This is the location of spectacular temples from the 11th century AD. At least, travel websites claim that they are spectacular. Only a visit to Bhoramdeo can confirm it; and so I am on my way to this town northwest of Raipur. The place is accessed via Kawardha, 18 kms from Bhoramdeo.
Kawardha is about 120 kms from Raipur, a journey covered slowly in four long hours. When I arrive at Kawardha, there are no surprises. I am told that there are no buses to Bhoramdeo. Some say there are buses but even amongst these believers no one is sure about timing. A jeep may go there, if at all. So I wander around the bus station looking for anything that can take me to 11th century AD eroticism. The temples of Bhoramdeo are famous for erotic art and their patrons, the Nagavansi kings were influenced by Tantric beliefs, just like in Khajuraho.
A jeep driver calls out for passengers. He already about six but that’s not enough. After a wait of 40 minutes we meet the critical number of twelve and we are on our way to Bhoramdeo. We pick up a couple more along the way. Kawardha itself is a small town and when we are out of it we are on a delightful country road.
When I arrive at Bhoramdeo I am tempted to spend the night here instead of Kawardha. There is a placid lake surrounded by wooded hills. A temple stands on a summit. Facing the lake is a large park. The scenery rural, quiet and clean. The air is refreshing although the afternoon sun is throwing harsh shadows. It is all the more reason to spend the night here and enjoy the ambience at dusk and dawn.
There is a rest house operated by tourism department. They have four rooms. At Rs. 880, they are way above my budget.
‘Nothing like the affordable ones in Gujarat,’ I think.
There is a dharamshala but I want something more comfortable for the night. There is resort just settling itself incongruously into such a rural landscape. There are only two rooms in it but they lack finesse and finishing. He charges an outrageous Rs. 1000 per night and this is just because of his pretensions to calling his offering a resort.
I would have to leave the place. I think I will stay at Kawardha but what is to be done at Kawardha? I have no great interest to visit the palace there. So I think I will make an early exit and proceed straight to my next destination – Bilaspur. But before that, some erotic art.
Bhoram is a tribal god. Although the temple is named in his honour, it is a Siva temple. The temple is a small one that stands on a high platform. It has three entrance porches, a mandapa, an antarala and finally the inner sanctum above which stands the shikara. In profile, it resembles a great deal of the temples of Khajuraho. On the walls are erotic couples accompanied by attendants. The postures are imaginative but the artistic excellence of Khajuraho is missing. The sculptures lack the beauty of their Khajuraho counterparts. These images are placed on three levels around the temple.
The sikhara is quite beautiful and unique in the use of smaller shikara motifs. These shikaras are arranged on seven levels, at least five of them on each level. As the shikara tapers to the top, the motifs shrink in proportion. The effect of these shikaras arranged in this manner gives the shikara a delicate upward movement. It is not spectacular as Kandarya Mahadeo temple of Khajuraho or the loftiness of Lingaraj temple of Bhubaneshwar but it has a beauty that matches its size.
On the inside are a couple of good sculptures. The sanctum is being used for prayers and worship. There are images of Jain tirthankaras which makes me wonder at the exact history of the temple.
The temple is enclosed in a large courtyard. There is also a collapsed brick temple in the same courtyard. There are saplings planted by important persons of state but none of them have really grown. They remain in their small pots as saplings dried at the root and lifeless at the shoot.
There are two mahals in Bhoramdeo – Cherki Mahal and Mandwa Mahal. Both are from the 14th century. The first one is a brick temple of which only the sanctum and the shikara survive. A village woman sits in the sanctum and offers to do a puja for something in return. She obviously has wrong expectations from me. In all my travels thus far, I have not offered either flowers or coconut at any temple. Perhaps I have made a few insignificant donations.
I walk between stubble fields to reach the Mandwa Mahal. A sadhu sits at the entrance under a tree.
‘Make a donation. For ten rupees and my blessing, you may become ten lakhs richer,’ he entices.
I ignore him and walk into the mandapa. It is really a temple and the reason why its called a mahal escapes me. The lintel has a wonderful low relief of Ganesha. The temple walls on the outside have reliefs of erotic couples in different positions. The images here are direct and without subtlety. Only erotic art is dominant on the outside. Deities, apsaras, dancers and musicians if at all they exist are hardly conspicuous.
After this visit, I walk to the main road and wait for a return bus to Kawardha. There is a gateway that spans the road as a grand welcome for tourists. It has erotic images similar to those of the temples. It looks very much like an old sculptural work but a close look at the surface reveals the truth. It is a special plaster that mimics the texture of rock.
A bus pulls up at about half past two. The timing is good. I may very well make it to Kawardha early, have lunch and get a bus to Bilaspur. As we leave Bhormadeo, a herd of 200 cows walking on the road creates a minor delay.