Pune is known for its rich heritage and considered the cultural capital of Maharashtra but, few know its history, which goes beyond the Peshwa and Maratha era. Pune was once part of the Rashtrakuta Dynasty, the remnants of which are still found in the city. One such jewel lies hidden on the busy Jangali Maharaj (JM) Road, right in the heart of the city; the Pataleshwar Cave Temple.
The rock-cut temple, carved in the 8th century during the Rashtrakuta period, is dedicated to Lord Pataleshwar (God of the Underworld). Hewn from a single basalt rock, the architecture and design of the cave temple are similar to that of Elephanta caves. It has a shrine of Lord Shiva and Nandi. The sanctum, a cube shaped room of about 3-4 meters on each side, houses the Shivling. In front of the cave is the Nandi mandapa, the umbrella shaped canopy, which is supported by massive pillars. Some of the rocks date back to 700-800 AD.
The temple is left incomplete, possibly due to a fault line found at the sanctum, which made sculpting unsafe. It also houses a museum, which is a heritage site. The main attraction in the museum is the grain of rice, which has 5000 characters inscribed onto it. The temple also has the Samadhi of Jungli Majaraj, a yogi and disciple of Swami Samartha. The Samadhi was built in the 18th century and the street is named after this famous landmark.
Even today, very little is known about the Rashtrakuta period and the Pataleshwar temple in particular. Many don’t know about the latter’s existence, hidden due to the hustle and bustle on the JM Road. The architecture and atmosphere teleports one back in time. The cave temple is a must-visit for Punekars and history lovers alike.
Reasons to visit:
- Wonderful and captivating rock-cut architecture.
- Peaceful environment, with only the sounds of the temple bell.
- The inscription on a single grain of rice leaves one astounded. Imagine this being done in the 8th Century!!
- Though the museum needs some revamping, it is informative and lovely.
- It is one of the few places in the centre of the city that houses such a wonderful heritage!
Timing: 8 am to 5:30 pm
Location: Jangali Maharaj Road, Near the Bus Stop of Jangali Maharaj Mandir