Mahakal Temple of Dhoti

About 10 km ahead of the Charchoma Shiva Temple, an Archeological Survey of India (ASI) protected site, lies the dilapidated Mahakal Temple, in the village of Dhoti, Kota district Rajasthan. It is dedicated to Shiva and has two entry points: one from the front, which is currently not in use, and the other from the left side, serving as the main entrance to the temple complex. A cremation ground near the front entrance adds significance to its name, as Mahakal translates to ‘the great kala’ or ‘the kala of kala’, the one beyond time and death.

From what remains visible today, the present structure is part of a larger temple complex enclosed by a boundary wall. The complex comprises the main shrine or the Mahakal Temple and the foundations of two shrines—subsidiary shrine I and subsidiary shrine II. Looking at the architectural remains, it seems that the Mahakal Temple originally had a mandapa (pillared hall), antarala (vestibule or antechamber), and a garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum). However, presently only the garbhagriha survives, while the rest of the structure, including the shikhara (spire or superstructure), has collapsed. The temple’s vertical axis features a vedibandha (basal mouldings), jangha (wall), and varandika (the beam or the architrave that denotes the end of the garbhagriha walls and the beginning of the spire). The vedibandha and jangha depict beautiful figures of gods, goddesses, sursundaris (celestial damsels), mithunas (auspicious couples) and maithunas (amourous couples). As mentioned, the original shikhara has collapsed, and the present shikhara is a renovated structure. The temple has a unique sculpture of Hari-Hara Hiranyagarbha on the jangha, which is a syncretic form of Vishnu, Shiva and Surya, widely worshipped in the early medieval period in the regions of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Another important sculpture on the jangha is that of the Goddess Chamunda, a prominent deity in the region. In the absence of any inscription, it is difficult to date the temple precisely but comparing its surviving features and sculptures with those of other temples suggests that it belongs to the early medieval period.

Near the foundation of the subsidiary shrine II, a stone stele depicting a Linga and a devotee is found next to it. Another stone stele outside the temple complex, near the front (west) entrance gate, depicts two figures.

The villagers have repainted the surviving mulaprasada (main shrine) and put together architectural remnants of the complex in different sections. The present central shrine is covered with a metal sheet roof for shade. The image gallery offers a visual walk-through of this lesser-known early medieval Mahakal Temple, which is located near a cremation ground.

The entrance gate to the Mahakal Temple, presently enclosed inside a boundary wall and thickly surrounded with flora, is now navigated through a metal gate followed by stairs leading to the surviving temple structures. It is likely that this gate once served as the main entrance, given its alignment with the garbhagriha.
The entrance gate to the Mahakal Temple, presently enclosed inside a boundary wall and thickly surrounded with flora, is now navigated through a metal gate followed by stairs leading to the surviving temple structures. It is likely that this gate once served as the main entrance, given its alignment with the garbhagriha.
The remnants of a boundary wall surrounding the temple complex are visible. The base of the wall is composed of heavy plain stones, with a few scattered broken pieces and fragments of the vedibandha. These broken pieces and fragments include pieces of kumbha moulding carved with the figures of deities and apsaras.
The remnants of a boundary wall surrounding the temple complex are visible. The base of the wall is composed of heavy plain stones, with a few scattered broken pieces and fragments of the vedibandha. These broken pieces and fragments include pieces of kumbha moulding carved with the figures of deities and apsaras.
 A closer view of an entrance on the north side of the temple premises. This entrance might not be the original entrance as there is a high possibility that the main entrance was located at the front and not to the side of the temple. But currently, this entrance serves as the main entrance with a metal gate, flanked by two carved pillars.
A closer view of an entrance on the north side of the temple premises. This entrance might not be the original entrance as there is a high possibility that the main entrance was located at the front and not to the side of the temple. But currently, this entrance serves as the main entrance with a metal gate, flanked by two carved pillars.
The rear side of the temple faces the road. The rear portion of the garbhagriha has a jangha and shikhara. It is noticeable that the shikhara is plain and simple, unlike the jangha, indicating that the shikhara is likely a later renovated structure. The temple is surrounded by a boundary wall comprising broken parts and fragments of the temple. The present temple complex has various trees and plants inside it, evoking ancient descriptions that temples were often nestled in groves as it was believed that gods liked to reside in nature (groves).
The rear side of the temple faces the road. The rear portion of the garbhagriha has a jangha and shikhara. It is noticeable that the shikhara is plain and simple, unlike the jangha, indicating that the shikhara is likely a later renovated structure. The temple is surrounded by a boundary wall comprising broken parts and fragments of the temple. The present temple complex has various trees and plants inside it, evoking ancient descriptions that temples were often nestled in groves as it was believed that gods liked to reside in nature (groves).
The broken fragments of the temple, including the vedibandha mouldings, are placed close to each other to form a boundary wall around the temple. Some of the mouldings are carved with the figures of deities, females and couples. Fragments of pillars can also be seen.
The broken fragments of the temple, including the vedibandha mouldings, are placed close to each other to form a boundary wall around the temple. Some of the mouldings are carved with the figures of deities, females and couples. Fragments of pillars can also be seen.
Staircases through the present entrance (from the south) lead to the temple complex. The stairs are flanked by pillars, one on each side, carved with purnaghata kalasha (vase of plenty) and kirtimukha (face of glory). The present floor of the temple complex is made of tight-fitted bricks.
Staircases through the present entrance (from the south) lead to the temple complex. The stairs are flanked by pillars, one on each side, carved with purnaghata kalasha (vase of plenty) and kirtimukha (face of glory). The present floor of the temple complex is made of tight-fitted bricks.
Details of the pillar (from inside the temple) flanking the staircase leading to the temple. The pillars depict purnaghata kalasha which is an auspicious motif and is mostly shown in temples regardless of regional stylistic variations. Above this kalasha, a manibandha is carved topped by a kirtimukha and the apex is carved with a triangular leaf motif.
Details of the pillar (from inside the temple) flanking the staircase leading to the temple. The pillars depict purnaghata kalasha which is an auspicious motif and is mostly shown in temples regardless of regional stylistic variations. Above this kalasha, a manibandha is carved topped by a kirtimukha and the apex is carved with a triangular leaf motif.
The surviving shrine, known as the Mahakal Temple, presently consists of an open mandapa with modern steel railing, situated in front of the original garbhagriha. The temple can be reached by flights of steps which are flanked by carved pillars. The base of the mandapa is old, evident from the old vedibandha, which is refloored with modern tiles. There is a nandi (the bull vehicle of Shiva) in the mandapa, facing the main sanctum.
The surviving shrine, known as the Mahakal Temple, presently consists of an open mandapa with modern steel railing, situated in front of the original garbhagriha. The temple can be reached by flights of steps which are flanked by carved pillars. The base of the mandapa is old, evident from the old vedibandha, which is refloored with modern tiles. There is a nandi (the bull vehicle of Shiva) in the mandapa, facing the main sanctum.
The complex in which the present temple is situated is tightly paved with bricks whereas the mandapa in front of the main sanctum is refloored with modern tiles. The temple is covered with a metal sheet roof for shade. A set of steps lead up to the mandapa. A closer look of the steps reveals remnants of the original temple placed as decorations to the stairs. There is a small steel gate which further leads to the mandapa of the temple.
The complex in which the present temple is situated is tightly paved with bricks whereas the mandapa in front of the main sanctum is refloored with modern tiles. The temple is covered with a metal sheet roof for shade. A set of steps lead up to the mandapa. A closer look of the steps reveals remnants of the original temple placed as decorations to the stairs. There is a small steel gate which further leads to the mandapa of the temple.
A closer look at the stairs, leading to the mandapa, shows that the bottom stair, although lacking carvings, is made like the chandrashila (moon stone) found in ancient temples. The top two stairs were decorated with the original broken parts of the temple at the time of renovation. The pillars which are placed on both sides of the steps are similar to the pillars at the entrance of the temple complex
A closer look at the stairs, leading to the mandapa, shows that the bottom stair, although lacking carvings, is made like the chandrashila (moon stone) found in ancient temples. The top two stairs were decorated with the original broken parts of the temple at the time of renovation. The pillars which are placed on both sides of the steps are similar to the pillars at the entrance of the temple complex
The mandapa of the temple is open and has only base mouldings belonging to the old structure. It now has a smooth tile floor and there are two broad stairs at the end which lead to the main sanctum. A black stone figure of nandi facing the sanctum is placed on one of the stairs. The front wall of the main sanctum is also a new structure with a metal gate to enter the sanctum. The udumbar (threshold) of the sanctum has the original part of the temple which now is the only decorative element left of the entire façade.
The mandapa of the temple is open and has only base mouldings belonging to the old structure. It now has a smooth tile floor and there are two broad stairs at the end which lead to the main sanctum. A black stone figure of nandi facing the sanctum is placed on one of the stairs. The front wall of the main sanctum is also a new structure with a metal gate to enter the sanctum. The udumbar (threshold) of the sanctum has the original part of the temple which now is the only decorative element left of the entire façade.
A black stone figure of nandi is placed on one of the broad stairs leading to the garbhagriha. The nandi is shown seated on a raised platform, facing the sanctum where a Shiva Linga is placed at the center of the sanctum. The nandi sculpture has well-defined horns and hump, and it is adorned with a neck belt of bells. On his back, an ornately carved saddle can also be seen.
A black stone figure of nandi is placed on one of the broad stairs leading to the garbhagriha. The nandi is shown seated on a raised platform, facing the sanctum where a Shiva Linga is placed at the center of the sanctum. The nandi sculpture has well-defined horns and hump, and it is adorned with a neck belt of bells. On his back, an ornately carved saddle can also be seen.
The garbhagriha presently in its elevation consists of the original vedibandha and jangha. The vedibandha comprises various mouldings and the jangha has a bhadra (central offset) and karna (corner projections). The jangha on the right of the temple, as seen in the image, is devoid of any sculpture on the bhadra niche but the other two sides are carved with the figures of deities.
The garbhagriha presently in its elevation consists of the original vedibandha and jangha. The vedibandha comprises various mouldings and the jangha has a bhadra (central offset) and karna (corner projections). The jangha on the right of the temple, as seen in the image, is devoid of any sculpture on the bhadra niche but the other two sides are carved with the figures of deities.
The garbhagriha shows the vedibandha and jangha on its vertical axis. The vedibandha comprises various mouldings such as pitha, kapotapailka, karnika, grassapatta, manibandha, gaggarika, kumbha and kalasha. The jangha has a bhadra and karna and a horizontal band at the center runs across the wall.
The garbhagriha shows the vedibandha and jangha on its vertical axis. The vedibandha comprises various mouldings such as pitha, kapotapailka, karnika, grassapatta, manibandha, gaggarika, kumbha and kalasha. The jangha has a bhadra and karna and a horizontal band at the center runs across the wall.
One of the mouldings on the vedibandha of the garbhagriha is the kumbha which is carved with figures of deities, apsaras, mithunas and maithunas. Here, both the mithuna and maithuna imagery can be seen. Mithuna represents a couple embracing each other where the male figure is softly pressing his partner’s breast. The maithuna, next to the couple, shows four figures engaged in amorous activities.
One of the mouldings on the vedibandha of the garbhagriha is the kumbha which is carved with figures of deities, apsaras, mithunas and maithunas. Here, both the mithuna and maithuna imagery can be seen. Mithuna represents a couple embracing each other where the male figure is softly pressing his partner’s breast. The maithuna, next to the couple, shows four figures engaged in amorous activities.
The jangha of the garbhagriha depicts a bhadra which is carved with the figure of deities. Apart from that the only decorative motif visible on the walls is a horizontal band of kirtimukha. Above the jangha, a varandika (shoulder) is carved which is made of mouldings including gaggarika and kapotapalika with a chaitya arch motif.
The jangha of the garbhagriha depicts a bhadra which is carved with the figure of deities. Apart from that the only decorative motif visible on the walls is a horizontal band of kirtimukha. Above the jangha, a varandika (shoulder) is carved which is made of mouldings including gaggarika and kapotapalika with a chaitya arch motif.
The rear wall of the garbhagriha has a projection depicting a syncretic image. This image depicts Surya, Vishnu and Shiva coming together to form a deity called Hari-Hara Hiranyagarbha. The deity is depicted with three heads and six arms, standing alongside his attendants Dandaka and Pingala. Adorned with a beautiful crown and jewellery, the deity is wearing knee-length boots, which confirms that the frontal face and body represent Surya, who is shown holding flowers in both his hands. While in his upper hands, one can notice sarpa (snakes) which is an attribute of Shiva, and the lower arms grasp a shankha (conch shell) and chakra (discus), symbols associated with Vishnu.
The rear wall of the garbhagriha has a projection depicting a syncretic image. This image depicts Surya, Vishnu and Shiva coming together to form a deity called Hari-Hara Hiranyagarbha. The deity is depicted with three heads and six arms, standing alongside his attendants Dandaka and Pingala. Adorned with a beautiful crown and jewellery, the deity is wearing knee-length boots, which confirms that the frontal face and body represent Surya, who is shown holding flowers in both his hands. While in his upper hands, one can notice sarpa (snakes) which is an attribute of Shiva, and the lower arms grasp a shankha (conch shell) and chakra (discus), symbols associated with Vishnu.
The jangha on the south wall of the garbhagriha depicts Chamunda in the bhadra. The six-armed Goddess is shown standing on a human body. She is holding a knife, trishula (trident), and damaru (hourglass-shaped drum) in her right hand. In her left hand, she is holding a bowl and a khatwang (staff with a skull at the top) and in her middle hand, she is touching her lip. She is shown with an emaciated body, dried and saggy breasts and a sunken belly. She has a jatamukuta and is adorned with ornaments. It is worth noticing that she is wearing a snake as her waist belt.
The jangha on the south wall of the garbhagriha depicts Chamunda in the bhadra. The six-armed Goddess is shown standing on a human body. She is holding a knife, trishula (trident), and damaru (hourglass-shaped drum) in her right hand. In her left hand, she is holding a bowl and a khatwang (staff with a skull at the top) and in her middle hand, she is touching her lip. She is shown with an emaciated body, dried and saggy breasts and a sunken belly. She has a jatamukuta and is adorned with ornaments. It is worth noticing that she is wearing a snake as her waist belt.
 One can notice the Chamunda imagery, on the south wall of the garbhagriha, with an emaciated body, dried and saggy breasts and a sunken belly. She has a jatamukuta and is adorned with ornaments. It is worth noticing that she is wearing a snake as her waist belt and carrying different astras and a bowl. Beneath the bhadra, on the vedibandha, a deity is shown seated on a pedestal, covered in vermilion which shows that the deity is worshipped regularly.
One can notice the Chamunda imagery, on the south wall of the garbhagriha, with an emaciated body, dried and saggy breasts and a sunken belly. She has a jatamukuta and is adorned with ornaments. It is worth noticing that she is wearing a snake as her waist belt and carrying different astras and a bowl. Beneath the bhadra, on the vedibandha, a deity is shown seated on a pedestal, covered in vermilion which shows that the deity is worshipped regularly.
Within the larger temple premises, old foundations of another temple or subsidiary shrine (I) are visible. This foundation is situated diagonally at the right corner to the entrance of the Mahakal shrine and suggests the presence of a shallow mandapa, anatarala and a small garbhagriha in plan. Presently, only the base of the temple is surviving, and the rest of the structure has collapsed. It seems that the pillage of broken fragments in the boundary wall also belongs to this temple. Presently, a Shiva Linga is placed on the floor of the foundation.
Within the larger temple premises, old foundations of another temple or subsidiary shrine (I) are visible. This foundation is situated diagonally at the right corner to the entrance of the Mahakal shrine and suggests the presence of a shallow mandapa, anatarala and a small garbhagriha in plan. Presently, only the base of the temple is surviving, and the rest of the structure has collapsed. It seems that the pillage of broken fragments in the boundary wall also belongs to this temple. Presently, a Shiva Linga is placed on the floor of the foundation.
The surviving foundation of the subsidiary shrine features a flight of steps leading to the Shiva Linga placed at the center. Adjacent to the steps lies a pillar fragment, resembling those found at the southern entrance of the temple premises and at the beginning of the stairs leading to the Mahakal Temple’s mandapa. The pillar has a depiction of a standing human figure. The base of the temple has vegetal outgrowth.
The surviving foundation of the subsidiary shrine features a flight of steps leading to the Shiva Linga placed at the center. Adjacent to the steps lies a pillar fragment, resembling those found at the southern entrance of the temple premises and at the beginning of the stairs leading to the Mahakal Temple’s mandapa. The pillar has a depiction of a standing human figure. The base of the temple has vegetal outgrowth.
 There is a foundation of another temple or subsidiary shrine on the left side corner in front of the entrance of the Mahakal shrine. Similar to the foundation in the right corner, this one also has a few surviving stairs. Adjacent to these steps, one can observe a stone stele.
There is a foundation of another temple or subsidiary shrine on the left side corner in front of the entrance of the Mahakal shrine. Similar to the foundation in the right corner, this one also has a few surviving stairs. Adjacent to these steps, one can observe a stone stele.
The foundation of this temple or subsidiary shrine (II), within the temple complex, suggests that this temple consisted of a mandapa, shallow antarala and a garbhagriha on the plan. Only the base mouldings of the temple survive.
The foundation of this temple or subsidiary shrine (II), within the temple complex, suggests that this temple consisted of a mandapa, shallow antarala and a garbhagriha on the plan. Only the base mouldings of the temple survive.
A stone stele is placed near the foundation of the subsidiary shrine (II) on the left side corner near the entrance of the Mahakal shrine. The stele depicts a Shiva Linga and a devotee, who is shown seated and worshiping the Linga. The Linga has a pedestal, yoni bhaga, which holds the Linga. The surface of the stele is quite weathered so the details are not clear.
A stone stele is placed near the foundation of the subsidiary shrine (II) on the left side corner near the entrance of the Mahakal shrine. The stele depicts a Shiva Linga and a devotee, who is shown seated and worshiping the Linga. The Linga has a pedestal, yoni bhaga, which holds the Linga. The surface of the stele is quite weathered so the details are not clear.
The foundation of the subsidiary shrine (II) on the left side corner in front of the Mahakal shrine reveals a sculpture of Vaishnavi who is shown seated on a garuda. The four-armed Vaishnavi is holding a shankha, gada, and chakra in her hands and one of her upper hands is damaged.
The foundation of the subsidiary shrine (II) on the left side corner in front of the Mahakal shrine reveals a sculpture of Vaishnavi who is shown seated on a garuda. The four-armed Vaishnavi is holding a shankha, gada, and chakra in her hands and one of her upper hands is damaged.
The front entrance (towards the west), possibly the original entry point in earlier times, is now locked with a metal gate which seems to have not been in regular use. There is a flight of steps which leads to the temple complex. Presently to facilitate the needs of the temple and devotees, a water tank is placed on one side of the entrance and the other side has a broken fragment of a pillar bracket.
The front entrance (towards the west), possibly the original entry point in earlier times, is now locked with a metal gate which seems to have not been in regular use. There is a flight of steps which leads to the temple complex. Presently to facilitate the needs of the temple and devotees, a water tank is placed on one side of the entrance and the other side has a broken fragment of a pillar bracket.
A fragment of a heavy pillar is placed near the frontal entry point. The fragment is a pillar bracket which depicts four bharavahakas (load bearers) on each side. These bharavahakas are four-armed and adorned with beautiful jewelleries.
A fragment of a heavy pillar is placed near the frontal entry point. The fragment is a pillar bracket which depicts four bharavahakas (load bearers) on each side. These bharavahakas are four-armed and adorned with beautiful jewelleries.
 A few loose sculptures can be seen inside the temple complex. One such sculpture shows a male torso (headless) standing, bejewelled, holding an object which looks like a staff. There is an attendant next (right) to it, which is shown as small in stature, with one arm raised up.
A few loose sculptures can be seen inside the temple complex. One such sculpture shows a male torso (headless) standing, bejewelled, holding an object which looks like a staff. There is an attendant next (right) to it, which is shown as small in stature, with one arm raised up.
A memorial stone was erected near the Mahakal Temple, in front of the west entrance of the temple. The stone is carved with two figures covered with vermilion.
A memorial stone was erected near the Mahakal Temple, in front of the west entrance of the temple. The stone is carved with two figures covered with vermilion.
A cremation ground close to the frontal entrance (west) of the temple.
A cremation ground close to the frontal entrance (west) of the temple.