Set high on an outcrop above the Betwa River in Madhya Pradesh, an ancient Shiva temple looms over a rocky sandstone escarpment. Made of the same pink-hued stone as the land from which it rises, the 11th-century Bhojeshwar Temple near Bhopal is a fascinating feat of ancient architecture. The temple stands unfinished, and there are no definite facts known about how and why it was built. Estimates suggest that King Bhojdeva of the Paramara dynasty commissioned the temple.
I nearly bend over backwards trying to take in the structure in its entirety. Four colossal pillars, nearly 40-feet high, hold up a domed ceiling with intricate carvings. At the centre, a three-tiered plinth holds a monolithic 22-foot high Shivalinga. I see the remnants of a ramp on the outside, which was used to transport massive blocks of stone used in the construction. The richly carved dome, or shikhara, probably was intended to be rectilinear in style, although it is curvilinear in style in its detailing. Each element is striking, both in scale and design, and leaves one to marvel at the fortitude of ancient India’s architects. It also makes one wonder as to why the construction was abandoned abruptly all those centuries ago.
Exploring the rocky surroundings, I stumble upon line drawings etched into the stone. Featuring details of the temple layout, elevation, and pillars, these are the blueprints of the Bhojeshwar temple, available for all to see. Though the ravages of time have taken their toll on the carvings, they are being carefully preserved. The temple may lie unfinished, but the architects ensured that their legacy was set in stone.
In an effort to make access barrier-free, a ramp leads all the way up to the temple, for those unable to navigate the steep steps. The temple also features panels in Braille that tell the history of the structure.
Getting there: Bhojeshwar Temple is 30km/60 minutes from Bhopal by road
Timings: Sunrise to Sunset
Entry Fees: Free