Sultanganj is a place of antiquity. It is traditionally associated with the sage Jahnu, whose ashram was a centre of learning and culture. Jahnu Muni's ashram was located on the rock jutting out of the bed of the Ganga River. Now the site has the Shiva temple of Ajgaivinath, also known as Gaibinath Mahadeo. The story is that the river Ganga on her way to the ocean interrupted the Muni in his meditation by the rush of her currents. The sage swallowed the river in a gulp. Bhagiratha intervened and the Muni again let her out by making an incision in his thigh. That is why the river Ganga is also called Jahnavi.
Like many of the ancient temples, the origin of Ajgaivinath temple is also shrouded in mystery. According to one legend, Lord Shiva was given his bow here, known as Ajgav, and so the place came to be known as Ajgaivinath. The ancient name of the place was Jahangira, which was derived from the name of Jahnu Muni. Jahangira is a distorted form of Jahnu giri (the hill of Jahnu) or Jahnu griha (the abode of Jahnu).
The temple is solidly built on the rock and has got a series of marvelous rock sculpture and some inscriptions. Some of the specimens of the rock panel sculpture at this temple can hold their own against any of the best known specimens anywhere in India. Not much study, unfortunately, has been made of the rock sculpture and inscriptions here. The sculpture could be taken to be of the later Pala period The site is very attractive and, particularly during the rainy season, the splashing waters of Mother Ganga wash the feet of the temple. The name Jahangira for the rock had continued till at least1824-25, when Bishop Heber visited the area. In Heber's Journal, Vol. 1, there is a pencil sketch of the temple on the rock tinder the caption of Jahangira. The pencil sketch depicts a mosque by the side of the temple. It is commonly said that Kala Pahar, in the course of his crusade against the Hindu temples, visited the place. He tried his best but failed to demolish Ajgaivinath temple.
He could, however, destroy the Parvati temple on the neighboring hill, and built a mosque there. Formerly the hill was much bigger and more spacious. This part of the Ganga has high floods with very strong currents almost every year and the decaying granite rocks of the hill are being slowly worn away.
Traditionally Sultanganj formed a part of the great Anga, State. In the days of the Mahabharata, Karna, the sixth brother of the five Pandavas, ruled in Anga. The capital of Anga was Champa. Champa is the present Champanagar situated three miles to the west of Bhagalpur. King Karna had his castles at Champa (modern Champanagar) and Jahnugiri (modern Sultanganj). At present Champanagar, the- site of Karna's castle, is well known as Karnagarh. Karnagarh is practically a part of Bhagalpur town now.
During the Pala and Sena kings, Sultanganj area was bestowed with a number of fine works of art and architecture. Numerous ancient relies like stupa's, seals, coins, terracotta and images have been found in Sultanganj.
A bronze Buddha image, now in the Birmingham Museum, is probably the best known relic discovered in Sultanganj. This bronze image is a fine piece of metalled sculpture, which has drawn the admiration of the world. The image is characterized by delicacy of design and ornamental detail.
It is, however, strange that the famous Shiva temple known as Ajgaivinath, which is ancient and so widely known, should have a name with a Muslim impress. It is clear that during the Muslim rule the name of Jahangira was changed to Sultanganj and the name has stuck through the British period to this day.
Some of the other important antiquities of Sultanganj, now preserved in the Patna Museum, are:
(1) Mukhalinga, height 9 " of black stone, with face of a male.
(2) Buddha in Bhumisparsa Mudra, height 8" broken, inscribed, in black stone.
(3) Buddha in a preaching pose seated on a lotus upheld by a wag, broken, 9" X 6", in black stone, inscribed.
(4) Black stone torso of a dancing figure, 8’X 7".
(5) Black stone torso of a seated preaching Buddha figure, 4" X 2".
(6) One black stone mukhalinga, 1" X 1".
(7) Upper half of a black stone prabha torana of a Buddhist image arch consisting of three bands of floral decorations. Centre of the arch is occupied by a kriti mukha flanked by two flying Gandharvas and two panels containing Bodhisattva figures. In the corner is a temple with a mutilated Bodhisattva figure.
(8) Torso of a black stone figure of Bodhisatva with a seated Buddha figure.
(9) Head of a stone figure of Bhairab, 1'3" X 11".
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