Mundesvari temple

Mundesvari temple stands on the summit of an isolated hill about 603 feet high, at village Ramgarh, seven miles south-west of Bhabua, a sub-divisional headquarters of Shahabad district.

Mundesvari temple is the earliest specimen of the Nagara type of temple architecture available in Bihar. It is unfortunate that, although a distinct style of temple architecture, known as the Nagara type, was evolved in Magadha with its centre at Pataliputra, specimens of it even in Bihar are very rare. This gives an added importance to the Mundesvari temple, although much of the structure has crumbled down. From the point of view of the age of temples, this is the oldest in Bihar.
The temple is in the shape of an octagon (ashtasra) and an octagonal ground plan for a temple is rather rare. The Sankaracharya temple at Srinagar built in the 18th century is another example.
In the Mundesvari temple there are doors or windows on four sides and small niches for the reception of statues in theremaining four walls. The principal entrance is evidently to the east where a few pillars are still to be seen. These pillars must have once supported a portico. Inside the temple there is a lingam with four heads and a statue of Durga, together with a large stone vessel and a stone chest. Most of the latticed stone work on the windows has now disappeared but some of the specimens are preserved in the window to the north.The temple door facing the porch is a fine specimen of architecture with various figures of dancers and musicians.

An inscription in two broken pieces was found and has been interpreted by some to identify the origin of the temple to theyear 635 A.D. The inscription refers to Udayasena as the ruling chief and records various donations to Mandalesvara. There is clear impress of the Gupta style on the carvings.

The temple was literally rescued from the jungles and debris at the beginning of this century. The clearance of the jungle brought to light a number of ancients relies. On the eastern slope of the hill a number of statues and rock- carved figures were discovered.

The relies make it clear that the hill was once the site for a 'cluster of temples and the Mundesvari temple, at the summit, must have been the main shrine.

The temple, now very ruinous, has been an octagon supported by four columns of an order common in Behar, and has had a porch supported by eight similar columns; having had four doors it is much lighterthan usual, although one of the doors is shut behind. In the centre is a Siva Linga, with four human faces on the phallus. The image called Mundesvari, or the goddess Munda, is an armed female having many hands and riding on a buffalo: it probably represents the wife of Mahisasur, a celebrated antagonist of Parvati the hair and ears evidently resemble those of the Buddhas: it is placed in the door, behind which is a small cavity without any external opening.

There was a certain Munda, whom people pretty generally call a Chero Raja; but the pandit of the survey says that he was a Daitya, who had a brother named Chanda, and both lived in the golden age. These brothers who, according to the Markandeya Purana, were the chief military officers (senaptis) of Sumbha and Nisumbha, two great infidel (Daitya) kings, were killed by Parvati, who on that account is called Chamunda, a title, it is said, composed of the two infidels' names. It is further said that the proper name of Chayanpur is Chanupur derived from one of the brothers who resided there, while a small temple named Mundesvari, and situated on a hill about five miles east from Chayanpur, was built by the Daitya Munda.

The town where Munda resided is called Garohat, and was situated on the banks of the Katane, just in the eastern mouth of a valley formed between the great mass and the detached range of hills west from Bhagwanpur. The whole of this valley was originally called Mukeri Kho; but that name has of late been restricted to a large recess towards its east end, down which the Katane flows. The situation was judicially chosen for the residence of a person such as Munda to have been; as it is not only in a very rich country, but has behind it recesses in themountains that are capable of defence by a small force; and even in case of defeat, the mountains afford a secure means of escape.
It would appear from numerous heaps of bricks that the town of Garohat extended about 11 miles from east to west, and half a mile from north to south; it has not been fortified.
The location of theMundesvari temple commands an exquisite view of hills and plains. The topography suggests that the area must have been used for fortification purposes in the distant past. Probably, some Hindu Rajas, who had their sway over the -area, had their seat of rule near about. A ditch surrounds the neighboring fort of Chayanpur and there are stone ramparts flanked with bastions. The fort has a large gate to the north and a smaller one to the south. The temple of Mundesvari is only about five miles from this fort. Chayanpur is apparently a distorted form of Chamundapur. Chanda and Munda, the two legendary demon brothers of Satya Yuga, were the commandants of Sumbha and Nisumbha, the demon kings.

Markandeya Purana mentions that the demon kings were slain by Parvati. The story is still current with modifications. Garohat, the residence of Munda, is located on the banks of the river Katena just on the eastern side of the valley originally known as Mukari Khoh. The area was well chosen for defence purposes and the Mundesvari temple was undoubtedly the place of pilgrimage for the area.The image of Mundesvari is not typical of the familiar image of Mahisha- mardini. This type of Mahishamardini is, rather unusual because generally the deity is represented in the act of killing Mahishasura, the demon in the shape of a buffalo. Here the goddess is depicted with ten hands bearing, the usual weapons of a Mahisha- mardini but with the difference that she is not in the act of killing Mahishasura but is shown as riding a buffalo representing the demon .

Mundesvari image is now the principal deity in the temple, which is visited by thousands who offer puja to the deity. It is, however, strange that the image of Mundesvari is found installed in one of the sub-chambers of the sanctuary and not at the centre of the cella, as is normally the case. A mukhalingam with four faces has been installed at the centre of the sanctuary of the temple, but this has not got the honor of being the presiding deity. The mukhalingam is deemed to bear the Gupta characteristic of art. The present position of Mundesvari has an interesting history.
It is also remarkable that this temple appears to have been left unmolested when Muslim rule under Sher Shah was set up in this area. The neighboring Chayanpur fort was one of the citadels of Sher Shah and the Muslim pockets in the neighboring villages suggest that a much larger Muslim population had lived in the area when Muslim rule was predominant. The ravages to Mundesvari temple are not man-made but due to the passage of time. A big annual fair (mela) is held near the Mundesvari temple during the Navaratra.

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