Sripura (Archaeological Survey)

by Bikash Chandra Pradhan | 2011 | 37,938 words

This study examines the Archaeological remains of Sripura from the period A.D. 650-800, revealing all varieties of archaeological materials, viz., art and architecture, coins, copper plate and stone epigraphic records and seals etc. highlighting the history and cultural heritage of Shripura. This ancient city was the capital of South Koshala under ...

Siva Temples at Sripura (Introduction)

The time of Sivagupta Balarjuna (A.D.750-800) was the golden age in the history of Saivism in Sripura. Though, Balarjuna had respected other religious sects, he gave special attention to the cause of Saivism. About 20 Siva temples were constructed during his reign, which is corroborated by the inscriptional sources, dilapidated Siva temples, findings of marvelous Siva lingams and many Saiva images.

In 1954 M.G. Dixit[1] excavated a mound in about 100 meters north from the Laksmana temple, where he found a five-altered Siva temple. After cleaning the debris he found that this temple was constructed on a stone-basement, where in front of the temple, there were traces of brick-built quarters. In the west in front, Dr. Dixit found a 4½ ft. high Siva-Lingam being installed. And in the west he also found some small images of Siva. He also found of Mahaisasura-mardini, a royal couple and of a woman-door-keeper.

Another dilapidated Siva temple is brought to light in about 100 meter to the south-west of the Anandaprabha-Kuti-Vihaar. The stone-basement of the Garbhagrha, Antarala and the mandapa of this temple is still clearly visible. The five chambered (Pancayatana) Siva temple was constructed on a stellate plan. The location of this Siva temple close to the celebrated Vihara is very significant, suggestive of the peaceful co-existence of shrines and devotees of two different faiths.

During excavations between 1999-2009, a number of Siva temples have been unearthed. One of them is at a distance of 100 meter south-east from the Sasai Vihara, Sri A.K. Sharma, under the aegis of “Boudhisatva Nagarjuna Smarak Sanstha Va Anusandhan Kendra, Nagpur”, has conducted archaeological excavation in 2000 A.D. when the remains of Siva temple with a huge Lingam (phallus) was discovered. After cleaning the debris, the Jangha of the temple was found in an extant form. This Siva temple was massively built with stone basement and brick superstructure. The plinth of the temple up to the Jangha is raised with incised stone slates. Huge red stand-stones of 10” x 6” are also used in the basement. The floor of the temple is on a high platform. The 1.30 m high plinth consists of ten layers of slabs, over which the brick superstructure was built, which has twelve layers of bricks measuring 40(41) x 7 cm. The slates of the plinth of Garbhagrha and antarala are capped by a layer of dressed rectangular lateritic blocks, measuring 1.70m x o.55m x 20 to 22cm except the central wall of Garbhagrha.

This Panca-ratha Siva temple externally measures 12.20 x 7.20 m (in the center) and comprised of a sanctum (3.25 x 3.2t5 m internally), Antarala (measuring 3.50 x 1.60 m), Mukhasala (1.50 m in width) and a Mandapa (measuring 5.75 x 2.0 m internally).

Inside three Garbhagrha, a Yoni-Pitha (symbol of sakti) is present, where a 1.20 m high Siva Lingam is being installed. This beautiful black granite, polished Lingam is one of the finest quality lingam of ancient South Kosala in general and that of Sripura in particular. The bottom portion of the Lingam is 40 cm in height, followed by 40 cm high octagonal Visnu Prabhaga and, 40 cm Rudra Prabhaga which is concave on the top. The central socket of the YoniPitha is 45 cm x 45 cm.

“A stone’s throw away from the Tivaradeva Mahavihara was a mound which was excavated in 2003-04 by Dr Sharma. What emerged were a complex of five temples and a hoard of copper-plates dating back to the reign of the Somavanshi ruler, Mahasivagupta Balarjun. The copper-plate inscriptions reveal that the temples were constructed during the reign of Balarjun and patronised by different members of the royal family.

The largest of the temples was called the Baleshwar Mahadev (and a drab ‘SRP-7′ in the logs of Dr Sharma). The garbhagriha of the temple follows a stellate (star-shaped) plan and houses an imposing white shivalinga. On the entrance to the temple stand sculptures of the two river goddesses–Ganga and Yamuna, on their respective vahanas–the crocodile and the tortoise.”

The Balesvara Siva temple complex with six temples–two in the centre, three on corners and one totally ruined at another–was excavated in 2003-4. Those were installed by the great Panduvamsi[2] king Sivagupta Balarjuna in his 37th regnal year. We find the names of the temple from the other nine sets of Sirpur copper plates grants of the time of Sivagupta Balarjuna[3], where it is mentioned that the temple of Balesvar Bhattaraka, was at the ‘low-lying land’ at Sripura. The mention of Balesvar Bhattaraka is also present in the Junvani plates (Mallar) of regnal year 57 of Sivagupta Balarjuna[4]. Names of three of the temples were Ammnesvara, Abbesvara and Maresvara as revealed from the copper plates referred to above in the nine sets of charter.

The layout of the temples is in accordance with the description in the Haryasirsapancarata as well as in the Agni Purana. The adhisthanas of main temples comprise of 13 courses of well cut stone blocks. While the 9.20 m wide north-south wall is plain, the 22.0 m long east-west axis has projection and 40 cm deep recessions alternately. The garbha-griha of both the main temples is star-shaped on plan, on the exterior.

The two basal straight arms of the star also measure 1.40 m each. The interior rectangular garbha-grihas measure 330 m (north-south) x 2.20 m (eastwest) with a 1.55 m wide entrance. All the three temples have huge white Siva lingams, measuring 1.05 m in height, each, with their components, square Brahma bhaga, octagonal Visnu bhaga and cylindrical Rudra bhaga of equal size i.e. 35 cm in height and 35 cm in girth each.

As both front and back of the sculptures are carved, it is clear that they served as running panels in the mandapa. In front of the southern main temple, nearly 2.0 m west of the steps a rectangular Nandi shrine, built of cuddapah blocks could be located in extremely damaged condition. The decorative fragments of ceilings of mahamandapa or Sabhamandapa, recovered indicate that the temples were of samtala variety adorned with full-bloom lotuses.

Three Siva temples (SRP 11,15,17), two facing west and the third facing east have been exposed. The one of them is a Pancayatna temple with the exterior of garbha griha having beautifully carved designs on bricks. The temple measures 12 x 6 m on the western side 6.5 x 6.5 m externally. Mandapa has a three pillared verandah. Only one pillar is intact while rest is missing. At the entrance of antarala is a Ganga image while Yamuna is missing. The square garbha-griha measures 2.20 x 2.2 m and houses a 1 m tall intact Siva linga carved on black granite. The most outstanding feature of this temple is the presence of two huge schist stone slabs that are carved in the same fashion even today in the Gond-Maria dominated areas of Chhattisgarh. This indicates that this Siva temple was built by people designated by Britishers as scheduled tribes following a different religion.

The temple has in the Mandapa region two wide stone topped benches. The east facing temple has a 3.30 x 2.30 m wide garbha griha which houses a grey granite Siva linga, 108 cm in height. Each of its three parts is 36 cms high. Instead of one has two mandapa and a verandah at the entrance. SRP-15 is a east facing Siva temple measuring 18 m east-west and 9.8 m north-south comprising of a front Nandi-Mandapa, a circumbulatory cum-mandapa, an ardhamandapa, an antarala and a garbha-griha built of well baked bricks measuring 38 x 19 x 6 cm. The foundation is of small sized square or rectangular stone blocks.

The entire area has stone slab flooring. The walls are 1 m in thickness.

The stone built Nandi-mandapa is 2.20 x 0.80 m in size. Nandi sculpture was not found. The entrance, probably to the open, stone floored prpadakshinaoath is 1.30 m wide capped by lateritic block and two 40 cm wide uprights. On the eastern side it is 2.75 wide and 7.80 m in length. At Garbha-griha point the circumbulatory constricts by 1.10 m on north and south.

The mandapa has two parts, each measuring 3.90 x 2.30 m having four pillared open structures in between out of which only one monolithic pillar was found. The entrance to the mandapa is 3.90 m wide. The mandapa leads to a 2.60 x 2.30 m rectangular garbha-griha through a 3.20 m long and 1.30 m wide antarala. The garbha-griha houses a complete 1.08 m tall grey granite Siva linga made of Purusa stone as it is fine grained and has oval linings throughout its front face.

The walls of the temple up to the extent sixteen courses could be exposed. For the outlet of water the circumbulatory was provided with a number of carved laterite outlets. Iron-lock, clamps, door-handles, dowels, carved brick lion face, stone lotus fragments and stone addle quern, were recovered, mostly from floor level. The temple belongs to 6th-7th cent. A.D. and a brick Perkota or boundary wall. From the evidences noted during excavation it appears that after heavy damage due to natural calamity like heavy floods in Mahanadi, it was brought into re-use by effecting additions and alterations during Somavamsis (7th-8th cent.A.D) and then during Kalachuriss of Ratanpur during 10th-11th cent. A.D. The original structures belonged to Sarabhapuriya dynasty who established their capital at Sirpur in 5th cent. A.D.

The temple complex is located nearly 100 m east of Gandheshwar temple on the right bank of Mahanadi. The Pancayatana temple along with its Toroanadwara is enclosed by a 54.0 x 35.0 x 1.10 m brick wall using mud mortar. The bricks are of the size 40 x 20 x 8 cm. The imposing stone-cum-brick temple is raised on the western half of the enclosure whereas the eastern side occupies the Torana dwara, with four subsidiary shrines on four inner corners of the enclosure. The enclosure has another 1.20 m wide door almost in centre of the southern wall which leads to the priest’s house located to the south of the temple.

The main temple stands on 21.65 x 13.35 x 1.65 m high adhisthana, built of dressed cuddappa blocks. The adhisthana is of Dwi-ratna type. On the eastern side, the top of the adhisthana, is reached by eight flights of two groups of steps, in north and south (The steps are 2.25 m in length and 0.25 m in width). It comprises of a four pillared mandapa and a rectangular 2.60 x 2.75 m garbha griha. The 5.65 x 7.65 m mandapa is raised over box pattern brick built nine squares measuring 1.0 x 1.0 m each. The central square which has four beautifully carved monolithic pillars, probably housed a Nandi. It appears that the mandapa wall housed a number of bhadra-devtas which were recovered from the debris during excavation. The entrance gate of mandapa has bharavahakas and dwara-palas, on both the sides.

The garbha-griha housed a 1.08 in high white stone Siva-linga and comprise of three equal parts i.e. square Brahma-bhaga, octagonal Visnubhaga and round with oval top Rudra-bhaga. The yoni-pitha could not be found. On four corners of the boundary wall are four shrines with only garbha-griha measuring 1.10 x 0.80 m and approached by three flights of steps.

The Torana-dwara built of dressed cuddappa blocks measures 7.55 x 6.30 m and has 1.65 m long and 0.35 m wide four flights of steps on eastern and western side of the dwara. On the western side the lowest step is a stone Chandra-sila with carved makaras at the two ends of half moon. It appears that the Torana-dwara had sixteen monolithic carved pillars as they were recovered from the debris around the structure in badly damaged condition. The dwara is divided into three compartments by north-south walls. The entire temple complex had stone flooring with drain holes in the boundary walls.

Footnotes and references:


Indian Archaeology: I Review, 1953-56.


ISPS, II, p. 377, pp. 152-53.


ibid, Sets-3 to 8, pp. 377-9.


Puratan, Art of Chhattisgarh, Vol. IX, pp. 146-47; ISPS, II, Addenda III, pp. 390-85.

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