ON the south bank of the Chambal and nearly opposite to Bhainsrorgaḍh are the temples of Baroli, on of the most beautiful groups of Hindu fanes of their age in India, “The effect of their architecture is, however,” as Mr. Fergusson remarks, “a good deal heightened by the beauty of the scene in which they are situated; perhaps, also, by its solitary loneliness, for there is not a tent or a house on the whole plain in which they are situated, nor any sign of human habitation except the little hill fort of Bhainsror perched on a crag overhanging the Chambal, but on the other side of the river and at a considerable distance from the temples. In another direction, at a distance of about two miles, the Chambal breaks through the barrier of the antrea” (or long valley stretching up from Mokandarâ) “in a fall, a great beauty winch in the rains must be as fine as those of the Rhine at Schaffhausen, and even when I saw them in the dry season, were finer than those of the Clyde at Lanark. Like every other scene of more than usual beauty and every phenomenon of nature in India, innumerable legends of gods and demigods are located around them; and it is probably to one of these that Baroli owes its sanctity and fame, for I could hear of no town, nor even a tradition of one, having existed in this neighbourhood.
The principal temple here, a little to the right (or north) of the two small ones shown in the view, probably dates from the latter half of the ninth century. It has long been desecrated, but was originally dedicated to Śiva or Mahâdeva as Rori-Baroli, symbolized by a round waterworn stone laid in a groove in the internal ring of the Yoni, and so poised that it can be made to revolve, while the votary repeats a mantra of some length.
The style of the architecture does not, at first sight, differ from that of the small ones to the south of it. The base of the shrine is plain, with only a niche on each of the three exposed sides, containing sculptures of great merit, fully described by Tod. Above the antarala or vestibule of the shrine, a very richly sculptured roof rises to more than two-thirds of the śikhar or spire; and in front of this, again, is the open maṇḍap or portico, the roof of which “is sculptured with a richness and complexity of design almost unrivalled even in those days of patient prodigality of labour. The temple, however, is but a small one, and the neatly carved spire, with its urn-like kalas or finial, only rises to a height of fifty-eight feet, so that, as has been well remarked, “its merit consists entirely in its shape and proportions, and in the elegance and profusion of the ornament that covers it.”” Internally, the roof is far more elaborate and richly carved than the exterior. It consists of a square within the entablature, of about 12 ft. 6 in., the corners of which are cut off by four slabs, so as to reduce it to a square of about 9 feet, placed diagonally to the other. This operation is again repeated, and the square becomes a little less than one-half the original one, or about 6 feet, and this opening is closed by one slab, pierced with a quatrefoil trefoiled—to borrow a term from Gothic architecture,—the whole depth of the roof being, by estimation, about 3 feet. It is one of the most elaborate as well as most beautiful specimens of the Hindu mode of roofing to be met with anywhere.”
In front of the mandap, and separated from it by four or five yards’ distance, is a hall called Sengâr-Châwadî, or ornamental hall, similar to that in front of the temple at Mudherâ in Gujarat, and one of the finest examples of its kind. It is a square of sixteen columns—four on each face— with four entrances, each with its advanced pair of columns. Each compartment of the roof is covered in on the same principle as that employed for the roof of the mandap, but without the same richness and depth of carving. The centre of the Châwadî is the traditional scene of the nuptials of a “Râja Hun with the fair daughter of a Râjput prince, of whom he had long been enamoured,” and to commemorate which event these magnificent structures were raised. But of this Râja Hun we know nothing more.
The temple on the right of the view is one dedicated to Pârvati, the śaktî or wife of Śiva. Its śikhar is slightly more spirelike than that of the great temple; it is, however, doubtless of the same age. Beside it is another still smaller; and there are others belonging to the group: one dedicated to Ganeśa; another containing a figure of the trimtirti, or trifrontal representation of Mâhadeva so common about the ninth century; and another shrine, near the kuṇḍ or sacred fountain, contains a figure of Vishnu reposing on the Śesha Nâga, a beautiful piece of Hindu sculpture.
Nearly in front of the temple of Pârvati stood two pillars, one of them still erect, and which probably supported an architrave and ornamental pediment, like that at Siddhapur, or in the court of the temple of Aehaleśvar at Abu, from which hung a swing for the recreation of the god, as this is a favourite amusement with many of the Hindu gods. This pillar Tod describes, as excelling everything else here. 1 Four elegant female figures surround the base and form the principal ornament of the shaft. But it has lost its bracket capital, “which is the invariable accompaniment of Indian pillars of every age and style, and is, after all, the most elegant and appropriate mode of supporting an architrave that has yet been invented by the ingenuity of man.”
- 1. See Fergusson, Picturesque Illustrations pp. 35, 36, and Hist, of Architecture, vol. iJ. pp. 594, 595, 598 ; Tod’s Annals of Rajasthan, vol. ii. pp. 457, 704—713 (Madras ed, pp. 422, 646—653); and conf. Indian Antiquary, vol. ii. p. 215; and the author’s Notes of a Visit to Gujarat, pp. 104— 106.