Friday, February 24, 2017

Ancient Bhuleshwar Shiva Temple, Pune.

On the way up to the ancient Bhuleshwar Shiva Temple near Yavat, Pune
Way to the Bhuleshwar Shiva Temple

‘My feet are tired but my soul is rested’ these beautiful words by Gandhiji described my state as I touched the summit of the centuries old Bhuleshwar Shiva temple near Yavat in Pune. The climb to the temple had been steep but the accompanying sights all around had made it easier.

Climbing to the Bhuleshwar Shiva Temple near Yavat, Pune
Climbing up...

It was only a couple of minutes ago that our car had manoeuvred the winding roads stretching along the Western Ghats on the Pune Solapur highway ultimately leading us to our intended destination, little did I know at that time that we are soon to be transported to a different era…

Roads winding up to the Bhuleshwar Shiva Temple near Yavat, Pune

Ascending through a forest wrapped in verdant hills with gnarled roots and thorny vegetation, the climb to the temple is like taking a stroll in a natural park. Devoid of any cell phone beeps or urban noise, all I have for company are the birds that seek shelter in the forked banyan trees standing listlessly in the sun soaring over the horizon.

Flowers on the way up to the Bhuleshwar Shiva Temple near Yavat, Pune
Flowers and bushes for company on the way to the Bhuleshwar Shiva Temple near Yavat, Pune

I pause near a lone wooden bench that seems to be perched aesthetically but perilously on the sloping mountain. Marvelling at the scenery all around me, I realize how diminutive I look. A strong but soothing burst of wind hurls itself at me as if in excitement of welcoming a new visitor in its folds. I close my eyes and feel the breeze caress my face, inhaling deeply in my lungs the moments brimming in emptiness... that emptiness that is pregnant with endless possibilities, calm and bliss – those that can only be found in the compassionate lap of Mother Nature.

Stunning landscape at the Bhuleshwar Shiva Temple near Yavat, Pune
Splendid view from the Bhuleshwar Shiva Temple near Yavat, Pune

So invigorating is the landscape that I hardly feel tired after the tedious uphill climb to the top of the hill covering some 200 odd steps. In front is nestled the 12th century Bhuleshwar temple built by King Krishnadevray during Yadava dynasty rising in its full glory and intricately carved magnificence.

Ancient and magnificient Bhuleshwar Shiva Temple near Yavat, Pune
Ganesha idol in the garb of a woman at Bhuleshwar Shiva Temple near Yavat, Pune
This is the only temple where we can see Ganesha in feminine form;
known as Lambodari, Ganeshwari, Ganeshyani.
One can see a citadel bastion with a protective wall around it near the lower end of the temple. Known as Daulatmangal fort, or Mangalgad, this fort was constructed much later in 1629 by Murar Jagdev who looted Pune and used this place as his watchpoint over the city.

A citadel structure at the bottom of the  Bhuleshwar Shiva Temple near Yavat, Pune

The outside of the temple is built in Islamic style of design with minarets and circular dome structures closely resembling a mosque – it was so built so as to protect it from the invasive hands of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb.

The spiral dome of the  Bhuleshwar Shiva Temple near Yavat, Pune

What is saddening to see is that even after all the precaution taken the artistic sculptures still couldn’t escape the ruthless hands of attack and assault and many of them lie broken and disfigured in the temple complex. Broken and disfigured… but not buried or forgotten.

Entrance to the ancient Bhuleshwar Shiva Temple near Yavat, Pune
Hindu Trinity carvings at the Bhuleshwar Shiva Temple near Yavat, Pune
Intricate details at the Bhuleshwar Shiva Temple near Yavat, Pune
Intricate sculptures at the walls of Bhuleshwar Shiva Temple near Yavat, Pune
Ancient sculptures at the walls of Bhuleshwar Shiva Temple near Yavat, Pune
Carvings inside and around the Bhuleshwar temple complex.

As I roll my hands onto the engraved walls, I feel a strange sense of kinship with the people in these stories. Be it the epic war from the Mahabharata or the deceptive Sita haran (kidnapping of Sita by Ravana) – it seems like every stone here has an anecdote to share. There are sculptures of Hindu Gods seated in meditative pose and dancing apsaras with dhols making music – all in the richly pillared House of Lord Shiva. Sitting in the center, diagonally opposite the sanctum sanctorum is the majestic Nandi Bull closely guarding His Master.

Nandi Bull at the Bhuleshwar Shiva temple in Pune
Nandi Bull sitting majestically.

I spend a few minutes in the dimly lit chamber where the lingam – Lord Shiva sits - blessing all His devotees. He is wearing a gold plated mask while bel leaves and flowers garlands cover the rest of His form. Water keeps dripping slowly from a brass pot above while the light from the diyas afford an ethereal glow.

The sanctum is tiny but I feel tinier as I stand there, hands folded, praying in silence… absolute shunyata. An air of emptiness gradually envelopes my senses even as I yearn for His presence reassessing the meaning, the priorities of my life.

Shivlingam at Bhuleshwar Shiva Temple near Yavat, Pune
Bhuleshwar Lord Shiva

My reverie is broken by the priest who tells us a little more about the significance of the temple. This place is sanctified by none other than the holy steps of Goddess Parvati – She had performed a dance for Lord Shiva after which they went to Mount Kailash and got tied in the sacred thread of marriage. That is the reason why this place is especially crowded during Mahashivratri.

I open my palms for the Prasad and the priest pours a spoonful of holy water. ‘There are miracles that happen in this temple, beti but remember the only driver of all those miracles is faith. Jiva hi Shiva hai (Shiva is in Every man)’ he concludes before turning his attention to the next devotee.

Trishul in the corridors of ancient Bhuleshwar Shiva Temple near Yavat, Pune

I stood transfixed for a moment. How did the priest know about the gist of my worship – my yearning for Lord Shiva? 

Had I mistakenly muttered my feelings aloud for everyone to hear?
Or had he been inspired by Lord Shiva Himself to say those words to me?
Was this also one of the miracles that he was talking about?

All these questions in my head left me feeling humbled, blessed and powerful as I came out of the sanctum… Is there a message Father had just passed through?

Whatever it may be, I felt reassured by the words that I may have forgotten in the trials of life… Jiva hi Shiva hai; I am there in each person you encounter… that’s where you will find Me.

The words had a profound effect on me; the sun, once listless and lethargic, now suddenly seemed to be shining with a renewed vigour, casting a bright veil on the intricate stone columns and sculptures.

Intricate details frm the Mahabharata at the Bhuleshwar Shiva Temple near Yavat, Pune

All the engraved scenes rapidly felt coming alive in those otherworldly moments. I stepped in and dived in to absorb my share of the radiance that seemed to be descending from the heavens above – I felt lighter and free. And happier.

Had something dissolved?
A part that was not needed perhaps?
Something that was weak and false?

Flowers offered to Lord Shiva, Bhuleshwar Shiva Temple near Yavat, Pune

Clothed in a revived light of remembrance and resurrected in faith, I continued my journey downhill – a tad tired but with a smile on my face and a spring in my heart.

Traveller tips and other information:

- Bhuleshwar Temple lies 45 kms. from Pune and 10 kms. from the Pune Solapur road near Yavat. It is on the way to Pandarpur from Pune.

- It is one of the rare temples in Maharashtra where Lord Ganesha can be seen in the garb of a woman. Some other temples where one can find Him in this form in India are Chausth Yogini Temple in Hirapur in Orissa  and Bhedaghat in MP.

- Mahashivratri is the chief festival celebrated in the temple.

- It is a bird and wildlife lovers paradise as many birds migrate here and to Narayanbet (15 kms. ahead) during summer.

- From Bhuleshwar, you can go ahead to Saswad and Purandar fort which lies on the way.