The history of Indian subcontinent is more than 5000 years old and its civilization, along with those of China, Egypt and Mesopotamia, among the oldest. Not many know that a highly advanced civilization, called ‘the Harappa Civilization’, was thriving in the subcontinent centuries before the advent of Aryans about 1500 BCE when they are supposed to have migrated in large numbers from Central Asia. It would be natural to expect that a land with over 5000 years of continuous civilization would leave evidence of its antiquity in droves. The subcontinent is littered with relics from its past. Only a few have been properly researched, tabulated and mapped. There are countless little or relatively unknown sites crying out to be investigated. The information on them is scanty. As a result, tourist footfall is negligible. The country has so much to offer, historically as well as scenically, that one lifetime would not be enough to see even a fraction of it. I have been fortunate to visit more places than most Indians but, regrettably, I have but one life.
Our first feeble excursion was not quite so hot. We traveled by trains and buses, made hotel reservations and generally made sure that we would be comfortable. It was a mistake. We soon learnt that one should drive, have no fixed itinerary and be flexible. This means no prior hotel bookings. If the accommodation you find is uncomfortable and the food barely palatable, so be it. The lesson we learnt serves us well. We could now make unscheduled halts to visit sites we had never heard of.
This is how we stumbled upon Sahastrabhu Temples, Nagda.
We were on our way back to Delhi from Udaipur and reached Eklingji temple, some 22 kilometers away on Udaipur-Nathdwara road, early morning, only to find the gate closed. I was surprised. I remembered from my earlier visit decades ago that the temple was abandoned. Since then, it seems, the deity was reinstalled and began to be worshiped. As the temple was not to open for a couple of hours, the locals advised us to visit nearby Nagda village to see the Saas-Bahu temples. Though skeptic, we decided to visit the place anyway.
Images from Sahastrabahu Temples, Nagda, Mewar
Our skepticism was misplaced. The temples were in ruins but beautiful. Much smaller than the more famous Eklingji, they exceeded our expectation. The local legend has it that a royal bahu (daughter-in-law) and her saas (mother-in-law) competed to build the temples. Thus they came to be known as “saas-bahu temples”. Deeper enquiry revealed that the temples were dedicated to Lord Vishnu, also called Sahastrbahu for his 1000 arms. “Saas-bahu” is a corruption of “Sahastrabahu”. The temples, reputed to have been built in the 10th century boast of exquisite sculpture and rival that of Eklingji. The many prevalent stories about who got the temples constructed appear to be only stories. They are not authentic. Not much credence can be given to saas-bahu story as nobody knows their identity. Yet Nagda must have been an important town in Mewar in olden times for someone to have built such beautiful temples.