Pune district and adjoining areas are home to many ancient temples. Yours truly got the opportunity to visit not one but 2 of these gems in a day!
On a bright morning we set towards Siddheshwar temple in Akole of Ahmed Nagar district. This was my first field trip with a group of students and their guide – an Indian temple architecture and iconography expert. Being an avid traveller and history lover, I was looking forward to a different perspective of looking at and understanding temples.
It was a Sunday, the town was busy with shopkeepers and buyers who had come from nearby villages to buy their necessities. The market had idols of goddesses which then reminded me that the Navaratri was to begin the next day.
Siddheshwar is a small ancient temple situated in the middle of Akole town.
I grasped an important and fascinating history byte – the temple was constructed by the Shilahara dynasty around the 5th Century and was buried under debris brought by Pravara River. It was unearthed in the 18th century – 1780 and thereafter there have been attempts to restore it. During the Peshwa reign, a new entrance/mukhamandapa was constructed. Thus, at present there are two mukhamandapas – east and west and one garbhagriha in between. The statutory nandi is present in the eastern mukhamandapa. I was moved and had goosebumps looking at intricate carvings of Bhairava, Saraswati, Ganapati, Kuber and other deities. A truly exciting find for all of us was a panel of Samudra Manthan on the ceiling. There was another puzzling carving of a camel. Puzzling because camels are not native fauna of Maharashtra. Is this indicative of this temple lying on a trade route and sculptors illustrating what they have seen in their adventurous lives elsewhere?
Next on our plan was Jagadamba temple at Tahakari. When we reached the temple, it was being decorated by the villagers for Navaratri celebrations. Our guide has visited these temples and regions multiple times and gained the trust of the priests and caretakers over many years. The priest showed us around the main idols inside the temple and the discussion revealed that this place must have been of importance for the shakta sect. Built by the Yadavas on the banks of river Adhala, this temple has an octagonal pattern. Quite surprisingly, most of the temple structure and carvings are intact. The main goddess has 18 hands and there are images of Mahishasurmardhini and Kali. The carvings include yoginis and sursundaris.
The ceiling is adorned by 8 sursundaris supported by 4 intricate kirtimukhas at corners and the whistling Chamunda in one of the panels.
A true feast for mind and eyes, how these temples remain a source of awe-inspiring representation of our culture is a marvel!
– Shraddha Mehta, owner @zenith.odyssey