I know, I know I’ve been gone for sometime now. I have been very, very irregular of late and I apologize for it. But, my dear readers, I have been busy doing things. Which is why I present to you today something that TPC doesn’t usually feature – a Travel Post!
Now I’m not a travel blogger, we know that. But I sometimes come across places that I love so much that I feel I should spread the word about them. This blog post is about one such place – Bhuleshwar Temple.
There are many places to see in and around Pune but not many know about this temple, or give it a miss for other places like Dagdusheth Temple, Shaniwar Wada, Lonavala-Khandala, Mahabaleshwar, Shirdi. Indeed, many residents too are unaware of this place, perhaps the reason being that it’s just a temple. My Mother-in-law first told me about the place. The pictures she took had me wishing since then to see it for myself.
Me and my family planed this day long trip to the Temple as well as to another lesser known fort in the area called Fort Jadhavgarh. The plan was to first visit Jadhavgarh, and then head to the temple.
Unfortunately, our first stop was a forgettable experience, because Fort Jadhavgarh, which is a Luxury Heritage Resort, now does not allow the general public to step inside without coughing up a steep entrance fee of 500 bucks per person, that is if you aren’t dining at any of their four in-house restaurants. From a previous trip to the fort (when there was *cough* no entrance fee *cough*), I recall the food at their restaurants was entirely unimpressive. Nothing special that you cannot find at a good gourmet restaurant in Pune. If you really would like to know about Fort Jadhavgarh, I suggest you head over to their website. At any rate, they’ll have better pictures of the place than what I clicked standing outside the threshold of their great gates (rolls eyes).
Still, I’ll give you a few pictures of the Fort just so you can make up your minds about visiting, should you want a day of luxury and pampering with a decent amount of things-to-do thrown in.
So rather than waste our time exploring a place that was more like a hotel now than an actual fort, we decided to immediately head to the aforementioned temple.
About the Temple:
Bhuleshwar is a 13th century Shiva temple, which sits atop a former fort, Mangalgadh, and is built upon a hill. It’s architecture is varied and unique, featuring elements of Hindu, Islamic, and perhaps even South Asian Architecture. From the outside it appears more as a mosque due to its circular tomb and minarets on the sides. The reason why it was built this way was to protect it from Muslim invaders. The carvings and the figures are mostly in the Hindu style. The temple has been declared a protected monument, but that label is doing nothing for it, as you’ll see.
Legend says that this is where Parvati, Lord Shiva’s wife, danced before him, before they left for Mount Kailash to get married.
The story goes that Aurangzeb had it almost destroyed, though I did not find any documented evidence of it online. Indeed there is very little information about this place online. Perhaps it’s written about in books or some may have researched it, but nearly none of it is available online. My only source of information was Wikipedia and some blogposts written by others. Restoration work is still going on at the site, but the restoration is changing the original architecture of the place.
The only way one can reach this place is by road. It’s about 45 kilometers from main Pune and around 10 km from the Pune-Solapur highway, from Yawat. I suggest you carry plenty of water with you and maybe some eatables too because there isn’t a decent eating joint for miles in the area. Also, cards won’t work here, so carry cash instead. It’s all villages and fields. You’ll come across many orchards on your trip there. So make sure you get off and buy some fresh, farm produce. Like we did! We bought so much produce that I still don’t need to buy veges after two weeks!
As you can see in the first picture, the original temple complex (to the right) had a different architecture, than the one that has been restored (to the left). The former has a mosque like dome and even minarets to the side, like many Mughal buildings in India. Why restoring it requires painting it that horrible faint yellow color is beyond me but I hope, I really hope they do not touch the original structure and the idols inside it at all; just restore it to preserve its original beauty and elegance. There are somethings that look better as they age. This temple is one of them.
Which one do you think looks better? The left or the right one?
Figures like the one above, are everywhere in the temple – on the steps, the porches, the minarets, the entrance, the ceilings, and ALL of them are in hand-carved stone. I couldn’t see any other building material other than stone, iron or brass. The only wood I saw was on the doors. Like this one.
Every minute detail in the temple was carefully and, I can only imagine, painstakingly hand-hewn or hand-forged. One is forced to gape in awe at the magnificence of the place. I only stood and tried to imagine the amount of time, resources, talent and sweat that went into building a structure as intricately carved as this one… in the 13th century no less!
The entrance itself requires scaling several steep steps (steep enough for a 5 footer like me to huff and puff up), but I was happy to note that the temple was very well preserved and even devoid of the usual pooja waste that litters most temples in India. But that lasted only a few minutes. As you take the steps up from the narrow main door up towards the pradakshina (ambulatory), you can see signs of near demolition everywhere. Nearly every statue had been disfigured, destroyed or entirely removed from their niches.
And many more….
Apologies for the bad, blurry pictures, but I’m not a photographer, not even an amateur. The light inside the temple didn’t help matters either. The pradakshina is open to the sky and is the main source of light for the temple. Being a dark, overcast day, visibility in the darker areas of the temple was poor. There were only a few electrical lights installed, mostly incandescent bulbs (in this day and age!) that bathed the interior of the temple in a very unbecoming pale, orange-y light.
Unfortunately for us, we happened to visit on Nag Panchmi, the festival when Hindus worship snakes. The otherwise deserted Shiva temple was flooded by sudden devotees who were busy taking selfies and jostling in the snaky line leading to the garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum) of the temple. Whenever I tried to take a close-up shot of something, I was either jostled by someone, or someone would photobomb my picture. The flash on my camera just made matters worse.
These however are largely untouched, probably because they were too high up to reach.
This is the only picture I could take near the shrine. It’s forbidden to take pictures of the shrine itself, and I appreciated that. But because of the festival, there were temporary lights set up for the devotees, that threw a very unflattering light on the surrounding figures. I didn’t dare to spend more than a minute at the actual shrine because there were way too many people, pushing each other for that one look of the Shivlinga inside. At any rate, we hadn’t planned this trip for religious purposes. We were purely interested in the architecture. So we pushed off, not without me wishing that we had visited some other time.
There were several of such niches, lying vacant, from where idols, I was told, had been robbed; a heritage now forever lost.
The only sources of light inside the temple were, like I mentioned before, the open air ambulatory and these tiny, dark windows, again, carved out from stone.
I could not take pictures of the fort itself on which the temple was built, and the other temple complex. It was getting late and my daughter was definitely cantankerous from a day long journey with no playarea (kids)!
We turned away from the place, happy that we had come to an unusual spot, but disheartened to see how poorly it was being maintained.
Places like these should never be open to devotees, I feel. There were many figures which had kumkum or sandalwood paste on them; some were inundated with near-rotting flowers offered by devotees. It only means more destruction of this fragile monument. There is so much of it that has already been reduced to rubble because of religious hatred; why can’t we act responsibly towards what’s left of it? Worship is worship even if it’s done from afar, even if your prayers are offered at another temple. Why desecrate and destroy a place that is already facing a trial by time, battling human zeal and the harsh environment surrounding it? If it were better preserved, it would have been different. But in it’s current state of abuse, it should be closed to public as long as it’s restoration goes on; or at least the public should be banned from touching and defiling the place with human litter like plastic bottles, pooja flowers and wrappers from consumables, which are readily available right outside the temple premises.
Now this is a place meriting an entrance fee.
So the next time you’re in Pune, make sure that you take time out for this unique temple. Who knows it may have changed entirely by the time you visit, given the rate at which the restoration is transforming the place. Catch it while it’s still in it’s original form.
I even made a jingle for it (sorry I couldn’t resist it)!
Tum jab bhi Pune aana, Bhuleshwar bhool na jana!
(Whenever you come to Pune, don’t forget [bhool] Bhuleshwar)
Copyright ©2017 Pradita Kapahi.
All rights reserved.
All images are subject to copyright in the name of Pradita Kapahi.