Imagine India, in 1200 DC. You just have found a mega large rock which will serve as an eternal canvas. You start to paint on it. The painting is maturing as you want. When you are at the middle, you found that there is a fault in canvas and you cannot complete the painting, which was coming off rather brilliant. So, there is no option for you but to stop the painting. That is the Pataleshwar temple for you. Located in middle of Pune city, on the busy Jangli Maharaj Road, this is the oldest structure ever in the city.
Pataleshwar temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, carved from top to bottom, out of a giant basalt monolith. Once, it must have been an aspirational masterpiece for some King, now, its a meetup point for teenagers and occasional devotee, once in a while.
The wide square shaped courtyard is carved with circular Nandi shrine in the middle of it. Nandi courtyard is carved with a heavy weight roof held by nine pillars. Entire courtyard, Nandi on a platform, shrine, the steps going inside Nandi shrine, pillars and roof: Entire thing has been carved out from single rock from top to bottom.
Nandi is facing a giant square shaped cave. The cave has a huge entrance with large windows on sides. Square shaped giant pillars with wide corridors will take you to the main shrine.
The cave has three shines carved, middle one is dedicated to lord Shiva. Copper Shivalingam is protected by a giant copper cobra. Abhishek vessel is hanging on top of shiv lingam with continuous drip of water on Lord. During the time of Sagar Manthan (sea churning), Poison Halahala surfaced, started poisoning the whole universe. Being the only entity in universe capable to contain it, Lord Mahadev drank the poison to save the world. But doing so, he suffered a lot of pain and heat radiating from his body. To ease his burning, Lord Vishnu and rest of the gods and demons started pouring water on his body. Shiv Lingam, snake and that dripping pot reminds us this ultimate sacrifice done by Lord to ease the universe from havoc of poison, as he still suffers the searing pain for the greater good…
Some people correlate this with a nuclear reactor. For them, the Lingam represents dome shaped nuclear reactor, coiled snake represents the radiation and water dripping on Lingam represents the heavy water controlling the temperature of fusion rods.
Right hand shrine is dedicated to Parvati and left shrine is occupied by Ganesha covered in saffron color. All shrines are dark inside as there are no windows and carvings inside. There is a dark pathway revolving around shrine, left incomplete. Few wall mounted CCTVs are the only connections to the modern timeline you will find in this ancient cave. End of the corridors have incomplete carvings which are hardly recognizable.
Besides Ganesha shrine, in the middle of parikrama marg, there is a small stage on which one feet Lord Ram, Sita and Lakshman are standing. These statues look too much out of the place as these three are carved out of white marble rock. Across them, there is two feet statue of Lord Hanuman, standing in front their lords on slightly shorter stage. Lord Hanuman is carved out of the same rock as the cave. He stands there in shadows, just to give you courage, in case you get frightened by the darkness in the cave.
The right hand corner of circumventing path has been the key to Archaeologists. These half carved pillars shows you how the carving from top to bottom has been carried out. While carving, artists found one big crack on the ceiling, which made them leave the cave incomplete. Rail on to one of the giant pillars inside cave. Sit down for a while and try to imagine the civilization in that cave 800 years ago. Try to imagine the enthusiasm these artists must have while starting this project. They must have sketches, designs, plans, foresight, timelines drawn on scrolls. They must have arranged finance from kings and devotees, to left incomplete.
Millions of tourists, even thousands of Indians, visit Sagrada Familia or Woodchester Mansion every year. They pay entree fees accumulating to millions of euros to see these fragmentary constructs. But this eight hundred year old incomplete monolith masterpiece waits in shadows, to be discovered again, to acclaim the fame it truly deserves.