Two groups of brick temples, Kalpa Devi and Astika Baba located close to each other in Nasirabad village in the historical district of Sitapur bearing striking similarities to the brick temples built during the Gupta period have captured the interest of architects, archaeologists and historians for decades. There are remains of as many as six temples near this complex. The temples are believed to have been built around the 12th century according to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) by perhaps the Gurjara-Pratihara dynasty though locals beg to differ.
They believe that this region was ruled by the legendary king Mandhata and his ancestors have constructed these temples. As no inscription has been found till date, it is difficult to ascertain the actual builder of these temples. Bricks of different sizes and shapes have been used in building these temples which is not a very common feature during the 12th century.
Kalpa Devi Temple is built as a pancharatha and has beautifully carved bricks that exude elegance and defined linearity. The profuse decoration on the external facades have not survived the ravages of the weather and time and therefore, it is unclear to whom this temple was originally dedicated to. The presiding deity seated in the sanctum sanctorum has either been stolen or desecrated decades ago.
The main temple in this complex is east-facing, has an antarala with ornate pilasters, shikhara and niches. There were smaller shrines at some point in time but appear to have been destroyed. One shrine shares the platform with the main temple whose walls are on the verge of collapse. Corbels have been used in the construction of the garbha griha.
The Astika or Ashtika or Aktik Baba Temple complex that has seven smaller temples has been built with carved bricks. Only the walls of the two big temples and foundations of the smaller temples are seen today. The embellishments seen on the bricks of intricate floral motifs, coils and stunning sculptures in the niches appear to be of two different periods namely ancient and post 9th century.
Astika Baba Temple is built as a pancharatha and the external facades have both horizontal and vertical patterns. Both time and the natural elements have not been kind to this temple complex either and one will find this complex in a state of total disrepair with many idols stolen and walls crumbling.
The locals have great faith in the spiritual potency of this temple and wedding parties along with the bride and groom come to offer their prayers. This brick temple is an outstanding example of the ancient heritage of Awadh. There is a secret mound also close by which is yet to be explored in entirety and locals opine that Raja Mandhata’s fort and palatial quarters will be found here.
Though both temple complexes are under the protection of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the temples are rapidly disintegrating in the harsh weather conditions.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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