I kept my expectations low from this 11th century Hindu temple in Bhojpur on the outskirts of Bhopal. I’ve visited many Hindu temples in the past but none offered anything different from the other in terms of architecture.
The otherwise nondescript town of Bhojpur is famous for the Bhojeshwar temple built by Raja Bhoj of the Paramara dynasty in Central India.
Remember that famous Hindi phrase “Kaha Raja Bhoj, aur kaha Gangu Telli”? Yes, the same Rajput king 🙂 Apparently, he also founded the city of Bhopal.
An Idol to look upto
According to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the Bhojpur temple has the world’s tallest and grandest Shiva Lingam. And it’s built out of a single rock. How on earth would craftsman pull off such complex acts during that era is beyond me!
Craning my neck to see the tallest Shiva Lingam
The Bhojeswar temple is a commanding structure, mesmerising even….and one of the prettiest temples I have seen in India. It’s quite an accomplishment considering this temple is unfinished till date.
Raja Bhoj built the Bhojeshwar temple around 1010-1055 AD but never completed it. Some say he shifted his focus and resources towards the Somnath temple that was being attacked by Mahmud of Ghazni…and then he passed away before he could complete the construction of this one. Others say that he wanted to build this temple in one day and so it remained incomplete after the day’s work. The latter, I highly doubt 😉 …but the locals are quite enthusiastic when they narrate this built-in-a-day story.
Perched on a small hillock with the quiet Betwa River on one side, the Bhojpur temple made for a spectacular view. Vast wheat fields added a soothing golden colour to the landscape. Braille information kiosks for the blind at the entrance made a good first impression.
(L) A lovely view of the countryside from the temple; (R) Information board in braille at the entrance
We walked along a curvy concrete road leading to the temple and stood awestruck on getting the first full glimpse of the imposing structure from afar. It looked stunning…more Greek than Hindu, I would say.
Except for the front façade, the three walls were plain with no work. The façade had idols of mythical goddesses. Four huge pillars supported the internal dome that had beautiful floral carvings including an inverted lotus shaped ceiling. Apparently, the ceiling was destroyed many years ago but the ASI sprung into action and it was restored using fiber glass to give it an original resemblance.
The restored ceiling
Sculptures of Yakshinis or mythical godesses on the front wall of the temple
We approached the sanctum sanctorum and saw a towering 22 feet polished Shiva Linga on a three level stone Yoni Patta. I got down to the ground level and did a Parikrama of the idol. The place had a certain calm in the absence of religious commercialisation.
The temple was surprisingly empty for a Sunday evening. But the monkeys made up for the crowd. It was sheer joy watching these animals mingle with humans for food, jumping off trees and sitting alongside idols.
The weather was pleasant and the rain gods were on my side. Cool breeze gently hit our faces and there was a light drizzle too. I can’t imagine visiting Bhojpur on a sunny afternoon with no cover of green in the near vicinity. Our feet would have toasted as tourists have to remove their shoes at the entrance before stepping in the temple premises.
Getting here and other things to know
- Keep Bhopal as your base and do a day trip to Bhojpur, 35 km away. I stayed at the Jehan Numa Retreat in Bhopal.
- You can club your visit to Bhojpur with the Bhimbetka Caves – another UNESCO world heritage monument, 25km away.
- Although expensive, it would be a good idea to hire a private car for convenience sake as local transport is unreliable.
- There are plenty of snack counters outside the Bhojpur temple but none that offer proper meals.
- The remains of Raja Bhoj’s Palace and the Parvati cave ruins are within the complex at a short distance from the temple. We skipped this. Do check it out if you have time and if the weather doesn’t get to you.
- If you’re comfortable with large crowd, Mahashivratri should be a great time to visit this temple.
On a final note…
Considering this 1000 year old Shiva temple was actually unfinished, imagine how grand it would have looked had it been completed. May be one of the best and largest in India. Glad, I decided to visit this place 🙂
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