Pinjore is a town in Haryana set at about 1800 feet above sea level in a valley overlooking the Shivalik hills. Pinjore is today only known for Pinjore Gardens, a garden built by the Mughal ruler, Aurangzeb’s brother, on the foundations, plinth and ruins of a fabulous ancient Hindu temple. The temple site was then known as Panchapura. The forgotten story of the temple of Panchapura is today spoken only by the remnants of the ruined sculptural stones of the once magnificent temple.

Sculptures of Vedic Gods from the Panchapura Temple, at Pinjore in Haryana, destroyed by Mughal ruler Aurangzeb.

Geographically, Panchpura lies close to the present day town of Panchkula. Panchkula did not exist till quite recently, but its name describes the geography of this region. In the vicinity of Panchkula, literally five rivers, flow the five tributaries of the once mighty Saraswati. At present these rivers are no more than rivulets except in the monsoons when the streams are occasionally flooded. They are named Tangri (or Dangri), Markanda or Martand – it’s ancient name, Kaushalya as it has always been known, Chautang – the name derived from its ancient name Drsadvadi, and the Gaggar-Hakra, the name a corruption of its original more meaningful Sanskrit name, the Gagara-Sagara. Haryana, originally Hari-ayana, or abode of God, is of course the region where the ancient rishis of India recorded the Vedas on the banks of Sarasvati. Kurukshetra, the site of the Mahabharata also lies in Haryana.

The architectural style of the ancient temple of Panchapura is the panchayatana which is similar to the architectural style of the Khajuraho temples. The Panchapura Temple was built on the incline of a hill in the Shivalik and had many platforms. The entrance was located at the bottom of the hill. A walk up the steps would take one to the highest platform where the garbha griha was located and housed the principal deity. The bottom most steps of this temple were probably washed by the waters of the Kaushalya river, one of the tributaries of the Saraswati. The Kaushalya still flows nearby though it is has now changed course away from the temple hill.

Today the entrance to this once magnificent temple, which in now the site of Pinjore garden, is located at the uppermost platform, and not were it once was, at the foot of the hill on the other end, where the Kaushalya flowed. Sometime between 8th and 11th AD the Panchapura temple came to be known as the Bhimadevi temple, so named by the local ruler who is believed to have it renovated.

The temple ruins have eroded but identifiable statues of gods and goddesses, apsaras and ghandharvs, including Shiva, Vishnu, Bhairava and Kubera, but none that of the Bhimadevi goddess exist. It is for this reason that it is believed that the temple was originally dedicated to ancient vedic gods rather than the later additions to the Hindu pantheon, such as Bhimadevi.

Though the Panchapura temple is often called the Khajuraho of the north, it appears to be far more ancient than the temples of Khajuraho. One of the reasons is that the temple deities are carved out of quartz. Quartz is a sturdy and stable stone and erodes far slower than sand stone. The temples of Khajuraho are carved from sand stone, yet look far less eroded than the temple complex at Pinjore, suggesting that Panchapura is probably older than the Khajuraho temples, and certainly older than its 1000 years of known history.

A fable supports this contention. It is said that the Pandavas, during the period of their exile, visited Panchapura.This is highly probable because of the proximity of Kurukshetra to Panchapura. A temple either already existed here in those times or perhaps Panchpura became a famed sacred site once the Pandavas visited it. It is said that the town got the name Panchapura (the town of five) after the visit of the five Pandavas. Others say that the town got its name from the Panchayatana architecture style of the temple.

A Panchayatana style temple is one where the main shrine is surrounded by four subsidiary shrines. The origin of the word Panchayatana stems from two Sanskrit words, Pancha (five) and ayatana (containing). An example of a Panchayatana style temple is the Kandariya Temple at Khajuraho. Below is the floor plan of Kandariya temple which is the same floor plan and design of the Pinjore Panchapura temple.

The Pinjore garden was built by Aurangzeb’s brother, on the ruins of the Panchpura temple which had the same foundation plan as the Kandariya Temple of Khajuraho shown above. In a temple of this style the entrance would be at Ardha Mandapa. When the Mughals constructed the Pinjore garden, they reversed the entrance.  The entrance now is at what is marked 6 in this diagram which was once the garbha griha of the temple. 

Pinjore garden was built by Aurangzeb’s brother by ruining a Panchayatana architectural styled Hindu temple on a hill in the Shivalik mountain, its foot washed by the Kaushalya river. The river has since then moved its course though it still flows nearby.

The ruins and remains of this temple were dumped in an area adjacent to the Pinjore Garden. A largely unimpressive museum, which is not visited by most people who come to Pinjore (since there are no signages), houses the statues of this once magnificent temple.

Some of the remnant statues are placed in small rooms, others are placed in an unkempt lawn of the museum premises and look rather uninteresting because of poor presentation. Quite a few of statues from this site are placed in museums around India and are hence scattered. Unfortunately, since no one place houses all the remnants of this majestic temple, its glory is diluted. This is an immense loss to the cultural history of Pinjore.

Here are pictures of some of the remains of what was definitely a spectacular temple in antiquity. The craftsmanship of the ancient sculptors is far superior to the Mughal period masons who were directed to, perhaps too hastily, build walls and platforms with the material procured from the ruined temple. The Mughals were crafty enough to leave intact the foundations of all the Hindu structures that they destroyed. Those served as the foundations of the Mughal-Islamic structures that they laid atop the Hindu structures. This saved not only labour and time but also offered a ready made architectural blue print and design. Take a look:

A standing Lord Shiva, Panchapura Temple, Pinjore which was constructed in the vicinity of the Kaushalya River- a tributary of the Sarasvati River

Seated Shiva Panel, Panchpura Temple, Pinjore
The Temple Ruins are now given the name Bhimadevi Complex
The ancient most name of the temple is lost in history.
The Uma-Maheshwara Panel, Panchpura Temple, Pinjore
The Panchpura Temple was constructed in the Panchayatana
architectural style. The temples at Khajuraho are built in the same architectural style.
Goddess Chandwardharini, Panchpura Temple, Pinjore. These statues are made of sturdy quartz. The erosion of the quartz points to the antiquity of this very ancient temple.
Bust of Lord Surya, Panchpura Temple, Pinjore

Most of the statues were destroyed by Aurangzeb’s onslaught. 

Another statue of Lord Siva’s avatara called Ishana. Panchpura Temple, Pinjore. Very few of these have survived. None are left undamaged.
A damaged statue of Lord Ishana, an incarnation of Lord Shiva, from Panchapura Temple. Pinjore.

A heavily damaged sculpture of Parvati and Ganesha.

Panchapura Temple, Pinjore.

Lord Ganesha Panel, Temple of Panchapura, Pinjore.
A panel of two gods, Temple of Panchapura, Pinjore.
Goddess Brahmani, Panchapura Temple, Pinjore. 
Sri Hari Hara, Panchapura Temple, Pinjore.

Goddess Saraswati, Temple of Panchapura, Pinjore.

A Gandharva , Panchapura Temple, Pinjore.

Lord Ganesha, Panchapura Temple, Pinjore.

A broken shikhara of one of the temple mandapas, Panchapura Temple, Pinjore.

Lord Lakulish avatara of Lord Shiva and Parvati,

Temple of Panchapura, Pinjore.

Lord Shiva Panel, Temple of Panchapura, Pinjore.

An Eroded Shivainga, Temple pf Panchapura, Pinjore

Apsara Carvings at Temple of Panchapura, Pinjore.

Eroded Gandharva Carving, Temple of Panchapura, Pinjore.

A panel of dancing apsaras and gandharvas.

Temple of Panchapura, Pinjore.

Another panel of dancing apsaras and gandharvas.

Temple of Panchapura, Pinjore.

The Temple of Panchapura at Pinjore is also sometimes called Khajuraho of north India for its erotic sculpture.

Fragments of broken walls of Temple of Panchapura, Pinjore.

The wall fragments of the Temple of Panchapura even in their ruined state  

are much more artistic than the walls of Pinjore Garden made by the razed material of the temple.

Another wall fragment of the destructed Temple of Panchapura, Pinjore. 


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