rivers meet & converse
by Preeti Verma Lal
Sit near the stone Nandi and watch
the confluence - you can actually see the different colors of the three rivers.
It feels as if the Maker had demarcated territories for them and the rivers, like
obedient children, walk within their lanes, yet hold hands and gurgle like a conversation.
It is a stunning sight, if you can, wait for the sun to dip and who knows you
might also attain the peace that we all crave for. RAJIM:
Rajim is not a sleepy town, it is not even bustling
with activities, there's a certain calm about it, as if it has attained the peace
that we all crave for. Its streets are mud-spattered and slender but you forget
all this when you see the expanse of the Mahanadi mingling with Pairi and Sondhu
rivers. Sit near the stone Nandi and watch the confluence - you can actually see
the different colors of the three rivers. It feels as if the Maker had demarcated
territories for them and the rivers, like obedient children, walk within their
lanes, yet hold hands and gurgle like a conversation. It is a stunning sight,
if you can, wait for the sun to dip and who knows you might also attain the peace
that we all crave for.
It is this confluence of the
three rivers that brought home the sobriquet of Chattisgarh's Prayag for Rajim,
the town that has been named after Rajim Telin, a woman who sold oil. Mythology
has it that Lord Vishnu, pleased with her devotion, promised that her temple would
be the first in Rajim.
But Rajim, which is 50 kms south-east
of Raipur has a presiding deity - Lord Vishnu. The Rajiv Lochan Temple that is
said to have been built nearly 1300 years ago has several unique features - it
has a rare idol of a barefoot Lord Vishnu made of black granite; the pujaris are
Kshtriyas, not Brahmins; the deity always wears unstitched cloth that is never
tied in knots, it can only be folded; for generations the same family has been
weaving the pagri that the deity wears (the pagri is 13 meters long and 12 to
18 inches wide), no mantras are recited during the shringar puja and idol is dressed
up like a child in morning, as youth in afternoon and as an old man in the evening.
"It is not just the rituals that make the temple
unique. If you look at the temple walls they have withstood the vagaries of Nature
because of the raw material used. The bricks have been piled together not by cement
or clay, but by mixing limestone, urad dal and the entrails of the bel fruit,"
informs Rajendra Manu, a writer and the 73rd descendant of the first kshtriya
pujari of the temple.
In his authoritative report, Sir
Alexander Cunnigham, the first director general of the Archaeological Survey of
India, talks of Rajim as a complex of ancient temples. And Cunnigham would know,
for there are several temples in the complex - there's one dedicated to Lord Jagannath,
the other to Lord Shiva and yes, there's one for Rajim, the oil seller.
city of Rajim is said to be standing on a lotus and has five shivalingams - Kuleshwar,
Fingeshwar, Kopeshwar, Patneshwar and Pateshwar. These five lingams also give
Rajim another name - Panchkashi.
most confident way of confirming the antiquity and importance of a historical
site is to check with Huen Tsang, the ancient, intrepid Chinese chronicler - if
the historical site finds mention in his travelogue, it IS ancient and important.
By that calibration, Sirpur passes the test just fine.
inscriptions dated between 5th century and 8th century there is mention of a town
called Sirpur or Shripur, the capital of the Somvanshi kings. Between 6th and
10th century, Sirpur became an important center for the Buddhists. In recent excavations,
archaeologists have unearthed a rich treasure trove of Buddhist temples and beautifully
carved stone doors and panels.
When one talks of Sirpur,
two temples find quick mention, the Lakshman Temple and the Gandeshwar Temple.
Perched on a platform six-feet high, the Lakshman Temple is said to be the only
temple in the country dedicated solely to Lakshman, the younger brother of Lord
A blue-white signboard near the temple's entrance
informs that the brick temple was built in 8th century by Vasata, the daughter
of King Suryavarma of Magadh and the mother of Mahashivagupta, who ruled over
Mahakosala with Sirpur as its capital. The temple has also been declared to be
of national importance under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Site and
Remains Act (1958).
Outside the 10-feet square sanctum
sanctorum are stubs of pillars and the temple's corbelled high roof inspire awe,
not just for the architecture but also for the intricate stories carved in stone.
The Gandeshwar Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and sits
amidst several Sati pillars and other shrines faithful to the Jain, Buddhist and
Hindu styles and traditions of architecture. Devotees throng to this temple during
the three-day mela in January-February.
Earlier known as Champajhar, Champaran borrows its solemnity from Saint
Vallabhacharya, the founder of the Vallabh sect. Saint Vallabhacharya was born
in Champaran in the 15th century and his followers later built a temple in his
Once you have driven 60 kms off Raipur and enter
the muddy tract that leads into the Champaran Temple area, a huge arch welcomes
you. But don't get lost admiring the maroon arch too long, for there's always
an army of langurs on the prowl. There are so many of them in the area that several
groundnut-selling kiosks have sprung up. The langurs would pinch something off
you, so why not buy some cheap groundnuts, appease them and then walk towards
your deity? That's a smart pilgrim's move.
Once past the
kiosks, you walk through a long corridor lined with brightly painted pillars that
merge into a huge courtyard skirted by rooms - one of them being a photographer's
studio! The place where Saint Vallabhacharya was born is considered the holiest
by the followers of the Vallabh sect. The huge silver door has a regal appeal
and the annual mela is held in January-February.
Stories and sensuality happen behind closed doors. But not in Bhoramdeo,
the famous temple that wears its eroticism on its sleeves and for centuries its
art has intrigued historians and its message lapped by couples. The temple is
adorned with sculptures of men and women in various sexual positions, as if they
have just taken lessons from Vatsayana and walked out of the pages of his book,
The 11th century temple is dedicated
to Lord Shiva, who is called Bhoramdeo by the Gond tribals, the earliest inhabitants
of this area. The temple that is nearly 18 meters long and 12 meters wide is built
in the Nagar style. This east-facing temple has three entrance doors and sits
on a 1.53 meter high platform. The temple was renovated by the King of Kawardha
in the previous century.
in Discover India magazine, September 2004.