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.
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.
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.
The “East High Plinth Group” seen from afar:
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.
A view of the smaller tank and the Bhootnath Temple behind:
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:
Other temples in the Bhootnath Group:
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.
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!