The Bateshwar collection of Hindu temples is believed to have been constructed between the 8th and 10th-centuries by the Gurjara-Pratihara dynasty. Little is known about their construction, as once this empire fell, the temples too disappeared from the history books and were swallowed up by the jungle. They were re-discovered by British archeologist Alexander Cunningham in the 19th-century but were in ruins. Historians believe that an earthquake during the 13th-century was responsible for the destruction.
Despite being declared a protected site by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) in 1920, the temple complex remained in this state for the entire 20th-century. Local dacoits (gangs) once controlled the area surrounding the temples, preventing tourists and archeologists from visiting the site. Luckily, this also meant that vandals were unable to enter either.
In 2002, renowned ASI archeologist K.K. Mohammed obtained permission from the local dacoit leader to began restoration efforts. The task was daunting, as the entire temple complex was broken into thousands of pieces like an ancient jigsaw puzzle.
Over the course of a decade, Mohammed and his team were able to reassemble 60-80 of the estimated 200 temples that originally stood there. These temples are now easily accessible for the public to explore.
The carvings on these temples are intricate even for their age. Some are quite erotic, evoking similarities with the more well-known Khajuraho temples. They stand as a half-finished masterpiece: dozens of small temples are surrounded by ruins of their yet-to-be-reconstructed siblings. It’s rare to find so many temples concentrated in such a small area, and the lack of visitors gives the site an eerie, abandoned feeling.
Know Before You Go
The temple complex is located about 45 minutes from Gwalior and is open every day from sunrise to sunset. A visit to these temples can be combined with stops to the Padhavali and Mitaoli temples as well, which are less than 10 minutes away.