Madhya Pradesh Day: How Modern MP Can Pay Its Tribute To Raja Bhoj

by Aashish Chandorkar - Nov 1, 2021 10:56 AM +05:30 IST
Madhya Pradesh Day: How Modern MP Can Pay Its Tribute To Raja Bhoj Raja Bhoj statue
Snapshot
  • Raja Bhoj was one of the most important kings to come from the region that is now Madhya Pradesh.

    From being a great patron of arts, to working on breath-taking architecture, his work not only made him a great ruler in his times, but continues to be important for the modern era as well.

Indian history is replete with learned warrior kings, who not just left a huge impact on their own era, but also on the eras that followed them and even on present times. However, many such names have not got their due in modern times, despite their significant contributions. One such name is Raja Bhoj, the king from the Parmar dynasty, that ruled Malwa in Madhya Pradesh but had its influence extending from Chittor in Rajasthan to Konkan on the western coast and from the banks of Sabarmati to east of Bhopal.

Raja Bhoj was one of the most important kings to come from the region that is now Madhya Pradesh, the state which celebrates its Foundation Day on 1 November. From being a great patron of arts, to working on breath-taking architecture, his work not only made him a great ruler in his times, but continues to be important for the modern era as well.

The Bhojtal or the upper lake of Bhopal is an enormous water body with an area of more than 30 square kilometres. Along with the lower lake, the two water bodies helped protect Raja Bhoj’s eastern borders. It is said that the name of Bhopal, capital of Madhya Pradesh today, itself derives from Raja Bhoj. There are however some opinions to the contrary too, pegging the origin of the name to another king, Bhupala.

Nonetheless, Bhopal is the one place where memories of Raja Bhoj remain alive and his works remain in use even today. A large 32-feet statue of Raja Bhoj adorns the upper lake in the city, which was inaugurated in 2011 to commemorate 1,000 years of the rule of this great king. The airport in the city is also named after Raja Bhoj.

Raja Bhoj laid the foundations of Bhojpur near Bhopal, where a 7.5 feet tall Shivaling adorns the incomplete Bhojeshwar Temple. The temple has a rectilinear roof and there is no mandapa connecting to the garbhagriha. There aren’t any markings on inscriptions of the wall either and no inscription has been found outside the temple too. The story of the temple and its remaining unfinished has not been clear. However, it would have been one of the largest temple complexes in the country today, had it been completed. The Archaeological Survey of India has done critical work in the preservation of this temple, including the involvement of the legendary conservator Shri KK Muhammed in 2006.

Raja Bhoj ruled from Dharanagari or the present day Dhar. He stamped his memories on the city via the Bhojashala, a temple dedicated to Devi Sarasvati. His capital city, which he dedicated to the resurgence, teaching and expanding of works in Sanskrit, today prays to the Devi of knowledge, only once a year on the occasion of Vasant Panchami. The city of Dhar itself never bounced back as a modern urban centre, despite being one of the best known cities in the country a thousand years ago.

His own literary contributions span a range of subjects across Sanskrit and Prakrit. Some scholars place the number of books written by Raja Bhoj at 84. Various works attributed to Raja Bhoj pertain to religious texts, poetry, astronomy treatises, texts of medical science of the times, chemistry, architecture and philosophy.

One of the most important works of Raja Bhoj was titled Samarangana Sutradhara. Three incomplete manuscripts of this text have been found. This text addresses the ancient vastu shastra and 64 styles of building Hindu temples, which were in vogue in Raja Bhoj’s times. The text describes how to decorate palaces and temples and construct buildings. This text also curiously talks about flying machines shaped like birds – another of the incomplete and unknown stories that could have told us more about Raja Bhoj’s futuristic vision.

Raja Bhoj was a devotee of Lord Shiva, as amply established by his incomplete dream that stands in Bhojpur. He is said to have constructed more than 100 Shiva temples in Dhar alone, but none of them stand today. However, the Samadhishvara Shiva Temple in Chittor as well as the Tribhuvan Narayan Shiva or Bhoja-svamin temples have also been attributed to Bhoja.

Much of what we know today after Raja Bhoj can be attributed to three texts - Merutunga's Prabandha-Chintamani from the 14th century, Rajavallabha's Bhoj-Charitra from the 15th century and Ballala's Bhoja-Prabandha from the 17th century. Despite a lot of recollection of his rule and research in his writings continuing late in 20th century, the later generation historians and storytellers seem to have forgotten one of the best known kings of history.

The famous poet Bilhana is said to have regretted that since Raja Bhoj lived before his time, he could not work alongside the great king. The great Krishnadevaraya of the Vijayanagar empire is said to have called himself Abhinava-Bhoj or the new Bhoj. That he paid tributes to the memory of a king who lived five centuries before him is a testimony to Bhoj’s work and influence.

Madhya Pradesh holds great tourism potential in its modern day version, especially based on archaeology and rich temples or their remains which dot the state. Perhaps the creation of a Bhoj tourism circuit may hold the fitting tribute to one of the makers of modern Madhya Pradesh.

Aashish Chandorkar is Counsellor at the Permanent Mission of India to the World Trade Organization in Geneva. He took up this role in September 2021. He writes on public policy in his personal capacity.
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