Forgetten heritage and shades of Khajuraho near Udaipur

Well, since Udaipur is my hometown so I had always been knowing about this temple and have visited this quite a few number of times, since my school days. Similarly, almost all people from Udaipur know about it. But ironically, though Udaipur is one of the most popular tourist destinations in India for domestic as well as foreign tourists, still you will rarely find any tourist visiting this temple. Baring the school days, when we would come here for picnics or drop here while visiting the famous Eklingji temple; in recent times whenever I visited this temple, I or our group were the only persons around. So strange.

Well, this part of north-west India is full of shrines and temples but this image shows that it is no ordinary temple. It is actually a temple complex with a few temples around- a couple of them are still intact while there are others which have turned into ruins. The temple is called as Saas-Bahu (सास-बहू) temple. Bahu means young married woman and Saas means mother-in-law. And there is no historical reference behind this name. Actually, very little is known about the origin and construction of this temple. This is very intriguing given the elaborate architecture of this temple.

A look at the temple complex-

Interestingly, this region has a mix of temples- Jain, Shaivite as well as Vaishnava, very close to each other. Many of them have been top religious institutions of their times. This temple is indeed under supervision of ASI and what is known to us is that this temple belongs to eleventh century. This also means that the temple predates many of other prominent temples of this region by a few centuries. Tragedy for curious travellers like me is that, the inscription stone here clarifies nothing, worse  still, the language (there are two inscriptions- one in Hindi and in English) of the matter written here, presumably by the ASI, is hopeless. There are no sentences, no expressions and henceforth no meanings. The one who wrote this probably knew neither English, nor Hindi. This can happen only in India.

The complex has twin vaishnava temples. One is bigger and another smaller. The bigger one is surrounded by ten subsidiary shrines. Smaller temple is Panchayatna style, i.e. the main temple has four subsidiary smaller temples. Both temples have pancha-ratha sanctum. Inside the doorway is a mandapa, porch and lateral transepts. Porch also encloses balustrade.

The temple have quite detailed relief panels around the outer wall as well as inside the sanctum. Surprisingly, many of the relief panels are still quite intact. It’s these panels which bring to our mind the erring similarity between the sculptures of this temple and all famous temples of Khajuraho.  Have a look-

Such elaborate sculptures and minute but profuse ornamental carvings are also there inside the sanctums of the existing temples in complex. You can see the makara-torana inside the sanctums or mandapa, which is said to be typical feature of medieval temples of western India. You will find similar torans in many Jain temples, including famous Jain temples of Dilwara near Mount Abu. Even the pillars are lavishly carved with sculptures. See-

Ceilings, porches and the doorways too have quite delicate carvings as with most temples in the region. Although in one temple, you can find the ceiling burnt black. It might be either due to an accident or an deliberate attempt to extract sculptures by heating them.  Nobody knows. Have a look-

Now what brings similarity to Khajuraho is the criticism in the sculptures. Let’s have a closer look at few of the panels to see the detailed carvings-

You will see that not just the postures, mood and expression but in some of the sculptures, even the human carvings are quite similar to those find in various temples of Khajuraho. You can also have a look at some of the bigger sculptures-

Very interesting, isn’t it!

There are many temples around and also in the complex. Some are intact, some are ruined with only platforms left and some you can even see submerged in the lake like this one-

This Saas-Bahu temple is located just on the banks of this lake and by looking at the temple submerged in the lake, it can be safely assumed that there would have been bigger structure below, which is now under water. It also means that the lake would have come up later and was not there when these temples were constructed. It also can mean that there would have been few other temples in the complex which would have now completely submerged under the waters of this lake.

Now look at this another picture from a wider angle-

There is a luxury resort on the hillock on the other side of the lake. Seems strange, that when we are struggling to preserve this amazing, almost thousand year old heritage, there is such an opulent display of luxury nearby, which wants to showcase itself as heritage.

What would have been the main entrance of the temple during its glory… onlooking the existing lake

Where: This temple is just around 10 kilometres from the Udaipur city and off roughly a kilometre from NH8 which connects Delhi to Mumbai via Jaipur-Udaipur-Ahmedabad. While going from Udaipur to Delhi via NH8, there is famous EKlingji (एकलिंगजी) shiva temple. Just before you go downhill towards the Eklingji town, a road turns left over a dam. This road takes you to temple on other side of the lake, on which dam is built. This means, if you are coming from Delhi-Jaipur-Nathdwara side, than this road will come to your right once you cross the Eklingji town and climb uphill. Obviously Udaipur is the nearest railhead as well as airport to reach here.


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