Bhoramdeo, approximately 130 kms from Raipur airport, is a region that boasts of spectacular beauty. The erstwhile princely town of Kawardha (located 18 kms away) forms the main gateway to the region although Mukki gate of Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh also affords a second entry. The forests of Bhoramdeo are resplendent with medicinal herbs, which are extensively used by the Baigas, the local tribes. Dotted with innumerable springs of transparent waters, Bhoramdeo enjoys a temperate climate, rich soil and a diverse wildlife – protected and conserved at the Bhoramdeo Wildlife Sanctuary.
Calm and beautiful, the Bhoramdeo Temple is nestled in the scenic surroundings of the central Indian forests. Not being on a regular tourist circuit has kept the temple relatively untouched, which adds to its mystique. Exquisite as far as its architecture and sculpture are concerned and enormous in terms of its historical significance, Bhoramdeo provides an enriching experience to all who visit it.
The Bhoramdeo Temple is an early medieval structure dated 7th to 11th century AD. The temple is said to get its name from a Gond king called Bhoramdeo, who, according to the local lore, built this temple. In fact, the statue in the garbhagriha of the temple is believed to be the king Bhoramdeo. Historians however disagree. Scholars claim that there is no evidence of a king called Bhoramdeo amongst the Gonds or amongst the Kalachuris and the Phani Nagavanshis – the ruling dynasties of Kawardha who preceded the Gonds. Also, Gond rule in this region came much later, in the 15th century, some four centuries after the completion of the Bhoramdeo Temple. Among several theories suggested one relates to the inscriptions of the Raipur Kalachuri king Brahmadeva (r. 1402-10). The temple built by him came to be known as Brahmadeva Temple, which over a period of time, became ‘Bhoramdeo’. However, the claim does not tally chronologically as there is a huge time difference between Brahmadeva’s reign and the date of the temple. Alexander Cunningham, the first Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India, visited this temple in the 1880s. In his Reports, he suggested that it was built by a certain ‘Lakshana Deva Raya’, along with his wife and sons – based on the inscriptions found on the figure of a bearded man placed inside the temple whom Cunningham believes is the builder’s religious adviser. The pedestal of this figure mentions the name ‘Lakshana Deva Raya’ along with the name and date of a Nagavanshi king, Gopaladeva (c. 11th century). Cunningham deduced that the temple was built and dedicated by Lakshana Deva Raya to king Gopaladeva.
The temple is believed to have derived its name from Lord Shiva – in the local dialect, Bhoramdeo is another name for Shiva, as the primary image in the garbhagriha or the sanctum sanctorum is that of a shivalinga. However, Cunningham contends that this temple was originally dedicated to Vishnu (a theory seconded by official gazetteers, eminent historians, numerous epigraphists and archaeologists). Cunningham speculates that during the period of Gond supremacy in the region, the image of Vishnu may have been replaced by the shivalinga, making it a Shiva temple. Many scholars are of the view that the shivalinga looks too small and simplistic to have been a part of the original temple.
The temple is held in great reverence by the locals, as they believe that praying here can bless childless couples with offspring. The Bhoramdeo Temple showcases a perfect blend of religious and erotic sculptures, making it a must see for those interested in Indian architecture and sculpture.
Bhoramdeo Wildlife Sanctuary forms the lush, undulating backdrop of the Bhoramdeo Temple which it is named after. The deep green of the jungle spreads over the rolling Maikal hills, covering an area of about 300 sq km of a yet undiscovered natural habitat. Though it is relatively unknown, it occupies a crucial space in the forest expanse ranging from Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh to Achanakmar Wildlife Sanctuary in Chhattisgarh, called the Kanha-Achanakmar corridor. This makes the conservation of Bhoramdeo integral to the well being of the larger biosphere of the Kanha-Achanakmar corridor.
Since ecotourism in the area is still in its nascent stages, there are no guides to accompany visitors to the forests. However, it is possible to drive through the sanctuary at any time between sunrise and sunset when the gates remain open. The best months to visit the Bhoramdeo Sanctuary are from November to March. As in most sanctuaries in the central belt of India, the hot summer months are favourable for spotting animals at water holes, although temperatures can reach a scorching 45 degrees Celsius. In the winters, the minimum temperature is said to drop to about 5 degrees Celsius, and sometimes even lower in the Chilpi area of the Park. Like the other sanctuaries in the country, Bhoramdeo too remains closed during the monsoon months and reopens in the month of October.
The forest cover in the sanctuary is characterised as ‘southern dry mixed deciduous forest’ and ‘moist peninsular high level sal forest’. Other common trees are saja, tinsa, kara, beeja and haldu. During summer, trees like the amaltas and tesu burst into bloom, painting the forest in hues of golden yellow and burning red. The mahua is another tree with lightly scented, delicate cream to yellow coloured flowers that hang in clusters. These are used by the tribes, either as food or distilled into liquor.
The perennial river Sankari flows through the sanctuary, offering sustenance to flora and fauna alike. There are about ten rivulets or nallahs and four natural lakes scattered around the sanctuary, along with eleven natural springs and seven ponds. Though sighting a tiger is rare, other carnivores that may be frequently seen are leopards, sloth bears and hyenas apart from animals like cheetals, sambars, rhesus monkeys, langurs, nilgais and gaurs. The gaurs, with their dark coats and white socks are the largest species of wild cattle. They have few natural enemies because of their formidable size and usually live in herds of upto 40. For the bird-watching enthusiast, Bhoramdeo, as it lies undiscovered by the crowds, is ideal. The bird population is healthy and nearly all avian species of the central Indian forest belt can be spotted here. The commonly seen birds include parrots, red-wattled lapwings, yellow-wattled lapwings, pea fowl, wagtails, tree pies, shrikes, stilts, serpent eagles, coppersmiths and hawk cuckoos. It is always useful to have a pair of binoculars to zoom in on the birds from a distance. Watch out for birds like purple moorhens and black winged stilts near shallow water bodies.
Inputs: Swati Mitra, Bhoramdeo Travel Guide published by Good Earth Publications, Eicher Goodearth Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi.
Chhattisgarh Tourism Board
Paryatan Bhawan, G.E. Road, Raipur – 492 006, Chhattisgarh, India, Tel: +91-771-4066 415, Fax: +91-771-4066 425