Rare rock cut Sculptures of Water carriers on Vihanagika from Kalanjara

by Dr. S. K. Sullerey

Cunningham in his report of 1883-84 for the first time brought to light these rock cut sculptures. Immediately above the Bhairava kund in Kalanjara fort are two figures of pilgrims represented carrying water in the usual manner in two vessels fixed to the end of a Banghi pole. Near one of them there is following inscription in well shaped Gupta characters-

Samadhighata panchamahashabda. Samanta Sri Vasanta
(the possessor of the Pancha Mahasabdha).

As per Cunningham the expression Samadhigata pancha mahasabda is commonly applied to Samantas or petty chiefs. As per him the sculpture of water carrier represents the Samanta himself. He also mentions that on outside of the walls of fort on the north face about halfway up the hill there is a small isolated rock some 15 feet long by 10 feet in length. On this rock there is a sculpture of a famous lingam named Balkandeshwar and besides it the figure of a pilgrim carrying Ganges water at the two ends of a banghi pole. Over the head of this figure their is an old inscription of one line of Gupta characters which reads as follows –

Samadhi gata pancha mahasabda Samanta Sri Vasanta.

There is a similar figure with the same inscription down in the plain below. On the north face of hill and about 60 or 70 feet above the plain their is fine stone walled tank called Ganga Sagar, 160 feet in length by 120 feet in breadth, it has continuous flight of steps on three sides and only a narrow flight in middle of the fourth side. A long flight of steps and walls are formed of cut stones including numerous carved pillars, bracket capitals and broken statues. Locally these sculptures are associated with Sravana kumar. Cunningham discussed the story of Sravan kumar at length as mentioned in Buddhist and Brahmanical literature but he did not mention anything about the identity of Vasanta.

After the survey of Cunningham the author has visited Kalanjara for research work. At that time he located the figure locally known as Sravana murti at various places. List is given in his book “Ajaigarh aur Kalanjara ki Dev Pratimayen” but at that time he has not discussed the significance of these sculptures.

Kalanjara is mentioned as a Tirth(Pilgrimage) during Mahabharata period. The glorification of Kalanjara as a tirtha is referred in Mahabharata. It is stated that whoever bathes in the lake of Gods in Kalanjara earns the same merit as if he had made a gift of one thousand cows. In the same epic it is also described that Hiranyavindu is located at Kalanjara. Similarly it is also mentioned if one takes bath at Kalanjara for one month, he acquires the merit of Ashwamedha Yagya. The lake of God mentioned in Mahabharata is not identified by any scholar till now. The tank situated near the town of Kalanjara is known as Surasari Ganga –the tank of Gods. It can be easily identified with the same Gods tank which is mentioned in Mahabharata. This brings the antiquity of their tank place during Mahabharata.

In Mahabharata Kalanjara is also mentioned as Lokvishruth (World of popular place). This shows that Kalanjara was well known during the time of Mahabharata. Similarly the puranic literature also mentions Kalanjara as a pilgrimage center.In Padma Purana it is named as one of the nine ukhalas (holy places in northern India). In the same Purana it is mentioned that Kalanjara is able to destroy and burn great sins. In the Garuda Purana Kalanjar is described as giver of the salvation. The Padma and Skand Purana mention it respectively as Brahmanshetra and Purushottam shetra. Kalanjara is also known as Ravishetra.

During the Puranic period Kalanajara is considered as one of the greatest tirtha of northern India. In the Garud Purana it is designated as Mahatirtha in Padmapurana as uttam tirtha and in Matsya Puraan as an auspicious and superior pilgrimage center. Kalanjara is also related to Pitrapuja and is mentioned in Vayu Purana and Brahmaand Purana as a place of Sadhna.

The Puranic literature throws a good light on the relationship of Kalanjar with Siva. In Vayu Linga and Kurma Puranas, it is referred that Siva destroyed the Kala in his place and that is why it is called Kalanjara. In the Puranas , Kalanjara is mentioned as an abode of Nilkantha. In the Vaman Purana Nilkantha is mentioned as Kalanjara.

Kalanjara is very popular Saiva center from earliest time till date. The name of Kalanjara and Siva is associated with the story of churning of Ocean “Samudra Manthan”by demons and Gods. The poison came out of this churning was swallowed by Siva and he became Nilkantha. The image of Nilkantha installed in the Nilkantha temple in Kalanjara is called the Swayambhu Sivalinga. According to a text this type of Sivalinga is found in India in sixty nine places. Epigraphical references also mentioned the association of Kalanjar with Siva. The Bihta seals mention the Kalanjara and Siva as Bhadreshwar. Similarly in inscription of Panduvamsi Udayan which is the earliest inscription of Kalanjara mentions a brick temple of Bhadreshwar. Also the Khajuraho inscription of Yasovarman mentions about Nilkantha at Kalanjara. The sculptural evidence also corroborated this fact that Kalanajara is also a center of great art and various types of Siva Images discovered at Kalanjara in various forms and also of other Gods and Goddesses. During the medieval period inscriptional evidence also in forms that people from various places visited Kalanjara as renowned pilgrimage place.

The pouring of water over Sivalinga is prevalent from earliest time. The story of descent of Ganga by Bhagirath refers that Ganga coming before the Earth came through the head of Siva.This is the reason that during the festival time people after bathing in some tank go with Ganges water to pour on Sivalingam. At present their is a tradition of poring the Ganga Water carrying from Ganges on Kaanwar – having two pots supported on a stick by bearing it on shoulders to go to Siva temple at Baidyanath- Jyotirlinga at Deoghar, Jharkhand. This tradition is prevalent at Kalanjara from earliest time because Kalanjara is associated with Siva from earliest time. This fact is corroborated from inscriptional evidence and rock cut images at Kalanjara fort which mentions a Samanta named Vasanta coming to Kalanjara with Ganges water in Kaanwar.

One such image with inscription is carved near the rock near Balkandheshwar Sivalinga at Kalanjara. The Vasanta mentioned in inscription is a Samanta with his title of “Panchmahasabhda”. This is a honour given to Samanta by his overlord. Thus we can presume that Vasanta was the Samanta of a ruler who was ruling in Kalanjara during the time of inscription which belongs to 6th -7th century AD. At this time Udayan was ruling over Kalanjar who belongs to Pandava dynasty. This is referred in the inscription found at Kalanjara. Similarly the Kalanjara is at a distance of 150km, form Prayagraj. We can presume that the Samanta Vasanta brought Ganges water from Prayagraj during the month of Shrawan and he came to pour the water at Balkhandeshwar and Neelkanth temple. The rock cut sculptures informs of various places at Kalanjara that he visited several times.

Thus the sculptures are rare and confirms the long tradition of Kaanwar from the sixth century AD. On the basis of above we can conclude that these rare rock cut sculptures confirm the tradition of of Kaanwar yatra from earliest time to present day.