The devAlaya at mAlinIthan

One of the remarkable forgotten devAlaya-s of the eastern fringes of pragjyotiSha is that of mAlinIthan in the modern state of Arunachal Pradesh. ekanetra and me were rummaging through some old grainy photos collected by his sachiva during his expedition to Arunachal Pradesh, when we were reminded of this remarkable shrine. There is no support for the medieval dates floated around by the archaeologists, and not much is known of its builders and patrons. Evidently, at some point it went out of the larger Hindu memory because it lies in utter ruins today.

uchChiShTa-gaNapati with madanAvatI

The main images of the shrine appear to be carved in granite while the smaller ones are in sandstone. A well-fashioned nandin suggests that the main shrine was perhaps a shivAlaya, but then it does not survive. The other granite images are of durgA, uchChiShTa-gaNapati with his shakti madanAvatI on his lap, kumAra with his peacock, deva savitA and indra mounted on airAvata. The vinAyaka is shown with several weapons (more like mahAgaNapati) but tickling the yoni of his shakti with his trunk like in case of uchChiShTa-gaNapati.


The indra is of considerable interest in iconographic terms. His third eye on the fore seems horizontal as recommended in the shilpashAstra-s, he has a large yaj~nopavIta, and beside him are two ayudha puruSha-s of his vajra and a~NkuSha. There is additionally a second similar image of indra in the mAlinIthan site made of sandstone and in a greater state of ruin. An iconographically similar series of indra images have been found in the ruins of temples in Chatrakara (one of the finest indra images ever seen in India), Dibrugarh, Pandughat and Narakasura hill in Assam (the last site producing even a bronze utsava mUrtI of indra). The presence of several indra icons in the East is rather interesting, given his general rarity as a prominent deity in the temples of other parts of India. This suggests that there was a vigorous worship of indra even in the medieval period in this region of India, even after he had declined elsewhere. One point of great interest to investigate in this regard is whether there was an associated vedic tradition in these regions that is now lost and whether the defining feature of the Hindu nation, the indra-dhvaja festival was observed in these regions.

kAlikA in viparIta-rati with li~Nga

A sandstone icon of considerable interest in the mAlinIthan ruins is that of dakShiNa-kAlikA in viparIta-rati with a li~Nga. The only parallels of this form of dakShiNa-kAlikA are apparently seen in the pi~Ngaleshvara temple in Assam, Gauhati and the nearby temple on a hill a Sualkuchi. Thus, in conclusion mAlinIthan is an unusual temple combining a series of poorly studied features of seen in the eastern reaches of the country. The shAkta-tantra-s role, in particular kula tantra-s, influence is seen in the form some of the iconographic details including the kAlikA and the vinAyaka. While at the same time the persistent survival of indra and kumAra worship is a unique feature of this region that needs more detailed study.

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