CONTRIBUTED BY URVASHI SRIVASTAVA
Mala Devi temple precariously perched on top of a cliff of a sandstone ridge in the quaint little town of Gyaraspur situated at a distance of 35 km from Vidisha in Madhya Pradesh dates back to 9th-10th century A.D. This Pratihara period temple literally grows out of the hill. The temple which is partly rock-cut and partly structural is one of its kind. Like most of the northern or Indo Aryan style temples the main shrine consists of an entrance porch, a hall and sanctum surrounded by a pradakshinapatha. The sanctum or garbh griha is crowned with a sikhara. Though at present there are Jain images in the shrine a figure of a goddess on the outer doorframe and other decorative sculptures indicates that the temple was dedicated to Adinath.
Apart from the intricate carvings and sculptures that adorn the surface of the temple what arouses an onlookers curiosity is it’s hybrid form part cave and part structural and its unique location at the edge of a cliff. Over grown with vegetation the temple almost merges with the lush green hill slope. The recessed walls of the temple’s garbh griha or the inner most sanctum appear to grow out of the rock face making one wonder at the ingenuity, artistic skills and dexterity of the Indian craftsmen in handling stone as a building material. However the peculiar location of the temple also seems to be the reason for a number of problems in its structure. On the face of it, it appears that tectonic movements have had a toll on the stability of the structure. Beautifully carved stone components seem to be holding together equally precariously as its location on the cliff. The shikhar of the temple partly resting on the rock face has tilted towards the valley. Natural weathering is further adding to the temple’s deterioration.
The serene landscape of the valley with streams and pools and adequate protection by the rock face probably prompted the builders to select this precariously located narrow strip of flat land for constructing this temple. Faith can move mountains and the builders of this temple have proved it right.
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