With origins some believe date back 4,500 years, the Panchaganga (or Pancha Ganga) Temple in Old Mahabaleshwar is built at the source of seven rivers; the Krishna, Koyana, Gayatri, Savitri, Venna, Saraswati and Bhagirathi rivers.
Of these, the first five flow continuously whereas the Saraswati is said to come alive after 60 years and the Bhagirathi river every 12 years. This union of these five rivers gives the temple it’s name, Panch meaning five, and Ganga the name of a holy river.
From here, the Krishna river goes on to become the third-longest river of India covering 1,400km, with its basin extending across 8 per cent of the land in India. While the Koyna and Venna rivers flow to the east to become the tributaries of the Krishna, the Gayatri and Savitri rivers. These flow underground in some parts, to eventually join rivers in the Konkan belt.
The temple has two tanks, called kundas. The water from all five rivers flows throw the mouth of a cow that has been carved from stone into the first kund, which in turn overflows into the second kunda. While no one is allowed to enter the first kunda, the second one is open for devotees to dip their feet and legs.
The heart of the temple that can be seen today was built by Raja Singhandeo of Yadav dynasty in the 13th century. Maratha emperor Shivaji later modified the temple in the 16th century, and clearly further alterations have occurred since such as the addition of a roof sheltering the temple.
Outside the temple there is clear evidence of a more ancient Old Mahabaleshwar than may appear at first glance. Almost obscured by the shops and stalls on the approach to the temple is an ancient gateway you pass under, then immediately to the right the ruins of a substantial wall with doorway. I wonder if this once formed a wall that enclosed the temple site, today there’s only fragmentary remains which makes it difficult to come to any firm conclusions.
Less than 1km from the here is the far less visited but equally interesting Krishnabai Temple that is well worth seeking out.
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