The Bateshwar Group of Temples comprises about 44 temples spread over an area of 25 acres, built across the sloping hills at Bateshwar, Morena. Most of the temples are dedicated to Shiva or Vishnu. They were built during 8th and 10th century C.E. by the Gurjara-Pratiharas. Most of them are built in the nagara style with a simple shikhara, no mandapa and a small precursor of antarala. The nagara style shikhara is topped with an amalaka or two in some cases, and a pot finial at the top. The shikhara is triratha with a mesh of gavaksha arranged in a line, reaching up to the top. A minority of the temples have a simple mandapa with two pillars and no enclosing walls. The entire platform makes for a very impressive sight. A scientific study of the temple reveals that the construction of the temples was carried on over centuries constantly, up to the 11th century A.D. It was then halted abruptly due to the Islamic invasions. As a result, many temples are left unfinished and all of them are desecrated.
Situated in the ravines of Chambal, in the very remote areas surrounded by scrubland jungle, it still is a dangerous site to visit. Until a few years ago, the dacoits used to stay on the temple site. The area is now free of dacoits. In the midst of the temples, a stepped well is constructed, which still serves as a source of water.
The temples are constructed from the locally-quarried yellow sandstone with a reddish tinge. Juxtaposed to the red sandstone of the Jaipur region, the Chambal Valley is famous for the yellow-white and yellow-red sandstone, in which most of the monuments of the region are constructed.
Their colour lends a particular variety to their appearance, especially at the sunrise and the sunset, when the Sun’s rays fall upon them at a slanted angle.
At dawn and dusk the sunlight plays with their pristine jungle background and their yellow-reddish sandstone and produces a beautiful spectacle, most ancient in nature and divine in experience.
Its restoration was done by KK muhammad while struggling with daciots.
The Great Dynasty of the Gurjara-Pratiharas
The Gurjara-Pratiharas, also known as the Pratihara Empire, ruled much of Northern India from the mid-7th to the 11th century.
Prithviraj Raso, the imperial legend of the dynasty tells us that the dynasty descended from the ‘Agnikula’ clan of the Rajputs. The royal dynasty derived their origin from a Yagna Kunda at Mount Abu. One branch of the dynasty was founded in Rajasthan in 550 C.E. Its founder was Harichandra who was based in Bhinmal. His line later founded the state of Marwar who later built the famous temples of Osian.
The dynasty rose in prominence by gaining a reputation for repelling the Arab Islamic invasions.
Nagabhata I (730-756) was the great ruler who founded the Gurjara dynasty, based in Avanti, or the modern-day Ujjain. He ruled Gwalior and its fort on which the modern Tomara fort is built. He also ruled the regions in and around Morena.
In the famous Battle of Rajasthan (738 C.E.), he led an alliance of many regional dynasties and routed the Arabs. Islam had already set roots in Sindh and was trying to get inside mainland India, but while it became instantly victorious in Anatolia, North Africa and southern Europe, India was a tough nut to crack mainly due to the resistance given by the Gurjara-Pratiharas.
The Gurjara-Pratihara rulers were great patrons of art and commissioned thousands of Hindu temples over the vast realms that they ruled. They also rebuilt the temples that were destroyed in the barbarian attacks of the Islamic invaders in early medieval era.
Nagabhatta II (800-833) checked Muslim attacks in the west again. He rebuilt the great Somnath temple in Gujarat which had been destroyed by the Islamic invaders earlier. He also conquered Kanyakubja (Kannauj) and during his reign, it became the capital of the great dynasty. During the reign of Mahendrapala I (890-910), the realm of the dynasty had grown from the border of Sindh in the west to Assam in the east.
In the tenth century, due to several reasons, the dynasty broke up into the Paramaras of Malwa, the Chandellas of Bundelkhand, the Kalachuris of Mahakoshal, the Solankis of Rajasthan and the Kachhapaghatas of Gwalior, who ruled Morena and the Chambal region.
These dynasties commissioned the next wave of Hindu temples, bigger and more beautiful than their earlier counterparts. The Kachhapaghatas built great temples in the Chambal region, which will be the subject of the next article in this series.
R.C. Majumadar, clarifying the role of the Gurjara-Pratiharas in Indian history has observed:
“The Gurjara Pratihara Empire which continued in full glory for nearly a century, was the last great empire in Northern India before the Muslim conquest. This honour is accorded to the empire of Harsha by many historians of repute, but without any real justification, for the Pratihara Empire was probably larger, certainly not less in extent, rivalled the Gupta Empire and brought political unity and its attendant blessings upon a large part of Northern India. But its chief credit lies in its successful resistance to the foreign invasions from the west, from the days of Junaid. This was frankly recognised by the Arab writers themselves.”
The primary contribution of the Gurjara-Pratiharas was to hold the Islamic attackers at bay for more than three hundred years. They saved the Hindus from staggering misery, saved countless number of temples and built thousands of others.