The Ancient Temples of Mahabaleshwar
Apart from its glorious points and green valleys, Mahabaleshwar is popular as a pilgrimage site on account of the ancient temples it upholds. They are situated in Old Mahabaleshwar which is believed to be the place of origin of five rivers Krishna, Koyana, Venna, Savitri and Gayatri. Legend has it that Krishna is Lord Vishnu himself as a result of a curse on the trimurtis by Savitri. Also, Venna and Koyana are said to be Lord Shiva and Lord Brahma themselves. This place is also called as ‘Old Kshetra’ which is a gathering of the old temples of Lord Mahabaleshwar, Atibaleshwar, Panchganga and Krishnabai.
Historical fact about Old Mahabaleshwar points out the period 13th century when the King Singhan of Deogiri visited it. He built a small temple and water tank at the source of the river Krishna. Around 13th century, a Brahmin dynasty started ruling this area. In the middle of the 16th century the Maratha family of Chandarao More defeated the Brahmin dynasty and became the rulers of Javli and Mahabaleshwar. This period witnessed the reconstruction of Mahabaleshwar temple in South Indian architecture style.
1. Mahabaleshwar temple
Very calm and peaceful environment surrounds this temple. Mahabaleshwar derives its name from Lord Mahabal(Lord Shiva). This temple has a sanctum sanctorum and a main hall. Lord Shiva is enshrined in a naturally occurred (swayamboo) lingam in the shape of a Rudraksha seed in the sanctum sanctorum. The lingam is expected to be 500 years old. This lingam is considered more sacred than the 12 jyothirlingams. It is also called Trigunatmaka as it is believed to represent Brahma, Vishnu as well as Shiva.
The temple also comprises a square shaped raised platform. According to the legend, the Maratha ruler, Shivaji weighed his mother Jijabai in gold at this platform and then gave away the gold in charity.
2. Atibaleshwar Temple
This temple lies next to Mahabaleshwar temple. The statue of ‘Nandi’ or holy cow outside rests in such a way that it is the guard of the temple. Built in South Indian style, Atibaleshwar temple contributes another historic prominence to Mahabaleshwar.
3. Panchganga temple
Walking from Mahabaleshwar temple take you to this temple where the five rivers Krishna, Koyana, Venna, Savitri and Gayatri are said to originate from the spout of a stone carved cow’s mouth. The water that gets collected down is almost the “theertha” of Lord Mahabaleshwar.
4. Krishnabai Temple
Behind Panchganga temple, there is a small trail that leads to Krishnabai temple. River Krishna is being worshipped here that is built on the hilltop overlooking Krishna valley. The temple has a Shiva lingam and a beautiful statue of Goddess Krishna. A small stream of the river flowing from a cow-face (gomukh) falls on a ‘Kunda’ or water tank. Stone carved columns and ceilings are the special characteristics of this temple. This years old temple has gathered moss and is in ruins. Also it is not much visited by tourists and so it is isolated. But the most exquisite view of river Krishna flowing down is obtained from here.
It is said that abode of Gods is heaven. Mahabaleshwar enshrining various gods and goddesses is really a heaven on earth that won’t make a visitor bid farewell to it.
Have you visited these temples of Mahabaleshwar?
Atibaleshwar temple, Mahabaleshwar
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© 2013 Radhika Sreekanth