One of the finest examples of the Post Gupta period is the Kherat brick temples located in the sleepy village of Kherat in Bhind district. According to historians, Bhind region has been mentioned in both the Ramayana and Mahabharat wherein it is believed that Lord Rama spent a great deal of time here during his exile in Treta Yuga while this region was a part of the Chedi kingdom in the Dwapura Yuga.
This region was ruled by the Nandas, Mauryas, Shungas, Nagas, Guptas, Vardhanas, Gurjara-Pratiharas and the Muslim invaders. Unfortunately, the sites built during the ancient times (from the Nanda period) have either been desecrated by the Muslim invaders or fallen victim to the ravages of the weather and time.
The Kherat brick temples was originally a cluster of temples built on the bank of the Chambal River. There are only two temples standing on the site today with one dedicated to Lord Shiva and the other to Durga Mata.
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) had first documented this temple in 1951 and has since declared it as a Monument of National Importance.
The Shiva Temple is built on a low plinth partly in bricks. The sanctum sanctorum is square in plan with a pyramidal shikhara that is profusely decorated with what appears to be chaitya dormers (chaitya arch called in Sanskrit as gavaksha or chandrashala). This is normally a decorative motif that is repeated in a specific pattern to create an interesting interplay of light and shadow. There are two richly embellished horizontal panels of sculptures on the walls. One can clearly see the beautiful ghatapallava (pot and foliage motif) adorning the pillars.
The Durga Temple is believed to have been constructed in the 10th century. This temple sits on a mound and has been extensively restored over the years. Unfortunately, most of the visual elements that adorned the walls have been lost during these successive restoration projects. Today we see a temple with very simple walls devoid of any attractive architectural elements. The temple is square in plan with a domed roof. It is believed that this temple was originally dedicated to Durga Mata as Mahishasura Mardini. Some of the earliest photos taken of this temple shows a detailed Navagraha panel above the doorway of the garbha griha. This has since disappeared.
This temple complex is hardly known about outside the village and Bhind district. Very few travellers make their way to see this architectural masterpiece of the Post Gupta period.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)