Coming out of taxi we entered the old iron gate and started climbing slightly uphill road. As the road took a turn I stood there transfixed gaping at the imposing structure of Bhojeshwar temple. Under clear blue sky, on a massive high raised platform it stood there, it’s head held high evoking reverence and awe.
Approximately 30 kilometer from Bhopal is this small town of Bhojpur named after the valiant, scholarly and philosophical king Bhojdev of Parmar dynasty. It is said that Raja Bhoj once suffered from a severe skin disease. An ascetic advised him to construct a very large lake fed by 365 springs and take bath in the lake at an auspicious muhurat. Raja Bhojdev’s engineers found such a concourse of natural springs near Bhojpur. With great ingenuity a cyclopean dam was constructed to form the required lake. The lake spread over 64750 hectares. Later, the dam was destroyed by Sultan Hoshang Shah. Presently river Betwa flows behind the temple. Raja Bhoj is said to be cured of his ailment after taking bath in the lake. It is believed that he started the construction of the Bhojeshwar temple to pay his obeisance to God.
The construction of temple started in 11th century. Unfortunately the temple could not be completed .Various domes, pillars and pilasters lying around in the open space around the platform proclaim that Raja Bhoj had envisaged a much bigger and magnificent plan of the temple. However this very fact fills the heart with a sense of wonder, if the incomplete structure can be so awe inspiring, how humongous would have been the impact of the completed version.
The temple is made of red colored big blocks of sandstone. The loafty gate, the overhead dome, the tall strong pillars send out message of pure solid strength. True, facing it is a humbling experience but it welcomes like an anchor too. Standing on the platform as one raises head trying to catch a glimpse of the tip of the dome the benevolent sky looms in. Both the sides of the entrance leading to sanctum are embellished with beautiful images of various river goddesses The steps going down lead to the sanctum .The interior is cool even during the hot afternoon. The lingam, more than seven feet high and approximately seventeen feet in circumference stands directly under the richly carved dome. The lingam is raised on three storied square shaped platform. And the design of this yoni patra is quite different from the usual ones. The roof of the dome is richly carved with various intricate patterns and images. The dome is supported by four pillars. Images of various gods and goddesses are carved on inside walls of the temple.
When we visited the temple there were no signs of pooja and archna being performed in the sanctum . Rather, a board displayed there asking the visitors not to offer flowers or Belpatra etc on the lingam inside. May be that was because preparations for oncoming Shivratri fair were underway. However people were performing puja at the lingam under one of the chhataris on the platform .There a sadhu clad in saffron colored clothes sat distributing Prasad and putting bhabhoot on the devotee’s foreheads while fragrant smoke of dhoop and loban slowly swirled on towards the sky.
Coming out of the Sanctum I stood there on the platform near the chhatri facing the lingam, the sheer magnitude, the Virata filling my heart with quietude. Suddenly I remembered reading that there was a time when the lingam was open to the sky from the top. A big stone rock from the top of the dome fell creating a big circular open space. I remembered seeing pictures of that time and the memory fueled my imagination. How would have it looked with the grace of sun pouring in on it, instead of this brooding silence would the dazzling image had transcended us to the world of light and then in moon lit nights, the mammoth lingam bathed in silvery light would have formed the limitless illuminated image from earth to sky. The mythological reference of the never ending linga of light created by lord Shiva to end the dispute of superiority between Brahma and Vishnu as if flashed in my mind. I could as if feel a coloumn of light piercing the center of dome ,rising towards sky. The thought, the imagination mesmerized me. With folded hands and bowed head I stood there filled with an inexplicable sense of enrichment.
|The front view of the Bhojeshwar temple.Almost ten meters high entrance and a glimpse of Lingam inside.|
View of temple from the steps of platform along with the chhatris.
|The temple view from the road below.|
|The images on the door jambs.|
|The inside view of the dome resting on four pillars.|
|The inside wall|
|A closer view of pillars inside|
|The enriching moment|
As I was praying standing near the chhatari ,the Sadhu called me affectionately and asked to recite the shlokas.After I finished he gave me a coconut along with his blessings.As I not expecting anything of this kind to happen,it gave me immense pleasure .God's message don't ask ,don't expect and you will get more than you think.
All the pics by Sunder Iyer.