Benusagar is situated seven miles south from Majgaon by road, in the extreme south-west of the Kolhan area and on the border of Singhbhum district in Jharkhand and Mayurbhanj district in Orissa.
The village takes its name after a large tank to the north of the village. The tank is evidently ancient and is now silted up with weeds. There is a small island in the middle of the tank, which is covered with shrub and jungle; but it is this island which once had a number of temples and throbbed with life and pilgrims. There are a number of low mounds of brick marking the ruins of several old temples and a number of beautifully sculptured images lying half buried in the ground. According to local tradition, the tank was excavated and Raja Benu, son of Raja Keshna of Keshnagarh, built a fort round the township.
Mahavira Vardhamana, the 24thTirthankara of Jainism, had passed through this area, visiting places in Manbhum and Singhbhum, district and then going to Orissa. Mahavira went to Kalinga, as the king of Kalinga was a friend of his father. An old Jain work, the Haribhadriya-Virtti, mentions this The Emperor Kharavela's famous Hathigumpha inscription has a reference to Gorathagiri (Barabar hills in Gaya), Rajagriha (Rajgir in Patna), and the Gangetic plains of Pataliputra.
The route from Kalinga to Magadha, where Gorathagiri, Rajagriha, and Pataliputra were situated, ran through the Singhbhum district. Singhbhum has been referred to in the Jaina treatise of Achranga-Sutra, along with references to the neighboring areas known as Vajjabhumi. Jainism had spread from Bihar to Kalinga through Singhbhum and it is not surprising as we find relies of Jainism scattered in Manbhum and Singhbhum districts. Emperor Asoka was a great patron of Buddhism but he was not unsympathetic or 'bigoted towards Jainism.
Most of the antiquities at Benusagar could be said to belong to the Pala period. The Bhanjas of Orissa, who split into several branches, also used to assume indepen- dence over some principalities or other whenever any chance occurred. At one time they ruled over a very extensive area in Kalinga (Orissa) and the border tracts of Bengal and Bihar. It is possible that some time or other some of the Bhanja kings had also controlled or ruled Singhbhum district.
This is indicated by the similarity in the sculpture of the antiquities found in several villages of Keonjhar, Mayurbhanj and other districts in Orissa and this part of Bihar as in the case of the Benusagar relies. Benusagar must also have had the impact of the invasion of Rajendra Chola the Great, in the 10th century A.D. of the Christian era. Rajendra Chola invaded Orissa and lower Bengal and presumably must have gone through Singhbhum district and the neighboring districts of Mayurbhanj and Keonjhar, which were once feudatory states.
Later, Mahipala I of the Pala dynasty established the second Pala empire in which this area, too, was included. Regarding this the revised District Gazetteer of Singhbhum mentions:
"This is confirmed by the mention of the various feudatories who helped Ramapala, a descendant of Mahipala 1, in crushing the Kaivartta rebellion in Bengal; and in establishing the third Pala Empire. The Ramacharita of Sandhyakaranandi gives a list of loyal feudatory princes; and: amongst these, is mentioned Lakshmisur of Aparamandara, who is described as the head of the group of feudatory chiefs of all the forest countries; and whose territory was in the neighborhood of that of Surapala, ruler of Kujabati, which is about 14 miles north of Naya Dumka in the Santal Parganas and Rudra-Sikhara, ruler of Tailakampa (Telkupi in the 'Manbhum district). All these show that Lakshmisur headed all the Mankis in the forest tract. He was possibly the medieval chief Manki, a caste that was prevalent in the Chota- nagpur division during the advent of the British rule in Bihar. It is also possible that his territories included Singhbhum."
The medieval remains at Benusagar and, as a matter of fact, the remains throughout Singhbhum district, have witnessed a checkered history through the ages. Not withstanding the remote location of Benusagar in an area inhabited by the aboriginal tribes, both Tickell and Beglar had done well in visiting the places. Beglar had visited it twice in 1840 and 1875. The place has since been declared protected under the Ancient Monuments Preservations Act (Act VIII) of 1904.
Now a number of archaeological remains have been collected in a particular spot known as Devasthan on the eastern embankment of Benusagar. Devasthain is of recent origin. Its consists of a low enclosure constructed with disjecta from ruined temples and thatched houses. In this enclosed area, and in its proximity, quite a number of stone images have been kept. Some of them are complete and the others are damaged. There are eight phallic emblems of Siva and the foundations of four temples, with their remains scattered round them. The building materials were bricks and two kinds of stones : chlorite and laterite.
The devasthan occupies disjecta member testify to the place, where the collected disject member testify to the existence of at least four structures, excluding those which still lie buried under the ground. There are small brick mounds to the north and the south of this devasthan; these mounds probably mark the sties of ancient temples. The present dak bungalow standing on the southern side of the tank has also been erected on this site of a temple.
Ample evidence, therefore, exists to conclude that the area round about the tank possesses ruins of several temples, of which none is surviving to our time, though signs of iconoclastic vandalism are absent. In the absence of large-scale excavations, the exact number of structures cannot now be determined. There are eight phallic symbols of Mahadeva, which suggest the existence of eight separate temples. The other miscellaneous images found in the devasthan area were either decorative elements of the fanes or those originally enshrined in the side niches of the temples.
The Revised District Gazetteer of Singhbhum mentioned :
"The available evidence, therefore, makes it quite clear that Benusagar was a place of worship for the Saivas, possibly a place of Ashta-Sambhu. That the number of Sambhus might have been increased infinitely in later times is also probable. In medieval eastern India, a practice has grown up to establish places of worship, with eight phallic emblems of Siva- Mahadeva; and several places shared this feature with Benusagar.
These are Bhuvaneswar in Orissa, Kiching in the Mayurbhanj district, a place only five miles to the south of Benusagar,Khekparta near Lohardaga in the district of Ranchi. Since none of the temples have survived, it is difficult to opine about the style of temple architecture that was prevalent at Benusagar; but, the examples of such places as Kiching and Ranipur-Jural possibly indicate that they followed the Nagara style of temples.
Hypothetically, we may be permitted to assume that the temples at Benusagar belong to the distant epochs. The first between 8th or 9th century A.D., when the Palas under Dharmapala and Devapala established the Pala Empire from Kanauj up to the sea coast; and the second from 10th to 11th century A.D., when the second Pala Empire was established by Mahipala I.
According to tradition, Raja Benu, son of Raja Keshna of Keshnagarh, excavated the tank of Benusagar. Keshnagarh with the ruins of a fort was visited by Mr. Beglar but no object of special interest isreported to have been found by him"