The Muṇḍeśvarī temple near Bhabuā in southwest Bihar is an octagonal, sandstone monument without a spire. Scholars have dated the temple to the first half of the seventh century, primarily on account of early inscriptions from the site and the style of the door frames. Few monuments survive from this nascent stage of structural North Indian temple architecture, and the Muṇḍeśvarī temple is intriguing because it is an anomaly in terms of its size, composition, and the shape of its plan.
This study argues that the Muṇḍeśvarī temple has been misdated, and presents a systematic architectural analysis that highlights multiple features and irregularities that are incompatible with early North Indian design. The paper proposes that, rather than being seventh century, the octagonal shrine was built about a millennia later, in the sixteenth–seventeenth century, incorporating doorways and moldings salvaged from the ruins of the seventh century temples that once graced the hilltop. The latter part of the article considers how the Muṇḍeśvarī temple came to be buried by the end of the eighteenth century, and questions whether the Archaeological Survey of India might have altered the temple's appearance during the reconstructive work they undertook at the start of the twentieth century.