Madhya Bharat, the centre of Shaivism between the 9th to 10th century is dotted with beautiful Shiva Temples built in the Nagara as well as Rekha Deul style of architecture predominantly seen in Odisha and parts of West Bengal, Bihar and Chhattisgarh.
One stunning example of the Rekha Deul style that has miraculously survived the ravages of the weather and time is the Prachin Shiv Mandir in the bustling village of Khakhparta in the bauxite-rich district of Lohardaga.
Archaeological excavations conducted in the early 2000s revealed eight ancient temples of 3 m height with Shiva Lingas consecrated in seven of them built in the Rekha Deul style at the site of the Prachin Shiv Mandir. These eight temples are being renovated by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) who plan to open it to the public soon.
Prachin Shiv Mandir sits majestically atop a mountain and is accessed by a flight of steps (a hundred-odd steps). One gets a panoramic view of Khakhparta village, the neighbouring Rampur village, the archaeological excavations at the foothill, a large pond and lush green fields that stretch for miles and miles at the top.
The temple itself is considered to be one of the rarest discovered in Jharkhand by historians and archaeologists. This east-facing temple is built as a triratha with an ornamental shikhara above the sanctum sanctorum. The temple is 4 m high and has the typical architectural detailing, repetitive motifs and auspicious Hindu iconography seen in most temples built around the 9th – 10th century in Odisha.
The most interesting feature of this temple is that it is built directly on the surface of the hill without any foundation using the locally available boulders. The temple has a narrow entrance of 1 m height with an elaborately carved door jamb that has some inscription in Sanskrit and the local language.
There is a Shiva Linga installed in the garbha griha that is worshipped by locals. Grand celebrations are witnessed here on Maha Shivratri and in the month of Shravan. There are also idols of Lord Ganesha, Lord Surya and Lord Nandi seen in front of the temple.
This temple site is a protected monument of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)