Dashavatara Temple – A Gupta gem in nowhere land!

Last updated on December 26th, 2017 at 05:14 pm

Are you surprised with the title of this post? When we visited Dashavatara temple in the Bundelkhand region in Uttar Pradesh in India, we could only exclaim thus – A rare gem in nowhere land! Here was a exquisite temple of Gupta period, in the middle of rural landscape with farms and forest around, off the beaten track.
We remember how it all started. It must be in one of the special issues of “Outlook Traveller” we came across this place. We were in awe of the temple when we saw the pictures. That was when it was decided to visit whenever we travel in that area.

We finally made it August 2007. This was part of our travel to Agra and Gwalior. The plan was to take a “Self drive” car from Delhi, visit Taj Mahal and the mighty fort at Gwalior. Staying in Gwalior, gave us an idea of doing a day trip to Devgarh. There was another motivation too. A visit to Poorna’s regiment in Jhansi on the way!

August is the best time to drive in Bundelkhand. It was raining intermittently when we left Gwalior. The road from Gwalior was not great but not bad either. The ravines of Chambal near Dholpur looked like a green moonscape. It is amazing to see the transformation of these ravines after the rains. A brown, beaten landscape turns into picturesque green after the first rainfall with grass sprouting all around. The river Chambal itself was a pretty sight – wide and flowing full. After our first stop in the officers’ mess of Poorna’s regiment in Jhansi for a cup of tea, we continued to Deogarh.

dashavatara temple
And quiet flows Chambal……
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The Ravines – Green after the showers
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Poorna in Officers’ Mess, Jhansi
Exiting Jhansi, we were now in heart of Bundelkhand. This was a true rural landscape. It was green as it can ever get. Bundelkhand region is blessed with small hills which too had turned green thanks to good rain fall. Full flowing Betwa and its valley never looked so beautiful.
dashavatara temple
Betwa is a lovely sight after rains.

After two hours of drive we reached Deogarh in the afternoon. The sky was overcast which was good for us as the weather was pleasant. Fortunately, it was not raining. Checking with villagers, we were directed to a farmland on the outskirts. We arrive to see in the middle of a green field, a lovely temple. There is no care taker. No ticket booth. We open the gates of a compound and enter the temple. It was peaceful and we were the only two visitors exploring the ruins.

First thing that strikes you about the temple is the setting. Built by the Guptas, this is a ruined, but well-conserved, temple. It also has a reputation of first north Indian temple built with shikhara. Sadly, most of the shikhara has fallen. Still, the Dashavatara temple has a captivating presence with its high plinth and a terraced basement.

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Dashavatara Temple in the middle of nowhere. Notice the lovely setting.
dashavatara temple
The entrance with ornate carvings
We climb the steps leading to the plinth. This must be one of the most exquisite example of Gupta artistic heritage. We started exploring the panels as we walked around. These are elegantly executed, with minute attention to detail. The refinement of these sculptures and the skills of artisans is nonpareil. The pièce de résistance is the “Seshashayana Panel” showing Lord Vishnu reclining on his left side. Notice the stone “cushions” below him chiseled in such a way to go along the contours of the body!. The other panels were exquisite too depicting the stories of Gajendra Moksha, Nara Narayana. A closer exploration of the panels and the entrance opens up treasure trove of earliest forms of sculptural heritage in India. Check out these few pictures we clicked.
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Sheshashayana – Lord Vishnu in reclining position
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Zoomed Picture – Notice the minute details of the sculpture. The way Adisesha as cushion is visualised and sculpted!
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Gajendra Moksha – Notice the way lake is depicted with lilies etc!
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Penance of Nara – Narayana
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Yamuna positioned on Tortoise
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Ganga on a crocodile
It started raining heavily and we could not drive up the hill to fort to see the Jain temples. We missed a great opportunity to check out some of the earliest Jain temples – 40 of them in large complex!
We bid good bye to a hidden gem. It was a lesson in history and India’s heritage which we would cherish forever.
Check out this nice video of the temple by Prakash Manjrekar

Dashavatara temple

We chanced upon this lovely blog by Saurabh Saxena. He has captured minute details of the place along with an excellent album. If you want to know more about the place in detail, check out this link below for more details.

Deogarh – The Epitome of Guptas
Travel Information
Getting there
Nearest airport is at Gwalior : 235 km.
The nearest railway station is Jakhlaun 13 km, which can be reached by Jhansi-Babina Passenger train, whereas Lalitpur is the most convenient rail head, 23 km from Deogarh.
Deogarh is connected by bus to all important centers in the region. Some of the major road distances are : Lalitpur-23 km, Matatila Dam-93 km, Jhansi 123 km.
Stay Options
  • Jain Dharamshala
  • Tourist Bungalow, Deogarh (UPSTDC)
Travel Tips
a) Exploring Deogarh and surrounding areas require one full day. It is better to make Jhansi/Orchha as a base and do it as a day trip.
b) Make sure you include these places as a part of your travel plan to Khajuraho/Orchha
c) Also visit Chanderi which is famous for its fort and saree which goes by the name “Chanderi Saree”
d) If you are driving from Jhansi, you can also visit the fort at Talbahat and Matatila dam on the way.

e) There are no good restaurants on the way. However, you will find road side dhabhas. The next largest town after you leave Jhansi is Lalitpur.

If you are interested to explore more posts on Heritage and Architecture in this blog, you may click on these links

Bhojpur – Tallest Shivling in the world!

Halebid – Where Stone speaks to you!

Thanjavur Brihadeeswara temple – Big, beautiful, Divine

Dashavatara – Ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu in Hindu mythology.
Vishnu – God of creation in Hindu mythology.
Adisesha – Serpent god http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shesha
Ganga, Yamuna – Holy rivers of India
Shikhara – Spire
Dharamshala – Free lodges run by religious institutions
Jain – A religious sect in India
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