Aundha Nagnath - the oldest Jyotirlingam of Lord Shiva
Aundha Nagnath is a famous place for pilgrimage. One of the 12 Jyotirlingams of Lord Shiva is situated here.
Aundha Nagnath is considered as the first (Addya) Jyotirlingams, which are twelve special Shiva temples to which the scriptures attribute special significance. The Lingam (the Phallic symbol of Lord Shiva) of these twelve Jyotirlingam s (literally meaning Lingams from which light emanates) are considered to be objects of great divine power. Throughout the ages, these Jyotirlingams are worshiped by billions of Hindus with a strong belief that all their accumulated sins will be washed away if or when they visit these Jyotirlingams.
Aundha Nagnath is a small hamlet situated in the state of Maharashtra, India. It is about 64 km from another big pilgrimage place Nanded, which is famous for its Gurudwaras ( places of worship of the Sikhs). Nanded is connected to big cities like Mumbai , Aurangabad & Hyderabad via rail, road & air. The nearest railway station is at Parbhani.
The main attraction of Aundha Nagnath is the temple of Lord Nagnath, which is another name of Lord Shiva.
The temple is surrounded on all sides by a strong high wall. Just outside the wall, there are several small temples dedicated to gods like Shani (Saturn), Rahu & Ketu. There are two small tanks or Kunds in front of the Shani temple. The bigger one is of brackish water & is called “Sash kund” ( the kund /tank of the Mother –in – law, & the smaller one is of sweet water & is called “Bahu kund” ( the kund/tank of the Daughter-in law)—fine depiction of human nature indeed!
Just inside the wall, there is a fairly big open space or courtyard. In the centre of this courtyard there stands the big temple of Lord Nagnath. The temple is said to be originally constructed by the eldest Pandava brother Yudhisthira of the Mahabhvarata fame, which is at least 3000 years old! However , the temple was renovated several times , latest by the pious queen Ahillyabai Holkar of Indore in the 18th century.
The temple is made of stone in Hemadpanthy style of architecture. A lofty pinnacle, plastered white & decorated with sculptures of a big snake looms large. The base of the temple is reddish as constructed with the red basaltic stone & is covered with exquisite sculptures depicting Hindu gods & goddesses & scenes from Mahabharata as well as from other Hindu mythology.
Inside the temple, the Garvgriha (sanctum sanctorum) is in the basement & can be entered through a narrow & deep opening in the floor of the main hall of the temple. Inside, there is the Lingam made of black stone. It is usually kept covered by a silver bucket-like cover, but the cover is removed for worshiping by the devotees. The Lingam can be touched by the devotees.
The most unusual part of this temple is the positioning of the sacred bull Nandi. Everywhere, Nandi is seen facing the Shiva Lingam. But here Nandi is facing the back of the Shiva Lingam, & is placed in a separate temple on the backside of the main temple. The reason of this anomaly is explained in a short but inspirational story of the God & a true devotee. The story goes thus :
Sant Namdev , who was a famous Marathi saint & a true follower of the Lord, once came here with some of his disciples to offer puja. They were chanting Bhajan (devotional songs) in front of Aundha Nagnath temple when the temple priests objected to their singing, & asked them to go away. Namdev did not argue & went to the back side of the temple and started chanting bhajan there. That time Lord Shiva turned the whole temple backward to listen to Namdev’s bhajan, but He did not turn the Nandi’s statue. That's why Nandi is located on back side of temple.
There are other temples also in close vicinity, the most important one is the temple dedicated to Dattatreya, considered an incarnation of Lord Vishnu.
Aundha Nagnath is a must for those who want to see the Jyotirlingams of lord Shiva.