Pune has been blessed with the places of utmost historical importance. As the city grew, these places were shadowed by the giant shopping mall buildings or were just forgotten, as city pushed these places on its outskirts. Now, one a year, devotees will gather here to remember and celebrate their gods, and the places will be deserted again for rest of the year. Bhuleshwar temple in Yawat, near Pune is one of these places.
After having two (Just two for me) super tasty Vitthal Vadas in Vitthal Kamat restaurant which is located 45 kilometers from Pune, on Solapur highway, we took a right turn on Malshiras- Yawat road, scenery changed quickly. Busy roadside shops were replaced by nurseries and flower beds on both ends. As it was a returning monsoon, weather was rather brilliant, not too sunny, just perfectly overcast, with breezes flowing through our hairs and lush green everywhere. Road condition was superb, smoothly passing through few tiny villages, we reached temple in no time.
Bhuleshwar temple is located on a hilltop, 400 meters above sea level from where, someone can keep a watch on things going on around. It seems a better location to built a fort, and rather it was. Fort Mangalgad or fort Daulat Mangal was built here, by Adilshahi prime minister Murar Jagdev in 1629 to keep an eye on Pune region. Now all that remained is few scattered walls, few more half broken bastions and Bhuleshwar temple standing tall, on its highest point.
As you drive closer to the temple, you start to see three temple towers surrounded by stone wall. Largest tower was painted in off white color odding it out of the rest two. I don’t understand why ASI who don’t even allow travelers to take the photos inside temples, allow this to do? It looks so out of place, hiding all of its authentic rustic beauty for which someone in past must have spent his entire life.Temple tower seems to be mosque styled dome, built with bricks, signifying the re construction of the temple in 17th century era.
Tower domes are surrounded by thin pillars with the domes with same design. Anyhow, leave your wheels at the parking lot and start walking towards the structure. Entire building is on the top of a strong platform, taller than usual temples. As you climb the stairs, you will find beautiful doorkeepers on both sides of the stairs. These broken keepers look out of the place, as they must have been lying somewhere, and later during the re built, they must have been used there as decorations. Leaving them behind, go ahead and reach the bell tower facing the temple entrance.
Ring that heavy brass bell to let Bhuleshwar know that you have arrived to his steps to seek his blessings. On quiet enough morning, you can here echoes of the bells you just rang, in the valley bellow.You can enter the main temple from three sides as the temple has three narrow doors, made up of strong black basalt stone.
On top of this entrance room, there is a Nagarkhana, or drum room where in earlier days, drums use to play in the morning and before the sunset. This room seems to be relatively new, as it is built with red bricks instead of stone. Nagarkhana towers are adorn with Ganesh, Parvati, Vishnu resting on five headed Shesh and much more. There are stairs on each side of the entrance hall, from outside, from where you can climb inside the Drum Chambers. As soon as you climb on the stairs, there is a small window to peep inside temple where you can get the first glimpse at Vigraha or the Shiva Lingam, all the way inside sanctum, 20-25 meters ahead. This is cleaver architecture arrangement was done to manage heavy crowd during auspicious days of year. Instead of getting in line and waiting, you can get a quick glimpse at god, and can make way so other devotees can get the Darshana as well. Quick and easy, suitable for the 5G age we live in. But we are not in hurry, so get inside the entrance hall.
you get inside, the entrance hall has small Hanumaan idol welcoming you to the temple. Entrance to the Vigraha is decorated by a decorative door frame with Shalabhas, heavenly Swans and kirti Mukhas. If you stand straight facing the Hanumaan , it seems the temple has ended, its time to go home. But when you step inside the Hanumaan room, two stairs go upwards on both hands, leading you to the main temple.
As you climb the stairs, first thing you see are the many beautifully carved pillars on which the temple towers have been erected. As you get use to the darkness, you came to know, almost all of the building space have been efficiently used to do some brilliant carvings. Carvings portray some known and many unknown stories from Puranas, Ramayna and Mahabharata.Next to the hidden stairs, there is a Nandi mantapa (Pillared pavilion) with some ornate pillars.
Nandi is a main door keeper of Mahadev, who is sitting there, focusing all of his attention to the lord. He is teaching us how one should focous on Parmeshwar, with all the dedication. Here, the monolith Nandi is ornated with some serious jewelry, competing with the pillars under which its seated.
There is ArdhaMandapa or half pavilion in between Nandi and sanctum. Here, along with the pillars, even roof is packed with carvings. Yaksha are holding the roof, seating on the pillars. Brahma Vadinis, or celestial musicians are carved and elegantly place on the dome. Most of them are destroyed, but what is remained gives you the idea of their beauty. You can see Kirti Mukhas carved on pillars. A giant copper trishul (Trident), a weapon worthy only to gods, is kept in corner, ready to be wielded by Mahadev. As you cross this sub pavilion, few steps downwards take you to main Sanctum.
Door frame is carved out of black stone where Sapta matrika, Ganesha and apsaras are gathered, to greet Mahadev. Intricate design in between these gods fill up the remaining space of the frame. Bow your head, and enter through that narrow passage. Over the frame, you can see five sages, standing atop, with turrets over their heads adding an incredible symmetry to the whole door frame. Actual sanctum is plane simple room, without any carvings. It helps you focus on the god without any distractions. Shiva in Lingam form stays here, with an giant five headed cobra coiled around it. Khandoba, being one of the incarnation of Lord Shiva is also present here, in the mask form.
Get the lord’s blessing and get out of the room, walk towards circumambulation path around three towers. There is a gap in between pradakshina path and outer wall of sanctum, where open skies and sun plays the game of shadows on the beautiful carvings on the walls. Pathway is made up of the similar stones, with roof, pillars, few smaller size shrines of other deities, stone mesh windows in between and all of that with brilliant carvings. Outside of sanctums are decorated with deities, handsome Aandharvas and gorgeous Apsaras. Apsaras, expert in the art of dancing and singing, have been carved here with elegance, radiating with their youthful energy. Few interesting and rare idols like Vainayaki, or Gamesh in female form can be seen over here.
How can someone destroy something so beautiful? exclaimed my sister in law. After a while, from being lost in past, I recollected and dragged myself to present to this question. May be that is the problem with Abrahamic religions. “My religion is the only true religion and rest of the people either should follow me or be ready to die” is the biggest curse to humanity, its creativity and imagination, I thought. Sister in law was right. I mean, just look at the imagination, efforts, artistry, planning, resources it must have taken to create this marvel of such elegance. Even if you don’t agree with the particulate way of worshiping, can’t you just appreciate this human miracle? Just as a stunningly graceful art form, maybe? But no. Invaders went ahead anyhow, and destroyed each and every ‘infidel’ face on these walls that their hammers reached to. In 1528, Babari mosque was erected by Mir Baqui, after the destruction of Shri Ram temple. As I am writing this, the final verdict on Ayodhya Ram Janma Bhoomi has arrived, and my lord’s temple has to be rebuilt. I could not be more happy and thrilled. As I compare two temples, I wish, let this victory be the beginning of reclaiming our lost heritage, Indic pride and unification. I am praying to Shri Bhuleshwar, please grant us the strength to do this…