Nohleshwar Shiv Mandir is a lesser-known architectural masterpiece built by the Kalachuris of Tripuri (also known as Kalachuris of Chedi) in the mid to late 10th century. Though locals opine that this temple was built by Yuvarajadeva I in honour of his wife Nohla Devi (Nohala according to some), the architectural style and detailing suggests that this temple was built between 950 – 960 CE that would be after Yuvarajadeva’s time.
The temple sits majestically on a high and wide platform that is about 6 feet in height and measures 100 feet in length. The external facades are profusely decorated with stunning sculptures of gods and goddesses, dancers, apsaras, sages, scenes from the Puranas, different forms of Lord Shiva like Nataraja, Andhakantaka and Vinadhara and beautiful repetitive floral, geometric, animal, bird and auspicious Hindu motifs.
The temple has a pancharatha sanctum with a highly ornate shikhara over it. The mandapa has four pillars that are relatively simplistic in design leading to the ranga mandapa. Interestingly, there is a gorgeous Narmada on the right (normally Ganga is seated on the right) while Yamuna is on the left. The eight forms of Goddess Lakshmi adorn the lower platform in the front with Gajalakshmi being the most enchanting of them all. Sapta Matrikas have been carved in many parts of the temple.
The Navagrahas are placed on the top portion of the Lalata Bimba with Lord Shiva in the middle. There is a massive Shiva Linga made of black stone consecrated in the sanctum sanctorum. There are around 109 sculptures inside the sanctum sanctorum that are of great antiquity.
There are also intricately carved sculptures of Uma Maheshwar, Goddess Saraswati, Lord Vishnu, Ashtadikpalakas, Lakshmi Narayan, Shiva Parvati and others. Every inch of this temple displays extraordinary craftsmanship that is very similar to what is seen in the temples of Khajuraho.
This temple managed to escape the wrath of the successive Muslim invasions and is remarkably preserved. The temple is a protected monument of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Thousands of devotees throng this temple on the auspicious occasion of Makar Sankranti, Maha Shivaratri and in the month of Shravan.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)