry. There is an ancient temple dedicated to Kali Mata also in the complex.
There is a huge tank called Suraj Kund built about 150 m from the temple which is square in shape (about 15 m x 15 m) and 15 m deep. It is said that the king used to bathe in this tank every day before entering the temple.
This exquisite temple was mercilessly pillaged by Qutb al-Din Aibak in the 12th century. It is a protected monument of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) but is unfortunately neglected and in a dilapidated condition with common thieves stealing the stones and relief work from the temple. This temple that is considered by experts to be the inspiration behind the design of the Konark temple is craving for its rightful position as a World Heritage Site.
The incomparable beauty and unparalleled magnificence of the Sun temple in Mahoba is reminiscent of the progressive thought process of the Chandelas who contributed immensely in translating the wealth of knowledge in the Hindu scriptures into the temples they built.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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