Madan Kamdeva Temple
Erotica in Stone : Madan Kamdeva temple in Assam
Erotica in temple decoration is frequently seen in the medieval temples in India. Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh & the Sun temple at Konark, Odisha are famous examples. However, many lesser known temples have excellent examples of these. One of such is the Madan Kamdeva temple near Baihata Chariali in Assam, barely 40 km from the state capital Guwahati. It is sometimes referred to as the “Khajuraho of Assam”.
The original temple is no more, & it is unclear why & when it was destroyed, & by whom. The once grand temple, obviously a part of a grand temple complex consisting of at least 12 (some say 20) other temples, was situated on a hillock known as Devangiri Hills. Archeologists have agreed to the date of construction of these temples around 10th to 12th century CE by the Kings of the powerful Pala dynasty, probably by Ratna Pala, Indra Pala & Gopala. Now only the ruins are visible spread over an area of at least half a kilometer on the hills.
The ruins were discovered in 1977, which is a bit unusual as this is situated only 3 km from a busy highway & a densely populated town . It is apprehended that many a statues were either stolen or taken away by the villagers to use as idols of gods for worship. The Archaeological Survey of India finally took over the site in 1986.
This temple is associated with the mythological story of Kamdeva or Madan-Kamdeva ( The god of Love), who, after being incinerated by the wrath of Lord Shiva was resurrected here by Shiva Himself, It is believed that Kamdeva was reunited to his wife Rati at this place.
Unfortunately, the original temple is no more, hence the exact size or shape of the original one are only subject of guesswork. At present there is a shade like structure at the centre of the hill with many statues placed underneath it. In front of this main “temple" there are two other temples, one of Lord Shiva with a beautiful full size high relief statue of Lord Shiva with His Bull, & another smaller one with a stone pillar like structure with statues of Lord Ganesha, Lord Narayana , Goddess Lakshmi in high relief in stone.
There are a large number of broken & partially intact statues littered all over the place, & some cleaning up works have been done. However, it needs much more restoration work to give at least some semblance to the original temple which was obviously a grand one.
Stone works at Madan Kamdeva
The stone works that can be seen today are basically of two types :
- High relief work in stone pillars, either in long panel, or sometimes in isolation.
- Isolated three dimensional statues.
High relief works
These can be seen all over the place. The statues are of floral decorations, statues of gods & goddesses, animals of different types & many human figures engaged in various activities. A large number of the human figures are seen in various copulating postures like those seen in the temples of Khajuraho or Konark. These erotica, though in no way the main attraction of this temple, has received a lot of media attention.
There exquisite figures of Shiva & Parvati, Narayana, Saraswati, Bhairav with six heads, four headed Shiva, Kalpavriksha, the Sungod & Apsaras ( celestial Nymphs).
The floral decorations are very beautiful attesting to the skill of the artisans who created this marvel.
Three dimensional statues
Under this category are many statues of animals, specially of lions killing elephants, supposedly signifying the superiority of Hinduism over Buddhism.
Madan Kamdeva is an excellent example of temple architecture in medieval Assam. According to the Architectural directorate, there still exists the possibility of excavation of the ruins of twelve more temples here. Let’s hope that Madan Kamdeva receives its due regard & attention.