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Bhojpur, Bhimbetka Overview

The enigmatic temple of Bhojpur is an incomplete Hindu temple situated in the Bhojpur Village of Madhya Pradesh. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, it houses a 7.5 feet high lingam in its sanctum and is believed to have been constructed in the 11th century during the reign of King Bhoja. The temple's construction was left abandoned for reasons that are still unknown. Construction material can still be found at the site, with architectural plans engraved on the surrounding rocks. Historians speculate that it could be due to a sudden natural disaster, war or lack of resources. The temple has been designated as a Monument of National Importance by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

There are many theories revolving around what may have happened that led to the abandonment of the Bhojpuri Temple's construction. One theory is presented by the peculiar construction style of the edifice, where the temple does not have a 'Mandapa' connected to the inner sanctum. Another unique construction feature is the temple's rectilinear roof which defies the typical curvilinear dome tower. These divergences have led some to believe that Bhojpur Temple was perhaps a funerary monument constructed by Bhoja for the peace of soul of his father Sindhuraja or of his uncle Munja. The lingam in the Bhojpur Temple is built using three superimposed limestone blocks with a height of 7.5 feet and a circumference of 17.8 feet. The total height of the lingam is 40 feet with a square platform as a base. It is the tallest lingam of its kind in the world.

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History of Bhojpur

The temple construction was commenced in the 11th century under King Bhoja's reign. According to historical records, Bhoja had constructed numerous temples dedicated to Lord Shiva, including Kedareshvara, Rameshwara, Somanatha, Kala, and Rudra. He built a total of 104 temples in his capital city of Dhara alone. However, the Bhojpur temple is the lone, surviving shrine which can be attributed to Bhoja with some certainty. 

Originally, the temple stood on the banks of a reservoir which was formed as a result of the construction of three earth and stone dams during Bhoja's reign. The first dam was built on the Betwa river which trapped the waters in a depression surrounded by the hills, the second, over a gap between the hills, near present-day Mendua village while a third dam, located in present-day Bhopal, diverted more water from the smaller Kaliasot river into the Betwa dam reservoir.

The reason behind the abrupt halting of Bhojpur Temple's construction has been subjected to many speculations. The most popular theories suggest that a sudden war, natural disaster or simply the lack of funds led to the shutting down of the project. Before it was restored in 2006-07, the building lacked a roof which led to archaeologist KK Muhammed theorizing that a mathematical error led to the sudden collapse of the temple after which the project was not pursued further. Detailed plans for the finished temple indicate that Bhojpur was to be a massive temple with many more temples, which would have made it one of the largest temple complexes in India.

Architecture of Bhojpur

The temple is positioned on a ground of 115 feet long, 82 feet wide and 13 feet high where lays a sanctum consisting of a large Shivalingam. The entrance depicts sculptures of apsaras, ganas and river goddesses, while the temple walls have faux-balconies which are purely ornamental and made of large sandstone blocks. The northern wall has a Makara shaped spout for the drainage of liquids used to bathe the lingam.

The four brackets backing up the cornerstones features the carvings of the four divine couples- Shiva-Parvati, Brahma-Shakti, Rama-Sita, and Vishnu-Lakshmi on their surface. The intricately carved shikhara (dome tower) is supported by four octagonal pillars, each aligned with three pilasters. One can also see the remains of a  sloping ramp on the north-eastern corner of the building, which is covered with soil and sand. It stands at a height of 40 feet an is 300 feet long. Originally, the ramp reached up to the temple wall, but currently, a gap exists between the two.

Bhojeshwar Temple Museum

Just 200 meters away lies a small museum dedicated to the Bhojeshwar Temple which showcases the history of the temple. The temple illustrates Bhoja's reign via posters and sketches and also has some of the important books written by him on display. The museum is open from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM and has no entry fee.

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