My visit to the temples at Badoli in November last year turned out to be a memorable one.
First, my camera battery died on me suddenly and without warning. Then my iPad camera stopped functioning, and if that weren’t enough my temperamental cell phone decided to be on its worst behaviour. Talk about bad luck coming in threes ! The result? I have a total of 28 photos from all these 3 devices of the visit to the temples at Badoli.
Second, the temples at Badoli itself for there were many little surprises and discoveries waiting for me. Since I hadn’t read up or researched on the temples prior to my visit, everything about the place was unexpected. Of course, I read the information board placed at the entrance for some guidance, but we all know how detailed those are ! For example, the opening lines of the information board say that the:
Badoli Group is a cluster of nine temples that is stylistically dated to circa 10th-11th century AD [sic]. These temples are dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu, Ganesha, Mahisasuramardini and Mataji, etc. [emphasis mine]
It then goes on to talk about the main Shiva temple there — the Ghateshwara Mahadeva Temple. As I was to find out, and you will too when you read the rest of the post, some of the most interesting and significant features of the Badoli temples were not mentioned in the board at all, unless we assume that the word ‘etc.’ in the lines above was meant to encompass everything else. 😛
It all began with a Twitter DM (or direct message) I received from my friend and fellow blogger, Anuradha Shankar.
It was the summer of 2014 and Anu was travelling, or doing a temple run as she preferred to call it, in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. She would send me an occasional update about the temples she was visiting — delight over seeing exquisite murals in one or despair on coming across bathroom tiles in another.
When I received a DM from her that May evening, with a “See this !”, I wondered what was it she had sent me this time and whether it would be a rave or rant ! As it happened, it didn’t matter for the photograph that Anu had messaged me simply took my breath away.
I messaged back. Jain Art? In Tamil Nadu? Where? What? How? When? Anu replied, Yes. Yes. This is Kazhugumalai, 8th-9th century CE. Rest when I get back. I was stunned for till then I had no idea about the existence of Jain culture — past or present —in Tamil Nadu. I had wrongly assumed that Karnataka was the furthest South that Jainism had spread to.
That one photograph sparked off an interest in Jainism in Tamil Nadu, an interest that continues to grow by the day. From researching about the fascinating history of Jainism in Tamil Nadu to visiting heritage Jain sites in Maduraiand Kanchipuram to writing an assignment on reclaiming Jain heritage in Tamil Nadu (as part of the Indian Aesthetics programme at Jnanapravaha Mumbai earlier this year)… the quest into Jain heritage has been an ongoing journey.
About 180 km south-west of Jaisalmer, where the Thar Desert meets some isolated outcrops of the Aravalli mountain ranges, lie the ruins of the temples of Kiradu. It is believed that there were around 108 temples on this site, but today only 5 temples remain — 4 of those are dedicated to Shiva and 1 temple is believed to have been dedicated to to Vishnu.
I first heard about the temples at Kiradu when I received an invitation from Suryagarh. The itinerary attached with the mail included a visit to these temples. I was intrigued enough to look up for more information on the internet immediately — even before I accepted the invitation. To my surprise, I found little substantive information online. This only made the temples more intriguing and mysterious for me and I couldn’t wait to see them for myself when I visited Suryagarh in July 2016.
And after lunch on my last day at Suryagarh, we set off to see the Kiradu temples. It was a beautiful, but long, drive through the Thar, through dramatic changes in the landscape from desert to hilly.
It was around 6 pm when we arrived at the Kiradu temples, which meant I had an hour or so before sunset and before the light faded. The next hour saw me racing from temple to temple, pumped with adrenaline, trying to take in as much of the details as I could and photographing whatever I thought was interesting or significant.