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Bhoramdeo: Chhattisgarh’s hidden gem

Published : Feb 6, 2016, 10:20 pm IST
Updated : Feb 6, 2016, 10:20 pm IST

Erotica in stone has come to be synonymous with Khajuraho. but how many have heard of Bhoramdeo Temple amidst the verdant Maikal hills of Chhattisgarh


Erotica in stone has come to be synonymous with Khajuraho. but how many have heard of Bhoramdeo Temple amidst the verdant Maikal hills of Chhattisgarh

The remoteness augured well for Chhattisgarh in the past — most of the invading armies took a second look, shook their heads and left it alone. But of late it has been keeping a different invasion albeit a more desirable one at bay. The one by tourism. This among other factors such as inadequate infrastructure, ambiguity over local community participation, role of government in tourism development, rise of radicalism along some tribal belts, have led to hiding a well-deserved place in the tourism map. But winds of change in recent years have ushered a stable political climate which has resulted in growth across parameters and today tourism impacts the lives of villagers from Jashpur in the north to Jagdalpur down south. What was at best a trickle has grown into a steadily increasing stream of discerning itinerants seeking off-piste destinations, true devotees of cultural and experiential tourism.

Chhattisgarh is a treasure trove of archaeological marvels, heritage hotspots, pilgrim destinations, waterfalls and wildlife sanctuaries and a fascinating tribal culture. Bastar deep in the south was always prominent in the pilgrim circuit for the Danteshwari Temple; the famous Dasara celebrations and related tribal lores are the more recent entrants into the itinerary.

Raipur the capital city, though not very touristy, is the starting point for a tour of the state. The verdant but fast retreating Maikal Hills separate Raipur from the upper Narmada basin to the west and spread over 1,400 sq km with many remote gems scattered in its midst. In Chaura village about 150 km away, grappling between modern mobile shops and ancient kirana stores, is the Bhoramdeo Temple unreservedly an outstanding archaeological specimen in a land brimming with archaeological specimens. The main entrance is a belaboured work of art. Somehow our attempts to compete with, complement even, the works of maestros from another millennia seem to have jolting if not revolting outcomes. But pass through quickly and enter the ground and air hallowed by this abode of the divine nayikas. The soft rays of the sun dapple their way through sal and bija trees and set the temple sitting regal by a sarovar or holy pond aglow with a golden lustre.

The jangha (the portion of the wall extending from the base of the spire to the top of the adhisthana) features four rows of sculptures and ornate foliage patterns. The topmost row comprises a series of bharavahakas (weight bearers) a carving so detailed that we can see their eyes bulging from the load. But it is the nayikas and their shenanigans who will steal your attention and heart. They epitomise feminine grace and sensuality with their postures and are marked by full bosom, narrow waists and well-rounded thighs. The erotica brims with a sexual energy and an imagination so carnal that many school teachers and parents were spotted blushing from the pointed queries of their wards.

Bhoramdeo is an early-medieval structure from the 7th-11th centuries AD; many conflicting theories abound over its period and benefactor. The locals believe that the temple derives its name from a king, Bhoramdeo. A living temple, members of the Gond and Baiga tribes who live far away in the forests come by bicycle and foot to clean the premises and light lamps in the sanctum sanctorum. About two kilometres from Bhoramdeo Temple are the Mandwa and Cherki Mahals built in 1349 AD and dedicated to the Cheras, a nomadic tribe who were obviously more daring in their sexual pursuits.

Thommen is a communication consultant, avid adventurer and author of two road tripping guidebooks.