Captivating Teli Ka Mandir, Gwalior Fort, MP - a remarkable temple of yore !!

Teli ka  temple with defaced sculpture, en.wikipedia org

Above image:  One of the four entrances to the Shiva-Vishnu temple (Teli Ka Mandir) located in the Gwalior fort. The stone subcultures are defaced by the invaders from the Delhi Sultanate.

Side view of the Teli ka Mandir, Gwalior.

Completed in the 8th or 9th-century Teli ka Mandir, also known as Telika Temple, is a Hindu temple.  Located within the Gwalior Fort complex  in Madhya Pradesh, India, this old  temple dedicated to Vishnu, Shiva and Matrikas.

Location map, Gwalior.

Teli ka Mandir, Gwalior.fort, MP.

It has been a tradition among the Hindu temples to have a square plan for the sanctum - garbagriha. But, here the sanctum has a rectangular plan, quite  an unusual feature for a Hindu temple. The striking feature is the integration of  the Nagara style of architecture and the Valabhi prasada. So, the overall appearance looks like the Dravidian wagon-vault topped gopuram superstructure. However, the Pratihara-Gopagiri style prevalent in the northern region is being followed here. 

Fort complex Gwalior. Teli ka Mandir

This temple inside the fort complex is close to historic Hindu and Jain temples from the medieval era, as well the major group of Vaishnavism, Shaivism and Shaktism temples. Mention may be made of  Bateshwar Temples near Morena along with dozens of standing temples and the ruins of over 100 small pancharatha-style temples.   Also closely located are temple of great antiquity - the Naresar group with 22 temples  and the Mahua group of temples most of which are dated back to between the 6th and 10th century. These unique temples bring out the variations in the Nagara style of Hindu architecture as well as the incorporation of  Vastu mandala symmetry principles in a unique way. 

Teli ka  templeGwalior

The Telika Mandir is  built on a high point  and it stands out from different locations within the fort.  According to early  inscriptions the site where  the Teli ka Mandir and other historic temples  are located used to be known as Gopagiri.

Gate. Teli ka temple of Gwalior.

Detailed investigations carried out on  paleography, art-style, architectural design and small inscriptions found within the temple premises  point out the temple and others were built between the 8th and 9th centuries.  Many temple historians like Michael Meister,  George Michel and  Bharne and Krusche  come up with different dates for the temple; the former suggested 750 CE whereas Bharne and Krusche put the date of construction between 700 and 750 CE.  George Mitchell mentioned that it was completed by the 9th century.  Yet another historian Allen suggested 8th century.  Indian historian  Bajpai is of the view that  the temple might have come up during the reign of the Gurjara-Pratihara Mihira Bhoja.

This beautiful temple and others were  badly damaged during   raids by Muslim army of Qutb-ud-din Aibak and his successor Iltutmish in 1232 CE  in the fort following a jauhar.  Evidences point out  parts of the ruins and fragments were  then used to build a mosque nearby. However, centuries later, the mosque was in turn destroyed by Hindu Maratha army men. 

Subsequently the damaged temple was restored by the Hindus after the desecration by Iltutmish forces. The interesting feature of this old temple is that it had close links with all three major traditions of Hinduism: Shaivism, Vaishnavism and Shaktism as revealed by the inscriptions in the temple. One of inscriptions mentions about the  hymn on Goddess Durga Devi. The relief work includes a prominent Garuda, the vahana of Vishnu. Inside the temple is a Shiva linga.

Sculptures near Teli ka Mandir, Gwalior

Thanks to the Scottish military officer one Major Keith of the Royal Scots Regiment stationed in Gwalior who, between 1881 and 1883 took major initiative to repair this beautiful temple. Since the Muslim invasion, the temple had been in ruins  in the 19th century. 

The name of temple means  Oilman's Temple, but the origin of the name is a contentious matter. Local folklore suggested that it was  built by people from oil merchant caste  and not by either  kings, of the royal class or the priestly class. There are no records to corroborate it. 

The sanctum - srikovil of Teli ka mandir with a rectangle plan is on a  jagati platform that is a square of 60 feet (18 m).It has a large kapili projecting portico of about 11 feet (3.4 m) towards the east. The tower (Gopuram)  rises above the rectangular sanctum to a height of 80 feet (24 m) capped by  a barrel-vault shaped cap of 30 feet (9.1 m), its length  being perpendicular to that of the sanctum, that reminds of  one of South Indian gopurams. The  amalaka, kalasha and others atop are missing and might have been lost during invasions.  There are numerous niches on the wall for statues, but  are empty now and show signs of damage. The niches are topped by tall pediments. The outer dimensions of the sanctum are 60 x 40 feet.  

The ornate doorway into the temple is a huge  one  35 foot (11 m) high.   Above the doorway is a relief work of Garuda, the vahana of Vishnu. Inside, there is another doorway above which is a Ganesha relief.  In the sanctum one can find the Lingam and nandi.  At the temple entrance, the panels have several inscriptions suggesting the  age of 10th to 15th century. The latter inscriptions point out  that the temple was a Shiva shrine by the 15th century. One of the inscriptions discovered is a metrical hymn about Durga, and it suggests a Shakta tradition influence. The mandapa here has no covered roof, however there is a prakara (prathakshana path)  that  has four entrances,  each facing  a  cardinal direction which a devotee can use to enter the temple for a darshanam.

The banded doorway that can be reached through a flight of stairs has  beautiful sculptures of river goddesses Ganga and Yamuna, each with a boy and a girl on the lower part. Above them are found  amorous couples in various stages of courtship and intimacy (mithuna). The outer and inner doorways as in many Tamil Nadu temples have both male and female carrying weapons and a kind expression of welcome, and possibly symbolizing the theology in Shaiva and Shakta traditions.  The doorway leads to the sanctum sanctorum or garbha griha. There is a decorative sculpture of Garuda at the entrance to the temple. The temple's Valabhi shikara  is similar to the gopuram of Dravidian temples and it stands on a Nagara base. The temple's outer walls have been extensively carved.

About the temple Teli ka Mandir the following points need to be taken into account: 

01. This mandir is unusual, considering its complex design that has a mix of Dravidian temple architecture, Buddhist architecture,  Nagara style design and that of Gupta period. 

02. The plan of the garbagriha - sanctum is rectangular - an unusual one unlike the square one.

03. The temple was Vishnu temple initially and later became a Shiva temple. 

04. Initially, it started out as a Sakthi shrine (the Matrikas (mother goddesses).

05. Some historians argu that the Dravidian style of design is more due to collaboration among the members of pan-Indian guild, rather than the influence of south Indian style.  That the post-colonial era studies suggest  similar ruined barrel-vault capped historic temples in many places in north and east India, including those in Odisha may lend support to this view. 

06. The distinct  keel-vault details of this temple suggest that the idea is  markedly a different expressions never tried before, rather than a copy.

Teli Ka Mandir is an architectural splendor that will never disappoint you.