The Bhojsala complex, MP - ASI' s recent excavation highlights new Hindu stone artifacts and symbols

The Bhojshala / Bhojsala (meaning 'Hall of bBhoja') is a historic building located in Dhar, Madhya Pradesh, India. Named after the celebrated king Bhoja of the Paramāra dynasty, a patron of education and the arts, it dates mainly to the 12th century. The wider campus also includes Islamic domed tombs added between the 14th and 15th centuries.

Bhajsala excavation around 55 meters, Dhar, MP.

Above image: Disputed site, 11th -12th century Bhojsala (hall), Dhar, MP is the major site the murti of Vagisdevi (Mata Saraswati) on Sunday, 10 September. The monument that  is said to have been desecrated and destroyed to build the ‘Kamal Maula mosque’ over it, falls under ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) and is back in the news following the discovery of the murti and other Hindu symbols. Mosque's origin is questioned by the ASI experts. It is said the Kamal-al-Din congregational mosque is also incorrectly known as the Bhojshala. The term “Bhojshala” – or "Bhojashala" – has been in vogue since the 20th century and refers to the center for Sanskrit studies associated with King Bhoja,.........

ASI team at Bhojsala, Dhar, MP

 Dhar, Madhya Pradesh

Current Status: Bhojshala is a Monument of National Importance protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) under the Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958. It is listed as N-MP-117 in the List of Monuments of National Importance in Madhya Pradesh/West. Hindus and Muslims use the site for prayers, with Muslims allowed on Fridays and Hindus on Tuesdays and during the Vasant Panchami festival for goddess Sarasvati. The Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 also governs the administration of the monument.

Bhojsala, Dhar, MP,

Above image: Bhojsala, Dhar, MP- Numerous richly carved stone pillars (12th CE)

The pillars and other architectural parts date to the twelfth century, with the different designs showing they are re-cycled from a variety of buildings. The architectural grandeur is still in good condition despite its age -  more than 900 years. The symmetry and stone carvings are quite captivating.....

Bhojshala,Dhar, Goddess Ambika

Above image: Goddess Ambika,  found at the city palace, Dhar. collected by colonial officer William Kincaid ICSollected by colonial officer William Kincaid ICS

Emergence of Current Terminology: The term Bhojśala was linked to the building in the early 20th century by K. K. Lele, who discovered poetic inscriptions and geometric drawings at the site. E. Hultzsch referenced Lele's findings in the 1905-06 Epigraphia Indica, solidifying the usage of the term. Before this, Captain E. Barnes and C. E. Luard referred to the site as 'Raja Bhoja's school.' By the 1930s, the term Bhojśālā was well established.

King Bhoja: King Bhoja, who ruled circa 1000-1055, is revered for his contributions to literature and the arts. His work Śṛṅgaraprakāśa, on poetics, etc that Sringara (erotic sentiment) is a fundamental universal impulse. Bhoja also began constructing a Shiva temple at Bhojpur, which, if completed, would have been double the size of the temples at the Khajuraho Group of Monuments.

Exploration and Inscriptions Dhār's archaeological sites: They have  attracted colonial Indologists and historians. John Malcolm mentioned Dhār in 1822, and Bhau Daji studied its inscriptions in 1871. K. K. Lele's 1903 discovery of Sanskrit and Prakrit inscriptions in the Kamāl Maula sparked further scholarly study. These inscriptions reveal materials brought from various structures.

āüla vela of Roḍa: John Malcolm removed an inscribed panel from Kamāl Maula, known as the Rāüla vela of Roḍa, a poetic work in early Hindi. This inscription, first kept at The Asiatic Society of Mumbai, is now at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya in Mumbai.

The Kūrmaśataka: Lele found a tablet praising the Kūrma (Tortoise) incarnation of Viṣhṇu. Attributed to King Bhoja, it was likely engraved in the 12th or 13th century. Published by Richard Pischel in 1905-06 and V. M. Kulkarni in 2003, it is displayed inside the building.

The Vijayaśrīnāṭikā: Another inscription, part of the drama Vijayaśrīnāṭikā by Madana, preceptor to King Arjunavarman, indicates it was performed in a Sarasvatī temple, suggesting its origins at a Sarasvatī site. This inscription is also displayed inside the building.

Grammatical Inscriptions: Two serpentine grammatical inscriptions led Lele to describe the building as the Bhojśālā, referencing Bhoja's works on poetics and grammar, such as Sarasvatīkaṇṭhābharaṇa (Necklace of Sarasvatī)

Sarasvatī: In 1924, O. C. Ganguli and K. N. Dikshit identified a British Museum sculpture as Rāja Bhoja's Sarasvatī. However, Harivallabh Bhayani later demonstrated that the inscription actually records the creation of an Ambikā sculpture, which also mentions Vāgdevī (another name for Sarasvatī).

Ambikā Inscription: Translation: Auṃ. Vararuci, King Bhoja's religious superintendent, having first fashioned Vāgdevī the mother and afterwards a triad of Jinas, made this beautiful image of Ambā, ever abundant in fruit. Blessings! Executed by Maṇathala, son of the sūtradhāra Sahira. Written by Śivadeva the proficient. Year 1091.

Iconograph: The British Museum sculpture matches Ambikā images found elsewhere, such as an 11th-century Ambikā in Sehore. The Vāgdevī mentioned in the inscription is yet to be located.

Social Tensions & Present Situation in the wake of fresh survey by the ASI on orders from the Court:  Bhojshala's dual use by Hindus and Muslims sometimes leads to communal friction, especially when Vasant Panchami falls on a Friday. The ASI allocates specific prayer times to each group to manage tensions. Legal challenges continue, with the Madhya Pradesh High Court and the Supreme Court of India recently addressing the monument's status. K. K. Muhammad emphasized respecting court decisions and the Places of Worship Act, 1991, while noting the complexity of the site's history.

ASI's on going survey: The ongoing Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) excavation  at the Bhojasala complex has intensified with the addition of extra workers. This comprehensive survey involves both interior and exterior examinations of the historic site, with a special team conducting videography and photography for thorough documentation. A Ground-Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey is also being utilized to support their findings. 

Over the past three months, the meticulous survey has revealed several significant discoveries:

01. Finely carved stone artifacts and other notable finds.

02. Over 400 important and large artifacts bearing Hindu symbols and deities.

03. Numerous small artifacts, underscoring the site's historical and cultural importance. 

04.The discovery of many inscriptions in Marathi and Sanskrit 

05. Deep foundation walls running about 20 feet in the sanctum, initially thought to be about 15 feet.

The ASI also plans to study the word "Pashan" (meaning rock or stone in Marathi) in detail, as these stones could provide insights into the cultural and civilizational aspects of the time. The final survey report, which will be submitted to the Court, is expected to offer deeper insights into the perspectives of the disputing communities involved.