A little-known architectural gem built towards the end of the 7th century is the ancient Shiva Temple located in the historically important Mahua village in Shivpuri district. Mahua, formerly known as Madhumati as per a Ranod inscription has many temples (though now in ruins) of great antiquity.
There is very little information available about who built this temple but an inscription found in Mahua mentions Raja Vatsaraja (of the Gurjara-Pratihara dynasty). However, historical texts and records state that Mahua was a seat of learning and Shaivism during the reign of the Kalachuris of Tripuri (also known as Kalachuris of Chedi) in the late 7th century and beginning of the 8th century.
This east-facing temple is an exquisite example of the Nagara style of architecture. The temple stands on a low platform and is built as a panchratha with a mukha mandapa, an antarala and a garbha griha and a highly ornamental shikhara above it.
The most impressive feature of this temple is the entrance doorway of the sanctum that has stunning sculptures of Ganga and Yamuna on their respective vahanas (vehicles) along with their attendants. There are repetitive motifs of serpents, dancers, leaves, flowers and other linear elements that are a little difficult to identify.
Interestingly, there is a Garuda in the middle of the Lalata Bimba with the celestial Vidyadharas holding a crown over him. Though there is a Shiva Linga consecrated in the sanctum sanctorum, there does not appear to be any visible markings of Lord Shiva on the lintel which is extremely unusual. There is a broken Nandi seated outside which is in dire need of repair.
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has put in a lot of effort to restore this temple to its former glory. Unfortunately, Mahua remains largely in obscurity with very few people making their way to see the exemplary temples built by some of the best artisans the country has ever seen.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)