Temples in Morena District, near Gwalior, Part 4: Bateshwar

If the group of temples at nearby Nareshwar get their drama and spectacle from the ravine they are situated in, the temples at Bateshwar get it from the atmospherics created by their sheer number, and elements such as the two stepped tanks at the heart of the group. There is a profusion of shikhars (spires) all around in this veritable forest of temples. Though the dry scrub surrounding Bateshwar (or Batesar) might not be as majestic as the tall deodar trees around Jageshwar in Uttarakhand, the temples themselves are every bit as enchanting. This site has been heavily restored in recent years, and restoration work is carrying on still.

For an introduction to this series of posts on temples in Morena district, see the Nareshwar post.

On the road leading to the temple group there is first a solitary Vishnu temple on a high plinth, accessed via a flight of steps.

01 01 bateshwar 01 02 bateshwar 01 03 bateshwar 01 04 bateshwar 01 05 bateshwar 01 06 bateshwar 01 07 bateshwar

The main group of some 200 temples (not all restored), made during the Pratihara period in the 8th-9th c AD, is not quite comprehensible as one approaches it, because the approach path climbs up an incline and most of the temples are hidden behind it. Once the inclined is climbed, we are suddenly in the middle of this profusion of temples. It takes a while to find one’s bearings, because there is a kind of visual information overload. Turning around on the spot to take in all the temples, I felt like Tuco looking for buried treasure as an Ennio Morricone soundtrack played in the back of my head.

The temples are arranged along a rough north-south axis, and the approach to them is from the north. For the purposes of this post I’ve divided them into four different sub-groups: the East High Plinth Group, the Central Water Tank Group with a “gadhi” (small fortified building) next to it, the Bhootnath Group, and the South End Group. This organization makes the overall site more understandable. I’ve sequenced the sub-groups in the order visitors might sequence their path around the temples and shrines.

East High Plinth Group

This is the most prominent group from the entrance approach as it is located at a higher elevation than the others, and runs along the north-eastern edge of the overall group. The temples here are mostly positioned in neat formal rows.

02 01 bateshwar 02 02 bateshwar 02 03 bateshwar 02 04 bateshwar 02 05 bateshwar 02 06 bateshwar02 07 bateshwar 02 08 bateshwar 02 09 bateshwar 02 10 bateshwar 02 11 bateshwar 02 12 bateshwar 02 13 bateshwar 02 14 bateshwar 02 15 bateshwar

The board describing these temples at the site says that the flat-roofed temples might belong to the Gupta period before the Pratiharas and could date from the 5th-6th centuries. I’m not sure if this is accurate, but if it is then these are among the oldest free-standing Hindu stone temples in India. They could of course just be temples that have lost their shikhars, but if the projecting beams on the front of these temples were supported by columns positioned away from the main body of the temples, then stylistically they would be smaller versions of similar Gupta temples at Sanchi, Tigawa etc.02 16 bateshwar 02 17 bateshwar

A large plinth at the beginning of the temple group:02 18 bateshwar

The “East High Plinth Group” seen from afar:

02 19 bateshwar 02 20 bateshwar

The East High Plinth Group seen from the Central Water Tank Group area: 03 01 bateshwar

Central Water Tank Group

At the center of the Bateshwar temple group as a whole are two adjacent water tanks with ghat steps leading into them. The larger of the two tanks has a Mughal-era brick building next to it. with an arched dalan. There is a similar brick structure at Nareshwar, indicating that both these sites were occupied much more recently (during the 18th-20th c). These buildings could have been for visitors, for priests etc.

03 02 bateshwar

The larger tank:03 03 bateshwar 03 04 bateshwar 03 05 bateshwar 03 06 bateshwar 03 07 bateshwar 03 08 bateshwar

Temples adjacent to the larger tank area:03 09 bateshwar

Looking from the large tank towards the Bhootnath Temple:03 10 bateshwar

A view of the smaller tank and the Bhootnath Temple behind:

03 11 bateshwar

Temples around the smaller tank, with the “gadhi” behind:03 12 bateshwar 03 13 bateshwar

A view of the two tanks of the Central Water Tank Group and the East High Plinth Group behind (in sunlight):03 14 bateshwar

The brick “gadhi” with courtyard, now used as a temple and residence for on-site workers:03 15 bateshwar 03 16 bateshwar

Bhootnath Temple Group

The Bhootnath (Mahadev/Shiv) temple was the only temple in active use when restoration of the temple group began in the early 2000s, and is the largest temple of the group. This group lies to the south-west of the Central Water Tank Group.

General view of the Bhootnath Group:

04 01 bateshwar 04 02 bateshwar 04 03 bateshwar

Looking from the Bhootnath Group towards the Central Water Tank Group:04 04 bateshwar 04 05 bateshwar

Bhootnath Temple, with covered ambulatory:04 06 bateshwar04 07 bateshwar 04 08 bateshwar 04 09 bateshwar 04 10 bateshwar 04 11 bateshwar

Other temples in the Bhootnath Group:

04 12 bateshwar 04 13 bateshwar 04 14 bateshwar 04 15 bateshwar 04 16 bateshwar 04 20 bateshwarView of the Bhootnath Group from the back:

04 19 bateshwar

South End Group

This is the furthest group from the northern entrance and approach. The high unfinished temple is a Vishnu temple still awaiting restoration.

05 01 bateshwar 05 03 bateshwar 05 04 bateshwar05 05 bateshwar05 06 bateshwar 05 07 bateshwar 05 08 bateshwar

One of the many flat-roofed shrines found all around the overall temple grouping:05 09 bateshwar 05 10 bateshwar

Looking from the South End Group towards the Bhootnath Temple and Water Tank Groups:05 11 bateshwar

Near the “gadhi” building I saw this interesting apparatus, a stone cylinder which acts as some kind of wet grinder. The juices (or whatever is produced from the grinding process) have a collection outlet not just from the main sunken grinding area but also from the top rim of the grinder. Weird, interesting and beautifully made!06 01 bateshwar 06 02 bateshwar

11 thoughts on “Temples in Morena District, near Gwalior, Part 4: Bateshwar

  1. Pingback: Temples in Morena District, near Gwalior, Part 1: Nareshwar | Sarson ke Khet

  2. Pingback: Temples in Morena District, near Gwalior, Part 2: Aiti | Sarson ke Khet

  3. Pingback: The Fate of Rocky Hills/Outcrops All Over India | Sarson ke Khet

  4. Amazing! I visited Shivpuri, Surwaya,Bhopal,Sanchi and Bhimbetka in December of 2014. Madhya Pradesh is truly incredible.


  5. Pingback: Temples in Morena District, near Gwalior, Part 6: Padhavali | Sarson ke Khet

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