Stones tell a story
The Bateshwar temple ruins, near Malanpur industrial area in Morena district were a hideout for generations of dacoits. Though the archaeological survey notified it as a protected site in 1920, there was no restoration work before January 2005 because all attempts by the archaeological survey to take possession of the site was met with stiff opposition. But according to Muhammed, "The presence of dacoit gangs was actually a boon because artifacts were preserved within the temple complex."
Archaeological survey officials recall that dacoits would keep vigil while restoration work was underway. Once in a while, a few dacoits also pitched in with labour. The presence of Gujjar's gang around the temple complex area kept the mining mafia at bay. But this was till November 2006 when the Uttar Pradesh Special Task Force killed Gujjar.
Illegal sandstone mining began soon after--according to a state government estimate the illegal mining business was approximately Rs 1,000 crore. Blasts from explosives used for mining sandstone quarries caused massive vibrations, damaging the newly restructured temples.
|The Archaeological Survey of India had estimated 100 odd temples in the complex, but there could be as many as 400 temples in the debris|
|Fitting the jigsaw|
|Local lore has it that the Bateshwar temple was once called the Bhooteshwar temple. According to the Archaeological Survey of India, most of the temples are dedicated to Shiva and date to the 8th century AD. The Bateshwar ruins are spread over a square kilometre near the Chambal River.
The archaeological survey has two theories about the destruction of the complex. Some archaeologists in the organization say that an earthquake destroyed the complex. Others say that the Chambal river changed course and submerged a part of the Bateshwar temple complex. The archaeological survey has, however, no hard evidence to prove either theory.
When the organization began restoration in January 2005, experts there estimated that there were 108 temples in the complex but as they cleared the area, it struck the archaeologists that there could be as many as 300-400 temples.
"Restoring each temple was like solving a complex jigsaw puzzle," says Muhammed. "We had to build them from scratch, since we did not have any map or drawing of the original complex," he adds.
The key for the archaeological survey team was to find stones that would fit into a particular structure. It was a tedious process. But archaeologists say that chances of stones from one temple fitting another are remote.
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