It was our last day in Bilaspur and being a travel and heritage blogger I had to complete one final task that is to visit Malhar. It’s pretty close to Bilaspur and I knew that with a dedicated car for the travel bloggers we just might be able to cover end to end of the entire Malhar region.
Just like the Devrani Jethani Temple at Tala out here also most of the temple structures are gone what remains have either been painstakingly restored by the Archaeological Survey of India or lie scattered around a designated spot near the heritage site. Visually these groups of temples bear very much significance to Khajuraho style of temple architecture which is obvious due to the close proximity of the region.
How to Reach Malhar
It’s not very far and is just located around 30 kilometers from Bilaspur town. There is no public transport and you would need to change several autos (Vikram) to reach Malhar. The quickest and the best option would be to hire a card for a day then you would easily be able to cover Malhar – Kharod – Tala thus completing the core heritage circuit of this region.
What to See at Malhar?
There are two temples (Pataleshwar Temple & Bhima Kichak Temple) which are ancient and a recent popular temple for the regular devotes. Our driver was surprised as to why we were wasting time at the old ruined temples instead of visiting the new functioning temple. I tried to explain that we were a group of heritage travel bloggers but I guess he just assumed us to be journalists.
Apart from these two temple ruins, there is also a mud fort (Malhar Fort), which is surprisingly unknown to the locals also and can only be understood by the large area barricaded by ASI. I would only suggest that you visit this mud fort section during daylight and traveling in groups, as there is as such no visible structures and whatever might have been visible at one point of time have all gone under deep vegetation.
The epigraphical record found the very temple site tells us that this temple was named Kedareshwar and was dedicated to Kedar (Another of Shiva). This record also tells us that the temple was built by a Brahmin named Somraj who was a native of Kumhati. The year of construction of this temple is dated around 1167 – 1168 A.D. during the reign of Jajalladeva II of the Haihaya Dynasty.
Architecture wise the temple is built on a high platform and consisting of a square sanctum and a Mandapa. As of now only the lower part of the temple is surviving and the rest remains scattered all around the temple site. The temple is facing west and can be approached by a flight of steps. The Garbagriha is housing a Shivalinga, which is placed at a lower level than the Mandapa and is accessible through steps.
The presence of this Shivalinga at the lower level of the temple is probably why the temple is named Pataleshwar Mahadev temple. The Doorjamb of this temple is most interesting with the depiction of images of Ganga, Yamuna Dvarapala whereas in its inner side beautiful images of Shiva and Saivite deities are carved out.
Bhima Kichak Temple
The locals refer to this temple as “Deur” while this temple actually is known as Bhima Kichak. Similar to that of Pataleshwar Mahadev Temple this temple has also been restored by ASI and there are no visible roof structures. Considering the construction style and design this temple structure can be dated around 6th – 7th century A.D.
The temple is facing West with the Garbagriha and Antarala and it’s lower half up to Bhitti (elevation from the top of the Adhisthana) portion is surviving. The Garbagraha has a Shivalinga, which tells us for sure that this temple was dedicated to Shiva. Apart from depiction of Shiva and Ganas in different postures which are beautifully craved in life-size images there are also Ganga and Yamuna at the door jamb at the entrance of the temple.
Actually, there is nothing that you can see that can visually tell you that there was once a fort out here. We were about to leave this place when I remembered that I had read about some fort structure around Malhar. We just dumped our car and set on foot trying to figure out the fort. The villagers were looking at as rather strangely as to why some tourists with humongous cameras were moving around the village away from the typical tourist structures.
Luckily then I spotted the ASI signboard around structure which was located at an elevation and barricaded with barbed wire fence. Excitedly I went through the gate to only find trees, shrubs. It looked more like a greenhouse rather than a fort. Everywhere I looked I only saw green shrubs.
So basically nothing remains of the fort and some wall portions are now fully covered with vegetation. If you don’t like visiting a place in its entirety then you may skip this actually.
The Functioning Malhar Temple
Since we had already come so far so our driver insisted that we see the main temple located around a kilometer inside the village. Honestly, we could not say no to him and I wanted to personally see what it was all about. It was the main village temple and there was a huge water tank (pond) next to temple used for all religious ceremonies.