Khajuraho like sculptures searing medieval cultural vibrancy in Udhampur
Jalandara Devi Temple, a state protected monument, located at Ladden Kotli area of Udhampur not only sears medieval cultural vibrancy but also depicts architectural marvel of tenth century AD built probably by King Jalandhra of Trigarta. This temple is constructed with sandstones in Nagara style, a typical North Indian architectural style where the ‘Shikhara’ remains most prominent element of the temple and the gateway is usually modest or even absent.
About one hundred and fifty figures carved in stones that of Gods and Goddesses besides wrestlers, animals, birds and guards remind one of Khajuraho style of stone carvings that are visible on all four sides of this magnificent temple. There are no boundaries marked in this type of Nagara style construction and the pedestal on which this temple has been built is higher than ground. Mountain like spire of a free standing temple mostly seen in North India is what this temple is built like as well.
The exquisiteness of many of these figures lies in the fact that some of them have been chiselled on different stones but put together like a solved puzzle during masonry work to form one complete sculpture. Not known to outer world and nestled in the Shivalik hills overlooking a gorge, this temple is located next to remains of a fort. A few remnants of fort that are visible from the temple site being inaccessible hardly get any visitors now.
Right above the sanctum sanctorum of this splendid temple is a hidden, squeezed and inbuilt room where locals believe Sadhus used to meditate. Entrance to this is not visible to commoners. The delicate yet rich stone carvings of the temple depict temple building processes of that era in Jammu region. Most of the stones used in this temple match that of group of Krimchi Temples built by Pandavas their during exile period.
The four walls of temple converge on top into a Shikhara over which a round stone plate rests which after having suffered damages has been restored with the support of steel rods. There are nine small temples carved on front façade of the temple followed by two on each side walls of main entrance. Three temples each also have been carved on remaining three walls brining to total number of stone carved temples on all four faces to twenty one. The Shikhara is not well protected.
It is believed that Mata Jalandara is the Kuldevi of Chenani Kings and the temple might have been constructed by the earlier kings who came to Chenani. The necessity of constructing the fort was perhaps felt by the later kings. The carvings and designs on all sides of the temple rendered in a semi-folk style reflect that construction was carried out by local artisans.
Many believe that row of Siddhas/Tantric Gurus carved on walls and portion above the lintel show local king’s belief in Tantric cult. There are ample references like folk tales and many other anecdotes that speak of Chenani as center of tantric religious cults which were practiced by the royalty, the elite and commoners as well. The miniature size temple here is profusely carved that depict many mythological anecdotes. The temple is very important from the view point of its arts.
Jalandara Devi Temple, Laddan Kotli near Laddan Power Station on the left Bank of Udhampur Tawi is a unique example of a fusion between Margi and Desi traditions. While the temple’s architectural features are based on typical Nagara style the sculptural decorations on temple walls are executed in a folk idiom.
FRONT WALL/FAÇADE/ ENTRANCE
Coming from top to bottom, the front wall of temple has three carved faces believed to be that of Sun God. Beneath that is a small carved stone temple that houses Kalasha on its top and a statue beneath it. This small carved temple on the Shikhara is having four diamond like flower designs on either sides that complete the top half face of front wall. Below this are three rows of floral patterns in stone work and below that are nine small temples depicting nine Goddesses. Right beneath them is a curb stone that’s carved on a huge sill over which entire above arrangement of temples rest.
This entire facade is supported by two stone pillars at the entrance of main door of the temple. Top portion of these pillars are having two devotees carved on each pillar. One of them can be seen watering Shivalingam while another ringing temple bell as part of worshiping.
LEFT EXTERIOR WALL
Left exterior wall has statues carved on stones that have been embedded in masonry work. The main ‘stone-carved’ temple on this wall has characters from Ramayana. Figures of Vanar Sena armed with weapons have been carved on stones. The central main image of deity here has been shown sitting on a throne that has two lions. A total of twelve figures of Vanar Sena can be seen holding different weapons mostly bows and arrows.
The right temple carved intricately has again ten figures probably that of a deity with two guards and a couple of figures holding Chattar on top the deity. The extreme left temple carved on the wall of main temple shows love for animals. About five animals have been carved on one panel while others have some figures in dancing postures probably that of Lord Krishna.
A similar pattern of three more temples have been carved on this facade. Central temple houses five figures. The main figure is believed to be of Vaman Avatar. In all there are three stone pieces bricked in masonry diagonally and remaining two are dancing figures on extreme ends. The extreme left temple houses eighteen figures. Wrestlers in different combinations and one man beating drums have been shown in this panel. This entire scene depicts Akhara (Arena).
Eighteen figures including thirteen humans/Gods and Goddesses are on right side of the main temple. Central figure surely depicts Narsing Avatar. One of the figures is sitting on an elephant, another on a bird and last one on a throne having two lions as its base. One figure is holding Veena (musical instrument) in hand. The remaining are that of dancers, Gods and Goddesses.
RIGHT EXTERIOR WALL
The right wall of the main temple gain carries three temples. Dashananda (Ravana) with his ten heads in a combination of three in each row and one resting on their top is carved in central temple. Ravana is also carved sitting on an animal like figure with one guard on his left and a woman on right. On the left is another temple having eight figures that of dancing women and armed men. Five figures with one gymnast like figure don right side of the temple. This wall also carries four stones carved into erotic scenes involving couples. These figures probably have been inspired from Khajuraho temple carvings.
The temple is blend of Antraal and Garbh Greha. The entrance has columns that have been carved with Dwarpals (Guards). Main entrance is about 1.50 metre wide and 0.75 metre high. The entrance has also been decorated with flowers carved in stones. Statues of Ganga and Yamuna also are visible right at the entrance alone. Right at the Sanctum Sanctorum is located Pindi of Devi which is little raised from the floor level. A statue of Goddess can also be seen on front wall inside the temple that’s light black in colour.
This sculpture of Goddess has four arms and is shown sitting on a lion which is standing on Oxen. This type of statue or sculpture is believed to be an artwork of Himachal Pradesh artisans and not that of Dogra artisans. According to Shiv Nirmohi who has done an extensive research ion this temple, the sanctum sanctorum also houses a lamp lighting area that depicts that provision of keeping temple lighted during evening hours was kept deliberately.
Most interesting part of this temple is that where four walls converge at 2.80 metre from ground level, two round sill serve as roof top of temple. Looking from inside small sill, according to acclaimed writer and Padamshree acclaimed writer and Padamshree Shiv Nirmohi has eleven snake heads engraved on it while the bigger one has fourteen snake hears carved on it. This instrument is believed to be symbol of eleven Rudra and fourteen Tap. One of the temple walls is also believed to house a sculpture of Bhimsen shaking a mighty tree which is quite appreciable.
Krishan leela, Lord Brahma, Lord Indra, Sugreve besides Apsaras and some more characters from Ramayana have been carved on walls of this temple that reflect cultural philosophy of that era.
A modern day brick wall has come up around the temple. Its exterior has been whitewashed thereby damaging original texture of stones. Some portion of interiors of the temple and main entrance has been fitted with vitrified tiles that don’t go with the stone work of temple of that era. A shed has been constructed on the right side of temple for performing Puja and other rituals which also doesn’t blend with the main structure.
Weeds are coming out of the top of Shikhara thereby dislocating stone masonry. A small kitchen like structure has also been built at the entrance of the main temple which camouflages main structure. Modern day tiles too have been laid down in entire compound. In totality the temple is not in a good shape despite it being declared as Protected Monument.
While temples like Sudh Mahadev believed to be over 2800 years old, Mansar Devta’s shrine, Shankari Devta Mandir, Shiv Khori Cave Temple, Bhairav Ghati, Krimchi Temples, Shiv Parvathi Cave shrine and Shri Mata Vaishno Devi shrine in this district Udhampur attract lakhs of tourists, Jalandhra Devi temple faces sheer neglect. Very recently a mega project of Devika River, manifestation of the mother Goddess Parvati, on the insistence of union minister in PMO Dr Jitendra Singh got underway but this site at Ladan Kotli still lacks attention.
Massive promotional campaigns in print and electronic media asking people to visit Jalandara Devi Temple, a state protected monument, located at Ladden Kotli area of Udhampur is nothing but a trap. Trap, because there’s no proper road that leads to the village where this historic temple is located. Secondly, in absence of proper path from main road, it’s practically not possible for visitors to reach temple site that’s situated on a small hillock overlooking a valley where river Tawi flows.
For handicap, this is an established inaccessible site that offers no way, water or waiting area right up to the temple or at the site of monument declared as protected. Another disappointing feature of this site is that despite being protected by state, locals are ignorant of the importance of its architectural values and are continuing to interfere and modify temple and its surroundings as per their conveniences thereby damaging the original structures.
Poorly maintained Jalandara Devi Temple has a couple of houses in it’s vicinity whose inhabitants pray there, do daily chorus and even maintain the temple courtyard besides hold annual Bhandara. When contacted, a local resident said that staff of Water Works Department and locals keep the temple affairs going on. Tourists don’t come here as the site is inaccessible, he said adding that a fort built probably during the time of Pandavas also stands damaged beyond repairs here.
Strangely concrete structures that have come up in the vicinity of temple have spoilt the aesthetics of main structure. Had Jalandara Devi temple been restored to its glory and given access by building a road or even a path, the site would have blinked on the tourism map of major medieval temples located across the country depicting architectural marvel of that era. The only temporary pathway to the site is so uneven and dilapidated that ascent becomes literally tough for tourists or pilgrims especially for aged, infirm, women and even children.