Since the ancient times, Vidisha has been written about as a city of unparalleled art, architecture, literature, culture, opulence, riches and knowledge. The influence of the earliest dynasties that ruled over north and central India is seen in the remnants of sculptures, temples, halls and other structures across Vidisha.
One of the lesser-known dynasties that were initially vassals of the Gurjara-Pratihara, the Paramara dynasty and the Chandelas of Jejakabhukti is the Kachchhapaghata dynasty that stamped its authority in this region between the 10th and 12th century. Though most of the temples built by the Kachchhapaghata rulers were heavily influenced by the Pratihara style of architecture, they adopted one of the earliest architectural elements of temple design namely highly ornate gateways. These gateways were either attached to the main temple or mandapa or built as a separate structure.
One of the finest examples of this unique style of architecture built by perhaps Raja Muladeva of the Kachchhapaghata dynasty is the Hindola Torana at Gyaraspur. This ornamental entrance archway appears from afar to be the main entrance to a temple, where the Chaukhamba (four pillars) would have been the mandapa of that temple. It is likely that this temple faced east with the torana placed on the north-south axis.
This freestanding torana has exquisite sculptures of the Dashavatara on either pillar. There are five sculptures of Lord Vishnu on both pillars along with gods, goddesses, yakshas, apsaras, dancers, lovers, musicians, flowers, leaves, flutings and other elements.
These incarnations are carved on all the four faces of the pillars. The eastern pillar has Matsya and Kurma carved on it. Varaha is depicted with four hands adorned with a gada and shankha carrying Bhudevi on his left shoulder while emerging from the ocean. Narasimha is on the south niche with two hands tearing the abdomen of Hiranyakashipu who is placed on his thighs. Vamana is to the east while Parashurama is on the south niche carrying his axe and ankusha. Rama is on the west niche with his bow slung over his left shoulder and an arrow held in two hands with Hanuman carved below. Krishna is on the east niche with Buddha and Kalki on the north niche.
Besides the auspicious Hindu motifs carved on the pillars, there are embellished brackets, two arches in the makara torana that have intricately carved flying celestial figures and a row of gods and goddesses in the panelled niches on the top. A small void is seen at the junction of the two arches in the makara torana suggesting that there might have been another element in the original structure.
The roofless Chaukhamba has elaborately carved beams and pillars. Each and every inch of this mandapa has stunning carvings of lions at the capital, elephants as brackets, apsaras, Lord Shiva, Kali Mata, Trimurti, stories from the scriptures, dancers, musicians, gods and goddesses, traditional Hindu motifs, floral designs and others. The facial expressions of each figure from top to bottom is almost lifelike.
It is very difficult for one to visualize the original structure built here as successive Muslim invasions has reduced this once-beautiful temple to rubble. A lot of sculptures are found scattered within this temple complex suggesting the grandeur that might-have-been. Hindola Torana is a protected monument of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
Archaeologists uncovered a statue of the legendary beauty Shalabhanjika here in 1933. She came to be known as the Gyaraspur Lady and is now housed in the Museum at Gwalior Fort. The late 9th century architectural marvel of the Pratiharas namely the Maladevi Temple is only a kilometre away from Hindola Torana.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)