Names Tala and Malhar make you think of places with some musical legacy but here lies the architectural heritage of the Chhattisgarh region. This particular place around the meeting point of the Maniyari and Shivnath rivers seems to be dominated by the Shaivites. Though the region as a whole is dominated by the legends of Ramayana. We were told that Tala, in particular, is known for Tantric practices. Here are two temples of Devrani Jethani.
Temple of Devrani Jethani, Bilaspur
There are remains of two ancient temples here. Both lie at a distance of a few meters from each other and are popularly known as Devrani Jethani temples. Legend is that they were built for the wives of two royal brothers.
The Jethani or the Elder sister-in-law temple has completely fallen. Stones that would have stood as the temple once are now piled upon one another with their carvings peeping out at various angles. You can see the elephants that would have been at the entrance. You can see the carved pillars that would have supported the ceiling. And you can see the ceiling itself has fallen to the gravity.
Devrani or the temple of the younger sister-in-law, the temple has the base platform intact along with stairs that lead to the main shrine. The doorjamb has survived the vestiges of times as if standing there to give you a glimpse of how the temple would have been. It has intricate carvings all around it. The thick walls have extensively carved lion faces and human figures, probably telling some stories or depicting some scenes. Its corners are carved as braids made of rosettes in different patterns. And there are straight panels with lotus rosettes.
There is Amalaka on top of the pillars and Puran Ghatak at its base. The top panel has celestial figures and the panel below has figures that probably belonged to the deities but are unrecognizable as of now.
There are panels showing dancing men with disproportionately short legs as is the Ganesha figure lying outside the temple. Most of the stones here have been randomly put together and you cannot be sure if they all belonged to the same temple. The temple plan seems to be such that with every step you go higher, placing the Garbh-Griha or the Sanctum Sanctorum at the highest point. It is difficult to guess from the remains the kind of Shikhara or superstructures the temples would have had. But from the location – between Orissa and Khajuraho it can be inferred that it must be in Nagar style.
Shri Siddhnath Ashram
To reach these temples, you have to go through a set of relatively new temples. That was erected behind an arch telling the name of the place as Shri Siddhnath Ashram, built as late as 2008. There are newer temples with typical white triangular Shikharas standing by the side of these ancient temples. A small makeshift museum houses a few excavated sculptures from the place. Broken sculptures have been completed using mismatched cement. Conservation agencies can definitely do a better job.
There is no documentation whatsoever on these sculptures. Even the boards explaining the temples need to be re-painted. And for tourists from outside the state, it may help if they are written in English as well.
These temples are supposed to be located on the banks of River Maniyari. But I think I missed the river, or it was not close enough to be noticed.
Recommend you to read the following Tourist Places in Chhattisgarh.