The Island of the Sea horse

Tripoto
1st Oct 2020
Photo of The Island of the Sea horse by Ria Chaudhury

Look closely at the map of India.Can you see a sea horse? Yes, it is right there beside Madhya Pradesh and bordered by Jharkhand ,Maharashtra ,Orissa and Telangana. This sea horse is known to everyone as Chattisgarh. Known for its majestic Chitrakoot falls and the Dokra art, Chhattisgarh hides its another precious gem in the heart of the Shivnath River. River Shivnath is one of the main tributaries of River Mahanadi and right in the middle of this river lies a cluster of small islands. The most beautiful of them is the 'Madkudweep'.

Islands on the Shivnath River

Photo of The Island of the Sea horse by Ria Chaudhury

Concrete roads connect the island with the Mainland but during the Monsoons, the overflowing waters of the river, flood these connectors. During this time ,fishing boats remain the only means of communication. I love boat rides. It is a welcome break from the everyday mundane drives among traffic jams. When the boat sways with the river currents while the Oars of the boatmen splash in the water, it gives an ultimate feeling of freedom. If you ask for my opinion, I would suggest you to take a boat to cross the river even if there are other ways available to reach the island. The Monsoon season is the best time to visit Madkudweep. The rain washes away the brown dirt and the vegetation wears a bright green colour. While crossing the river on a fishing boat you can enjoy the views of green islands emerging here and there from beneath the brown waters of the Shivnath.

The river and the sky

Photo of The Island of the Sea horse by Ria Chaudhury

This island is located just 4km from Baitulpur village located on the Raipur-Bilaspur highway.As you take a turn from the highway you can suddenly feel yourself speeding back in time.Traffic,concrete buildings and all symbols of modern existence dissolve.You would find yourself among green paddy fields,mud houses,and simple village folks.You can see women planting rice saplings in the feet deep watered fields.
At one point you would find a gateway in the middle of the village and on crossing the gate way you would find yourself on the banks of the river Shivnath.This bank of the river is a favourite picnic spot among the locals and the air would be loaded of aroma of delicious foods cooking up in the huge picnic utensils.
     After an enchanting boat ride when you reach the banks of the Madkudweep,you would be welcomed by mother nature draped in greenery and with the chirping of thousands of birds.

Fresh greenery at the island

Photo of The Island of the Sea horse by Ria Chaudhury

The island is clean and green and you would find sitting areas under the trees.As you go around the island you can spot several temples,newly whitewashed and painted in colours.The presence of so many temples makes this place auspicious to many devotees.Madkudweep is an ancient site and many temples dating back to 11-12 century have been excavated in this area.A group of 19 temples,built during the Kalchuri dynasty of 11-12th century , have been reconstructed by the ASI using the debris found in this area.In this group of temples,all are east facing except one which faces the west.

Groups of temples

Photo of The Island of the Sea horse by Ria Chaudhury

Another view of the temples

Photo of The Island of the Sea horse by Ria Chaudhury

The one opposite facing temple

Photo of The Island of the Sea horse by Ria Chaudhury

These temples are now protected by the ASI and the chhattisgarh tourism.
These temples mainly house shiva Lingas and another specific type of shiv linga where there are four or five Lingas on one platform.This type of shiva linga is knwon as smarthalinga(got to know this term from sahapedia.org).Smarthalingas represent the unity among various hindu sects.

Smarthalinga

Photo of The Island of the Sea horse by Ria Chaudhury

Apart from these group of temples you would also find another temple in the front of the temple complex which is also an ancient temple housing a Shiva Linga

Photo of The Island of the Sea horse by Ria Chaudhury

The island is dotted with other temples dedicated to Shiva,Hanuman and Radha Krishna.These temples are either made by using the ancient slabs and bricks unearthed during excavation or they house ancient shrines.one such temple is the Jalahari Shiva temple,where the shrine is an ancient 12th century shrine of the Kalchuri dynasty.

Photo of The Island of the Sea horse by Ria Chaudhury

Radha krishna temple built with ancient bricks and slabs

Photo of The Island of the Sea horse by Ria Chaudhury

11th Century Jalahari shiva temple

Photo of The Island of the Sea horse by Ria Chaudhury

This island is said to be the home of sage Mandku who is the author of the Mandku upanishad of the Atharvaveda.The name 'madkudweep' is derived from the name of sage Mandku.A statue of sage Mandku has been built on this island in his honour.

Statue of sage Mandku

Photo of The Island of the Sea horse by Ria Chaudhury

This island is also the present home of a sanyasi and you can find his little hut situated near the temples.Many devotees pay him a visit and you can find him advising them on the path of peace and liberation.
After visiting the temples,you can take a walk across the greenery and visit another bank of this island.The walk would be refreshing with lots of oxygen to breath.

Hut of Sanyasi

Photo of The Island of the Sea horse by Ria Chaudhury
Photo of The Island of the Sea horse by Ria Chaudhury
Photo of The Island of the Sea horse by Ria Chaudhury

AT the river bank you can either take a walk and collect colourful stones from the river side or you can watch the fishermen catching fishes or if you don't feel like doing any of these,then just sit under a shady tree and watch the blue sky and listen to the gurgling of the river.Whatever you choose to do,the time spent at this lonely island would be etched in your heart for ever.While returning from the island you can again take a boat ride or you can just walk or drive back along the connectors if it is not the Monsoon season..Once you are back on the highway again,you would be shaken back into reality,the present era of busy schedules and rat races.But you would feel re-energised to take up the challenges of the week ahead.

Photo of The Island of the Sea horse by Ria Chaudhury