Kadwaya and the ‘drunken peacocks’ of MP

Kadwaya village in Madhya Pradesh boasts of 15 temples, a Shaiva monastery, a few tanks, a fortress, a mosque, etc., all evidence of its past fame and eminence.

Published: 09th November 2021 01:24 AM  |   Last Updated: 09th November 2021 01:24 AM   |  A+A-

The Toteshvara Mahadev temple in Kadwaya (11th century CE)

India has been successful in preserving many of her ancient metropolises as modern, buzzing and developed towns and cities. Varanasi, Kanchipuram, Mathura, Patna, Madurai, Delhi, Bhubaneswar, Gwalior, etc., are a few such examples. However, there are also cases where ancient centres of considerable importance are reduced to small villages and settlements since they did not have the required political and cultural support to sustain their status. Kadwaya, a village in the Ashoknagar district of Madhya Pradesh, falls under this category. This small village boasts of 15 temples, a Shaiva monastery, a few tanks, a fortress, a mosque, etc., all evidence of its past fame and eminence.

The village, then known as Kadambaguha and Mattamayurapura, rose to prominence during the eighth century CE. There were two discernible factors for its growth. The first was its location—it is situated in a region bounded by river Sindhu in the west and river Betwa in the east. This geographical advantage fostered the growth of many centres in the region such as Chanderi, Ranod, Indor, Terahi and Thubon. These towns were suitable stopovers for traders travelling on the routes from the north to west and south. The second factor was the establishment of the principal seat of the Mattamayura line of saints in Kadwaya. Kadambaguhadivasin (“inhabitant of Kadambaguha”), though not a personal name, was the first saint of this clan. The clan spread far and wide to Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

A collateral line of the Mattamayura clan got associated with the Kalachuri kings of Tripuri during the 10–11th century CE. The Ranod inscription mentions that sage Purandara established mathas (monasteries) at Ranod and Kadwaya after initiating the Chalukya King Avantivarman; the latter was ruling from Kadwaya as his capital. This matha is the earliest surviving structure in Kadwaya, dateable to the ninth-tenth century CE. The matha became a focal point and during the reign of the Gurjara-Pratiharas, several temples and other structures were constructed around it. A 10th century CE inscription mentions the initiation of a Pratihara king, Hariraja, from a disciple of Dharmashiva at the Kadwaya matha.

 Temple of the Akhati group in Kadwaya, Madhya Pradesh

Kadwaya received a setback when it came under the growing empire of Alaud-Din Khalji. An inscription, dated to 1309–10 CE, mentions that a sage named Bhuteshvara did a severe penance when the world was harassed by the mlecchas and the latter committed sins 19 times. The inscription suggests that though the village was taken over by the forces of Alaud-Din Khalji, the matha continued to carry out its functions. Like many other sites in the vicinity, the matha in Kadwaya was also converted into a garhi (fortress) and a mosque was built over a temple, suggesting that it became a military post during the Khalji and the later Tughluq period.

All the surviving temples are scattered around the village except one that is constructed near the matha. The temples are classified based upon their location into eight different groups and named after local designations. Chandla Temple, located in the northwest of the village, is the earliest and dateable to the ninth century CE. It is built in tri-ratha plan with a pyramidal phamsana shikhara and consists of a garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum) and a mandapa. It is dedicated to Shiva, and has Ganesha, Chamunda and Surya on its bhadra niches. Shiva as Natesha is present over the lalata-bimba (crest-figure) of the garbhagriha doorway. Later temples of the tenth century CE are built on decorated plinths with advanced adhisthana, and have a vimana with a complex iconographic programme. Though not many temples have survived with their shikharas, they would have been of the latina or rekha-style shikhara of the Nagara order. The Toteshvara Mahadev temple (11th century CE) represents the zenith of the temple construction activities in Kadwaya. The temple is built in pancha-ratha plan, with its garbhagriha doorway composed of seven shakhas (bands) and a shikhara of the earlier form of sekhari style with urushringa (subsidiary tower) provided over the bhadra.

We do not exactly know who built these temples as there are no foundation inscriptions. However, it may be surmised that these were not sponsored by the royal houses but mostly built by matha pontiffs or village communities. Therefore, the style and theme of these temples would have been highly influenced by the Mattamayura saints. The presence of Shiva as Natesha over many temples in Kadwaya, including the earliest one at the site, indicates the importance given to the icon. Mattamayura, translated as “drunken peacocks”, refers to the delight and ecstasy of these birds reflected in their dance. Through this notion, the Mattamayura saints attempted to become one with Shiva, as the latter is also worshipped as the ultimate dancer, Nataraja.

Kadwaya has received attention from scholars in the past few decades. However, there remain various aspects that are still to be unfolded. The village is not frequented by tourists as it lies away from the main circuits. Chanderi is the only town in the area that gets a good flow of tourists, with the rest of the monument-rich region bereft of visitors.

Saurabh Saxena

Founder of Puratattva, a documentation of heritage sites

(Puratattva.India@gmail.com)


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