Bhima Devi Temple complex is located right next to the famous Pinjore Gardens. Now if you have lived in or even visited Chandigarh, you have most probably visited them. I grew up in Panchkula and Chandigarh. Visited Pinjore gardens for family outings, school picnics, and college trips. But I had no clue that an ancient temple lies in ruins right next door. In fact, the outer walls of the garden are probably made of stone from the temple.
I told myself it must have been recently excavated. But no, it was excavated way back in 1974, years before I moved to its vicinity. Talk about being ignorant about your own heritage.
History of Bhima Devi Temple
As per the ASI board, the temple has been dated back to 9-11th CE. It was built by the Gurjar Prihara kings linking it to the kingdoms of Ujjain and Kannauj. Raja Ram Dev of the dynasty is most probably credited with the temple.
From the Puranic tales, Bhima Devi is one of the 5 Devis who are present in the present times as mentioned in Devi Mahatmay. There are four main temples of Bhimadevi. Three others are at Sarahan in Himachal, Nepal and in Maharashtra.
It is also believed that Pandavas spent time here during their incognito year of exile. A small town called Viratnahar still exists close to this temple & Kurukshetra is not too far. They say they used to worship Kali at this temple. Pinjore was originally called Panchpura meaning the city of the 5. Is it referring to 5 Pandavas? Maybe. Some sources also call the place Bhimanagar.
The temple may have been a part of the Devi Kshetra along with Chandi Mandir, Manasa Devi Mandir and Kalka Devi Mandir close by.
Read More – 50 Places in India Named After Devi
Alexander Cunningham in late 19th CE recorded some 12th CE inscriptions that mention Panchpura. Al Bruni mentions it in his travelogues.
The temple was destroyed by Aurangzeb’s army in 17th CE. Looks like it was lost not just from geography but also from the public memory. It may have suffered earlier Islamic attacks as well.
An excavation in 1974 from a mound brought the temple back in public space. A site museum was built in 2009.
The architecture of Bhima Devi Temple
This temple is a Panchayatan style temple. In this style, a temple complex has 5 temples dedicated to 5 deities. In the middle is a large platform that would have been the temple dedicated to the presiding deity – Bhima Devi in this case. The rest of the four temples are in the four corners of the main temple. They are obviously smaller in size but may have replicated the design of the main temple.
Panchayatan style is very popular in the Kalingan temples of Bhubaneshwar and Khajuraho.
Visiting the temple complex
The central platform is more or less intact. The Amalaka that would have sat at the top of it is on the platform. On top of the Amalaka is a delicately balanced Kalash in stone. Where has the temple between two of them is the first thought that comes to your mind? You soon realize it is scattered all around the platform.
A small Ganesha Murti and a rather contemporary Ram Lakshman Murti has been kept on one side to let you feel it is a temple.
A water tank is located close to the temple. It is believed to be one of the 365 tanks that used to exist in this area. I was told 14-15 of these still exist and I could see three of them in close vicinity.
We were lucky to meet Sh Nirmal Singh Ji, who told us about the temple in detail. He also told us about other ancient temples and ponds around Pinjore.
He showed us this one sculpture in a grey stone that is made of ringing rock. Ringing rock is a stone that produces metallic sound when struck. I have seen a similar stone called Thinthinia Pathar in Chhattisgarh. These rocks are the same ones that are used in musical pillars that we see at Hampi or at Airateshwara Temple in Darasuram.
The temple pond through small had clean water and many colorful fishes in it. This is the most alive part of the temple.
Sculptures in the temple complex
Excavated sculptures of the temple site are scattered all around the complex. The best ones are preserved at the site museum that comprises of four small rooms. The next best ones are kept on pedestals in the open-air museum. Yet another set is arranged around trees and some are just lying around.
It is painful to see a temple scattered around. A lot of them have their heads chopped off. I was still happy to visit as it gives me the hope of discovering some more ancient stone temples of North India. Hopefully, one day we will rebuild them as a debt to our ancestors.
Sculptures can be classified as
Devi Devata Sculptures that include the following:
- Shiva, Shiva as Lakulisha, Shivalingas
- Shiva Parvati
- Nandi Figures
- Direction deities like Ishana
- Ganga, Yamuna
- Lakshmi Narayana
- Attendant figures
Decorative Sculptures include
- Madanikas or Sur Sundari’s like Alasya Kanya
- Gandharvas playing Music & Dancing figures
- Animals, especially elephant panels
- Geometric and floral motifs
Everyday life sculptures include
- Women embroidering
- Wedding Scenes
Temple elements include
- Door Jambs
- Miniature Shikharas & Temples
- Parts of pillars
- A stone Kalash
All these indicate a north Indian Nagara style temple architecture.
Walking through the sculptures, I was trying to re-create the temple in my mind. Can I fit the jigsaw puzzle that matches with the vision of the one who created this temple? Tough.
Dharamandal & Draupadi Kund
Across the road is an ancient Shiva Temple. It is also dated to the time when Pandavas lived here. The temple is called Bhimeshwar Mahadev indicating that it was installed by Bhima. I saw a similar temple at Bhimtal in Kumaon. As of now, it is a small temple that has been recently renovated.
There are two small ponds next to the temple – one is called Draupadi Kund and is open to women only. The other one is Dharamandal and is open only to men.
It is said that Pandavas had their bath in these ponds before going to Kurukshetra for Mahabharat War.
I was told a few kilometers away close to Mallah village there is another memorial of Pandavas stays. Next time I will explore it.
Gurdwara Manji Sahib
Right next to Shiva temple is an old Gurudwara in pristine white. It is said the Guru Nanak Dev visited this Gurudwara during his travels.
Travel Tips for Museum
Temple is located right next to the Pinjore Gardens, which is easily accessible by all kinds of transport.
Food and water are available at Pinjore Gardens.
The site museum is closed on Mondays, but the complex is pretty much open.
You need about an hour’s time to see it properly. I spent a couple of hours here. You can also club your visit with the Pinjore gardens which are a famous tourist spot in the region.