The Dasavatar Temple of Deogarh


Lord Visnu on Anantasesa
[Photos by 'Byronic501', Flickr]

Oct 12, CANADA (SUN) — In the temple town of Deogarh, India there resides a magnificent Visnu shrine known as the Dasavatar Temple. But interestingly enough, there is not just one Deogarh in India - nor is there just one Dasavatar temple in Deogarh! In fact, we find temple towns by the name of Deogarh all around the Indian subcontinent:

  • in Deogarh, Jharkhand, Orissa;
  • in the Chhindwara district of Madhya Pradesh;
  • in the coastal region of Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra;
  • in the fortress city of Rajsamand district, Rajasthan; and
  • in the Lalitpur district of Uttar Pradesh.

Not surprisingly, the information one finds on the Internet about Dasavatar temples in Deogarh is a bit of a hash. Travel sites, in particular, seem to have crisscrossed information between the Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh Dasavatar temples.

Dasavatar Temple - Deogarh, Uttar Pradesh

Deogarh, Uttar Pradesh

The Dasavatar temple in Deogarh, Uttar Pradesh was built in the late 6th century, Gupta period. Because it is located in a very remote spot, it is one of India's most magnificent, but least visited temples.

Heinrich Zimmer writes extensively about this temple in his book, Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization. In the book he includes images of a number of temple sculptures, including Lord Visnu reclining on Ananta, and Gajendramoksha.

Lord Visnu Saves Gajendra - Deogarh, Uttar Pradesh

Positioned below Visnu on Anantasesa, he describes a sculptured panel of the five Pandava Brothers and Draupadi. Central to the panel is Yudhisthira, with Bhima and Arjuna on his left, and the twins Nakula and Sahadeva on his right. Draupadi is positioned in the corner of the scene.

The Pandavas and Draupadi

It's interesting to note that sculpted panels of Visnu on Sesanaga, the Pandavas and the saving of Gajendra appear in the Dasavatar temples both in Deogarh UP and Deogarh MP.

Video of Dasavatar Temple near Lalitpur, Uttar Pradesh

Deogarh, Madhya Pradesh

The Dasavatar temple in Deogarh, Madhya Pradesh, was also built in the 6th Century. It is the earliest known Panchayatan temple in North India and in fact, is one of the earliest Hindu stone temples surviving today.

Although most of the early stone temples in this style were dedicated to a single Deity, the Dasavatar temple at Deogarh, MP is dedicated to the ten primary incarnations of Lord Vishnu. While the temple is now in ruins, the wall panels which depict many of Lord Krsna's pastimes in his Visnu incarnations are still well preserved.

The entire structure is raised up on a platform that is ornamented with scenes from Ramayana and Krishna lila. The temple has a beautifully carved doorway flanked by guardian figures with attendants beneath, and images of Ganga Devi and Yamuna Devi adorn the upper corners. An image of Visnu reclining on Anatasesa is found on the lintel.

In the image below, a carved pillar lying on the ground is decorated with a pot and foliage motif, with medallions containing figures and bands of floral ornaments.

Dasavatar Temple, Deogarh, Madhya Pradesh

The Deogarh, Madhya Pradesh temple is particularly known for its Rathika panels, in a recess along its three side walls, one of which features a sculpture of Gajendramoksha. It was also the first known Indian temple with a shikara, or spire, although today, only the lower portion of the shikara remains intact. The ruins indicate that the Dasavatar temple's shikara was similar to those found on the northern style temples of the Early Chalukyas.

The Temple was built of stone and brick, and consists of a single cubical sanctum that shelters the images within. It stands on a wide platform with flights of steps ascending on all the four sides. Subsidiary shrines are position on each corner. The platform is decorated with sculptured panels depicting scenes from the pastimes of Lord Krsna and Ramacandra.

Nara and Narayana's Tapasya - Deogarh, Uttar Pradesh

On the three sides of the tri-ratha sanctum, the walls are carved with sculptures depicting Lord Visnu and the penance of Nara and Narayana. Statuaries of Lord Vishnu were sculpted into both the interior and exterior walls of the temple, and numerous panels depict the many pastimes of the Vishnu incarnations.

Laksmi at Visnu's Lotus Feet - Deogarh, Uttar Pradesh


Dehejia, Vidya. Indian Art. New York, NY: Phaidon Press Limited, 1997, p. 143

Rowland, Benjamin. The Art and Architecture of India. Kingsport, Tennessee: Kingsport Press, Inc., 1953 p. 224

Mitter, Partha. Indian Art. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. p. 42

Dye, Joseph. The Arts of India. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. 2001. p. 112



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