This is the third of the series of photo essays on the Shiv Mandir in Bhojpur. This one looks at the forecourt of the temple and a bit of the surroundings.
The left hand side of the forecourt. Can you see the long sloping structure at the back? It is a ramp. Now why a ramp? The ramp is what was used to construct the temple. They dragged the thick heavy stones up this ramp and then constructed the temple to its great height. Amazing. I understand that this is a very rare occurrence that nowhere else is an ancient tall monument with an extant ramp. Pyramids were also constructed in this same manner as some of the theories go. Amazing thing. I guess this was an advantage of the temple being left half completed, because if it had been complete, then the ramp would have been removed as well. Amazing stuff.
Looking left, you see these strange fenced off areas on the rock. But more about that in a later essay.
Moving over to the right of the forecourt and its an extraordinary sight. It looks like there was a retaining wall and it just fell off on to the right. But there are these two structures. Solid Structures. First I thought they were temples. But no, they arent temples.
These are stupas most likely and given the proximity to Sanchi which is a huge Buddhist pilgrimage site, its quite possible that couple of Buddhist Lama’s were buried here. Ma said that nobody knows and its also possible that these are Muslim Graves. But nobody knows and nobody has excavated them either. The one on the top is made up of limestone finished brick work with a bit of Buddhist carving on the bottom of the dome. The one on the bottom is a poxy little sad brick structure. Without a finish. I asked around but nobody knew what it was.
Looking back at the minor temple on the forecourt and the surrounding landscape.
The forecourt is made up of these giant polished flagstones.
A little temple. The earthenware pot on top contains water with a tiny hole in the bottom so that water can drop on the representation of Shiv at the bottom. The water represents Ganga who is supposed to emerge from Shiv’s matted locks. Its a bit directionally challenged as Ganga is supposed to emerge from Shiv and not drop on him, but lets not go there. There are four of these sub temples on the forecourt.
Here’s Nandi, the Sacred Bull Vahana of Shiva. When I read up more about this, I realised my knowledge was out of date. I was always told that Nandi was Shiva’s vahana which he rode off to visit his inlaws or to fight or to go buy a packet of fags at the local chinese shop or what have you. But apparently Nandi is a recent corruption of Nandin who was one of the two (other was Mahakala) door keepers of Shiva. Generally, this statue is kept facing the Shiv Ling.
Trying to catch a droplet on top of the brass Cobra, a drop starts to form and then there, its released.
And a fly comes over to have a bit of a drink to join its friend who is hovering close to the hood of the snake.
See the statues? Very worn. I couldnt make out who they were off. Nandi on the bottom right, possibly Parvati on the rear left, perhaps another Nandi on the rear right with a broken statue with only the feet showing on the extreme rear right. and then the Shiv ling in the middle. Its covered with the Dhatura flower and leaves.
Look up below the dome and you will see a very complex carved scene. In the centre is the usual lotus flower representation but i couldnt figure out what the structures were on the corners. Depending upon the base orientation, they either look like trees or flowers emerging out of a vase.
Another brass bell with the inscription of Shiv around it. The clapper is very shiny from the millions of people who have rung the bell, asking for the God’s attention and wishing for his protection.
I like Shiv. He is a monk. He is the most knowledgeable amongst all the Gods. He spends his time meditating and being inoffensive. In fact he is also called as Bhola Nath. The simple innocent God. But he has a family and loves them dearly but isnt above chopping his son’s head off in a fit of absent mindedness and then replaces the human head with an elephant head. He lives in the Kailash Mountain in Himalaya in the cold. Wears rags or animal skins, bathes in ash and is also worshipped in crematoriums. He is frequented with ghosts and goblins. But dont piss him off because he has the most god awful temper which can destroy the universe. He has an entire river coming out of his matted locks and he changed colour when he drank up the poison from the primordial snake to save the Gods (Neel Kanth – blue throated, blue for the colour of the skin after being afflicted by the poison) What a great guy. I think he is the coolest God. Something to aspire to, eh?