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This paper deals with the temple art of the Kachchhapaghātas who ruled over central India in the last decade of 10th century A.D. They were great builders and many temples were constructed under their patronage in central India. Their art style reflects continuity of Gurjara-Pratihara art idiom as well as some new trends both in ground planning and elevation. The ornate style of vitānas, preference for Śkharī type of spires and highly embellished mouldings‒they all indicate the grandeur and magnificence attained in temple architecture during their rule. Several in-situ examples of temple architecture bespeak the glory of art which flourished under Kachchhapaghāta patronage. Many elements described in Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra (Bhojadeva, 11th century), Aparājitapŗchchhā (Bhuvandeva late 11th century A.D.), Vāstuvidyā, Dīparṇava, Prāsādamaṇḍana and Kśirārṇava etc. may be identified in Kachchhapaghāta temples.

Keywords Content

The Kachchhapaghātas, probably, the progeny of the Nāgas and the vassals of the Gurjara-Pratiharas, and later of the Chandellas, consolidated their power in the last decade of 10th century A.D., and emerged as the Kachchhapaghāta rulers in central India. They were divided into three branches, viz,Gwalior (Gopādrigiri), Dubkunda (Chaṇdobha), and Narawar (Nalapur) [Ali,A. Kachchhapaghata, Art and Architecture 2005: 1- 6].

Among the above mentioned three branches, the rulers hailing from Gopādrigiri branch have played significant role in the political and cultural fields of central India. The cultural remains in-situ in their territory substantiate to the fact of their zeal in the field of art and architecture. The inscriptions noticed from Sas-Bahu temple (v.s.1150=1093-94 A.D.) and Gwalior-garh dated (v.s.1161=1104 A.D.) mention king Vajra-Dāmana as the ‘Kachchhapaghāta-Vamśa-tilakam,’ and ‘Chaunipati’ respectively. Probably, Vajradāmana was the first man of the family who gained suzerainty over the region by defeating the king of Gādhinagar (Kanauja) in 977 A.D. [Ali, A. 2005: 2]. The Pratihara ruler who was defeated was Rājyapāla [Ali, R. Pratihār Art in India, 1987: 9]. After this victory Vajradāmana bore the title of Mahārājādhirāja. Several inscriptions do substantiate to this fact. Vajradāmana was contemporary feudatory ruler to both the kings named Dhanga and Vidyādhar of the Chandella dynasty as mentioned by Nizam-ud-din. His successors ruled till the period of the Yajvapālas in circa 13th century A.D.

The Kachchhapaghātas ruled over the north- western parts of central India where a highly ornate temple style was developed with their principal seat at Gwalior, and also at subsidiary centres at Kadwaha (ancient–Kadmbaguhā, Ashok Nagar), Surawaya, Mahua and Terahi (ancient Terambhi, Distt. Sheopuri M.P.), Suhania (ancient Simhapāniā), Padhaoli, Mitaoli (Distt.Morena), and Kherata, (District Bhinda, M.P.) [Krishna Deva, Temples of North India 1969: 54-55]. Though a fraction of their temples and other buildings are in-situ, yet, they prove their zeal of cultural activities. These temples are crystallized by their artistic merits, hence, the need for a detailed analysis to understand their art trends. A scientific survey of these monuments indicate three phases of art activity.

The first phase of constructions began in circa 9th century A.D. During this phase, the impact of the Gupta art traditions is clearly visible. But the efforts were made to introduce the new trends of the Gurjara Pratiharas which was gradually synthesized at certain sites. Some of the temples were raised at Batesur (District Moreana), Badoh (District Vidisha), Mitaoli (District Moreana), and lastly, the temple of Shiva at Subhashpura (District Sheopuri ). The Batesur group of the temples is witness to the importance of the site for constant cultural activities. The temples are modest in size with comparatively less ornamentations. The second phase (circa 950-1150 A.D.) might be called the period of major activities when the temple style of the Kachchhapaghātas was crystallized. During this period a good number of temples were raised in their territory, a fact which is witnessed by the numerous remains of temples in different states of preservations and also substantiated by the epigraphic records noticed in several monuments and elsewhere. The temple remains discovered in Vidisha, Sheopuri, Guna, Moreana and Lalitpur etc. provide a proof to the large scale art activity undertaken by the Kachchhapaghātas. Further, the groups of temples of Kakanmatha at Suhania (Moreana), Kadwaha (Ashok Nagar), Thubon (Guna), Mitaoli (Vidisha) and Gawalior etc. compete with the temples built under the patronage of other contemporary powerful rulers of Central India. The Third phase of Kachchhapaghāta art activity reflects the continuity of the prevalent trends. But there was decay in the artistic merit. The temples ascribed to this phase are Jaina temple at Kethuli (District Mandsaur), Devinath, Besaro (Ashok Nagar) and the group of temples at Thubon (Ashok Nagar) etc. [Ali, A: 2005: 52-55].

In this paper some of the major architectural features of the Kachchhapaghāta temples of Central India are discussed briefly under the following sub-heads:

(A) TALACHHANDA (Ground plan)

The temples of the early phase are built on simple plan consisting of a small sanctum (garbhagŗha), an open portico (maṇḍapa) supported by two pillars–a practice which was prevalent under the Gupta rulers and also used by the artisans of the Pratihara period. Such monuments are noticed in the Batesur group of temples (nos.11, 14 of eastern group and the Shiva Temple at Mitaoli), and Jaina temple at Badoh (Distt.Vidisha) etc.

Soon the efforts were made to observe the textual norms‒for the Vṛttasamsthānaka temple‒ for which the circular plan was divided into required bhadras (offsets) and it was successfully experimented with at Surwaya, Gargaja Mahadev temple at Indore (District Guna) and Shiva temple at Kherata ( District Bhind). It is noteworthy that the texts like Bŗhatsaṁhitā (Varāha Mihir), Samarāñgaņasūtradhāra (Bhoj), and the Aparājitapraśnapṛchchhā (Bhuwandeva) do mention about such plans for raising the temples.

However, a good number number of temples in Batesur group, Bhuteshwar group, temple nos. 12, 13,14,15 of eastern group, Shiva temple at Mitaoli (Morena), temple no. 2, Jain group, Badoh (Vidisha) and temple nos.14,15, northern group etc. have been raised on the pañcāñga plan [Ali, R. 1987: 34]. Likewise, the circular plan was successfully followed in raising the Chaunsatha Yogini temple at Mitaoli (Moreana) which was a popular trend for Yogini temples in the region, or even, in the whole of the north India. Thus, it confirms the zeal of artisans and patrons under the Kachchhapaghatas.

In the middle phase the cultural activities reached to its maturity in every respect. The temples were built with a well developed plan. The group of temples at Kadawaha (ancient Kadambaguhā) witness to the fact. Temples in Talao group (temple no.1), Khinnamarh group (temple nos. 2, 3) and temple at Surawaya, Athakhamba-Gyaraspur, (Vidisha), Kakanmatha at Suhania (Simhapāniā, District Moreana), Sas-Bahu temple, Gwalior etc. display the grandeur and magnificence of temple architecture [Ali, A.: 2005: 18- 25]. In plan these temples consist of hall (maṇḍapa), closed-hall (gūḍhamaṇḍapa), vestibule (antarāla) and the sanctum (garbhagṛha). In addition to these some of the temples are double shrined or even more. Bajramatha (Gyaraspur, Vidisha), Satamarhi temple, Batesur temple (no. 2) and Badi and Chhoti Sarai temples at Dudhai etc. are examples of such architectural planning.



In early phase the temples were built on the low jagatis (platform) with thin khur, kumbha and the kalaśa mouldings in the vedibandha. Soon the height of the super-structure was increased by raising the height of jagatī and the size of the components members of the vedibandha. It was punctuated by the devkulikās (niches) containing the sculptures of the Brahmanical divinities. In some cases these niches were surmounted by the chaitya pediments as practiced by the Gurjara-Pratihara artists. The Kakanmatha temple at Suhania and Sas-Bahu temple at Gwalior are the representative temples of this phase. In some of the cases the gajathara and the naratharas are also shown in the vedibandha. Such ornamentations do indicate towards the impact of the Solanki art of Rajasthan [Ali, R. 1987: 49].

JAṄGHĀ (Wall) The jaṅghā (wall) of the temples are lower in size and plain in the beginning with the exception of bhadra niches containing the sculptures. These are surmounted by the tall chaitya pediments (Chaityodgamas)–a motif prevalent under the Pratiharas. Such features may be noticed in temple nos. 12,13,14,15 of Bhuteshwar eastern group of temples at Terahi (Shivapuri). Gradually, the height of jāṅghā (wall) was increased to accommodate the sculptures and, hence, divided into two tiers where each of the ratha (offset) was provided with a niche to accommodate the sculptures. Sometimes, the upper tier was ornamented with the executions of the acanthus (salilāntara) designs besides the chaityodgamas. The jaṅghā is topped by the mancikā comprising of the tulāpītha (palmate design), kapota, ratna (diamond) and the plain mouldings.

ŚIKHARA (Spire) & GRĪVĀ (Neck)

The Kachchhapaghāta artisans mostly adopted śekhari type of śikhara‒ modest in size, but, with well carved rathas. These are very much similar to the art of early traditions practiced under the Gurjara-Pratiharas. However, the attempts were also made to build the latina class of śikhara at Kadwaha as noticed in the temple no.1 of Talao group. The śikhara of Kakanmatha temple at Suhania and Sas-Bahu temple at Gwalior do not give the exact idea of spires as śikhara of these temples are destroyed. However, the mahāmaṇḍapa of these temples give the effect of multi-storeyed structure having the āsanpaţţkas decorated with the salilāntara design.

The early temples are modest in size, therefore, the grīvā looks stunted as the rathas are not projected beyond the grīvā. However, the crowning members like the āmalasāra, āmalasārikā, kalaśa, and the vījapūraka were placed as per the relevant traditions and canons of Vāstu.


VITĀNA (Ceiling)

Internally, the temples have been provided with the plain walls but later the antarāla was decorated along with the ceilings (vitānas) of the sanctum and maṇḍapa. These were shaded with the highly carved vitānas (ceiling). There are many canonical texts which deal at varying length on the features of the vitānas. Some of the important texts are‒Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra (Bhojadeva, 11th century), Aparājitapŗchchhā (Bhuvandeva late 11th century A.D.), Vāstuvidyā, Dīparṇava, Prāsādamaṇḍana and Kśirārṇava. Among these the Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra gives valuable information on the issue. It devotes three verses on the general characteristics of the vitāna and 14 verses on lūmas, 29 verses on the 25 types of the vitānas and 11 verses on the construction of the Karoṭaka of the maṇḍapas. Some of the actual examples of the vitānas resemble to those found in Malwa, central India, Gujarat and Rajasthan [Ali, R. Puratan, vol. 8: 54-56].

The temples of the Kachchhapaghātas are provided with different types of the Vitānas. These are the Samatala, Kṣipta, and the Kṣipta-utkṣipta vitanas. Vitānas of several temples‒Siva temple at Surawayagrahi, Siva temple no.1 at Padhavali, and the Siva temple Kakanmatha at Suhania‒have the highly advanced and classical Kṣiptotkṣipta-vitānas. The Ksiptotksipta-Vitana of Siva temple in Surwayagarhi has been nicely carved out with the Kola (big tusk), Mukuli (floral bud) and the Gajatālu (elephants palate) motifs as is prescribed by the texts [Ali, R. 1991: 54-56].

Similarly, the vitāna of Siva temple at Padhaoli comprises the rūpapattika (panel with figures), rūpakantha (a belt bearing figural work) and Vidyādhara brackets besides having Kola and Gajatālu courses. The rūpapaţţika bears the mithuna figures below which the scenes of the epics and purāṇas are depicted.

It is noteworthy that the utkṣipta vitānas in the gūḍhamaṇḍapa and the garbhagṛha of Kakanmatha temple at Suhania are the high watermark in creating the ornate ceiling under the Kachchhapaghātas. Similar is the case with the vitānas of Sas-Bahu temple at Gwalior, Chhoti-sarai etc.

(D) GATEWAY [Toraṇadvāra]

The trend of raising gateways in front of the temples or any other religious structure was the favorite activity in India since early period. It continued as most essential part of the temples in south India [Ali, R. 1983: 39; Ali, A. 2005: 73-74]. In central India, the practice was continued as toraṇa-dvāra or makara-toraṇas but with lesser attention. These were raised either attached with the major structure or built as a separate structure. Obviously, the construction of these gateways was guided by the textual norms. The temples of the Kachchhapaghata period were also provided with such gateways. The toranas of Athakhambha (Gyaraspur), Hindola-toraṇa, toraṇas of the temples Kadwaha, Mahajamata temple at Terahi are a few remains which need our attentions for separate study [Ali, A. 2005: 61].

Thus, the close analysis of the essential component parts of the temples of the Kachchhapaghāta period indicate that the artisans of the period were making all efforts to create new art style in spite of the well established trends of art and architecture in the neighboring regions. Sometimes, they competed to distinguish their art style in many ways by creating new decorative motifs or architectural forms. They attempted to follow the textual norms; and a good number of the sculptural depictions proved to their zeal of art and architecture in Central India as well as India as a whole.


Ali, A. 2005. Kachchhapaghāta Art and Architectecture, M/s Publication Scheme, Jaipur.

Ali, R. 1987. Pratihār Art of India, Delhi.

----------1983. The Gopur‒Its Evolution. Prachya Pratibha, vol. 11 No. 1-2, Bhopal.

----------2002. Temples of Madhya Pradesh (The Paramara Art), M/s Sundeep Kala Prakashan, Delhi.

----------1991 “The Ceilings in the Temples of Central India”, Puratana 8, K.KChakravarty,et.al. (Eds), Bhopal.

Aparājitapraśnapṛchchhā (Bhuwandeva), Gaikwad Oriental Series, Baroda, 1950.

Krishna Deva. 1969. Temples of North India, Delhi.

Prāsāda-Manḍana - Sūtradhāra Manḍana, Bhagwan Das Jain (Ed. & Tr.), 1968.

Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra, (Bhojadeva), T.G. Shastri (Ed.), Gaikwad Oriental Series, Baroda, 1924-25.


The author is highly obliged to Dr. M.C. Joshi, Assistant Archeologist, Temple Survey Project (North), A.S.I., Bhopal, for providing the photographs of the monuments utilized in the present article

List of Illustrations

1. Miniature Sarvatobhadrika, built on the roof of the monastery at Surwaya, (District Sheopuri, M.P.).

2. Temple no.1, Surwaya-garhi, (District Sheopuri, M.P.).

3. Ceiling of Temple no. 1 Surwaya-garhi, (District Sheopuri, M.P.).

4. Shiva temple, Talav group main, Kadawaha (District Ashok Nagar, M.P.).

5. Shiva temple, Subhashpur, (District Ashok nagar).

6. Doorway, Shiva temple, Subhashpura (District Ashok nagar).

7. Khinnamarh group of temple , General view, Kadawaha (District Ashok Nagar).

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