Arvind Yadav dropped me just at the turning, pointed towards a distant pillar, and asked me to follow the same. I kept walking along the narrow path, crossing fertile fields of soybean and pulses. I came across a few local villagers who looked curiously at first but quickly responded with “jai ram ji ki” once I waved at them. After a few yards, the iconic boar became visible, along with the pillar that I was following. I’d reached Eran, one of the oldest archaeological sites in MP whose current size and the lack of exposure does scant justice to its stature.
Eran is located in the Sagar District of Madhya Pradesh. I’d been looking to do this for the last couple of years. It is not that hard to reach but the secluded location and lack of local transport probably keeps people away. So I booked a ticket to Bina junction but realized that it will be better if I reach Mandi Bamora, a smaller station just ahead of Bina. As expected, it was a sleepy, squalid town, with drainage issues. As per my understanding, I could hire auto rickshaws from here to reach Eran which was 12-14 kms away from Mandi Bamora. However, my old tendencies prevented me from doing so. I opened Google Maps and started walking just I did in case of Bateshwar last year.
Once I passed the town, the views got better with vast pastures and partly cloudy sky. But I was beginning to feel that the distance was probably more than what the map was suggesting. However, I did not have to walk much. One person with a bike stopped and offered me a lift to a nearby village. He introduced himself only as “Yadav” and said that he will arrange for some commutation. He and his friend offered water and also suggested that I can have food too although I politely refused because I was eager to get done with my target first. So, they stopped another person, the aforementioned Arvind Yadav, who was going towards the village of Eran.
A Lost Metropolis
Coming back to the site, I soon reached the walled compound. It was a major settlement in the ancient times and even now, there must be a lot of it buried under the ground. I have heard that one can also stumble on many artifacts by walking around the nearby villages. However, the primary site now is this small, rectangular plot with a few surviving statues and parts of temples, mostly from the Gupta era (3rd-5th century CE) although the place has a history dating back to the Mauryan Era (3rd Century BC). The classical name of this city was “Airikina” which has now became Eran. But considering the similar sounding names, I think the region has been continuously inhabited despite the loss of its prominence. These ruins probably would have decayed and disappeared too, had the British adventurers not found them in the 19th century.
The primary attractions in the compound include the Garuda Pillar, Varaha Statue, Vishnu Statue, and Narasimha Statue. In fact these statues probably had temples of their own but now only the individual statues remain. Apart from them, there is another pillar whose top has been destroyed. Many smaller pillars and artifacts lay scattered in the area. For more archaeological details, read this excellent post in Puratattva.
I was particularly interested in the iconic Varaha statue. This 11 feet tall gigantic boar represents the Varaha incarnation of Vishnu. But there are more inscriptions and even seductive feminine figures sculpted on the Boar itself. Not sure what to make of this or what would feminists think of it.
The Garuda pillar is also noteworthy. It is more than 40 feet tall and the Garuda at the top has been immaculately crafted, something I figured out as I zoomed in. Garuda is the mount of Vishnu and also a major leitmotif in most of the Gupta artifacts found in this region.
Eran finds mention mention in Sanchi inscriptions and also in certain inscriptions by Toramana, the Heptahlite (White Huns, not to be mixed up with the Huns who invaded Rome around the same time) conqueror of Northwestern India. This is another interesting aspect that reminded me of the Heliodorous pillar gifted by a Bactrian Greek king in Vidisha. A few years ago, I could not have imagined such things at the heart of India but back in those times, this must have been a conflict zone when the subcontinent was ruled from Patliputra in the east and the invaders could easily run over the Punjab region.
A Darker Past
Finally, the other important aspect mentioned in various sources, but something I could not locate, was the Sati Pillars. These were pillars commemorating various instances of Sati, starting from 5th century till 19th century. I believe most of these have found their way to the museums around the world. But the memories of this horrific practice somewhat diluted the elation that I was feeling otherwise at Eran. Anyway, this is all for today. I will return with something more from the Himalayas.