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Bal Mukundeshwar Temple

Dr Savita Kumari

Bal Mukundeshwar temple is one of the most graceful temples of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple Corridor and is remarkable for its surface decoration. It was constructed towards the end of the eighteenth century by the ancestors of Shri Hari Narayana Seth who named the shrine as Bal Mukundeshwar in the mid-nineteenth century. The temple faces east. On the plan, it consists of a garbhagriha and mandapa and stands on a low plinth comprising of several moldings.

The garbhagriha is sarvatobhadra i.e. open on all four sides. On elevation, the wall of the garbhagriha consists of vedibandh, jangha and varandika above which is the eave that separates the temple wall from its superstructure (shikhara). The mouldings of vedibandh and varandika continue in the mandapa also.

Bal Mukundeshwara Temple, Varanasi

Bal Mukundeshwar Temple, Varanasi

Each of the three sides of the garbhagriha wall consists of five offsets. The broad central offset (bhadra) projects three steps from the wall and has a door set in it. It comprises of engaging pilasters supporting an ornate entablature in the form of a torana. The torana is decorated with lotus buds pointing upwards and downwards. The central lotus bud is flanked by parrots. The spandrels of the torana are decorated with floral medallions. The intermediary and corner offsets project two and one-steps respectively, though their thickness is the same. These are divided into three panels separated by horizontal bands and are inspired by wood carving traditions. Each panel has a central plain section framed by diamond motifs and dentils. The upper part of the wall i.e. varandika has mouldings with floral and geometrical decorations. The wall is separated from the superstructure by elegant eaves decorated with two rows of motifs resembling the clay cups (kulhar). From the eaves, hangs iron rings for the awning.

Front Elevation, Bal Mukundeshwar Temple

Entrance to the garbhagriha

The four storeyed shikhara is shekhari in style with the numbers of spires decreasing from seven to one in each row while moving upwards. Bodies of these spires are decorated with floral, diamond and dentil motifs and they are crowned by finials comprising of amlaka, lotus, kalasha and coconut, latter missing at few places. The middle urushringa on all four sides has at its base a well-designed empty niche in the form of a miniature shrine. Originally, they might have contained sculptures. The well proportionate and balanced shikhara adds charm to the overall form of the temple.

Shikhara, Bal Mukundeshwar Temple

The garbhagriha is preceded by the mandapa approached through a single step. It has two pillars in front and two pilasters at the rear. All of them rest on square pedestal tapering upwards. They have the ornate base and capital with decorations of acanthus leaf, torus moldings, and pot. The shafts are fluted. The capitals support the entablature with several horizontal bands. The lowest band is plain. Other bands are a continuation of the varandika of the garbhagriha. Below the entablature are bracket figures in the form of putlis (winged celestial beings) in typical Banarasi style. They are bejeweled, holding musical instruments or dancing and wearing skirts with a slit in the middle. The front pillars have two putlis each playing musical instruments. The rear pillars have single putils in dancing posture. The inner side of the entablature is divided into square sections, containing four-petalled flowers. The flat-roofed ceiling is plain.

Mandapa, Bal Mukundeshwar Temple

The garbhagriha is slightly higher than the mandapa and is approached by two marble steps. The floor of the mandapa is also faced with marble and appears to be a later addition. The entrance of the garbhargriha projects three steps from the wall. It is framed by engaged pilasters supporting torana. The flanking walls are divided into three sections. The lowest sections have empty niches whereas middle and topmost sections are carved in the form of jal pattern seen in textiles. The northern entrance of the garbhagriha has a peacock motif at the lalatbimba.

Facing the garbhagriha, in the center of the mandapa is the sculpture of reclining Nandi. The body of the double-humped Shiva’s mount is elaborately decorated. The pedestal, over which Nandi sits, itself has a decoration of a row of bulls sans ornament. The terrace of the mandapa is secured by a balustrade with elegant lattice design.

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