A long awaited visit to Gyaraspur finally materialised in 2021!
It has been a tumultuous 18 months since I stepped out to visit a destination. I wanted to write some pieces ,in the past months, on places I had visited during the pre- pandemic times but could not make myself to do it. Now this is the best time to recalibrate your travel destinations and take the bold step to see off beat destinations. One big advantage being that you avoid big crowds and weekday visits are a lot better than weekends! Vaccinate yourself and mask-up is the mantra.
I had visited Bhopal a few years ago and had posted a report on the places of interest. You can find a link on the article by clicking here. Generally people who visit Bhopal would see the Sanchi Stupa, the rock paintings of Bhimbetka and the enormous Shivlinga at Bhojpur. On my second visit to Bhopal, I was keen to go to Gyaraspur, which I had missed the first time.
Gyaraspur is located just 50 kms to the north-east of Sanchi. Just as you climb down a small cliff, you will come across a temple covered in a thin layer of green moss. The sylvan background makes it a double delight. Situated on the ridge is a temple dedicated to Maladevi. The temple was constructed between the 8th and 9th Century AD by the Pratihara Dynasty.
About the Temple
As I took in the first look of the temple, it seemed to me that the temple simply burst through the rocky cliffs. The temple, I felt, was leaning forward and about to tip over! Once I reached the base, realisation dawned on me that the temple was created right on the ridge taking the support of the rocks on the back and to the side of the temple. Thus the temple took the natural angle of the turf and thus imparting the lean to the temple.
The temple in its original form housed the deity of Maladevi. Alas, during periods of occupations by different kingdoms, the temple was defaced and demolished in several places. As years progressed, the Jains and Buddhists made this temple as their own and installed an idol Jain Teerthankar in the sanctorum. There is a six foot statute of standing Buddha on the left. The entrance to the Garbha Griha was locked and hence I could only peek through the door. Just bang in front of the door is a pillar which blocks all possible angles to view the Buddha. I could make out the long right arm.
Sometime in 2002-03, a lightning stuck the shikhara of the temple and it created a gaping hole on the roof. In order to safeguard the visitors, the entry to the Garbha Griha got prohibited. How I wish the Garbha Griha was open! 18 years is quite a long time for the Government Authorities to restore the roof. It is a travesty that such a magnificent piece of architecture is allowed to fade.
The interesting part began as I wandered around the temple. On the right, there is a tiny crevice formed by the temple and the jutting rocks. Once I squeezed through it, a world of enchanting work of art opened up. At the the upper level of the temple, an idol of Vishnu is intricately carved. There is a small boy holding a fan on the right. What caught my attention was the ever so slight paunch of the boy. A delightful attention to detail. Don’t miss it.
I made my way to the main entrance to the temple. On either side of the entrance, I came across intricately carved miniature verandahs.
As you go around the temple you will come across well sculpted images of Yakshis. One panel caught my eye. On the extreme right is the greatest of Jain saints- Mahaveera and on the centre is Lakshmi or Vaishno Devi. How I wish I knew the identity of the lady on the extreme left! Exquisite work of art, isn’t it?
When you exit the Gyaraspur temple complex, just a km to the right, you will come across the Hindola i.e the ornate entrance. Built around the same time as the Maladevi Temple, the Hindola now consists of an entrance and a four pillared structure. Going by the magnificent work on the gates, one can imagine there would have been a resplendent temple and the four pillared platform would have been the sanctum sanctorum.
All the 10 avatars of Lord Vishnu is intricately sculpted on the pillars to the entrance. The four pillars too are decorated with various figures. It would have been a sight to behold during its heydays. I wish the authorities could simply lift the scattered remains of the complex, stack them neatly in a corner. It is gut wrenching to see them strewn around. The least we can do to the makers of the structure.
The trip to Gyaraspur was well worth it. The grey skies or the lack of maintenance of the temple did not make the trip any less interesting. But I think, the monsoon would be the best part of the season to visit this temple.
How to reach Gyaraspur
From Bhopal, Gyaraspur is about 96 kms by road. One can make a day trip to Gyaraspur and on the way back, you can cover Sanchi and Vidisha easily. Start early!