Stunning Bateshwar Group of Temples || Archaeological marvels at Padavali in Morena District of Madhya Pradesh

Not too long back, mere mention of the name Morena was enough to send shivers down anyone's spine. This district near the Chambal river was once a stronghold of notorious dacoits, such as Daku Man Singh, Nirbhay Singh Gujjar, Phoolan Devi, and Paan Singh Tomar. If you happened to be passing through this district and your vehicle broke down, you would automatically start praying to the lord for your safe exit from this area (this actually happened to my parents back in 1982, so I am kind of talking from experience).

Not too long back, mere mention of the name Morena was enough to send shivers down anyone's spine. This district of Madhya Pradesh near the Chambal river was once a stronghold of notorious dacoits, such as Daku Man Singh, Nirbhay Singh Gujjar, Phoolan Devi, and Paan Singh Tomar. If you happened to be passing through this district and your vehicle broke down, you would automatically start praying to the lord for your safe exit from this area (this actually happened to my parents back in 1982, so I am kind of talking from experience). 

Today, when you visit this area, you would need to be aware that the area has had only about 15 years of relative peace to develop. This will help you be empathetic as your vehicle wobbles across the pothole-ridden roads of Morena (a separate post on this topic is on its way). However, once you have braved that, the rewards are worth each pothole that you crossed. And one of the most gratifying is the breathtaking sight of the Bateshwar Group of Temples in Padavali.

Today, when you visit this area, you would need to be aware that the area has had only about 15 years of relative peace to develop. This will help you be empathetic as your vehicle wobbles across the pothole-ridden roads of Morena (a separate post on this topic is on its way). However, once you have braved that, the rewards are worth each pothole that you crossed. And one of the most gratifying is the breathtaking sight of the Bateshwar Group of Temples in Padavali. 

Not too long back, mere mention of the name Morena was enough to send shivers down anyone's spine. This district near the Chambal river was once a stronghold of notorious dacoits, such as Daku Man Singh, Nirbhay Singh Gujjar, Phoolan Devi, and Paan Singh Tomar. If you happened to be passing through this district and your vehicle broke down, you would automatically start praying to the lord for your safe exit from this area (this actually happened to my parents back in 1982, so I am kind of talking from experience).


When you look at the temples now, it is difficult to imagine that till the year 2005, this site was nothing but a huge pile of rocks. When Shree K K Mohammed, the regional director of the Archaeological Survey of India came upon this site, there were only a couple of small temples still standing, that gave him some idea of the structure and architecture of the temples in this site. It was clear to him that in order to start the restoration, they would need to clear the site first so that they can study the foundation of temples and start piecing together the puzzle.

When you look at the temples now, it is difficult to imagine that till the year 2005, this site was nothing but a huge pile of rocks. When Shree K K Mohammed, the regional director of the Archaeological Survey of India came upon this site, there were only a couple of small temples still standing, that gave him some idea of the structure and architecture of the temples in this site. It was clear to him that in order to start the restoration, they would need to clear the site first so that they can study the foundation of temples and start piecing together the puzzle. 

Not too long back, mere mention of the name Morena was enough to send shivers down anyone's spine. This district near the Chambal river was once a stronghold of notorious dacoits, such as Daku Man Singh, Nirbhay Singh Gujjar, Phoolan Devi, and Paan Singh Tomar. If you happened to be passing through this district and your vehicle broke down, you would automatically start praying to the lord for your safe exit from this area (this actually happened to my parents back in 1982, so I am kind of talking from experience).


But there was yet another challenge at hand - this area was at that time controlled by the much-feared dacoit Nirbhay Singh Gujjar, which was also a blessing in disguise. Because of the presence of the dacoits, the site escaped plundering by antique smugglers and local villagers. Shree K K Mohammed So they had to convince the dacoits to let them restore the site. After much dialogue, the dacoits agreed to vacate the site for 4 months in which Shree K K Mohammed's team was supposed to restore a small area to demonstrate the vision and intent.

But there was yet another challenge at hand - this area was at that time controlled by the much-feared dacoit Nirbhay Singh Gujjar, which was also a blessing in disguise. Because of the presence of the dacoits, the site escaped plundering by antique smugglers and local villagers. Shree K K Mohammed So they had to convince the dacoits to let them restore the site. After much dialogue, the dacoits agreed to vacate the site for 4 months in which Shree K K Mohammed's team was supposed to restore a small area to demonstrate the vision and intent.

Not too long back, mere mention of the name Morena was enough to send shivers down anyone's spine. This district near the Chambal river was once a stronghold of notorious dacoits, such as Daku Man Singh, Nirbhay Singh Gujjar, Phoolan Devi, and Paan Singh Tomar. If you happened to be passing through this district and your vehicle broke down, you would automatically start praying to the lord for your safe exit from this area (this actually happened to my parents back in 1982, so I am kind of talking from experience).


So the team set about the work, photographing, documenting, and restoring the small area. They were up against a tight timeline and a very challenging task. After 4 months when the dacoits returned, they were amazed to see the miraculous restoration and hence they gave their permission to let the restoration work proceed. As time passed many of these dacoits actually became a part of the restoration activity, clearing the areas, sorting rocks, and reassembling the temples. In his interview, KK Mohammed observes, "we were not only restoring the temples, we were actually restoring the lives of these dacoits as well." For some interesting before and after restoration photographs of the site, please see the following article: Article about Bateshwar Group of Temples by Kevin Stand Photography.

So the team set about the work, photographing, documenting, and restoring the small area. They were up against a tight timeline and a very challenging task. After 4 months when the dacoits returned, they were amazed to see the miraculous restoration and hence they gave their permission to let the restoration work proceed. As time passed many of these dacoits actually became a part of the restoration activity, clearing the areas, sorting rocks, and reassembling the temples. In his interview, KK Mohammed observes, "we were not only restoring the temples, we were actually restoring the lives of these dacoits as well." For some interesting before and after restoration photographs of the site, please see the following article: Article about Bateshwar Group of Temples by Kevin Stand Photography

.. ..


The temples in Bateshwar Group are dedicated to Shiv, Vishnu, and Shakti and the oldest of the temples in the complex date back to 750-800 CE. And then some are newer dating back to the 12th and 13th century. Sometime in the 13th century, the temple complex seems to have been hit by a massive earthquake that led to the temples toppling down. There might have been some destruction by invaders as well, but on the surface there does not seem to be any evidence of deliberate mutilation. However, since a nearby temple does have signs of natural as well as deliberate destruction, the possibility cannot be ruled out.

The story of the restoration of one particular temple is particularly fascinating. Shree Mohammad talks about it in his interview. There was this temple that had a tree growing all over it. Its roots had embraced the temple much like the trees in Ta Prohm, Angkor Wat group of temples, Cambodia. However, ASI decided to reclaim that temple. I feel they could have let it be as is. It was a beautiful sight. Anyone who has visited Ta Prohm would know how beautiful it is to see nature reclaim its stake on human structures. Anyway, it is done now. However, one particular aspect of this restoration that touched me immensely was that before they cut down the tree they recited Sanskrit Shloks to ask for the tree's forgiveness, and then they also recited shloks to seek forgiveness from the birds that had made the tree their home and requested them to move to another tree. It is a beautiful gesture even if they went ahead and cut the tree after that. Sorry Shree Mohammad, but I am conflicted about this decision of yours.

Not too long back, mere mention of the name Morena was enough to send shivers down anyone's spine. This district near the Chambal river was once a stronghold of notorious dacoits, such as Daku Man Singh, Nirbhay Singh Gujjar, Phoolan Devi, and Paan Singh Tomar. If you happened to be passing through this district and your vehicle broke down, you would automatically start praying to the lord for your safe exit from this area (this actually happened to my parents back in 1982, so I am kind of talking from experience).


 
Not too long back, mere mention of the name Morena was enough to send shivers down anyone's spine. This district near the Chambal river was once a stronghold of notorious dacoits, such as Daku Man Singh, Nirbhay Singh Gujjar, Phoolan Devi, and Paan Singh Tomar. If you happened to be passing through this district and your vehicle broke down, you would automatically start praying to the lord for your safe exit from this area (this actually happened to my parents back in 1982, so I am kind of talking from experience).

The temples in Bateshwar Group are dedicated to Shiv, Vishnu, and Shakti and the oldest of the temples in the complex date back to 750-800 CE. And then some are newer dating back to the 12th and 13th century. Sometime in the 13th century, the temple complex seems to have been hit by a massive earthquake that led to the temples toppling down. There might have been some destruction by invaders as well, but on the surface there does not seem to be any evidence of deliberate mutilation. However, since a nearby temple does have signs of natural as well as deliberate destruction, the possibility cannot be ruled out. 

Not too long back, mere mention of the name Morena was enough to send shivers down anyone's spine. This district near the Chambal river was once a stronghold of notorious dacoits, such as Daku Man Singh, Nirbhay Singh Gujjar, Phoolan Devi, and Paan Singh Tomar. If you happened to be passing through this district and your vehicle broke down, you would automatically start praying to the lord for your safe exit from this area (this actually happened to my parents back in 1982, so I am kind of talking from experience).


Since then the site pops up in historical literature every now and then as Dharon or Paravali. In Alexander Cunningham's report of 1882, the site was described as a "confused assemblage of more than one hundred temples of various sizes, but mostly small". In 1920, the site was notified as a protected site by the ASI and since then limited recovery, temple numbering, isolation and documentation efforts were initiated.

Since then the site pops up in historical literature every now and then as Dharon or Paravali. In Alexander Cunningham's report of 1882, the site was described as a "confused assemblage of more than one hundred temples of various sizes, but mostly small". In 1920, the site was notified as a protected site by the ASI and since then limited recovery, temple numbering, isolation and documentation efforts were initiated. 

Not too long back, mere mention of the name Morena was enough to send shivers down anyone's spine. This district near the Chambal river was once a stronghold of notorious dacoits, such as Daku Man Singh, Nirbhay Singh Gujjar, Phoolan Devi, and Paan Singh Tomar. If you happened to be passing through this district and your vehicle broke down, you would automatically start praying to the lord for your safe exit from this area (this actually happened to my parents back in 1982, so I am kind of talking from experience).


Though the temples mostly folllow the pancharath style, there are differences in the architecture in the oldest and the newer temples. The ones that are older have flat square roofs that are known as mandapika and the ones that were constructed later have shikharas. The temples are all adorned with several sculptures, some of Gods and Goddesses, some of lovers in various stages of intimacy. It is fascinating to see how romantic passion exists alongside the images of worship. The external walls of one temple are adorned with scenes from Krishna leela and there are several Nandis and also at least one Garuda. Actually, it is the presence of these vehicles, that indicated to the earliest explorers that these temples were dedicated to Shiv as well as Vishnu.

Though the temples mostly folllow the pancharath style, there are differences in the architecture in the oldest and the newer temples. The ones that are older have flat square roofs that are known as mandapika and the ones that were constructed later have shikharas. The temples are all adorned with several sculptures, some of Gods and Goddesses, some of lovers in various stages of intimacy. It is fascinating to see how romantic passion exists alongside the images of worship. The external walls of one temple are adorned with scenes from Krishna leela and there are several Nandis and also at least one Garuda. Actually, it is the presence of these vehicles, that indicated to the earliest explorers that these temples were dedicated to Shiv as well as Vishnu. 

Not too long back, mere mention of the name Morena was enough to send shivers down anyone's spine. This district near the Chambal river was once a stronghold of notorious dacoits, such as Daku Man Singh, Nirbhay Singh Gujjar, Phoolan Devi, and Paan Singh Tomar. If you happened to be passing through this district and your vehicle broke down, you would automatically start praying to the lord for your safe exit from this area (this actually happened to my parents back in 1982, so I am kind of talking from experience).


The entrance of one temple has sculpted footprints of Vishnu. And amid this scene of greens and grey, the vermillion-covered statue of Hanuman with Kamdev and Rati under his feet, stands out. In most of these temples, Pooja isn't carried out. The temples are free for everyone to explore. And there is much to discover.

The entrance of one temple has sculpted footprints of Vishnu. And amid this scene of greens and grey, the vermillion-covered statue of Hanuman with Kamdev and Rati under his feet, stands out. In most of these temples, Pooja isn't carried out. The temples are free for everyone to explore. And there is much to discover. 

Not too long back, mere mention of the name Morena was enough to send shivers down anyone's spine. This district near the Chambal river was once a stronghold of notorious dacoits, such as Daku Man Singh, Nirbhay Singh Gujjar, Phoolan Devi, and Paan Singh Tomar. If you happened to be passing through this district and your vehicle broke down, you would automatically start praying to the lord for your safe exit from this area (this actually happened to my parents back in 1982, so I am kind of talking from experience).


When we got here, we were lucky to bump into Mr Jaibir who has been at this site since 2005 and was part of Shree K K Mohammad's troupe. He told us the story of how the temples were restored by Shree K K Mohammad and also the story of the dacoits. He took us around the complex and pointed out various sculptures and narrated the stories of their restoration. He shared that the restoration work was paused after Shree Mohammad retired and was hopeful that it would resume soon now that Rs 4 Crores have been sanctioned for the project. One ex-dacoit too has written to the Prime Minister to resume the restoration work. Mr Jaibir also shared that as of now there are 6 workers (including himself) who stay at the site and are responsible for maintenance and cleaning. On the whole, the site was clean and well-maintained. It also felt safe. So I guess the caretakers are doing their jobs.

When we got here, we were lucky to bump into Mr Jaibir who has been at this site since 2005 and was part of Shree K K Mohammad's troupe. He told us the story of how the temples were restored by Shree K K Mohammad and also the story of the dacoits. He took us around the complex and pointed out various sculptures and narrated the stories of their restoration. He shared that the restoration work was paused after Shree Mohammad retired and was hopeful that it would resume soon now that Rs 4 Crores have been sanctioned for the project. One ex-dacoit too has written to the Prime Minister to resume the restoration work. Mr Jaibir also shared that as of now there are 6 workers (including himself) who stay at the site and are responsible for maintenance and cleaning. On the whole, the site was clean and well-maintained. It also felt safe. So I guess the caretakers are doing their jobs.  

Not too long back, mere mention of the name Morena was enough to send shivers down anyone's spine. This district near the Chambal river was once a stronghold of notorious dacoits, such as Daku Man Singh, Nirbhay Singh Gujjar, Phoolan Devi, and Paan Singh Tomar. If you happened to be passing through this district and your vehicle broke down, you would automatically start praying to the lord for your safe exit from this area (this actually happened to my parents back in 1982, so I am kind of talking from experience).


Overall, the visit was worth it even if the roads to and from this place were badly potholed and it took us double the amount of time. The fact that we managed to photograph several birds was an added bonus. We will talk about these birds in a separate post. Till then.

Overall, the visit was worth it even if the roads to and from this place were badly potholed and it took us double the amount of time. The fact that we managed to photograph several birds was an added bonus. We will talk about these birds in a separate post. Till then. 



Not too long back, mere mention of the name Morena was enough to send shivers down anyone's spine. This district near the Chambal river was once a stronghold of notorious dacoits, such as Daku Man Singh, Nirbhay Singh Gujjar, Phoolan Devi, and Paan Singh Tomar. If you happened to be passing through this district and your vehicle broke down, you would automatically start praying to the lord for your safe exit from this area (this actually happened to my parents back in 1982, so I am kind of talking from experience).

If you liked this post and found it helpful, I would request you to follow these things when traveling - 

1. Manage your waste well and don’t litter Use dustbins.
2. Tell us if you went to a place and found it hard to locate a dustbin. 
3. Avoid bottle waters in hills. Usually you get clean water in hills and water bottles create lot of mess in our ecosystem. 
4. Say big no to plastic and avoid those unhealthy snacks packed in plastic bags. Rather buy fruits. 
5. Don't play loud blaring music in forests of jungle camps. You are a guest in that ecosystem and disturbing the locals (humans and animals) is not polite.

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