Sacred and Serene: The Artistry of Charchoma Shiva Temple

The Charchoma Shiva Temple, situated in the village of Charchoma Maliya in Rajasthan’s Kota district, falls under the Jaipur Circle of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). This living temple, dedicated to Shiva, reflects its historicity through its regional Gupta architectural style and two inscriptions found in the temple. The inscriptions, in Gupta Brahmi script, are located outside the mandapa (pillared hall) and pillar of the antarala (vestibule or antechamber) in the temple. This suggests that the temple likely belongs to the late Gupta period.

The east-facing temple has a mandapa, antarala, and a garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum) on its plan. The vertical elevation of the temple comprises base mouldings, jangha (wall), and latina type of shikhara (spire).

While housing a sculpture of Parvati, locally known as Adi Shakti, in the garbhagriha, the temple is not primarily dedicated to the Goddess. Instead, it features a linga in the mandapa, which is revered as the main deity by the locals. Additionally, a representation of a linga is depicted on the lalatabimba (lintel), although it is not in good condition. Only the frontal face is visible, flanked and worshipped by gandharvas (celestial musicians), while the side faces are unclear, making it uncertain whether it's a Chaturmukha linga (linga with four-faces).

The image gallery is a visual walk-through of this Gupta period temple which is one of the oldest temples in Rajasthan. Over time, the temple underwent modifications, including alterations in the 19th century, resulting in the present form which may not appear ancient to a casual observer.

 In front of the temple lies a water tank, seemingly a later addition as indicated by the presence of chhatris installed at its corners. The water level can be reached by steps. There is a raised platform on one side. The tank is used regularly by the locals for different purposes.
In front of the temple lies a water tank, seemingly a later addition as indicated by the presence of chhatris installed at its corners. The water level can be reached by steps. There is a raised platform on one side. The tank is used regularly by the locals for different purposes.
View of the water tank, from the temple, with chhattris on the corners. The chhatris, comprising a square platform with four pillars topped by a cupola, are made of sandstone and are a later addition.
View of the water tank, from the temple, with chhattris on the corners. The chhatris, comprising a square platform with four pillars topped by a cupola, are made of sandstone and are a later addition.
Stairs leading to the temple, situated on an elevated area. There are stone platforms or benches placed on both sides of the steps to provide a sitting place for the devotees.
Stairs leading to the temple, situated on an elevated area. There are stone platforms or benches placed on both sides of the steps to provide a sitting place for the devotees.
 The stone platform on the left side of the stairs, leading to the temple, has a group of five sculptures. The central sculpture is a Shiva linga adorned with a metal naga image, preceded by a Nandi sculpture.
The stone platform on the left side of the stairs, leading to the temple, has a group of five sculptures. The central sculpture is a Shiva linga adorned with a metal naga image, preceded by a Nandi sculpture.
On the left side after reaching the top, is another small shrine situated on a stone platform beneath a thick tree. The deity revered as Hanuman, is covered in vermilion and is worshipped regularly by the devotees.
On the left side after reaching the top, is another small shrine situated on a stone platform beneath a thick tree. The deity revered as Hanuman, is covered in vermilion and is worshipped regularly by the devotees.
There is another stone platform, around a tree, in front of the entrance of the main temple where ancient sculptures of Ganesha, covered in vermilion, a Goddess, and a Nandi are kept. There is another stone platform, around a tree, in front of the entrance of the main temple where ancient sculptures of Ganesha, covered in vermilion, a Goddess, and a Nandi are kept.
There is another stone platform, around a tree, in front of the entrance of the main temple where ancient sculptures of Ganesha, covered in vermilion, a Goddess, and a Nandi are kept. There is another stone platform, around a tree, in front of the entrance of the main temple where ancient sculptures of Ganesha, covered in vermilion, a Goddess, and a Nandi are kept.
The magnificently decorated sculpture of Nandi, positioned in front of the platform and oriented towards the mulaprasada (main temple), is truly impressive. Particularly notable is the hump of Nandi, adorned with an intricately coiled serpent, which gracefully encircles the hump, adding to the sculpture's beauty.
The magnificently decorated sculpture of Nandi, positioned in front of the platform and oriented towards the mulaprasada (main temple), is truly impressive. Particularly notable is the hump of Nandi, adorned with an intricately coiled serpent, which gracefully encircles the hump, adding to the sculpture's beauty.
Southeast view of the mulaprasada (main temple). Comprising a mandapa (hall), antarala (vestibule or antechamber), and a garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum) on its plan, the temple has a simple elevation with minimal decoration. Outside the main temple, there is a yajnakund for performing yajna and havan (fire rituals).
Southeast view of the mulaprasada (main temple). Comprising a mandapa (hall), antarala (vestibule or antechamber), and a garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum) on its plan, the temple has a simple elevation with minimal decoration. Outside the main temple, there is a yajnakund for performing yajna and havan (fire rituals).
The east-facing entrance leading to the mulaprasada has a plain and simple base, with a few steps paving the entrance, and a single decorative band at the top. The front façade is plain, with a flanking chhajja supporting the roof.
The east-facing entrance leading to the mulaprasada has a plain and simple base, with a few steps paving the entrance, and a single decorative band at the top. The front façade is plain, with a flanking chhajja supporting the roof.
View of the entrance (east-facing) of the present temple structure. The doorframe is carved with figures at the bottom which have withered with time and can only be seen upon close inspection. The uttaranga (upper section of the doorframe) resembles a carved wooden roof.
View of the entrance (east-facing) of the present temple structure. The doorframe is carved with figures at the bottom which have withered with time and can only be seen upon close inspection. The uttaranga (upper section of the doorframe) resembles a carved wooden roof.
The Charchoma Shiva Temple has two Brahmi inscriptions of Gupta letters. One of the inscriptions is placed on the entrance, outside the main temple structure. The language used in this inscription is Sanskrit.
The Charchoma Shiva Temple has two Brahmi inscriptions of Gupta letters. One of the inscriptions is placed on the entrance, outside the main temple structure. The language used in this inscription is Sanskrit.
 The mandapa (pillared hall) in the Shiva Temple of Charchoma is a rectangular hall featuring a stone platform at its centre. Four pillars stand at each corner of the platform, presently covered with decorated cloth pieces.
The mandapa (pillared hall) in the Shiva Temple of Charchoma is a rectangular hall featuring a stone platform at its centre. Four pillars stand at each corner of the platform, presently covered with decorated cloth pieces.
 A Chaturmukha linga is placed on top of the stone platform in the mandapa. As per the literal meaning of the term Chaturmukha, the linga has four faces, each facing a cardinal direction. The linga is made of a black stone and is worshipped as the primary deity by the locals. According to popular lore, the Chaturmukha linga represents Shiva, Parvati, Brahma, and Vishnu.
A Chaturmukha linga is placed on top of the stone platform in the mandapa. As per the literal meaning of the term Chaturmukha, the linga has four faces, each facing a cardinal direction. The linga is made of a black stone and is worshipped as the primary deity by the locals. According to popular lore, the Chaturmukha linga represents Shiva, Parvati, Brahma, and Vishnu.
On the south side of the linga, one can observe the face and bust of the deity. The deity has a heavy jatamukuta (matted crown) on its head and hairlocks coming down to the shoulders. The sringara (attributes) of all four faces of the Chaturmukha linga are distinct, highlighting the iconographic features.
On the south side of the linga, one can observe the face and bust of the deity. The deity has a heavy jatamukuta (matted crown) on its head and hairlocks coming down to the shoulders. The sringara (attributes) of all four faces of the Chaturmukha linga are distinct, highlighting the iconographic features.
The north face of the Chaturmukha linga has a jatamukuta (matted crown) but it is different from the other faces. Snail-shaped curls are carved above the forehead with hairlocks coming down to the shoulders. The deity is adorned with a beautiful necklace.
The north face of the Chaturmukha linga has a jatamukuta (matted crown) but it is different from the other faces. Snail-shaped curls are carved above the forehead with hairlocks coming down to the shoulders. The deity is adorned with a beautiful necklace.
The antarala (vestibule) of the temple has four pillars. It is a rectangular plain passage that connects the mandapa (pillared hall) with the garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum). This section of the temple structure dates to the Gupta period, as evident by a Gupta Brahmi inscription engraved on one of the pillars (on the right). The antarala leads to the garbhagriha which has a beautifully carved T-shaped door frame, one of the characteristics of Gupta-period temples. The doorframe of the garbhagriha has multiple shakhas, which are carved with figures of the river goddesses on each side at the bottom and dwarf figures and floral decorations above them.
The antarala (vestibule) of the temple has four pillars. It is a rectangular plain passage that connects the mandapa (pillared hall) with the garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum). This section of the temple structure dates to the Gupta period, as evident by a Gupta Brahmi inscription engraved on one of the pillars (on the right). The antarala leads to the garbhagriha which has a beautifully carved T-shaped door frame, one of the characteristics of Gupta-period temples. The doorframe of the garbhagriha has multiple shakhas, which are carved with figures of the river goddesses on each side at the bottom and dwarf figures and floral decorations above them.
The pillars of the antarala have a square base. The middle square shaft is carved with the half lotus medallion. Above this medallion, the shaft turns circular, topped with an amalaka, and a plain square abacus.
The pillars of the antarala have a square base. The middle square shaft is carved with the half lotus medallion. Above this medallion, the shaft turns circular, topped with an amalaka, and a plain square abacus.
The pillar on the north end of the antarala has an inscription in Brahmi script with Gupta letters playing an important role in dating the foundation of the temple. The inscription is carved below a full-blown lotus. However, the surface of the pillar has deteriorated and the letters are not clear, making it difficult to discern the meaning of the inscription. Nevertheless, one can observe that the inscription comprises twelve lines. The last three lines appear distinct in their letters and style compared to the upper part of the inscription. The first three lines of the inscription discuss the Shiva linga and the temple.
The pillar on the north end of the antarala has an inscription in Brahmi script with Gupta letters playing an important role in dating the foundation of the temple. The inscription is carved below a full-blown lotus. However, the surface of the pillar has deteriorated and the letters are not clear, making it difficult to discern the meaning of the inscription. Nevertheless, one can observe that the inscription comprises twelve lines. The last three lines appear distinct in their letters and style compared to the upper part of the inscription. The first three lines of the inscription discuss the Shiva linga and the temple.
 The doorframe of the garbhagriha has multiple shakhas and each shakha is decorated with a specific pattern. The bottom of the shakha depicts river goddesses Ganga, on Makara, and Yamuna on Kachhappa, with their attendants. Above them, beautiful undulating creepers are shown. The shakha next to it shows standing dvarapalas, on each side, holding a weapon and flanked with dwarf figures performing different activities such as dancing, singing, and playing musical instruments.
The doorframe of the garbhagriha has multiple shakhas and each shakha is decorated with a specific pattern. The bottom of the shakha depicts river goddesses Ganga, on Makara, and Yamuna on Kachhappa, with their attendants. Above them, beautiful undulating creepers are shown. The shakha next to it shows standing dvarapalas, on each side, holding a weapon and flanked with dwarf figures performing different activities such as dancing, singing, and playing musical instruments.
The last shakha, depicting standing dvarapalas on each side, also showcases dwarf figures above. These dwarfs are depicted playing musical instruments, with one of the dwarf figures shown playing the drum.
The last shakha, depicting standing dvarapalas on each side, also showcases dwarf figures above. These dwarfs are depicted playing musical instruments, with one of the dwarf figures shown playing the drum.
 The lalatabimba (lintel) of the doorframe probably shows a Chaturmukha Linga, flanked and worshipped by devotees and maladharas on each side. The devotees are depicted with folded hands, a gesture of paying homage and respect. Next to these devotees, maladharas are carved holding garlands for the deity. Due to withering and the presence of heavy hairlocks, the other faces of the linga, besides the frontal one, are not clearly visible in the image. Nonetheless, the withered part of the linga resembles the other faces, hinting at the possibility of it being a Chaturmukha linga.
The lalatabimba (lintel) of the doorframe probably shows a Chaturmukha Linga, flanked and worshipped by devotees and maladharas on each side. The devotees are depicted with folded hands, a gesture of paying homage and respect. Next to these devotees, maladharas are carved holding garlands for the deity. Due to withering and the presence of heavy hairlocks, the other faces of the linga, besides the frontal one, are not clearly visible in the image. Nonetheless, the withered part of the linga resembles the other faces, hinting at the possibility of it being a Chaturmukha linga.
The garbhagriha of the Charchoma Shiva Temple presently houses a Goddess image, probably Parvati, locally revered as Adi Shakti. The sculpture is dressed in such a way that the attributes and iconography of the Goddess sculpture are not discernible. There is a trident made of metal which is installed near the sculpture. Upon closer inspection, carvings of figures can be seen on the sides of the Goddess. But the figures are damaged, and their details are rubbed off.
The garbhagriha of the Charchoma Shiva Temple presently houses a Goddess image, probably Parvati, locally revered as Adi Shakti. The sculpture is dressed in such a way that the attributes and iconography of the Goddess sculpture are not discernible. There is a trident made of metal which is installed near the sculpture. Upon closer inspection, carvings of figures can be seen on the sides of the Goddess. But the figures are damaged, and their details are rubbed off.
 The mandapa of the temple is a rectangular hall with simple and plain outer walls. It has a flat roof. There are no decorative elements present on the walls except the flanking chhajja supporting the roof.
The mandapa of the temple is a rectangular hall with simple and plain outer walls. It has a flat roof. There are no decorative elements present on the walls except the flanking chhajja supporting the roof.
View of the main temple structure from the southwest. The garbhagriha, unlike the mandapa exterior, shows some decoration on its façade. The garbhagriha stands on base mouldings with jaali (checkered) windows and chaitya arches. It has a simple latina-type shikhara (spire) with niches topped by udgama pediments (pediments with interconnected chaitya dormers) which look like miniature shikaras. At the apex, an amalaka is placed topped by bijapuraka (citron fruit).
View of the main temple structure from the southwest. The garbhagriha, unlike the mandapa exterior, shows some decoration on its façade. The garbhagriha stands on base mouldings with jaali (checkered) windows and chaitya arches. It has a simple latina-type shikhara (spire) with niches topped by udgama pediments (pediments with interconnected chaitya dormers) which look like miniature shikaras. At the apex, an amalaka is placed topped by bijapuraka (citron fruit).
The jangha (wall) of the garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum) has a broad floral scroll that runs across all three walls and divides the wall into upper and lower parts. On the side walls (north and south) jaali or checkered windows are added which are topped by double chaitya arches. The rear of the garbhagriha has no window but it depicts chaitya arches.
The jangha (wall) of the garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum) has a broad floral scroll that runs across all three walls and divides the wall into upper and lower parts. On the side walls (north and south) jaali or checkered windows are added which are topped by double chaitya arches. The rear of the garbhagriha has no window but it depicts chaitya arches.
The jangha (wall) of the garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum) has a broad floral scroll that runs across all three walls and divides the wall into upper and lower parts. On the rear wall, this band is topped by two beautiful chaitya arch motifs. At the apex of the arch, a grassamukha is shown emitting the flowers which are decorating the chaitya arch.
The jangha (wall) of the garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum) has a broad floral scroll that runs across all three walls and divides the wall into upper and lower parts. On the rear wall, this band is topped by two beautiful chaitya arch motifs. At the apex of the arch, a grassamukha is shown emitting the flowers which are decorating the chaitya arch.
The side walls of the garbhagriha have windows that are topped by double chaitya arches. The lower chaitya arch depicts the bust of a deity flanked by two celestial beings. The upper chaitya arch shows a grassamukha.
The side walls of the garbhagriha have windows that are topped by double chaitya arches. The lower chaitya arch depicts the bust of a deity flanked by two celestial beings. The upper chaitya arch shows a grassamukha.
The double chaitya arch on the southern side shows Kartikeya in the lower arch. He is shown seated on a peacock, holding a spear.
The double chaitya arch on the southern side shows Kartikeya in the lower arch. He is shown seated on a peacock, holding a spear.