Photographic Evidence of a Mislabeled Vedic Temple

by Stephen Knapp

 

As I have written in my book, Proof of Vedic Culture's Global Existence, there are numerous temples and palaces throughout India that were built years ago by the natural residents of India. These were often built according to the codes and designs found in the Vedic Shilpa Shastras.  However, many of these temples have since been either captured by invaders or possessed by other religions and ethnic groups who thereafter often label such temples and palaces as their own, and credit themselves as the original builders. History has shown that this was usually with the cooperation of the Archeological Survey of India, the British originated institution that worked to demean the credibility of the Vedic culture and Indian people. They would often survey large and ornate structures giving the credit for its construction to whoever seemed to be using it at the time, without really looking into its history or its origin of style and design.

However, anyone with some experience and knowledge of typical Vedic elements of construction and architecture can look at many of these buildings and begin to see the Vedic influence and originality. Such buildings include the Kutab Minar in Delhi, the mosque of which was built from the remnants of Vedic temples, and the tower which was a Vedic astrological observatory, before it was defaced and had Islamic design replaced on it. The same holds true with other buildings, to varying degrees, such as Humayan's Tomb, the Taj Mahal, the Allahabad Fort, buildings in Bijapur, and other places.

One such Vedic temple that has also been ascribed to a different religion is the Parsvanatha Jain temple in Khajurao. Khajurao is famous for its well-preserved and ancient temples. To provide a little background, Khajurao was a major center of the later Chandella kings from the 9th to 14th centuries. It was under their patronage when the temples were developed. It is believed that 85 temples were built, out of which 25 still remain in varying degrees of preservation. 

The oldest temples, namely the Chausath Yogini and Lalguan Mahadeva, were built during the reign of King Harshadeva (900-925 AD) who had succeeded his father, Rahilya. Under Harshadeva's son, Yasovarman or Lakshavarman (925-950), the Lakshman temple, dedicated to Vishnu, was built. An inscription found among the ruins of the Lakshman temple, dated to 954 AD, established that Yasovarman built it. Under his son Dhanga's rule (950-1002), the Parsvanatha and Visvantha temples were built. Dhanga's son and successor was Ganda (1002-1017). He had a short reign and the Jagadambi (Vishnu) and the Chitragupta (Surya) temples are attributed to him. Ganda's son was Vidyadhara (1017-29). He continued the building tradition of his ancestors, during which time the grand Kandariya Mahadeva temple was constructed. After Vidyadhara's death, the political significance of Khajurao began to wane. His successors continued their rule over the area for the next century, but moved to hill-forts elsewhere in the kingdom. Nonetheless, the temples continued to be active until the 14th century, patronized by pilgrims and yogis. By the 16th century, Khajurao was but a simple and obscure village, having lost all importance. It was only in 1838 when British army engineer Captain T. S. Burt happened to discover what was left of the temples. 

So how did the Jain temples come to be? It was under King Danga when both the Parsvanatha (954 AD) and the Visvanatha (1002 AD) temples were built. Since he was following his predecessors who were all associated with the Vedic culture, it is unlikely that he would build a Jain temple. Furthermore, both temples were constructed in a similar design. They have towering roofs over the sanctums, which consist of a series of peaks around a central point that resembles the Kailash mountain abode of Lord Shiva, as does the Kandariya Mahadeva, the most prominent Shiva temple. Therefore, again it is most likely that the Parsvanatha temple was originally dedicated to Shiva. 

So again, how did the Parsvanatha temple become a Jain temple? Although the guide books say it was originally built for Adinatha, the locals say that a later ruler converted to Jainism who then changed some of the temples from Vedic to Jain. This makes more sense. But the guidebooks don't seem to listen, and this is how rumors and false assumptions get started, and then accepted by the general public. How many other times this has happened to temples and buildings throughout India without it being corrected is anybody's guess. So we need to take a closer look at the evidence, which we will do by the following photographic evidence.

The Jain temples are part of the Eastern Group of temples at Khajurao, among which is the prominent Parsvantha Temple. Though it is said to be built originally for Adinath, one of the Jain Thirthankaras or liberated teachers who know the way, the image of Parsvanatha, the 23rd in the line of Thirthankaras, was placed in the sanctum in 1860. Nonetheless, if you look in the sanctum, you can see the image in front of a plain brick wall, indicating that any previous image or deity could have been taken out and replaced many years ago. However, even with such changes we can see evidence that the present history of the temple, that it was built for Adinath, may not be accurate. It may have indeed originally been a Vedic temple that facilitated the worship of Vedic deities, specifically Lord Shiva. So let us look at some of this evidence. To begin with, as we can see in the photo on the left, the Parsvanatha temple is elaborately carved, as most Jain temples are, but with many Vedic images and characteristics. In fact, it is carved in a similar fashion, but on smaller scale, as the other Shiva temples in Khajurao, such as the Kandariya Mahadeva  and Visvanatha temples.

 

 

Even the back door to another but much smaller sanctum has the similar style entranceway that many of the other temples at Khajurao have, indicating that it was built in the same design and with the same purpose as the other temples in town. Barely visible in this view is an image of Parsvanatha in front of an ordinary brick wall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Going around the temple is when we see further evidence that it was indeed a Vedic temple, and not originally built for the Jain religion. For example, here we can see an image of Lakshmi and Vishnu. This is very much in the style found at Khajurao, which is exceptionally refined, elegant, but in the more erotic and sensual fashion. You can plainly see His four hands, in which He holds His conch in His right hand and His disc or chakra in His left, above Lakshmi's shoulder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here again we see the image of Lord Rama found amongst the temple images. He appears as a King with lovely Sita, and the small monkey at His side may be a representation for Hanuman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is the image of Lord Balarama, the brother of Lord Krishna. Here He is holding His plow in His left hand, which is a clear representation of Balarama, and is seen with the hoods of Sheshanaga shielding His head. Balarama was never one of the objects of Jain iconography.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a most elegant image of Sarasvati, the Vedic goddess of learning. Here she is holding all the items she is normally shown with, namely her musical instrument in two hands (broken in this image), her beads in her upper right hand, and a booklet in another. This image also shows her holding a kumbha or pot, and one hand out in blessings. This is a sure sign of Vedic temple design.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is an image that had been identified as Agni, the Vedic demigod of fire. He is another immemorial personality that is found in the oldest of Samhitas, such as the Rig-Veda. Personalities such as Vishnu, Sarasvati, Rama, and Agni are much older than those of  more recent religions like Jainism. Another sure sign that this was a Vedic temple.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One last photograph I will show is this of a spout, shaped as an ornately styled mouth, that comes out of the temple from where the inner sanctum is located. Such a spout is found on numerous temples to Lord Shiva throughout India, in which there is a Shiva-lingam located in the sanctum. Such spouts are also found on similar Shiva temples in Khajurao. They are for allowing the articles of worship, such as milk, yogurt, ghee, or water, to drain out of the temple. These items are brought by pilgrims to the temple and poured on the Shiva-lingam in worship. As this goes on, the items drain over the lingam and then through a channel that goes to the spout outside the temple, as you can see in the photo, where such items are often collected. Furthermore, inside this temple is a hallway that goes around the inner sanctum, which would have allowed the devoted to circumambulate the image, which is common in Vedic temples. I've been to many Jain temples, such as those at Palitana, Mount Abu, Ranakpur, Sravanabelagola in the south, and others, and have not seen this elsewhere. Whereas this is common amongst many Vedic temples, specifically those for Lord Shiva. This is evidence of the standard Vedic design and influence in this temple, which is now called the Parsvanatha Temple. This makes sense if we take the version of the locals who say that this was once a Vedic temple that was later turned into a Jain temple. This also sounds logical when we consider that it was under King Danga who built both the Parsvanatha (954 AD) and the Visvanatha Shiva temple in 1002 AD. If he had been so devoted to Lord Shiva that he had built the Visvanatha Shiva temple, then it would seem that he would not have previously built a temple devoted to the Jain religion. This gains more credence when we consider that his own son and successor, Ganda (1002-1017), went on to contribute more Vedic temples to the area of Khajurao by building the Jagadambi (Vishnu) and the Chitragupta (Surya) temples. Thus, it would seem that the whole family of rulers were indeed devoted to Vedic culture. Of course, we can expect some people to disagree with this. But the photos of the Vedic iconography on the Parsvanatha temple, along with the history of the rulers of the area, along with what I have seen at the many other Jain temples I have visited throughout India, lends credence to this conclusion. 

[This article and more information at  www.stephen-knapp.com]

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