Popular Mundesvari Devi temple - oldest with earliest Nagara style design in Bihar, India

MundesvariDevi Temple Bihar  :silentpagesindia.blogspot.com/
Mundesvari Devi Temple, Bihar  en wikipedia.org
Mahesvari or Para-Shakti is the supreme shakti or power of the Supreme Being and is inherent. Being  the energy aspect of the Lord, you cannot separate heat form - fire, so also you cannot separate shakti form - God, the Shakta, or the possessor of shakti. Shakti and Shakta are one and are inseparable.  Symbolically female, Shakti is, in reality, neither male or female. It is only a ''Force'' which manifests itself in various forms.  Her manifestations are countless.  Knowledge, peace, lust, anger, greed, egoism and pride are all Her forms.  Mundeshwari temple in Bihar  dedicated to shakti is an interesting place of worship.

Located atop of a small 600 foot hill in village Ramgarh,  in the 
Kaimur plateau near Son River,  about 7 miles north-west of Bhabua is  Mundeshwari temple. It is the  oldest monument in Bihar and the earliest model of Nagara style of temple architecture.  This temple. in the last couple of decades, has become popular and ever year the number of devotees coming to this temple is on the increase - now around 12 to 14 lakhs.  The annual festival called  ''Mundeshwari Mahotsava'' is a huge attraction and lots of devotees from various parts of this state  take part in the festivities that include dance, drama recitals by well-known artists.  The actual location is  Kaura in Kaimur district on the Mundeswari Hills.  It is a  protected monument  being managed by the ASI (since 1915).
Ramgarh,Bihar location map. /www.map
An interesting feature of this temple is its shape - octagonal plan which is rare. Made entirely of stone  there are doors or windows on four sides and small niches for the  of statues of deities, etc in the remaining four walls. The temple shikhara or tower was rebuilt  and so was the  roof. The interior walls  carry many niches and bold moldings that  are carved into vase and foliage designs.  As in the south Indian Hindu temples,  at the entrance  the door jambs have   carved images of Dvarapalas (Sentinels), Ganga, Yamuna and many other murtis. 

The Primary  deities in the sanctum - garbagriha of the temple are  that of  Devi Mundeshwari and Chaturmukh (four faced) Shiva linga. However, the main deity is the consort of Shiva - Devi Mundeshwari - deified inside a niche, which is seen with ten hands holding symbols riding a buffalo. These attributes suggest  the form of Mahishasuramardini. The other deities present here are  Ganesha, Surya and Vishnu.   For unknown reasons, countless stone structure are damaged and  strewn and the fragments are seen strewn  around the temple premises. 
Mundesvari Devi Temple, Bihar inscription  en wikipedia.org

The above image: The plate at the site of the Temple gives a dates of 625 CE for the Temple. Hindu inscriptions dated 635 CE were found in the temple...................................
The unique aspect of this temple is the rituals and worship protocols  have been performed  and followed  without a break for centuries, as it happens to be a temple of great antiquity - since ancient time. Obviously the temple is  being  visited by a large number of pilgrims each year;  the Ramnavami, Shivratri festivals bring in more devotees.  A big annual fair (mela) is held nearby during the Navaratri  festival that is attended by  thousands. The ''tantric'' cult of worship is followed here as the goddess in Shakti form is  Devi Mundeshwari 

This temple was restored and renovated under the direction of
the Archaeological Survey of India on instruction from the Union Ministry of Culture.  The tough works  included the removal of soot, layers of dust, etc  from the temple interior via a chemical treatment, repair of damaged idols, besides  cataloging and documentation of scattered fragments for later reuse. The  installation of solar powered lighting, displays for antiquities and improvements of public amenities  were the additional work done to get more visitors. The state government set aside Rs 2 crore to improve access to the temple.

Around the temple premises there are several half amalaks. The Sikhara of the temple is missing but a fragment of the amalaka originally crowning the spire is still lying in the site.  No explanation is available about the missing sikhara!!  The sculptures on the Chaitya-windows, Kirthi-mukhas, lotus medallions, foliated Vase-capitals scrolls, etc., show the elements of Gupta style of design. The temple  does have  some erotic figures.

P C Roy Choudhury, historian and archaeologist  says  “......... 
this temple appears to have been left unmolested when 
Muslim  rule under Sher Shah was set up in this area. The neighboring  Chayanpur fort was one of the citadels of Sher Shah and the Muslim pockets in the neighboring villages suggest that a much larger Muslim population had lived in the area when Muslim rule was predominant. The ravages to Mundesvari are not man-made but due to the passage of time.”

The temple  might have already been in a state of ruin  due
 to poor upkeep, disrepair over a period of time, and  this dilapidated  condition  of the temple  failed to  get the attention of the Muslim invaders; hence the temple survived the onslaught.