Bharat Mata Temples are very few and fairly new in India. However, they have deep roots in the Indian historical and cultural context.
The earliest reference of word Bharti comes in Apri-Suktas of Rigveda where she is mentioned as Vakdevi or the Goddess of speech. Along with this, it mentions a clan named Bharata whose king was Bharata.
Mahabharata mentions the land as Bharatvarsha.
There was a Kuru king, a Chandravanshi, who was called Bharata.
Vishnu Puran mentions the extent of Bharat as the north of seas and south of Himalayas and as the land where the progeny of Bharata lives.
The Contemporary Emergence of Bharat Mata
She came into vogue during the Indian independence movement. We see it mentioned in the ‘Vande Mataram’ song by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. It became a part of his famous 1882 CE novel Anand Math that was based on the backdrop of Bengal famine. The story too had strong imagery of her.
Visually, Abanindranath Tagore, the artist nephew of Rabindranath Tagore created the first painting of Bharat Mata in 1905 CE. She is depicted wearing a saffron sari with four hands like most goddesses in India are. In her upper hands, she holds the scriptures and a piece of white cloth. In lower hands, she has a sheave of paddy and an Akshmala. Her hands hold the essentials of human life – Shiksha-Diksha-Anna-Vastra i.e. education, initiation, food, and clothing.
Remember this was also the time when Bengal was partitioned by the British. And there was a response by artists like Tagore against the partition. Many nationalists interpreted as the mother who is asking her sons to liberate her. Sister Nivedita was so impressed by this painting that she wanted to have it printed in millions and distributed across every home from Kedarnath to Kanyakumari.
Many versions of this painting were subsequently made. The original is now on display at the Victoria Memorial Hall Museum in Kolkata.
Bharat Mata Temple at Varanasi
Her temple at Varanasi on the campus of Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth is unique in many ways. It is not a temple in the traditional sense of a temple which is typically dedicated to a deity.
The temple celebrates the ‘Akhand Bharat’ as it is described in our ancient scriptures. Politically, it would include the present-day countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka. It celebrates the very land that is called Bharat. The land that has been personified as Ma Bharti.
Map of Bharat
A detailed map of India or Bharat is created using the marble from Makrana. The topography is clearly mapped to the scale in ratio of 1 Inch:6.4 Miles. So, when you see different mountain ranges, you see them in the same proportion as they exist on earth. Overall, there are more than 450 peaks depicted on the map, along with water bodies, rivers, oceans, plateaus, and the vast plains. Smallest of islands on the oceans can be seen just like the highest peaks of Sagarmatha and K2. What you would find missing is anything manmade on the map, be it political boundaries or be it any structures.
I was told that the water bodies are duly filled with water and the map decorated with flowers on Independence Day and Republic Day. The map is surrounded by a pillared corridor that allows you to walk around and appreciate it closely.
From a note by Babu Shiva Prasad Gupta, board at the temple tells us that he was inspired to create this temple when he saw a similar map made on the floor at a Vidhwa Ashram or widow home in Pune. The resolve to create a detailed map in stone took place. It was further strengthened when Gupta Ji visited London and saw elaborate maps in the British Museum there. Upon his return, he discussed his dream to create such a temple with many people and identified Durga Prasad Khatri Ji for this job. 24 Lakh chants of the Gayatri Mantra were done at the temple before it was opened to the public.
Mahatma Gandhi formally inaugurated it in 1936 CE by giving the Purnahuti or the final offering in the Yagna performed at the temple. Verses from all Vedas were chanted as the doors of the temples were opened for the public.
Babu Shiv Prasad Gupta
It was totally funded by the industrialist and freedom fighter Babu Shiv Prasad Gupta. His family still continues to take care of the temple. Gupta Ji was also the one who set up the Kashi Vidyapeeth among many of his other philanthropic projects. Names of chief architect Durga Prasad and his team are rightfully inscribed on the temple walls.
When I visited the temple a few years ago, there was hardly anyone there. As far as I could see there are no real rituals that are followed here. You can walk around and see India as the land that nurtures us.
Of course, there is a Murti of the Mata inspired by the famous painting of Abanindranath Tagore.
Famous Hindi poet, Rashtra Kavi Maithilisharan Gupt wrote a song for this temple –
भारत माता का मंदिर यह
समता का संवाद जहाँ,
सबका शिव कल्याण यहाँ है
पावें सभी प्रसाद यहाँ ।
The poem can be seen at the temple premises & you can read here.
This temple is also unique as it was built between 1918 and 1924 CE, before the Indian independence. And before the unfortunate partition.
Bharat Mata Temple at Haridwar
Unlike the Varanasi temple, the one at Haridwar is a frequently visited temple. Often on the itinerary of most pilgrims to the city.
Built-in 1983 by Swami Satyamitranand Giri and inaugurated by Indira Gandhi, this 8 story temple may be the tallest in the city. It provides a great vantage point to look at the different arms of Ganga flowing through this ancient city also called Gangadwar. You can see the ranges of Rajaji National Park from here surrounding the Ganga.
8 Floors of temple
Each of the 8 floors is dedicated to a different theme. The ground floor is dedicated to the Mata and has an imposing Murti of her. I slowly moved past it as the massive queue slowly crawled through the room.
- First Floor or Shoor Mandir is dedicated to heroes of India and that includes many freedom fighters.
- The second floor or Matri Mandir is dedicated to women’s power and has women warriors and saints like Meerabai and Lakshmibai.
- The third floor or Sant Mandir is dedicated to the saints of India.
- The fourth floor is dedicated to different religions that co-exist in India.
- The fifth floor is dedicated to Shakti or Devi – the divine feminine in India.
- The sixth floor is dedicated to Vishnu and his various Avatars are depicted.
- The seventh floor has Shiva in the form of a presiding deity of the temple.
In essence, it starts with Bharat Mata and takes you to Shiva through a ramp that automatically takes you up and down.
I loved the concept of the temple that brings together various aspects of a nation. Like its religious backbone, its warriors, its saints, its religions, its women. However, I would have wanted a much better execution of the Murtis and dioramas there. What you desperately miss is our diverse art forms, be it classical or folk. How interesting it would be to see the blank walls filled with stories of the people depicted.
Nonetheless, visit it for the concept. And for the awesome views, you get from the top of the temple building.
Bharat Mata Temple at Kanyakumari
Remember we mentioned Vivekananda Kendra in our post – Places to see in Kanyakumari. Her temple is also located on the same premises.
The temple has a Murti of Swami Vivekananda surrounded by 5 mother figures:
- Parvati – the mother of Kartik and Ganesh
- Shakuntala – The mother of Bharat
- Jijabai – The mother of Shivaji Maharaj
- Sharada Devi – the Guru Ma of Vivekananda
- Mata Amritanandamayi – the current saint who also inaugurated this temple in 2017.
There is a 12 feet tall golden Murti of her holding a flag in her left hand with a right hand in Abhay mudra. A golden lion matching her radiance stands just behind her telling us she is the incarnation of Durga.
Mandir at Ujjain
Built by Madhav Seva Nyas, this is the latest Bharat Mata Mandir inaugurated in 2018. Located close to the Mahakaleshwar temple in Ujjain, this 3 story temple has a 16 feet tall Murti of her in stone. She is surrounded by Navadurga images. The temple premises include an auditorium, a library, a meditation, and yoga center, and an assembly hall.
Temple in Deogiri or Daulatabad Fort
11th CE Deogiri Fort built by Yadava Kings near the present-day city of Aurangabad in Maharashtra has seen so many changes of hands over time. Today, in its premises, in the place of an ancient temple is a Bharat Mata temple. It is difficult to guess the date of this temple. The temple is very old as the pillars around it tell us. The Murti of Bharat Mata must have been installed much later.
Wall Murals in Shekhawati
One Shekhawati Haveli in Mandawa has a large mural of her on its walls.
If you know of any other temples dedicated to her in India or anywhere in the world, do let us know about them in the comments.
We would also like to know if you have visited any of these temples?