The Sas-bahu Temple, Gwalior

Gwalior, a jeweled city on the dramatic Deccan landscape, is a beautiful metropolis. Steeped on history and culture, the city is well-known for its forts and palaces. Among the popular landmarks of Gwalior, the dominant Gwalior Fort located at the hilltop and its surrounding temples and palaces attracts most tourists. In this write-up, we will focus on the stunning Sas-bahu Temple, Gwalior – a twin structure with beautiful architectural design belonging to the pre-Mughal era.

Located inside the Gwalior fort complex, the temples were once dedicated to Vishnu and Shiva – two important deities of the Hindu pantheon. Born out of an interesting legend, these temples are a work of art in their own right.

Keynotes on Sas-bahu Temple, Gwalior

Address: Gwalior Fort Campus, Near Post Office, Madhya Pradesh 474001

Type of monument: Temples

Prime deity: Vishnu and Shiva

Architectural style: Pre-dominantly Hindu architecture in Bhumija style

Opening time: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm

Entry Fee: 250 INR (Ticket includes entry to Man Singh Palace and Teli ka Mandir)

Visit Duration: One hour

Best time to visit: October to March is suitable for the trip 

How to Reach: Taxis and buses available

Overview of the Sas-bahu Temple, Gwalior

Although there are no concrete records regarding the temples’ date of established, historians believe that the temple was established between the 9th to 11th centuries. Interestingly these temples resemble the Mayan temples of Central America, even though there are no proofs regarding a connection between the two civilizations.

The twin temples Sas (meaning Mother-in-law in Hindi) and Bahu (daughter- in law) are gigantic monuments with detailed Indian motifs and floral designs. However, according to many the temple was initially called as Shastra Bahu temple. However, with time the monument’s name was transformed into its existing format. Dedicated to Hindu gods, the temples were once decorated with stunning fixtures. However, with time the inner sanctum and other decorative fixtures were destroyed. Currently, only the temple edifice and some damaged carvings are remaining. The idols of the principal deities are missing from these temples, and no regular religious services are organized here.   

Architecture the Sas-bahu Temple, Gwalior

The ancient Sas-bahu temple, are twin structures dedicated to Vishnu and Shiva respectively. The larger temple, Sas, was dedicated to Padmanabha Vishnu. The three-level structure of the monument, is one of the distinguishing features of the temple, along with elevated platforms and beautiful carvings on the pillar.

The elaborate mandapa on the porch and the proportioned superstructure of the temple resembles the Bhumija architectural design of North India. Vishnu temple has four entrances, among which three opens up in three directions. The forth entrance is currently closed. Pillars of the temple are decorated in carvings based on different themes of Shaivism, Vaishnavism, and Shaktism. Among the important carvings on the pillars, several images of Vishnu, Brahma, and Saraswati are still intact.

On the other hand, the Bahu temple is a smaller structure and has four central pillars. This temple also has multiple entrances and layered superstructure that resemble beaded garlands. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple also features stunning carvings and decorative sculptures (although mutilated). The almost damaged figurines of three important Hindu gods – Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva – represent the artistic mastery of the sculptures.

Here one can find Brahma, sitting in a meditative pose, holding the Vedas. Brahma is shown sitting on a lotus, sprouting from the navel of Vishnu. This story retells the story of the birth of Brahma, the father of all creations in the world. Vishnu could be seen lying on his bed, with his right hand extending out. Below lies the idol of Shiva holding a trident. The entire series represents an important concept of Hinduism and depicts the three important gods of Hindu mythology in one place.

Interesting Tales Associated with the Sas-bahu Temple in Gwalior   

According to local folklore, King Mahipala built this temple for his mother who was an ardent devotee of Vishnu. The temple was an architectural marvel and had a thousand handed sculpture of Vishnu resting in the reclining position. After the king’s wedding, a rife appeared in the domestic life of the emperor as the new queen was the follower of Shaivism. Later on, the king built a stunning temple for Shiva to please the queen. Although there is no concrete proof about the authenticity of the legend, locals believe it.

The beautiful, but in ruins, Sas-bahu Temple of Gwalior is a magnificent representation of the ancient Bhumija architectural model with few elements of Nagara style prevalent here and there. This monument extremely beautiful and must be included in the itinerary of every tourist to the Gwalior.

Other Popular Attractions in Gwalior:

Man Mandir of Gwalior

Teli Ka Mandir