Chandpur – Jahajpura located near the Betwa River is a lesser-known treasure trove of ancient temples of the 9th – 12th century built by the Chandelas. This magnificent heritage site has five groups of temples along with a number of independent temples built over three centuries.
The five groups are the Sahastralingeshwar Temple, Varaha Temple, Lakshmi Narayan Temple, Jain Temple and Belmori Temple. Besides these, the Bhandaria Temple, Jhammar Temple and some other empty shrines are found in this remote village. Thousands of sculptures of gods and goddesses, apsaras, musicians, architectural elements, remnants of wells, broken carvings and intricately detailed panels depicting scenes from the Puranas are found strewn about this vast area.
Chandpur – Jahajpura, once deemed to have been the pinnacle of 9th century art and architecture under the Chandelas is now a desolate village, forgotten by historians and history books and lost in its own memories. As one walks about this lone village, it becomes increasingly ungraspable that this grand Hindu centre of learning, art, architecture, sculpture and literature is reduced to rubble and fallen prey to the ravages of the weather and time.
Locals have many stories to narrate about the original splendour of this place – a time before successive Muslim invaders desecrated these wondrous edifices. This archaeological site is spread across the entire village with ruins found in the east and north-west parts.
The Bhandaria Temple also known as Shishu Madia is one of the few surviving independent temples in this complex. The temple is built on a small platform and has an elaborately carved mandapa and a garbha griha. The entrance doorway in particular is exquisite and adorned with stunning figures, auspicious Hindu iconography, motifs, foliage and floral patterns and miniature niches. The lintel has elaborately carved panels though it is difficult to identify all the gods and goddesses on them.
Most of the sculptures on the carved pillars in the entrance porch are severely damaged but the graceful lines, a signature of the Chandelas is still visible. Though the walls and shikhara are damaged, one can see some design elements on the external facades.
Though this site is under the protection of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the temples have incurred far too much damage to be restored to its former glory. One can only hope that this site will be preserved for many to appreciate in the years to come.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian