A town in the Ramtek tehsil of Nagpur district, Mansar is one of the prime archaeological sites in the country, known for many interesting excavations that have resulted in the discovery of various shrines, a palace complex identified as Pravarapura which was the capital of the Vakataka king Pravarasena II and an extensive temple complex. It’s a place that beckons historians, the curious and the tourists in equally large numbers.
Located 45 kilometers northeast of Nagpur city, Mansar shot into prominence when in 1972 an image of a deity, later identified as Shiva Vamana, was found from a hillock in this area, locally known as Hidimba Tekri. Important excavations were carried out at the ancient sites of Mansar since 1997-98 and so far five sites have been excavated that have yielded significant 5th century sculptures of Hindu deities, artefacts and some coins. The water reservoir around the site and findings of ancient tools and other objects point to the fact that a large population inhabited the area 1,600 years ago.
The site of Mansar has been excavated by Nagpur University, thereafter the Archaeological Survey of India and the Bodhisatva Nagarjuna Smarak Sansthava Anusandhan Kendra, Nagpur. The excavation revealed four cultural periods: Period I - Maurya-Sunga (300 BC to 200 BCE), Period II - Satvahana (200 BCE to 250 CE), Period III - Gupta-Vakataka (275 to 550 CE) and Period IV designated as the rule of Vishnukundin. The main dominating feature of the remains at Mansar is a huge palace complex built on a high raised solid brick platform with entrance from the west. It consists of many large and small rooms, surrounded by a lobby (corridor) between the inner and outer main walls of the palace.
The outer walls of the palace and the ‘adhistana’ (moulded platform) are embellished with pilaster mouldings which were lime-plastered with red and white colour alternately. The ‘kapota’ level was decorated with brick ‘makara’ figures at regular intervals. The palace was fortified by a massive brick wall on all four sides. The fortification wall in the east and south had a moat whereas the north and west were surrounded by a huge tank. The most striking feature of the structures here is its intriguing terraced arrangement with a number of straight and curving steps, arrays of round brick projections of various heights and sizes. Frequently, brick surfaces have been reshaped through patterns of incuse lozenges devised by means of moulded bricks.
The excavations have further revealed evidence of symbolic human sacrifice. Sites on the hill within the same complex called Hadimba Tekdi have revealed a Buddhist ‘stupa’ built on solid bedrock with rammed earth and 38 raised courses. The staircases were provided on the eastern side to approach the stupa. Another box pattern brick stupa was built over the original one and has rectangular boxes filled up with small boulders, bricks and earth. The base and knob of a limestone relic casket was found in the stupa. The stupa and ‘chaityagriha’ belong to the Maurya-Sunga period of about 300 BC to 200 BC.
A Shiva temple was found built in bricks on one of the hillocks that consists of an octagonal sanctum provided with black granite ‘linga’, ‘antarala’ and ‘mandapa’ with approach steps. The Shiva temple belongs to the Vakataka period. On the western and southern side of the main complex a row of 16 brick-built Shiva shrines were found placed on three terraces approached by a flight of steps. Out of these, six have ‘shivalingas’. The excavations here have revealed a number of beautiful sculptures like Vaman-Shiva (now in the National Museum), ‘trinetra’ Parvati, a turbaned male head, Shiva-Parvati with bull, a Narshimha riding on Garuda and Kartikeya riding a peacock, etc.
Distance from Mumbai: 881 kms