Bija Mandal, Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh

A magnificent edifice of the Chaulukya dynasty or Solanki dynasty of Gujarat and the Paramara dynasty that ruled over Madhya Pradesh is the Bija Mandal or Vijaya Mandir. Some historical documents suggest that the foundation of this temple was laid by one Vachaspati, probably the Pant Pradhan of the Chaulukya dynasty and then finished by successive Paramaras.


An inscription found on the pillar names Maharaja Naravarman of the Paramara dynasty as one of its builders. It is however unclear when and by whom the temple was commissioned and when it was actually completed. The original temple was believed to be dedicated to Devi Vijaya Rani which then came to be called Bija Mandal. Locals say the Vijaya Rani Bhavya Mandir had a beautiful idol of the eight-armed Goddess Charchika Mata.


It was perhaps in this time that the traditional worship of Naga Devata began on the auspicious occasion of Naga Panchami. The original temple is said to have had an imposing shikhara of great height that could be visible for miles. The entire complex was almost half a mile long and wide and its height was 105 yards (0.0596 mile). The temple had wide steps on three sides and was seated on a high plinth.


A court record of Al-Biruni who accompanied Mahmud of Ghazni on his barbaric invasions of Akhanda Bharat reveals that the latter after desecrating Somnath headed to Vidisha to reduce the grandest temple of the 9th – 10th century to rubble.


He succeeded to some extent but the temple was rebuilt by the Paramara kings after his departure from Akhanda Bharat. Next, came the successive Muslim savages in the form of Shams ud-Din Iltutmish in 1234 followed by Alauddin Khilji in 1293, Qutb-ud-Din Bahadur Shah of the Gujarat Sultanate in the 16th century and finally the most radical Islamic ruler of Akhanda Bharat, Aurangzeb in 1682.


Aurangzeb’s religious fanaticism designed to dazzle Mahomedan orthodoxy led him to completely destroy the majestic temple complex. Special cannons were used to pulverize the temple structure from every corner. He then proceeded to level the foundation walls and structure and built a raised platform over it. He built the Alamgiri mosque over the ruins and renamed the city Alamgiripur. Historical documentation describes the celebrations and festivities that followed his “triumphant” destruction of the famed Vijaya Mandir.


The Bijamandal mosque was built with the decorative pillars, pilasters and lintels that have the typical Paramara style of architectural detailing. Many have Sanskrit inscriptions. Archaeological excavations conducted in the 1970s brought to light a massive 2 metre high adhishtana with seven steps on the southern side, structural members, broken sculptures, carved panels and inscribed slabs.


In 1991, heavy rains washed away the wall concealing the front of the Bijamandal mosque exposing countless idols buried under the platform on the northern side. These sculptures were carefully taken out by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and kept in the Sculpture Shed and nearby museums. Sculptures have also been found under the southern side of the mosque.


Some of the sculptures are as high as 8 feet with the most noteworthy being that of Mahishasura Mardini, eight-armed Lord Ganesha, dancing women, musicians, dancing Sapta Matrikas, Lord Shiva and Parvati Devi with Nandi Bhagawan seated at his feet, Gajalakshmi, Lord Narayana and Lakshmi Devi and others.


The vast pavilion made of stone had a temple dedicated to Surya Bhagawan as per an inscription found among the debris that also has innumerable defaced carved figures, ornate brackets, fragments of gateways, broken pillars and lintels. An ancient stepwell to the north of the temple has exquisitely carved pillars of the 8th century and scenes of Krishna Leela on its sides.


Though the temple complex is completely in ruins today, it still exudes beauty, charm and splendour that will leave you awestruck.


Written by Lakshmi Subramanian

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