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Ancient Brick Temple at Bhaitargaon : A Testimony of Golden Period of Indian Architecture

Updated: Apr 19, 2022

Ancient Brick Temple , Bhaitargaon (Near Kanpur)


Ancient Brick Temple at Bhaitargaon : A Testimony of Golden Period of Indian Architecture

· As the concept of temple developed and subsequently its construction gained momentum in ancient India, a number of stone temples were built at different locations. The ‘Dasavatar temple’ at Deogarh (near Jhansi), dedicated to god Vishnu, is believed to be the earliest temple constructed during the Gupta period. Another such ancient temple with flat roof has been found at Sanchi(near Bhopal) known as Temple No. -17.

Dasavatar Temple, Deogarh

Temple No. - 17, Sanchi

All these temples are made of stone. But the “Ancient Brick Temple” at Bhaitargaon (near Kanpur) constructed during the Gupta empire (c. 319 – 467 C.E, known as golden period of Indian history), is made of burnt clay brick instead of stone. Natural curiosity drew our attention and we planned a visit to this heritage site to explore it.

· On reaching Bhaitargaon Temple , we mesmerized by witnessing the colossal brick temple with a number of wall panels intact even after passage of nearly 1500 years. It is believed that this temple might be constructed in the 5th century CE and dedicated to Lord Vishnu.

· The temple at Bhaitargaon was discovered in 1877 - 78 by Alexander Cunningham, the first Director General of Archaeological Survey of India.

Salient features of brick temple:

· The east facing temple is built on a square platform with double recessed corners. The type of brick used is larger in length than present bricks and called ‘Ishtika’ (or wish) in Sanskrit. It is interesting that every brick is baked in different mould separately and every brick has different shape and size.

· It consists of a Ardh-mandapa’(or entrance porch) , Antarala (or vestibule) and Garbha griha’ (or Sanctum). It has high ‘Shikhara’.

· A vaulted arch corridor at entrance is its signature style which became part of many temples, constructed at later stage of temple development.

Ancient Brick Temple, at Bhaitargaon

· A number of terracotta sculptures are placed on the exterior of wall depicting various god & goddess and events from the Ramayana & the Mahabharata. The wall panels are positioned in niches with beautiful outline of curved baked brick, lotus petal shape bricks, floral pattern, grooved pillars, articulated cornice, animal and bird figures etc.

· Although the sculptured terracotta panels are not in good shape at present, they indicate about prevalence of high skill of craftsmanship in the Gupta period and present glimpses of their original grandeur.

Famous terracotta panels depict a number of deities - Lord Ganesha, Devi Durga as Mahisasurmardini, Durga killing Sumbha & Nishumbha, Nara- Narayana, seated Uma- Maheshwar, Seshashayi Vishnu, Krishna with Balram, Buddha, Ravan disguised as saint begging alms from devi Sita at Panchavati, Ganga, Yamuna, Gajalakshmi, Vishnu as Varah incarnation, dancing couple, Yaksha & Yakshani, old man showing misery of life, erotic figures, aquatic monsters, animal figures and many more.

· Some panels are so intricately made that clothing and ornaments being worn by the people of that time, can be clearly sighted.

Unique Terracotta Panels on exterior of Temple

Some of the interpretation about terracotta panels features are our own, which may not be same as conceived by their creator since non-availability of any authentic text about them.

· Although the Gupta rulers are believed be worshiper of Lord Vishnu, almost all deities, animals, birds, common life events etc. have been represented beautifully through unique terracotta panels.

#TheAncient Brick Temple’ at Bhaitargaon is the finest specimen of burnt clay brick architecture and unique terracotta sculptures which makes it a place worth visiting. Considering its heritage value, we should endevour to bring it back on tourist map.

******* Dedicated to ‘ World Heritage Day ’ ( विश्व विरासत दिवस ) –18th April


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