In Kaura, Kaimur district, Bihar, India, there is an ancient temple dedicated to the worship of Lord Shiva and Goddess Shakti. It is also considered to be one of the oldest temples in the area and the oldest “functional” temple in the world. This is Mundeshwari Temple which dates back to 108 AD, according to the inscription erected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). However, the temple is damaged at the moment and is ongoing restoration.
The Geography of Mundeshwari Temple
The temple is located on Mundeshwari Hill at the height of 608ft in the Kaimur district. Near the Son River, there are relics that talk about the temple in Mundeshwari Hill.
How to Reach Mundeshwari Temple
You can go there only via road through Patna, Gaya or Varanasi. From there, you need to get to the Mohania Bhabua Road railway station. Then, you need to travel 22km by road on the train to reach there.
The Architecture of Mundeshwari Temple
The temple is built in a rare, octagonal plan and is made out of stone. Built-in Nagara style, it is the earliest specimen of that style in Bihar. All across the four sides are covered with big doors or windows, and small niches for the reception of statues in the other four sides. The tower had been destroyed but is going under renovation work. A roof has already been built. The interior walls have niches and bold moldings which are carved with vase and foliage designs.
There are carvings of Dvarapalas, Ganga, Yamuna, and other murtis at the entrance of the temple. The main deities are Devi Mundeshwari and Chaturmukh (four-faced) Shiva Linga, all at the sanctum sanctorum of the temple. Unusual designed stone vessels are installed inside, along with the Shiva linga at the center of the sanctum, and the Devi Mundeshwari is seen with ten hands holding symbols riding a buffalo (Mahishasura Mardini). Other sculptures of Lord Ganesha, Lord Surya, and Lord Vishnu are carved too.
But most of the temple has been damaged, and only small fragments remain. As such, the temple has been a subject of study for archaeologists under the jurisdiction of ASI.
Back in the days, rituals and worship have been performed, as it is considered to be the ancient functional Hindu temple of the world. It is still visited by a huge number of devotees every year, especially during Ramnavami and Shivaratri. During the Navaratri, a big Mela is organized and is visited by thousands of pilgrims. The practice of tantric Vidya is seen with the worship of Shakti in the form of Devi Mundeshwari, the practice that roots in Eastern India.
Renovation and Restoration
With the instruction from the Union Ministry of Culture, the ASI is restoring the temple, which includes removing the soot from the interior via chemical treatment, repairing damage to religious murti, and cataloging and documenting scattered fragments for later use. For all the restoration, the government of Bihar has allocated Rs. 2 crores. With such efforts, hopefully, the temple would be restored in no time.