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Omkaresvar Mandhata - History and Archaeology of a Paramara Town in the Narmada Valley

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Item Code: NAY896
Publisher: Aryan Books International
Author: Jurgen Neuss
Language: English
Edition: 2018
ISBN: 9788173056086
Pages: 458 (Throughout B/w Illustrations)
Other Details 10.00 X 7.00 inch
Weight 1.06 kg
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Book Description
About the Book
In Omkaresvar Mandhata, Jurgen Neuss offers a comprehensive survey of the extant historic monuments at this well-known island town, the most important place of pilgrimage in the Narmada valle)' and gives an overview of its history according to available- written sources. Although the place is known as all archaeological site since the middle of the Isth century. it has till date been overlooked that the remains are much more extensive and recurrent than the rarely published archaeological notes, that deal with only a few monuments. suggest. This hook provides a long overdue sonly of till' whole area which in there represents a conglomeration of three historic settlements. At the centre lies a thoroughly structured fortification ion, Mandhatrdurga, which represents the only. preserved fortified city of the Panamas of Dhara in the Narmada valley presently, known t o us.

Rivers are cradles of human civilization. In India, rivers are generally revered as mother deities spawning mythology, history, art, architecture, spirituality and so on. The seven "mother rivers" which are considered to be holiest are known as the saptanadi: the Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswati, Narmada, Godavari, Sindhu and the Kaveri.

The Narmada runs through central India and its banks are studded with the most sacred sites. Although there are many myths about Narmada's creation, it is widely believed that it sprang from the body of Lord Shiva and in sanctity; the river is second only to the Ganga.

The Narmada valley has extraordinarily vast and diverse cultural resources in the form of built heritage, archaeological sites and remains since prehistoric times. However, the myriad manifestations of its cultural heritage are losing their traditional relevance with rapid urbanization and developmental growth. Hence, it is extremely important to document and preserve this heritage.

The present volume on Omkareshvar-Mandhata offers a comprehensive survey of the extant historic monuments of this well-known island town which is also one of the most important places of pilgrimage in the Narmada valley. The place and its surroundings have been of considerable religious and historical importance as they also house two of the famous twelve jyotirlingas-Omkareshvara and Amareshvara. This publication will serve as a useful guide presenting a new dimension of its cultural heritage and bringing forth the collective significance of the monuments and sites spread across the Narmada valley. The author, Jorgen Neuss, deserves to be congratulated for his excellent survey and study.

Since its inception in 1984, the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) has promoted special publications on the lesser known and unprotected heritage of the country. INTACH encourages such documentation initiatives that serve as a source of reference for future works.

We are pleased to collaborate in the publication of this important work.

Mandhata is an island in the river Narmada situated on the northern fringe of present Khandva (or formerly East Nimar) District of Madhya Pradesh at approximately 22°15' Nand 76°9' E (Map 1.1). Together with the village of Godarpura immediately opposite of Mandhata on the south bank of the river Narmada it is presently known as Omkaresvar-Mandhata and represents the most important Hindu pilgrimage centre in the Nimar, as it houses two of the famous twelve jyotirlingas, Omkaresvara and Amaresvara, It is thus closely connected to the Mahakalesvarajyotirlinga at Ujjain which lies, as the crow flies, about 110 km to the north-west.

Despite extensive archaeological remains on the island and in its vicinity as well as finds of a number of important inscriptions, the place has rarely found the attention of scholars and hence the historical role and significance of Mandhata is still largely uninvestigated.

Mandhata island and its surroundings have been of considerable religious and historical importance which may probably be traced back to about the sixth century CE.l On the basis of historical records found at Mandhata which refer explicitly or implicitly to the Paramara dynasty we may safely infer that Mandhata flourished between the tenth and the thirteenth century. In view of the fact that information about the place's history beyond these limits is extremely scarce, it is all the more striking that Mandhata has till date retained its importance as a religious centre.

The period when Mandhata flourished falls into the so-called 'early medieval' phase (ca. 600-1300) of South Asian historiography, which, as Jason HAWKES has recently conclusively argued, remains "ill-defined and poorly understood" and is "arguably the most poorly represented period archaeologically in the entire subcontinent".

In his Progress Report of the Archaeological Survey of Western India for the months May 1893 to April 1894, Henry COUSENS, then Superintendent of the Archaeological Survey in Bombay, wrote: Compared with the antiquarian remains in the Bombay Presidency, and Western India generally, those of the Central Provinces are few and poor. Even those of the Mandhata and Markanda, which are generally looked upon as among the most interesting in the Central Provinces, are neither extensive nor of any extra merit architecturally. The valley of the Narbada, from Burhanpur to Jabalpur, is perhaps the scantiest in this respect; but this is chiefly due to the fact that railway contractors, when constructing the G.I.P. line, found, in the many remains that then existed, material ready to hand for their bridges and culverts. (COUSENS 1894: 1).

This statement is one of the early professional documents that lament the loss of archaeological remains in the wake of large infrastructure projects in the Narmada valley, a phenomenon which has acquired new significance with the construction of large dams on the Narmada river. In the nineteenth century it has, for instance, caused the destruction by "the cruel hands of the vandals and the uninterested" of the famous historic city of 'Tirupuri," one of very few early cultural centres that existed in the Narmada valley at all. Apart from a few sculptural fragments, the re- mains of Tripura were almost entirely lost to historical and archaeological research. With all due respect and admiration that the eminent archaeologist Henry COUSENS deserves, it must be stated that his judgment about the remains at Mandhata was misconceived. Given COUSENS' merit, this error would of course be tolerable if only would it not have had such a lasting impact on the assessment of Mandhata's historical importance. In fact, COUSENS' unfortunate judgment appears to have influenced the scale of research at Mandhata till date. A note written by the then Vice-Roy of India, Lord George Nathaniel Curzon," in which he stated: "I visited this renowned and sacred island in the Neruda on October, 3Pt, 1902, and was equally disappointed with its beauties and its monuments [... J" turned out even more devastating, and ultimately limited the extent of expenditure on the remains at Mandhata to a minimum.

In this study I shall present a description of the vast and still mostly undocumented archaeological and art historical remains at Omkaresvar- Mandhata (subsequently: OM).16 Besides generally adding to the scanty knowledge of the 'early medieval' period in India,'? it specifically focuses on one of the rare extant historic cities in the Narmada valley which simultaneously represents the only known full-fledged (and still largely preserved and excavatable) fortified city of the Paramours of Dhara. The study summarizes and illustrates the results of several surveys under- taken to trace, document and map as many historic artifacts as possible in order to draw a rather comprehensive, yet preliminary picture of the Paramara city at Mandhata.

The idea for this survey arose from a map of OM which I prepared on the basis of satellite imagery obtained from Google Earthly? The latter's history function enabled me to stitch together a detailed map of the island and its surroundings from about 80 satellite images taken on March, 17, 2001. This map depicts OM on a scale of approximately 1:3000 a) prior to the construction of the Omkaresvar dam, b) prior to the numerous en- coachmen’s and building activities that occurred during the last decade, and c) almost at the peak of the dry season. These particularities and the map's comparatively high resolution, which is unfortunately impossible to reproduce here (its print size is 55x94 em), facilitated to trace not only the course of the remaining fort walls, but showed also many interesting de- tails, lines, spots and structures, that elicited my curiosity resulting in the idea to conduct a systematic survey of the remains at OM. In the field I was able to trace almost all of these objects, which turned out to be various structural remains, most of which indeed seem to go back to Paramara times. Viewed together and set in context all these remains render a relatively clear picture of the structure of the fortified city, Mandhatrdurga.? which existed at Mandhata about a millennium ago. Moreover, the multitude of artifacts is of considerable importance especially with regard to the development of Paramara art and architecture.

The scope of the catalogue of monuments contained in this book is necessarily limited by the fact that it is confined to surface fads. But it is not merely the lack of substantial archaeological investigations which allows only for a 'preliminary catalogue', but also the vastness and variety of remains, which give opportunity for a number of specific studies, especially with regard to Paramara art - architecture and sculpture alike - of which OM bears vast treasures. For an assessment of the state of research concerning the antiquarian remains at OM see the respective section in my earlier paper.P Many of the remains presented here are still unpublished or even undocumented, and those that have been described before have never been put in the larger context in which they actually stand.

Book's Contents and Sample Pages

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