My cousin said today we were to go cave-exploring. Sounded exciting! She said it was going to be a bit of a drive though, but neither of us minded. We piled into the car around late afternoon and set out for JungliMaharaj Road, Pune, on our visit to the Pataleshwar caves.
These caves are situated just across the river on the JungliMaharaj Road. It’s most striking feature is the fact that the entire cave has been carved out of one gigantic rock.
The first word that jumps to mind when I try to describe it is peaceful. It’s a very quiet sanctorum, and the best part about our visit there being that all the other patrons seemed to mutually understand the need to not disturb the silence.
The temple is made of basalt, and is dedicated to the Lord Shiva. Historically, this cave temple is rock-cut and was carved out in the 8th century. Not only is it limited to Shiva, but we found other statues of the Gods Ram, Lakshman and Sita as well. The temple had grand pillars that seem to grab the eye often. Though the architecture is splendid and it is impressive what has been done with one monolith, the architecture of the temple still appears incomplete. The outer circle enclosure of the temple is not as ornately decorated as the shrine itself.
It was originally situated outside the boundaries of what is now Pune, but the city limits have expanded enough to incorporate the temples as part of Pune itself. Currently, it has been declared a protected monument by the Pune government.
The sanctum is a small cubic room housing the widely accepted form of the Lord Shiva, the Linga. In front of the cave in a circular enclosure with an umbrella shaped roof is the Nandi.
The temple has a nicely spaced out seating arrangement, as well as smaller rooms for visitors to lounge in. As I looked about me, I saw that there were a lot of students to be found buried deep in their books. It appears that the silence of the caves is conducive to studying! Imagine that!