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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Ruins of temples,sculptural treasure and palaces at Kalinjar fort, Uttar Pradesh

Kalinjar is located in the foothills of the Vindhyan ranges. Approximately 56 km south of Banda, in Uttar Pradesh. It takes its name from the fort which looms large over it. The village is connected by a two- way, all-weather road, which cuts through the landscape and is flanked by large tracts of paddy and mango orchards. Today, the village is a pale shadow of the days when Kalinjar fort was the undisputed seat of power. 
Situated atop an isolated edge of the Vindhyan range (374.9 m), Kalinjar fort has a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Also known as Kaal (the destroyer), Shiva belongs to the Hindu triumvirate, along with Brahma (the creator) and Vishnu (the preserver). 
The fort is also mythologically linked to King Bharat after whom India is named. Kalinjar finds mention in the Puranas and the Mahabharata as a sacred location. Historically, the fort has been occupied by King Udyan of Pandu dynasty, the Kalchurias. Pratiharas and Rashtrakutas. However, it was left to the Chandella kings-who built the Khajuraho temples-to turn the fort into their stronghold. 
As you pass through Kalinjar village and walk towards the fort, you can spot remains of the rampart that encircles the village. In the past, access to the village was through four dwars (gates), of which only three-Kamta Dwar, Panna Dwar and Rewa Dwar-remain. The fort can be approached from the steep northern as well as from the motorable southeastern side. The main entrance to the fort is guarded by seven dwars-Alamgir Darwaza, Ganesh Dwar, Chandi Darwaza, Budh-Badra Darwaza, Hanuman Dwar, Lal Darwaza and Bada Darwaza. 
As you reach the crest of the hill, you will see the massive-about a kilometre-long-wide plateau, which was the meeting point for the armies. Inside the fort are Raja Rani Mahal, Chaube Mahal, Rang Mahal and Raja Aman Singh Palace. Most of them have been converted into a museum to house hundreds of stone relics, frescoes, statues, rare sculptures and artefacts recovered from the site. 
The stucco façade of Raja Rani Mahal, which gives the impression of being carved out of marble, is an outstanding example of the craftsmanship of the age. Raja Aman Singh's palace is situated along a huge lake-Kot Tirth. The palace has a huge central courtyard-with two rows of peacock arches. and wide verandahs-and offers from its wide roof, a panoramic view of the Vindhvan range and the scattered ruins of the fort complex. 
Perhaps the most magnificent structure within the fort is the Neelkanth temple. Originally seven storeys tall, only one storey remains intact today. Constructed on a wide. rocky ledge on the northwestern face of the hill overlooking the Kalinjar village, the temple is a glorious example of Indian art. A flight of wide steps cuts from the fort into the rock side and brings one down to this marvellous example of superb craftsmanship. 
Entry into the dark, cavern-like sanctum sanctorum of the temple complex, housing some ninth century carved figures of Lord Shiva, his consort Parvati and son Karthikey besides others, is through a circular maze of elaborately carved pillars. Pillar tops have been carved with kinnars (angels) supporting the beans. Outside, in a pool stands a colossal 18-armed statue of Kaal Bhairav, marvellously cut into the rock face. Dexterously ornamented with a garland of skulls, this 24-ft-high image represents the fearsome aspect of Lord Shiva. Atop the temple is the Swargarohan Kund (pool) with an exquisitely chiselled rock pillar standing in a pooi of water that trickles from the striations in the rocks above. The pillar has stunningly carved statues of Lord Vishnu and his consort, Lakshmi. An engraved stony plaque on another pillar showcases dates, activities and other details of the Chandella period.