There is this region in districts Shivpuri and Ashoknagar, spread all over which are various ancient monasteries. Each of these monasteries has a Shiva temple near it. Plus there are other temples of Vishnu and Goddesses. Almost all these temples are not used for worship, these are abandoned, located outside villages or in jungles, are very similar in their style and have no purpose of being there as far as I can understand.
Interestingly, his temple, monastery phenomena is only found in this stretch in MP and a bit of Rajasthan. Maybe this stretch was one separate state back then, being ruled by people who got this constructions done and this religious lifestyle up and going. Will probably understand better in future.
So, two of us, me and Narendra Jain started off at 5am towards Shivpuri. We had breakfast there and head straight to Kadwaha via Kolaras. The road from Gwalior to Shivpuri has improved a lot over the last few months. The 15-20 km just before Shivpuri are still however bad, but at least the rest is relatively good now.
Once you cross Kolaras, there is place called Dehdara. From here we turned left towards the Chanderi Road. Chanderi is around 90km from the turn and much before that is the turn leading to Kadwaya. Kadwaya is a small town with one monastery in the middle of the town and a few temples nearby, mostly on the Mahua road. There are other temples is remote corners of hill around Kadwaya too, but we did not see those as those are hard to find and don’t have any roads leading up to them.
The pictures above are of the Kadwaya town monastery. The work on the temple and the sculptures stored inside the monastery are of great quality, At first sight I thought that there were very similar to the one I had seen earlier in Surwaya. But as I saw more temples I realized that the style of work is similar all through the region.
As we head out of Kadwaya, immediately at its periphery are 3 other temples. All these are separate from each other and have their own boundaries now.
The road ahead leads to Mahua. Mahua is on the Isagarh Rannod route and the temples there are 3 temples here. We could only find two of these. One of these temples is inside the village, its small and very roughly worked. So, while the architecture style is similar to other temples, the sculpture work is very basic
The other temple is on the road just as we leave Mahua village and head towards Terahi. This temple, although larger, taller is again comparatively rougher in its sculpture work. The structure is tall and work on its restoration is very much in progress. The work however, is currently halted as the team as shifted focus on a Shiva Monastery in Terahi, which is talked about next.
Just maybe 2 km after this temple in Mahua, is Terahi or Terayi village. In the village is a Shiva Monastery and temple which seem to have been recently unearthed and the work is still going on. The monastery and temple are the same style, size as the one is Karwaha and the boundary of this place is yet to be done.
After this, guided by an ASI representative Mr. Sharma we head towards to Mohaj Mata Temple. This temple is unique to everything else in the area. The style, the architecture, the sculptures on its walls, the gate. I mean everything is quite different. Plus unlike most other temples which is Shiva or Vishnu temples, this is a Mata or Goddess temple.
The gate infront of the temple is called the Turari Gate (probably). This is a brilliantly adorned gate with Sun God placed at the top. The gate is said to have even more sculptures on its upper part, which have broken off over the years.
The temple has a whole middle row of sculptures just of Skeletons and Cannibalism. I have never seen such depictions in any other temples. The skeletons are all males and the females depicted aside the skeletons are a mix of ones with human and animal faces. Also, there is a sculpture typical of such temples which is differently depicted. This is of Vishnu riding Garud which is on the top of the gate. Garud here is in a skeletal form.
After the Mohaj Mata Mandir we went to Rannod. In Rannod we had planned a lunch with some local friends. This lunch was at Neelkanth temple which is just off Rannod. We ate some amazing Dal Bati for lunch which relaxed for an hour at the temple. This temple is not very old. Has a stream of water with a kund with small fishes.
After this was the time to visit the Kokhai Math of Rannod. This was the location which I had initially heard about and then upon research learnt about the rest. The road from Rannod to Kokhai was a trail heading through a river and fields. So we had to spend some time trying to find our way to the monastery. Once there, the monastery immediately seemed to be something different.
Firstly the math part itself was larger than others we had seen in the day. The size of monastery was infact even larger than the one at Surwaya. Infront of entrance of the main building is a bowdi or step well. The step well was filled with a good depth of relatively clean water.
The odd part however was the absence of a temple. In fact, there was no depiction of God in any form, whether scultpure or writing here. What sort of a monastery was this? I cant really tell, but the absence of any religious depiction is strange. Also there were two mazars near the step well on a platform. This platform could have been the base of a temple because it is positioned and sized appropriately for that role.
After all this, we head back towards Gwalior via Shivpuri, the same route we had come by. There was also an option to return via Pichhore but that would have been slightly longer and as we had seen the Shivpuri route in the morning it would have been easier to navigate through that at night.
Overall, a good ride. Looking to get back in the region to cover more stuff. That should happen soon.