Located within a maze of buildings that comprise Nagesh Peth in the old city, Nageshwar Temple is widely believed to be one of the oldest temples in Pune. Nagesh Peth was formally known as Nahal Peth, and was named after a servant of Shivram Raghunath Khasgiwale, a chief administrator in the mid 18th century.
The exact origins of the temple remain unclear, there is speculation that it may have originated as a small shrine, with local legends also connecting this place with the saints Dnyaneshwar and Tukaram. There’s a wonderful cave shrine to Tukaram that can be visited at Bhamchandra Caves, 40km north of Pune.
A small settlement may have originally existed around this shrine, which over time merged with neighbouring settlements to ultimately create the core of Pune old city that we can explore today. There are also tales of the existence of a cremation ground near this site, which may suggest it once stood on the outer limits of early Pune.
Whilst the great antiquity of Nageshwar Temple is not in doubt, the temple has been enlarged many times over the centuries thanks to devotee donations, resulting in the structure we see today appearing to be far more modern. The main shrine is a typical Hemadpant Yadava structure with a stone roof, you can read a little more on this style of architecture in my blog post about the Mallikarjun Temple at Loni Bhapkar.
Much of the structure that stands today was added during the Peshwa period. The assembly hall (sabhamandap) is made from teak, in a similar to style to a few other temples you can explore in the old city. Records indicate that the construction of the assembly hall was made possible by a donation from Aba Shelukar, a money lender from the city.
The main deity here is of course Lord Shiva. The sanctum is sunken in nature, in that it is lower than the surrounding ground level. At my time of visiting the temple was quite busy, so I decided not to intrude.
There are a number of subsidiary shrines in the temple compound, dedicated to Lord Vishnu, Lord Hanuman, and Lord Dattatreya. There are also two Deepstambhas either side of the assembly hall, together with a host of carvings of idols scattered around the compound. On the outer limits of the walled compound are a number of living quarters.
Another local legend attached to this place is the belief that there was once a large reservoir close to the temple, the waters of which had great magical properties that would cure leprosy.
The temple has been declared a protected monument by the State ASI, and the last decade has seen much renovation here, an activity that was on-going during my visit. The whole compound has an incredibly peaceful ambiance, it’s a wonderful place to just sit and be for a while. One instantly feels quite removed from the surrounding urban fabric of the old city, and for sure I will make a point of revisiting this temple when I’m back in Pune continuing my travels in this great country.
Less than 200m west of Nageshwar Temple is Trishund Mayureshwar Ganpati Temple, which is also well worth visiting if you are in this area of Pune old city.
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