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Location of Dhamnar in Mandsaur district
Dharmrajeshwar Temple
Buddha statue in Dhamnar caves
Dhamnar caves

Dhamnar (धमनार) is an ancient Buddhist and Hindu cave temple site of 4th-5th C / 8th~9th C in Mandsaur.



Dharmrajeshwar is situated in Garoth tahsil of mandsaur district at a distance of 4 km from Chandwasa town and 106 km from Mandsaur city. Its geographical coordinates are 24° 11' 0" North, 75° 30' 0" East and its original name is Dhamnār. Nearest railway station is Shamgarh about 22 km. [1]

Brief History

The ninth century monolithic temple of Dharmarajesvara, locally known as Dharnrad or Dhamnar, and the seventh century rock-cut Buddhist Caves with monasteries and Stupas, cut in a hill called chandanagiri in ancient times and giving its name to the neighbouring town of Chandwasa (Chandanavasa). This town itself contains an old medieval temple which was later on destroyed and converted into a patchwork mosque, its door-frame finding place in the Museum at Indore. The Museum also displays a number of sculptures and images discovered at Avra.

Avra excavations

Avra[2] is place where the Madhya Pradesh Archaeology Department excavated during 1960 and 1961 under the direction, of Dr. H. V. Trivedi, is located in the Garoth Pargana of the Mandsaur District of Madhya Pradesh. It is about six miles west of Chandwasa a small town which has a Rest House and which is connected by a metalled road of fourteen miles from Shamgarh, a Railway Station between Ratlam and Kota on the Western Railway.

The village is situated about half a mile east of the Chambal. Between the river and the modem habitation there is a series of mounds, high and low, the top of two which nestled the village until about 10-12 years back when its inhabitants shifted to a safer place nearby because of the threat of the river, the mounds are separated from each other by small and broad depressions and rain gullies, some of which might represent old streets. The chain of mounds, however, creates an impression that they contain the remains of an extensive and populous city which grew along the bank of the river rather than at right angles to it as has been the case with most of the ancient cities in India, like Ujjain and Maheshwar in this State and Hastinapura, Pataliputra and Kausambi outside.

The old name of appears to be Apara, as we find on a terracotta seal recovered in the excavation. The name Apara was probably later on corrupted into Avra.

List of ASI Monuments in Mandsaur includes two very important ancient sites:

  • Brahmanical Rock-cut Temple Dhamnar Mandsaur
  • Buddhist Caves No. 1 to 51 Dhamnar Mandsaur

Dharmrajeshwar monastry is situated at Chandwasa village in Mandsaur district on the border of Rajasthan.

There are more than 50 small Buddhist caves and many small stupas on a laterite plateau, 20 km west of Shyamghar. Working from the top, a large rock-cut 8-shrined temple was carved out of the rocky mass. Unfortunately once the plaster peeled off the rough surface, the minute detailing of the sculpture was lost. Ferguson considers these caves to be built in the period from 408-475 AD.[3]

The historians believe that the Dharmrajeshwar temple belongs to 7th – 9th century A. D. It is approximately the same time when the Rashtrakutas commissioned the monolithic temples at Ellora. The architectural similarity is fascinating. The southern and western rock – face has a well planned monastery with more then 70 living quarters , pavilions, meditation halls, stupas and images of Lord Buddha and his disciples. A large relief image of Lord Buddha stands at the entrance of a pavilion. Lord is bestowing blessings on the humanity. Nearby an image of Kuber, the god of wealth and equally important in Buddhist iconography stands guard to the inner quarters. In a passage carved within the hillock, we see a chiseled image of Lord Buddha in reclining pose (Nirvana Buddha) with his disciples standing and watching the Lord attaining Nirvan.

James Tod's visit to Dhoomnar

Cave Temples of Dhamnar

James Tod[4] visited Dhoomnar on December 6th, 1821 and wrote:

[p.661]: As we approached the object of our search, the caves of Dhoomnar, we crossed a rocky ridge covered with the dhak jungle, through which we travelled until we arrived at the mount. We found our camp pitched at the northern base, near a fine tank of water ; but our curiosity was too great to think of breakfast until the mental appetite was satiated.

The hill is between two and three miles in circumference ; to the north it is bluff, of gradual ascent, and about one hundred and forty feet in height, the summit presenting a bold perpendicular scarp, about thirty feet high. The top is flat, and covered with burr trees. On the south side it has the form of a horse-shoe, or irregular crescent, the horns of which are turned to the south, having the same bold natural rampart running round its crest, pierced throughout with caves, of which I counted one hundred and seventy ; I should rather say that these were merely the entrances to the temples and extensive habitations of these ancient Troglodytes. The rock is a cellular iron-clay, so indurated and compact as to take a polish. There are traces of a city, external as well as internal, but whether they were contemporaneous we cannot conjecture. If we judge from the remains of a wall about nine feet thick, of Cyclopean formation, being composed of large oblong masses without cement, we might incline to that opinion, and suppose that the caves were for the monastic inhabitants, did they not afford proof to the contrary in their extent and appropriation.

On reaching the scarp, we wound round its base until we arrived at an opening cut through it from top to bottom, which proved to be the entrance to a gallery of about one hundred yards in length and nearly four in breadth, terminating in a quadrangular court, measuring about one hundred feet by seventy, and about thirty-five feet in height; in short, an immense square cavity, hollowed out of the rock, in the centre of which, cut in like manner out of one single mass of stone, is the temple of the four-armed divinity, Chatoor-bhooja. Exclusive of this gallery, there is a staircase cut in the north-west angle of the excavation, by which there is an ascent to the summit of the rock, on a level with which is the pinnacle of the temple. Apparently without any soil, some of the finest trees I ever saw, chiefly the sacred peepul, burr, and tamarind, are to be found here.

The ground-plan of the temple is of the usual form, having a mindra, munduf, and portico, to which the well-known term pagoda is given, and there is simplicity as well as solidity both in the design and execution. The columns, entablatures, with a good show of ornament, are distinct in their details ; and there are many statues, besides flowers, not in bad taste, especially the carved ceilings. It would be regarded as a curiosity if found on a plain, and put together in the ordinary manner; but when it is considered that all is from one block, and that the material is so little calculated to display the artist's skill, the work is stupendous.

[p.662]: Vishnu, who is here adored as the " four-armed," was placed upon an altar, clad in robes of his favourite colour (pandu, or yellow ochre), whence one of his titles, Panduraung. The principal shrine is surrounded by the inferior divinities in the following order : First, on entering are the Poleas or ' Porters ;' Ganesha is upon the right, close to whom is Sarasvati, " whose throne is on the tongue ;" and on the left are the twin-sons of Kali, the Bhiroos, distinguished as Kala (black), and Gora (fair); a little in advance of these is a shrine containing five of the ten Mahabedias, or ministering agents of Kali, each known by his symbol, or vahan, as the bull, man, elephant, buflfalo, and peacock. The Mahabedias are all evil genii, invoked in. jup, or incantations against an enemy, and phylacteries, containing formulas addressed to them, are bound round the arms of warriors in battle.

At the back of the chief temple are three shrines ; the central one contains a statue of Narayana, upon his hydra-couch, with Lakshmi at his feet. Two Dytes, or evil spirits, appear in conflict dose to her ; and a second figure represents her in a running posture, looking back, in great alarm, at the combatants. Smaller figures about Narayana represent the heavenly choristers administering to his repose, playing on various instruments, the moorali, or flute, the vina, or lyre, the muyoora, or tabor, and the mudhung and thal, or cymbals, at the sound of which a serpent appears, rearing his crest with delight. The minor temples, like the larger one, are also hewn out of the rock ; but the statues they contain are from the quartz rock of the Pat'har, and they, therefore, appear incongruous with the other parts. In fact, from an emblem of Mahadeva, which rises out of the threshold, and upon which the " four-armed" Vishnu looks down, I infer that these temples were originally dedicated to the creative power.

We proceeded by the steps, cut laterally in the rock, to the south side, where we enjoyed, through the opening, an unlimited range of vision over the plains beyond the Chumbul, even to Mundisore and Sondwarra. Descending some rude steps, and turning to the left, we entered a cavern, the roof of which was supported by one of those singularly-shaped columns, named after the sacred mounts of the Jains ; and hero it is necessary to mention a curious fact, that while everything on one side is Budhist or Jain, on the other all is Sivite or Vishnuvi. At the entrance to the cave adjoining this are various colossal figures, standing or sitting, too characteristic of the Budhists or Jains to be mistaken ; but on this, the south side, everything is ascribed to the Pandus, and a recumbent figure, ten feet in length, with his hand under his head, as if asleep, is termed "the son of Bheem," and as the local tradition goes, " only one hour " old :" a circumstance which called forth from my conductor, who gravely swallowed the tale, the exclamation — "What would he have been if noh mahina ca baluc, ' a nine months' child' !" The chief group is called the Five Pandus, who, according to tradition, took

[p.664]: the Pandus, who robbed them of their kingdom. Close to the armoury is an apartment called the Rajloca, or for the ladies ; but here tradition is at fault, since, with the exception of Koonti, the mother, Droopadvi alone shared the exile of the Pandus.

Still further to the right, or south-west, is another vaulted and roof-ribbed apartment, thirty feet by fourteen, and about sixteen in central height, supported by another image of Soomeru. The sacred burr, or fig-tree (ficus religiosa), had taken root in the very heart of this cavern, and having expanded until checked by the roof, it found the line of least resistance to be the cave's mouth, whence it issued horizontally, and is now a goodly tree overshadowing the cave. Around this there are many pausid-salas, or halls for the Yatis, or initiated disciples, who stand in the same upright meditative posture as the pontiffs.

But it is impossible, and the attempt would be tedious, to give, by any written description, an adequate idea of the subterraneao town of Dhoomnar. It is an object, however, which will assist in illustrating the subject of cave-worship in India ; and though in grandeur these caves cannot compare with those of Ellora, Carli, or Salsette, yet in point of antiquity they evidently surpass them.

The temple dedicated to the Tirthancars, or deified Jin-eswars (lords of the Jains), are rude specimens of a rude age, when the art of sculpture was in its very infancy ; yet is there a boldness of delineation, as well as great originality of design, which distinguishes them from everything else in India. In vain we hunted for inscriptions ; but a few isolated letters of that ancient and yet undeciphered kind, which occurs on every monument attributed to the Pandus, were here and there observed. There were fragments of sculpture about the base of the hill, differing both in design and material from those of the mountain. Altogether, Dhoomnar is highly worthy of a visit, being one of the most curious spots in this part, which abounds with curiosities.


विजयेन्द्र कुमार माथुर[5] ने लिखा है....धमनार (AS, p.462) मध्य प्रदेश के मंदसौर ज़िले में स्थित है। धमनार ग्राम के निकट 14 शैलकृत गुहा-मन्दिर हैं। इनमें से दो गुफ़ाएँ, जिन्हें भीम बाज़ार और बड़ी कचहरी कहते हैं, यह मुख्य हैं। निर्माण-कला के विचार से [p.462]: इनका समय 8वीं या 9वीं सदी ई. मे जान पड़ता है। भीम बाज़ार एक विशाल गुफा है और सब गुफाओं में बड़ी है। इसमें एक आयताकार आँगन के बीच में एक चैत्य स्थित है। आँगन के तीन ओर छोटे-छोटे कोष्ठ हैं। प्रत्येक पंक्ति के बीच की कोठरी में भी चैत्य बना हुआ है। पश्चिम की ओर की पंक्तियों के बीच की कोठरी में ध्यानमग्न बुद्ध की दो शैलकृत मूर्तियाँ हैं।

धमनार के पास ही स्थित छोटा बाज़ार में भी इसी प्रकार की किंतु इनसे छोटी गुफाएँ हैं, जिसमें बुद्ध की मूर्तियाँ भी हैं, किंतु ये नष्ट-भ्रष्ट दशा में हैं। बड़ी कचहरी वास्तव में एक विशाल वर्गाकार चैत्यशाला है, जिसके आगे स्तम्भों पर आधृत एक बरामदा है, जो सामने की ओर एक पत्थर के जंगले से घिरा है। धमनार के हिन्दू स्मारकों में मुख्य धर्मनाथ का मंदिर है, जिसके नाम पर ही इस स्थान का नामकरण हुआ है। यह मंदिर भी शैलकृत है। यह इस प्रदेश के मध्ययुगीन मंदिरों की भाँति ही बना है अर्थात् मुख्य पूजागृह के साथ स्तंभ, सभामंडप और आगे एक छोटा बरामदा है।

धर्मनाथ मंदिर का शिखर भी उत्तरी भारत के मंदिरों की भाँति ही बना है। इस बड़े मंदिर के साथ सात छोटे मंदिर भी हैं, जो पहाड़ी में से काटकर बनाए गये हैं। मुख्य मंदिर के भीतर अथवा बाहरी भाग में किसी प्रकार की नक़्क़ाशी नहीं है और इस विशेषता में यह अन्य मध्ययुगीन मंदिरों से भिन्न है। चतुर्भुज विष्णु की मूर्ति इस मंदिर में प्रतिष्ठापित है, किंतु ऐसा जान पड़ता है कि यहाँ शिव की पूजा भी होती रही है। धर्मनाथ वास्तव में यहाँ स्थित शिवलिंग का ही नाम है।

External Links


  1. Usha Agarwal:Mandsaur Zile Ke Puratatvik samarakon ki paryatan ki drishti se sansadhaniyata - Ek Adhyayan, Chirag Prakashan Udaipur, 2007, p. 27
  2. http://www.mparchaeology.org/excProto2.html
  3. James Ferguson:Rock cut temple of India,p.44
  4. James Todd Annals/Personal Narrative,pp.661-664
  5. Aitihasik Sthanavali by Vijayendra Kumar Mathur, p.462-63