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Monday, May 2, 2011

The Temples of Baneshwar and Amruteshwar : A Photo Feature

Baneshwar is a medieval temple constructed in the 18th century by Peshwe Shrimant Balaji Bajirao. It is located in the Bhor taluka of Pune district.

It can be accessed by the Pune Bangalore highway. One drives 30kms from Pune to reach Nasrapur .

There one takes a right turn to pass through the Nasrapur village .

Towards the end of the  village road, one turns right to climb a hillock to reach the Baneshwar temple.

Baneshwar literally means the Eshwar (lord) of the Bana(forest).

True to its name, the Peshwas built this temple (dedicated to Lord Shiva) right in the midst of a green grove, surrounded by flowing streams and a thunderous waterfall.

The best time for tourists to visit Baneshwar  is in the monsoons when the beauty of the surroundings is particularly enhanced.

The temple has several  water tanks which are also a home for aquatic life like fishes and tortoises. One of these water tanks has a Gomukhi spout which pours in water.

The temple is made from black stone and has this nagara styled shikhara which has been painted in attractive colours  and adorned with deity figurines amidst the gavakshas and the kapotas.

 Facing the doorway is a Nandi mandapa wich house a fairly large idol of Nandi Maharaj. The main temple is divided into a ardhamandapa , a sabhamandapa and a garbhagriha. The sabhamandapa ceiling is supported simply on its strong walls and there are no pillars for additional support.

The sabhamandapa flooring  has a brass tortoise image , which is a part of the iconography of Shiva temples. The ceiling is hollow from the inside. The gabhara or sanctum sanctorum houses a beautiful Shiva Linga.
The temple has this beautiful bell of Portuguese make which was a part of the war booty of Maratha Portuguese wars that took place in the 18th century.

Around the main temple are several minor temples belonging to various other deities like Lord Ganesha, Lord Hanumana etc.

The drainage system of the temple also appears very unique and well defined.

The rear side of the temple has been converted into a botanical garden. There is this beautiful bamboo grove along with several trees,plants and saplings belonging to different species. Further a kilometer away lie the famous waterfalls of Baneshwar, which remains an attractive feature for picknickers, especially in the rainy season when the place is in its full splendour.

The Amruteshwar temple is located in the village of Mohari , around 15kilometers from Nasrapur (50kms from Pune). After coming down from the Baneshwar hill, one takes a right, drives for around two kilometers

and then takes a left turn which take you through some lush green fields , across river Gunjawani and a maze of small roads  (which can be a little confusing) until one comes across the Amruteshwar temple.
The Amruteshwar temple is also medieval, belonging to the Yadava era. The temple since has been  renovated  several times during the Maratha period till date.
It is said that the temple was often used by the Maratha king Shivaji and his guardian-advisor, Dadoji Kondev to settle village disputes.

Presently, the temple comprises of a Nandi mandapa  which  has this huge Nandi idol guarding the doorway.

Next one enters the Sabhamandapa which appears Yadavkaalin and made in black stone.

There are old idols of Mahishasurmardini, Shiva Parvati ,Ganesha in the sabhamandaps aedicules.

The doorframe of the gabhara is particularly ornate, with images of a sharabha, a vyaal, a ganda bherunda , floral motifs carved on them. The ceiling and the pillars are also typically carved like in many temples around Maharashtra.
The shikhara of the temple is nagara in style and elaborately painted with figurines of gods and goddesses.

The sharabha carving seems to have been the favourite of the temple sculptors and can be seen carved on the exterior walls of the temple as well.

The Sharabha and the Gandabherunda carvings are a part of several temples , forts in Maharashtra. There is also a mythological background behind these mythical beings.

Sharabha a mythical half bird half beast creature with amazing streangth. It was (as per Shaivite scriptures ) a form Shiva took to tame Narsinha, the half man half lion incarnation of Vishnu. However, Vaishnavite scriptures refute this. Some claim that Sharabha was just another avtar of Vishnu while some say Vishnu took the form of Gandabherunda ,another mythical bird with magical streangth to tame Sharabha.
All the idols and the iconography in the temple are indeed intricately done and are a testament to their artisan’s skill. There is the typical gomukhi (cow head) drain spout protruding out of the side wall of the temple, besides carvings of a sharabha lifting elephants, fighting warriors etc.
The gabhara houses a swayambhu (naturally formed) Shivalinga and also an old idol of Vishnu-Laxmi. 

The Shivalinga has an interesting folklore behind it. The Shivalinga  was apparently discovered by a cowherd ,when he found his cows repeatedly giving milk at a particular place. On clearing the area he came across this Shivalinga. When he tried to shift it, it wouldnt budge. That night in his dream the Lord appeared and asked him to use a yoke over the two cows and pull it over. Apparently the trick worked and he resurrected it in the temple.

A trip to the Baneshwar and Amruteshwar temples is definitely recommended on a visitors itenary. While one gets to experience the beauty of nature at Baneshwar, at Amruteshwar you can admire the beauty of its sculptures.

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