Teli Ka Mandir ( 8th century temple) of Gwalior. Why does it differ from other Hindu temples?

750 CE Shiva- Vishnu temple Teli Ka mandir, Gwalior fort.

Shiva- Vishnu temple Teli Ka mandir, Gwalior fort.

Above image:    An ancient Shiva- Vishnu temple called   Teli Ka Mandir in Gwalior fort. Built during 750 CE in Gwalior, it is a 100 foot tall stricture with different types of architectural features, a sort of con concoction of South and North Indian design elements. Invaded by the Delhi sultanate army in 1232 CE  the temple faced severe destruction. Subsequently in 1882 it was restored by the Maratha rulers.    

Shiva and Vishnu mandir Teli Ka temple,Gwalior en. wikipedia org

Shive- Vishnu temple, Gwalior Teli Ka mandir side

In the North Indian states seldom do we run into an  ancient  temple collectively  dedicated  to  Shiva, Vishnu and Sakthi   that too with a unique architecture.  Built in 750 CE inside the famous Gwalior fort in Gwalior, MP,  age of this  temple is a bone of contention among Western scholars;  it is not older than 7th century.  Indian scholar Bajpai has mentioned that the temple  may have come up  during the reign of the Gurjara-Pratihara Mihira Bhoja.  Nearby located are  countless  temple clusters  including damaged ones  built  with Nagara,  Pancharatha (five rathas) style adhering to   Vaishnavism, Shaivism and Shakism  sects  and most  of them  are dated  between the 6th and 10th century.  What  is special about this temple is its  mixed design - Valabhi shikhara  similar to  the gopuram of Dravidian - styled temples and its  Nagara base. Carvings on the temple's outer walls is  extensive.

 Tele Ka

The visitors to this place are appalled by the  enormity of damages inflicted on  this  beautiful  ancient temple  by the invading army of the Delhi Sultanate   It was during the  reign of  Qutb-ud-din Aibak and his successor Iltutmish in 1232 CE  the temple was plundered and looted. The invaders expected vast valuable treasures in the temple. Soon after plundering women folks in the fort committed  Jauhar - self immolation to avoid being abused by the enemies.  There are  evidences  that attempts had been made by the Sultanate to build a mosque nearby.   In the later years the Maratha army razed the mosque and rebuilt the temple.  

 Damaged Telika mandir, Gwalior fort, MP.

Above image:   Teli Ka mandir, Gwalior. ''The process of restoration, re produced as plate 40 in Sir Lepel Griffin, ‘Famous Monuments of Central India’ (London, [1886]): ‘Up to 1879 the Teli Mandir remained in a shameful state of neglect,  covered from summit to basement with chuna and whitewash, the former being in the form of hard concrete with which the Muhammadans had bespattered it. To the circumstances of their adapting it for utilitarian purposes we owe perhaps its existence at the present day. Until I remonstrated, it was utilized by ourselves as a coffee-shop for the fort garrison.  Through the kind intervention of Colonel Hawkins … the coffee shop was vacated, and since then I have been engaged in cleaning it and superintending several repairs made under the direction of Major Crowdy. It has been thoroughly cleaned inside and outside up to the horizontal bands. Around the building has been prepared, through the instrumentality of prison labor, an archaeological museum, and an attempt has been made to repair the vandalism of previous years. When the repairs to the cornice and porch are completed, a very remarkable building will have been rescued.’ (pp. 689).''

8th-9th century restoration work 1882 Telika mandir

The credit goes to  a good-hearted European - Major Keith, an officer of the Royal Scots Regiment stationed in Gwalior. Between 1881 and 1883, restoration of this amazing temple was undertaken at his initiative.  By 1885 restoration was over  and a  sculpture garden was  added.

Location of Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh,

Nowhere in Northern states one can witness Shiva, Vishnu and Durga (Sakthi) being worshipped on the same temple premises and it is corroborated by icons and inscriptions related to  major traditions of  Hinduism, Shaivism, Vaishnavism and Shaktism. A devotional hymn  about Durga, the relief work on Garuda, the Vahana of Vishnu and  a Shiva linga in the temple suggest the blend of three worship traditions.

Yet another contentious issue is the origin of this temple. Who had built the  Teli Ka Mandir?  In the absence of related inscriptions it is difficult to come up with  an acceptable solution.  Local folks are of strong view  that the temple was built by people belonging to oil (edible) business  caste and neither princely nor priestly class had established the temple.  

Telika mandir  Ornate pillar,

The  distinctive feature  of this temple is its tall  ornate  entrance way - 35 foot tall. There are several inscriptions  in the entrance panels  three of  them dated back to pre-10th century and others from  15th-century. The relief work of Garuda above the door way,  Ganesha relief. above another doorway besides a Nandi and lingam inside in the sanctum point  out  Vishnu-Shiva worship traditions The discovery of a devotional hymn on Durga throws light on Sakthi worship tradition. . 

Unlike many Hindu temples, this one has no roof covered mantapa close to the sanctum. Normally mantapa is used by devotees to meditate or do namaskaram - prostrating  before the deity.  

Temple does have prathakshana path (a circumambulatory path) to go round the deities in the sanctum after prayer. The inner part  is accessed through four entrances  from each cardinal direction.

eli ka mandir ground

Above image:  Teli Ka Mandir, Gwalior. Look at the center of the plan. The sanctum has a rectangular plan, one of the few temples in the north to rectangular sanctum built on a Jaggati platform (raised surface)...............................................

.Teli Ka mandir, sanctum

Above image: Teli Ka Mandir Sanctum, Gwalior:  The two river  gods (devtas)  with their attendants.  Ganga on the right side on her mount makara. while Yamuna on the left side on her mount (Vahana) a turtle. The dwarapalas (sentinels)  stand at the two ends.  The devis which rise from heaven (the dark cell inside) give birth to and nurture new lives; while the dwarapalas stand as protectors warding of all evil and preventing contamination of the seed and embryo (garbha) of the temple...............................

The  sanctum or garbagriha is the most important part any temple where the deity or deities are enshrined.  A unique feature is the  triratha (three rathas) sanctum   has a rectangular plan that built on  on a jagati platform (raised from the ground)  and it has a large .kapili projecting portico of about 11 feet  towards the east.  The gopuram or tower rises about the rectangular sanctum to a height of 80 feet. This feature differs from south Indian temples with some exceptions where tall towers are built over the entrance way and not above the sanctim.  Example Srirangam Ranganathat temple..  Above the tower  it is a barrel vault shaped cap of 30 feet,  more or less similar to South Indian gopuram.  Amalaka, ( a segmented or notched stone disk, usually with ridges on the rim, that sits on the top of a Hindu temple's shikhara)  kalasha  and  other  ornaments atop are missing. There are countless niches on the wall for stone images of deities, etc. The walls of temple has numerous niches for statues. But, now they are empty owing to damages. The niches are topped by tall pediments. The outer dimensions of the sanctum are  60 x40  feet with an 80 feet tower above the sanctum.

Teli Ka mandir entrance with defaced images

The temple entrance way  that has male and female dwarapalas  (in Shiva -Sakthi tradition)   is accessible through a a flight of stairs and the ornate door way  has  sculptures of river goddesses Ganga and Yamuna.  A rare feature is mithuna -  amorous couples in various stages of courtship and intimacy.   Chaitya-hall style gavaksha ornamentation  reminds one of the Buddhist designs.

a structure close to Teli Ka mandir, Gwalior 

As to  the primary  deity of this temple some historians say that it was not dedicated to all three tradition of Vaishnavism, Shivaism and Sakthism. Michael Meister, a professor specializing on Indian temple architecture postulates  in the colonial era it would have  been a Vishnu temple, later  converted into Shiva temple. The temple may have actually started as a temple dedicated to the Matrikas (mother goddesses), but one that included the motifs of Vaishnanvism and Shaivism.