One of the lesser-known architectural gems of the Gupta period is Garhwa Fort at Shankargarh that houses a group of ancient temples, halls, tanks as well as other structures within its pentagonal stone enclosure. According to historians, Garhwa used to be known as Bhattagram (Bhattapraya) during the Gupta reign and appears to have been an important seat of learning, art and architecture.
The fort was built in 1750 by the Baghel king (possibly Raja Vikramaditya of Bara) with huge carved stones. There are bastions on the four corners of the fort complex with easy access provided by a flight of steps. The entire structure spreads over 2 km area.
Seven inscriptions from the reign of Chandragupta, Kumaragupta and Skandagupta have been found in this site. The oldest temple in this site is perhaps the Shiva temple built as a panchakona (pentagon). The Shiva Linga was stolen by the British though the Shakti Peetam is seen among the recovered artefacts within the complex. A beautiful sculpture of Lord Ganesha was recently found near this temple.
Locals opine that the Guptas had amassed incalculable riches and successive Muslim invaders and the British made off with a sizeable chunk of it. The ruined temples and desecrated sculptures strewn about in the courtyard strengths that statement.
The temple in the south-west part of the fort has a standing mandapa and a square garbha griha with a view of two magnificent tanks to its east. It measures about 55 feet in length and 30 feet in width with an east entrance. There are remains of structures built in the medieval period with little information on them. There are two stepwells in this site that are always full of water.
A stunning 10 feet high statue of Lord Vishnu as Chaturbhuja in padmasana is seen near the main temple. There are also statues of Lord Vishnu in his Dasha Avatar that are about 8 feet high. There is a stone sculpture of Lord Buddha as well. Several sculptures have been shifted to The State Museum of Lucknow for safekeeping.
The sculptures of the Gupta period are all of pink sandstone and of a much finer grain while the medieval statues are carved from grey sandstone. Embellishments typical of the Gupta style of art and architecture adorn the graceful figures.
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) who maintains this site is planning on building a museum in the Garhwa Fort.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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