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Monday, November 22, 2010

Visit to the Somnath Temple , Pimpri dumala & Ranjangaon Mahaganpati Temple : A Photo Travelogue

A picture on Google of a ancient stepped water tank , ‘kund’,  attracted me to the nondescript  village of Pimpri Dumala . But what was revealed , was very much more than the Kund.
It was this beautiful Hemadpanthi temple made in solid black stone and adored with some exquisite carvings lying in this obscure  village, virtually oblivious to the outside world.

Pimpri Dumala is a very small village located near the more famous Ranjangaon , known for the Mahaganpati Ashtavinayaka temple (besides the automotive  manufacturing plant of Fiat India). Ranjangaon being very near to Pune (50kms distance,in Shirur taluka on Pune Ahmednagar road), it would have taken us maximum an hour to reach there. So we started a tad late (by 2pm) after a sumptuous lunch.
By 3 ‘o’clock, we were at Ranjangaon.

After asking directions for Pimpri Dumala in the Ranjangaon village , we realized that we had passed it over. We thus had to retrace back our path by a  couple of kilometers. We soon encountered this rather small signpost (which we had obviously missed on the way)with the words, ‘Somnath devasthan’.

The way to the Somnath temple , was through a very narrow road, full of wet mud, (due to the recent monsoons) and filled with gigantic potholes. The wet mud around the potholes also made the road a little slippery, and the danger was the car slipping down to the canal alongside the road.  However, manouvering the car around those potholes, definately made me proud of my driving skills.

After a slow drive of fifteen minutes over the god forsaken road, I finally made it to the village. The temples shikhara was visible from a distance and I pushed the pedal to hasten to our destination.
What we saw was a temple with its  ‘kalasha’ painted in blue having white coloured niches. The plinth and the walls of the temple were coated in grey. The temple was built in the Hemadpanthi style, in solid stone, possibly without the use of mortor (atleast initially). I figured that the temple must be at least 14th century , considering the time period of Hemadpanthi temples.

The temple’s shikhara seemed latter addition and was made in lime and gypsum plastered around its basic brickwork structure. The shikhara design was distinctly 'Devali-Nagara', complete with a central bulbous dome having a pointed finial. The portion below was double layered with niches aligned one next to the other and containing figurines of deities and saints. The lowermost layer had meghdambari style niches. Furthermore, there were smaller spires around the entablature.

The main temple had this ‘Nandimandapa’ built just before the entrance. The Nandimandap housed a  Nandi idol made out of black stone.

Just next to the temple entrance was this exquisitely carved idol of Suryanarayana with its iconic sun totem.

The temple had this dark sabhamandap (assembly hall), illuminated by the light coming from the open doorway. There was a small antarala (vestibule) separating the sabhamandap from the garbhagriha (sanctum).

The sabhamandap was supported by these strong stone pillars having designs and figurines carved on their square faces.

The ceiling too was etched with a design of a square within a square and a flower motif adorning the centre.

The pillars distinguishing the vestibule from the main hall, had these two celestial figurines sculpted in stone.

The gabhara doorframe was also intricately ornamented with motifs and figurines carved at the base. There was a Ganesha frame centrally carved on the top plate of the door frame (and painted in saffron) .

The Gabhara was a dark room housing this beautiful stone Shivalinga with a copper cobra covering the linga with its encompassing hood. There was also this metallic Shiva mask afixed to the temple wall, right behind the linga. Above the mask was this mirror providing a reflection of the Shivalinga. A copper ‘kalas’ (vessel) dripping water over the linga,  was suspended from the ceiling by a iron chain.

After praying before the Lord, I came out to survey the figurines and statuettes adorning the exterior temple walls . Must say they were in plenty. From the Ganesha shilp to Vishnu. From Parvati to Kali. There were many shilps (sculptures) of Gods, Godesses,Yakshas and Apasaras (even tantric/esoteric deities) adorning every face of the temple.There were also figurines of ascetics meditating in the Yati position

There were also some loose idols  resting against the temple walls. They may have been a part of the original temple before its jeernoddhar.

Incidently, there was one stone slab resembling a veergal (heros stones, in the memory of local martyrs) fixed to one face of the temple wall. Usually one comes across loose 'veergals' lying in the vicinity of a temple. But for the first time I was  seeing a Veergal slab actually a part of the wall sculptures.

Alongside the temple was this water tank known as a ‘Jala kunda’ which had initially attracted me to the place. However the tank was filled to its brim with rain water and I wasn’t accorded the pleasure of witnessing its ‘stepped’ design which had made the Kunda so alluring in the first place.
It took us around an hour to view this fascinating temple from every direction and click photographs to our hearts content. 

Since we had sufficient time on hand we decided to make it to the Ranjangaon Mahaganpati temple as well. Afterall I couldn’t miss out on the darshan of Lord Ganesha after coming so near to his most famous temple.

However , this time around (while going back) we avoided the canal road and took a different route (after due enquiries with the villagers) for Ranjangaon. This road was equally rough, but it spared us the potholes.
Within half an hour we reached Ranjangaon.

The original temple (said to be at least 9-10th century) has undergone renovations over a period of time. 

The most significant renovations were done during the time of Peshwa Madhavrao and his nephew Peshwa Sawai Madhavrao in the late 18th century.

Sardar Kibe from the Holkar roayal court  is also recorded to have made significant contributions to the temple.

The present structure though reminiscent of 18th century Peshwekaalin architecture, appears recently renovated. The main temple is surrounded by these huge temple walls. 

The facade consists of this massive nagarkhana and houses the administrative offices of the temple .

 The doorway is flanked by the images of Jay and Vijay, the celestial dwarpals (gatekeepers).

There is also a water kunda outside the temple.
The temple also has several minor temples dedicated to different deities.

The temple is ‘purvabhimukh’ or facing the east. Thus the first rays of the Sun are said to be cast on the temple idol before spreading around rest of the temple. The Ganesha idol is flanked by his consorts Riddhi and Siddhi.

The sabhamandap is made out of polished teak, so typical of Peshwekaalin temples of Pune. 

The pillars have a cypress tree shape with banana leaf embellishments. 

The ceiling which is also wooden, has these beautiful chandeliers adorning the place.

There is a silver elephant placed just outside the gabhara doorway.

The wall also has this Ganesha hymn embossed on a silver foil.

Another significant feature of this temple is an arcade passageway, whose walls display paintings depicting the mythology behind the Mahaganpati temple.

The story (as per Shaivite scriptures) goes this way – In the ancient times there was this Asura king born out of a sneeze of a sage, Rishi Grutsmanda.

This Asura came to be known as Tripurasura, mainly after praying to Lord Shiva. Apparently pleased with the Asuras penanaces Lord Shiva granted him three cities (as per some a triplet fortress)  each made in Iron,Gold and Silver.

Shiva also blessed the Asura with invincibility stating that no one besides himself can defeat him in battle and as long as his three cities are intact, no harm shall befall him. After this boon the Asura came to be known as Tripurasura  or the ‘master of three cities’.
 Because of this boon of invincibility, Tripurasura set out to conquer different worlds. He soon conquered the earth, the heaven, the Brahmaloka (abode of Brahma) and even the Vishnuloka (abode of Vishnu).

The Devas thereafter approached Lord Shiva to seek his help in destroying this demon king. Shiva thus led the charge of the Deva army against Tripurasura.
But the demon army proved too strong mainly because of his impregnable cities and Shivas own boon of invincibility. This set Shiva thinking as to why he wasn’t able to subdue the demon king who was destined to die at his hands. But Sage Narada resolved Shiva’s  querry, when he reminded him that the Devas had failed to take Lord Ganeshas blessings before embarking on the battle, hence the defeat.

So this time around,  Shiva sought Ganeshas blessings and Ganesha appeared in the form of this multi headed multi armed Mahaganpati. He granted Shiva a mantra which Shiva chanted before leading his second assault on the Asura. In the battle that ensued Lord Shiva proved  victorious and Tripurasure was anhilated.

Shiva then constructed a temple of Lord Ganesha in Ranjangaon (known then as Manipura) and the Ganpati here came to be known as Mahaganpati or the Great Ganpati. There is also a folklore that a multi headed multi armed idol of Ganpati is hidden under the base of the temple. But the temple authorities deny its existence.

Alongside the temple is also this neatly manicured garden with a water fountain which only adds to the beauty of this place.

It took us an hour to take darshan of the Mahaganpati  and we headed back for Pune , taking with us memories of these two old but distinctly unique temples.

Text and Photographs : Abhijit Rajadhyaksha


  1. mr abhijit
    m yogesh from pune, its great to see and know all this , thanks a lot,
    m working on movie , will need ur help,
    thanks again

  2. Many thanks Yogesh. I will surely extend whatever helps possible.

  3. thanks a tone for sharing the temple built by the Yadavas, the then feudatory rulers under Badami Chalukyas, Please do visit Pandeshwar, place near Morgaon Ganpati

  4. Perfect information is provided & the blog is almost perfect keep me updated with such kind of upcoming blogs

    Luxury Suites in Somnath