Since I have taken quite a lot of time at Bhimbetka, I think its better to head back to Bhopal. I wait along the highway for a bus. The first bus that arrives is for Bhopal and I board it. It so happens that this bus is going via Bhojpur. I take a ticket to Bhojpur.
As we arrive at the village of Neemkheda, I can see the massive Shiva temple of Bhojpur standing on a hill in the distance. It will not be long before we reach Bhojpur. The temple is from the 12th and 13th centuries. The temple itself derives its name from Raja Bhoj, a king of the Parmar dynasty. For some reason, they call this “Somnath of the East”. It makes no sense to me because I have not seen Somnath.
As I walk to the temple, women try to sell me packets of offerings neatly packed in transparent plastic bags. The temple looks a ruin but it looks more so because it was never completed. Decorations are minimal. What is really impressive about the inner sanctum is its magnificent proportions. It is supported on four massive pillars. Equally impressive are the pilasters and brackets. The pillars bear inverted bell capitals on circular discs.
The linga is 7.5 feet high with a circumference of 17.8 feet. It stands on a peeta that’s 21.5 feet above the sanctum floor level. There is priest cleaning the linga with buckets of water. He is dwarfed by the huge linga, which is said to be the world’s largest.
Other than the sanctum, there are no other walls or shrines of the old temple. A stone ramp on one side must have been used by the early builders. It is proof enough that the temple was never completed. The side walls around the sanctum are plain with the exception of projected balconies with pillars and brackets. A abhisheka spout is sculpted to the face of a makara. High reliefs of two stone bells hang in their chains from the mouths of keerthi mukhas on a pair of pillars leading into the sanctum.
Devotees come and make their offerings. Two small shrines facing the main linga are used for this purpose. For many others, such a prayer is only a brief affair. Coming to Bhojpur is really a day picnic. They sit on the surrounding lawns with their packets of food and drink. They relax with their families in the last hour before sunset. The sky reddens in the west and casts a warm shade on the red stones of the old temple.
It is time for me to leave before it gets dark. I need to find some transport back to Bhopal. For most others, I see that the single approach road to the temple is packed with their vehicles.