The Chandelas of Jejakabhukti, undisputedly the most creative and prolific builders of Akhanda Bharat have many architectural masterpieces to their credit. Their best work is seen in Khajuraho, Kalinjar, Ajaigarh and Mahoba which was the capital city.
The Chandelas favoured the Pratihara style of architecture but added their own charm and grandeur to each and every temple and structure they built. Unfortunately, a sizeable number of their temples fell prey to the savagery of Qutb al-Din Aibak and his rabid army. The temples were desecrated beyond recognition and their stones were hauled away to either build mosques or residential quarters for the Muslim invaders.
The graceful lines in each sculpture, motif, detailing on the base and top of pillars and intricate carvings is a testimony to their mastery and it is unsurprising that the reign of the Chandelas is called as the Golden Age in the history of Akhanda Bharat.
A lesser-known architectural gem of perhaps the 12th century is the Prachin Shiv Mandir in Shambua village in Kanpur Nagar district. This temple is in a pitiable condition with the sculptures and external facades crumbling to bits rapidly.
Glimpses of the original carved brickwork can be seen in certain parts of the external facades and the entrance doorway. It is indeed sad that this temple has been damaged to such an extent by the invaders (Muslim and British) that only fragments remain.
It was a common practice for the British to steal rare artefacts, jewels, crowns, precious stones and diamonds from temples and send it back to their country. They had established a clever way to disassemble parts of temples, palaces, old havelis and forts and transport them back to their lordly estates.
It is heartbreaking that ancient temples and structures built by Hindu kings have fallen into a state of disrepair while tombs and structures built by the Muslim invaders and parasitic British on the sites and debris of temples are still being maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
It is highly likely that this temple built by the Chandelas that richly deserves the recognition it is due will be relegated to obscurity.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)