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About 2 km along the river from the Alampur Nav Brahma temple complex is a group of temples at a site called Papanasanam. These temples are assigned to the 9th-10th centuries, a period when this region was transitioning from Rashtrakuta to Late Chalukya rule. Subsidiary temples are clustered around the Papanasesvara temple which has the largest mandapam with columns carved in a style similar to the Sangamesvara temple. The size of temples in this complex point towards it being patronized by local chieftains rather than royalty.

Shrine and Mandapam
The typical temple in the Papanasanam complex is only a shrine with a pyramidal roof surmounted by a kalasa finial. The outer walls of the shrine are undecorated but most temples have a sculpted entrance frame. In this temple, the entrance is further embellished with two dvarapalakas. There is also a mandapam with granite columns supporting a granite ceiling. The columns are square at the centre and base, multi-faceted elsewhere, and have circular capitals.

Siva Dvarapalaka
A dvarapalaka with matted hair and elaborate earrings and necklace leans calmly on his mace.

Two shrines
This pair of shrines at the back of the complex have pyramidal roofs in six tiers surmounted by large capping stones. Both have sandstone entrance-frames with slightly overhanging eaves.

Group of shrines
A group of shrines at one side of the complex. The temple in front has an apsidal-ended roof.

Temple entrance
The entrance frame has the standard iconography of Gaja-Lakshmi (Lakshmi being ritually bathed by elephants) above the entrance and river-goddesses Ganga and Yamuna on either side.

This is the central and largest temple in the complex. It has a large hall with elaborate ceiling panels and pillars with rounded capitals with makara motifs and sculpted scenes such as this one from the Ramayana. The ceiling compositions are framed by beams which are also decorated with kalpalata panels on each side.

Papanasesvara: Mahishamardhini
This elegant, anointed Mahisamardhini image is in one of the shrines in the Papanasesvara temple. In the Chalukya style, Mahisa is shown with his buffalo head. The Devi calmly inserts her trisula in the demon as she brandishes weapons in her other seven hands, including one hand withdrawing an arrow from the quiver.

One of the ceiling compositions has Vishnu incarnations in each of the nine panels with, surprisingly, an image of Buddha at the centre. The other panels here show Varaha, Narasimha, and possibly, Rama.

This well-preserved ceiling panel has an excellent sculpture of Siva as Nataraja. Gandharvas fly above him while below are his wife Parvati and his attendant Bhringi. Surrounding him are the Ashtadikapalas, protectors of the eight directions.

The dikpalas visible here are Yama (south) on a water-buffalo, Indra (east) on an elephant, Varuna (west) on a makara, Niritti (south-west) on an unusual animal and Agni (south-east) on a Ram. Niritti's normal vahana is a human but seems to be something else in this composition. A wide foliate pattern runs below the panels.

Samudra Manthan
The panel at the top shows the Devas and Asuras churning the ocean. In the panel below, framed by makara-toranas are the ratnas yielded by the manthan, including Lakshmi (centre), Uchhaishravas (right), and Apsaras (left).

Ravana in battle
This composition shows Ravana in battle in the centre with Rama-Lakshmana on the right and perhaps Hanumana on the left. Below are more warriors.

This column shows Siva in the Tripurantaka form. He rides a chariot with Brahma as the charioteer. The panel on the right is damaged. On the left seem to be figures of devotees or gods.

Vishnu in his Trivikrama form vanquishes the demon Mahabali. In the climax of this event, Vishnu measures the earth and the heavens in three steps as shown in the panel at the centre. The right panel is again damaged. Above this composition is well-preserved kalpalata motif with lotus flowers.

Photos and Text © Amit Guha