Immediately after Bhangarh, I landed to this place. And, I am sure that less than 10 percent of people present at Bhangarh would have heard about this temple and among those who would have heard, less than 10 percent would have ever visited it. As a day later at Kankwari fort, here too, we were the only travellers. There were some locals to pray, although. Besides, we also came to know that there were many tourists a day earlier (on first day of the new year).
Well, this is all about Neelkanth Temple, how it is commonly known. The board here says its name as Neelkantheshwar Temple (not any difference in the meaning of both words). Actually, if you go on searching online, all the pages will lead you to Neelkanth temple near Rishikesh in Uttarakhand. You would have been lucky enough to land on this post.
I have been to the Neelkanth temple in Uttarakhand as well. Despite the number of tourists & pilgrims that the temple attracts and despite its location on a beautiful hill with glorious views, that doesn’t fall in the league of this Neelkanth temple that I am writing about- lonely, deep inside a jungle valley of Sariska National Park.
The title of the post says a lot about, what I mean to say. Comparing any temple to Khajuraho might be seemingly a big deal, but while doing that I also have in mind, besides what is there; what is lost as well. Khajuraho is known for its sculptures and Neelkanth has got lot in common with Khajuraho. There have been many temples around the country, built around the medieval times, to have erotic sculptures. Most of them get a Khajuraho adjective prefixed to their names. Is Neelkanth a similar phenomenon?
Not much is known about the history of this temple. There is nothing here which puts any light on the origin of the temple. Locals say it is there from the time of Mahabharata and Pandavas had established the temple. Actually, in this area especially the Sariska National Park, there are a few places which are attributed to Pandavas, Pandu Pole being the most famous one. Its said that more recently, King Ajaipal built the Neelkanth temple in 1010 A.D. By that account, this temple is almost contemporary to Khajuraho temples. Neelkanth is Shiva temple (most prominent of Khajuraho temples is the Kandariya Mahadev Temple, which is also a Shiva temple). But unlike Kandariya Mahadev Temple, this Neelkanth temple is a functioning temple, where pujas are performed regularly.
Actually, from what is known, this place is a treasure trove of archaeological findings and perhaps Neelkanth is a part of it. It is said that this valley used to have 360 temples at some point of time in history. Most of them were destroyed- either by attackers, pirates, looters or got weathered down. One can still see ruins of many temples scattered around in this area. So rich has been discoveries here that at the Neelkanth temple complex on both sides of the entrance the sculptures excavated from the area have been kept behind big locked iron grills. There is a round the clock presence of police for the security of these priceless sculptures. There is a police post, while the temple itself is under the supervision of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). You can still find a lot of sculptures in the open, on the temple walls, pillars, panels etc.
Sculptures at Neelkanth are in many ways similar to Khajuraho temples- in postures as well as human figures. Have a look at them-
Just opposite to the main temple are samadhis (memorials) of the the siddhas from the different generations who have been priests to this temple.
There are few other notable structures near to the Neelkanth temple. There is also a small pond-
Just besides this pond are ruins of another temple-
Few hundred metres away is another important temple complex with one main temple and a platforms of few smaller temples left. Locally this is called an Naugaja (नौगजा) as it is nine gaja (गज or yards) above the ground level. Here in the main temple there is big 16 feet high statue of a Jain Tirthankar (tough to name, might be Mahavir or Adinath or someone else). Considering the condition of the temple and the statue, it also can’t be surely said that whether this statue was always here or was it brought later on. The platforms of other smaller temples in the complex have many sculptures of dancers and musicians, which indicates that this temple had something to do with dance and music. Have a look-
There is lot more to explore in this area. Besides these sculptures and archaeological wonders, this valley is naturally very beautiful. Interacting with the villagers is fascinating. But what also attracts you here is the number of peacocks and peahens, and I actually mean that the number is unusually huge then whatever I have seen at any other place in India. You will simply love their presence-
Now the turn of some important details. As I said that the Neelkanth temple, other temples and the village are inside Sariska National Park territory. But this is not the core area of the tiger reserve. Here is a village which has escaped relocation probably because of the Archaeological importance of the temple. Only way to reach Neelkanth Temple is through Tehla. Tehla also has a gate to Sariska Tiger Reserve, but the way to Neelkanth temple is different from that. Tehla is around 65 kms from Sariska gate of the tiger reserve. From Sariska (or Alwar side) one has to reach Gola turn (मोड़). From here one road goes to Bhangarh and then to Dausa. Another one goes to Rajgarh via Tehla. Tehla is roughly 15 kms from Gola mod. From Tehla a road goes to Neelkanth. Temple is around 10 kms from here.
From Tehla, a jungle road goes towards park area. You pass through Mansarovar Dam on the right. Roughly after seven kms you will hit a hill and then one has to climb (drive) on a very rough winding road upto the top. There is a fort gate on the top. The hills surrounding the park have a fortified wall on the top, which used to be part of Rajaur Garh (राजौरगढ़) . From the gate through the fort wall, you move another kilometre downhill to Neelkanth village and through village to the temple.
There was no fees, entrance fees to be paid anywhere. Police at the temple prohibits you from taking photos inside the sanctum ( surely if they see a large DSLR hanging around your neck). But you can argue and convince. Ironically, nobody stops you from clicking image from your mobile, even if your mobile camera resolution is far better than any DSLR. But then, this is how it works in India.
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