Built around 1230 A.D. by the Yadava ruler King Krishnadevray, Bhuleshwar is an ancient Shiva temple located around 45km from Pune and 10km from Yawat.
Situated on the crest of a hill, the temple is quite unusual in having what appears to be Islamic architecture externally.
The reason for this unique design is said to have been done to protect the temple from being destroyed by invaders.
The exterior of the temple gives little clue as to what resides within. A few ancient carvings incorporated into more modern structures outside the temple together with the detail on the temple doorway gives you a “heads-up”. But what lies within will almost certainly still come as a complete surprise to you !
Bhuleshwar Temple is made primarily from black basalt rock which was brought in especially to construct the temple.
The structure of the temple inside is quite traditional, but everywhere you look the walls feature the most beautiful of carvings.
Figurines of several deities and mythological characters can be seen carved on the walls of the temple, and although the space is relatively small, dark and cramped, the carvings just seem to go on forever.
I found myself walking around the temple what must have been half a dozen times without even realising it, at every turn you see something different you didn’t spot the first time.
Upon entering the sanctum of the temple visitors can see a huge statue of Nandi.
The main deity worshipped in the temple is Lord Shiva, but the temple also has an idol of Lord Ganesha dressed in the attire of a female.
Unfortunately almost all the sculptures here have been damaged in some way, legs seemingly the easiest target for anyone wanting to perform such an act. I could also see plenty of instances where carvings have been completely removed leaving just a shadow of rough rock where they once were.
Thankfully the damage to the carvings does not really impact the experience of being here. Nothing is compromised, and the entire scene and experience is both mystical and wondrous !
The light in the temple is also special, adding to that mystical feel, and it is constantly changing. As a photographer, this probably contributed to my persistent circuits around the interior.
But the light is also very dim, and I didn’t bring a tripod with me as I assumed it would not be permitted. So successful photography here is down to a steady hand, high ISOs, and fast shutter speeds. That all sounds relatively straightforward, but it is still incredibly challenging.
Bhuleshwar Temple came as a complete and utter surprise to me. Having visited Pune on 17 previous occasions I had never heard of this place – and the same goes for many of my friends that live in the city.
My thanks goes to Amar Reddy who mentioned this place when we were visiting Kondana Caves the previous week. Although he tried to prepare me for what there was to see, it still came as a surprise just how wonderful the carvings are here.
Bhuleshwar Temple also has a mythological and historical significance. Originally it was a fort called Daulatmangal fort (also known as Mangalgadh fort), where it is said Parvati danced for Shiva before going to Kailash and getting married.
A second fort was constructed in 1629 by Murar Jagdev, who just one year later in 1630 looted the nearby city of Pune. The fort, of which scant remains of it exist today near to the temple, was primarily built to keep watch on the city.
The temple is also known for the folktale about it. When a bowl of sweets (pedhas) is offered to the Shiva Ling, one or more of the sweets will disappear.
For a day trip out of Pune you can easily combine Bhuleshwar Temple with a visit to the Jejuri Khandoba Temple. Both are well worth doing !
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