|The Majestic Vijaya Mandir - Bijamandal in Vidisha|
|The 8th Century Baoli or Stepwell. Notice the huge Blocks in the rear. Would have definitely been ripped out of the rear of the temple platform - Bijamandal in Vidisha|
|Are those Krishna Leela scenes?|
The L-shaped baoli looks well preserved. On the eastern end there is a large circular well. The first level has two carved pillars. ASI sign says the pillars are dated to 8th century. The presence of extant baoli shows that this place was the site of a temple or group of temples predating the big temple by about four hundred years. The pillar has some endearing scenes of Krishna Leela.
You are walking under the brilliant September sun through manicured lawns (like only MP or Karnataka ASI can do). Across the compound are stacks and mounds of broken temple members. You are seeing the plunder of this magnitude for the first time. In the coming days you will see more of the plunder in Thubon. Now that you are thinking, you saw the entire lake-side temple complex at Ashapuri felled to the ground. So the story repeats itself. The mighty Parmar temple that stood here was demolished and some of its parts were used to assemble the mosque sitting on the western side of the platform. The rest of the temple is spread across the grounds. The idols were probably destroyed or hidden away never to be found again (check museum exhibits in Vidisha, Gwalior and Bhopal for clues). One group of debris have the miniature shrines which would have come from the shikhar of the Bhumija style temple.
|This looks like the mouldings from the western side|
|Broken elements everywhere|
|Nice to see something to build in these ruins|
Just like an automobile scrap market where the shops specialize in different dismembered parts of a car, here too the mounds have been sorted according to similar architectural elements. The thousands of broken temple elements say their own story. Being among these chopped and broken parts all around is like walking through a massacre and is not pleasant. This looks like a killing field that witnessed large scale mayhem. Just like the landscaped Commonwealth Graves, the grass, the shady trees and the tranquillity here seems to be providing some succour to these once living stone souls.
|The awe-inspiring goosebump sight - Now imagine the majestic bhumija shikhar|
|Approaching from the north-east direction - the remnants of the northern gateway are seen. This temple was definitely a Sarvatobhadra with entrances from all cardinal directions|
Walking through the plunder, you approach the temple slowly. And then the goosebumps hit you. You stand in front of the eastern entrance dwarfed by the platform. The mouldings on either side are heavily carved. Climbing up the steps you ascend the bare platform. Whatever was here on the top is gone. Looking down on the northeast side you see the temple parts painstakingly arranged around the tree trunks that you just walked through. Just below a small platform has been raised with few graves.
|Towering over the neighborhood. You love those staples holding the stone blocks together|
Walking around, the neighbourhood houses seem to be dwarfed. It is not hard to imagine that this temple would clearly have been the largest in all of North India. The temple’s dimensions compare to the magnificent Konark Temple of Odisha. An inscription dedicated to Sun god has been recovered here. It is quite possible that one of the subsidiary shrine was dedicated to Surya. The temple, another gem of Parmara architectural marvels, would have looked majestic and splendid. All other temples, small and large, along with their platforms have simply vanished.
|Looking from North East side|
Up on the rear of the platform, the mosque is sealed. The lock is wrapped in white cloth sealed with the tell-tale red wax. At Bhojshala, people of both communities take turn to worship; here the structure on top has simply been sealed off. You peer through the mesh to see the qibla wall with mihrab and minbar and pillars extending on both sides. Compared to Dhar mosques, this mosque looks as if it was raised half-heartedly. It seems the contractor who was erecting the beautiful monuments of Mandu had been sent here and who being homesick just wanted the completion certificate and be done with it. We will examine the possible reasons later.
|Compared to Dhar mosques this looks lacklustre|
Now that you are thinking, this is what seemed to have happened. At Qutb Minar, Ajmer, Kaman, Dhar or Mandu, there is no sign of the actual temples. All the material of the temples was used up in the construction of the mosque, colonnades and if there were walls or forts around. So, all that you see of the temples are the pillars and other elements that are now part of the mosques. But here in Vidisha, something different happened. The temple was so huge that they probably did not have time to rip out the platform. On the other hand the platform was big enough to build the mosque on top. The temple’s shikhara and mandaps were brought down. Again, unlike the mentioned locations, this mosque is quite small in design. There are no colonnades on the other three sides. Either the instructions were to quickly assemble the mosque on the existing platform leaving most of the material on the grounds or there was not much left when the mosque was built about two hundred years later after the first demolition. We will examine this in detail.
|The minars on south west corner. The minars seem to be made of shikhar base|
Climbing down from the southern gate, you walk around the plinth taking in the huge dimensions and imagining the soaring Bhumija shikhara with the flag fluttering in the air. On the western side, the rear wall of the mosque rises built of stones that could have been part of missing platform in the western and northern ends. Unmistakable mounds are seen on both sides. The temple in all probability was a sarvatobhadra temple, where the approach was from all four cardinal directions.The minars raised later seems to be blocks from the walls of the shikhara or mandaps.
|A Wonderful drone view which leaves no doubt that the plinth was complete. Photo Credit - Yash Vardhan Singh|
|The present Google map of Bijamandal in Vidisha|
All Ghurid mosques you have seen do not have the presence of any surviving temple pitha. The explanation could be that in all those locations there was a group of small temples that were felled and so it made sense to build the mosques ground up on a larger base. But here in Vidisha they found this huge pitha which did not made sense to be uprooted. So, they built a small mosque with the little that was left and consequently, the structure and design pales in comparison to Bhojshala and Lat Masjid.
Mishra wonders if there was a huge temple here, then where has the temple gone?
This observation is based on almost total absence of ornate 11th or 12th century pillars and absence of large number of architectural elements. The prayer hall has plain pillars with characteristics of 8th century. On one of these pillars there is an undated inscription dedicated to Goddess Carccika (Chamunda). The palaeography of inscription indicates its date somewhere in 11th or 12th century. The inscription mentions King Naravarman (1094-1134). The inscription pillar originally belonged to a small earlier Carccika Temple. As she was the tutelary goddess of the King, he wanted to build a temple to honour her special place. Mishra quotes examples to surmise that the temple was never completed and hence not demolished and was probably abandoned upon the death of Naravarman.
|The Eastern Gateway of Bijamandal|
Further, Mishra does not consider the chronicles of Iltutmish and Bahadur Shah and does not account for large scale chopping of images and the broken elements littering the entire complex. Temple construction takes years and is a never-ending process. Just like in forts, construction and addition of elements continues over the generations. Just because few elements look unfinished does not mean there was no temple here. Looking at the mound of miniature towers is enough proof that even the spire of the temple was raised.
Alexander Cunningham visited Bijamandal in 1874 and 1876. He writes in the Report of Tours in Bundelkhand and Malwa, Volume X: Inside the town there is a stone Masjid called Bijay Mandir, or the temple of Bijay. The Hindu name is said to have been derived from the founder of the original temple Bijay Rani. The temple was thrown down by the order of Aurangazeb and the present Masjid erected in its place; but the Hindus still frequent it at the time of the annual fair. By the Musalmans it is called 'The Alamgiri Masjid', while Bhilsa itself is called Alamgirpur. The building is 781/2 feet long by 261/2 feet broad and the roof is supported on four rows of plain square pillars with 13 openings to the front.
You are still not sure why Alexander Cunningham did not treat Bijamandal with more depth. However, in Mathura he provides a detailed study of the Keshav Deva temple that existed at the spot of the Jama Masjid. Looking at the plan, and you are pretty sure that this is the clinching evidence that the Bijamandal did exist, at least its foundation, if not in its entirety. The plan of the two mosques is eerily similar and both the mosques were raised by Aurangzeb. The Jama Masjids were usually erected on the remains of the most majestic temple of the city.
As discussed in the below amazing Facebook post, it is quite possible that the foundation and the temple in the back was torn out to keep the west direction unobstructed.
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