Situated on the verge of the great Thar Desert and 65 kilometers from the Sun City Jodhpur is an ancient town of Osian. The place is recognized in the pages of History for the marvelous architecture of the medieval temples built here in the period of 8th to 12th century. There are over 100 ancient temples in the town belonging to both Hindu and Jain religion, though only 18 of them are present today as place of worship, others being turned to ruins by the ravages of time.
All these temples were made of sandstone and have on them intricate carvings quite similar to that of the famous Khajuraho temples of Madhya Pradesh, earning town the title ‘Khajuraho of Rajasthan’. Initially, the city was named Ukesha or Upkeshapur after the name of its founder Utpaladeva, a prince of Pratihara dynasty who laid its foundation in C.A. 900-950, but over the time it became famous as Osian after the name of a prominent temple established here.
Since its inception, the city was the center for trade and business in all the neighboring area. In medieval period, groups of traders from Afghanistan, Arabia, Central Asia, and Persia found the most bountiful market in Upkeshapur. The hype of trade encouraged construction of grand buildings and influence of Brahminism and Jainism in the area led to the construction of marvelous worshipping places. Soon, Osian became a major religious center too. Construction of grand temples in the place became a continual process until the 1195 attack led by Muhammad of Ghor put an end to that aspect of the town.
The major temples of the place are that of Lord Surya, Lord Harihara, Goddess Sachi, and Lord Mahavira. Surya temple of Osian was built in the later part of the 10th century to honor the Hindu deity Surya or Sun god. Walls and ceilings of the place are adorned with story-telling paintings and scriptures. The most intriguing painting in this mostly carved-designed temple is an interweaving mural of serpents and lotuses, which covers the substantial part of the ceiling.
The other major Hindu worshipping places in the area are the three Hariharan temples, the oldest one of which was built as early as the 8th century and the latest one in 9th century. The presiding deity of all the three temples is Lord Hariharan, the fused depiction of Vishnu or Hari and Shiva or Haran.
Though in the matters of religious significance, no worshipping place can be stated superior, Sachiya mata temple is perhaps the most recognized temple in the town. The goddess of the temple is also known among devotees by the name Osian Mata, thence the name of the town.
The Osian mata temple attracts devotees of both Hindu and Jain religion. In fact, despite having preeminent association with Hinduism, the presiding goddess is considered the prime deity of the Oswal Jains. The origin of the temple dates back to 8th century, even though the present structure of the temple is the result of the reconstruction that took place in the 1178 A.D. The most important aspect of the temple from architectural point of view is the array of nine magnificent arches that are built in the entryway of the temple. Each archway has written on them the name of nine facets of Goddess Durga.
Another prominent Jain temple in the area was built by King Vatsa of Pratihara dynasty. Dedicated to the 24th Tirthankar Mahavira, the temple is nothing short of an architectural masterpiece. Built in 783 AD, the temple has an elaborate balcony with splendid carved pillars. Similar pillars support the main hall of the temple, balconied windows, Mandapas and entryway.
So the bottom line is, if you’re a medieval architecture enthusiast, you can simply not afford to miss a visit to any of these splendid temples of the ‘Khajuraho of Rajasthan’.