The mountains and beaches have their own charm but there is something about the temples which enchants you by taking you into a world of their own.
Pataleshwar Caves of Pune are Situated on a Super busy Junglee Maharaj road between Modern college chowk and Engineering college ground. It is a must visit for every visitor to Pune city and every Punekar. It is a rock cut cave temple of 8th Century AD of Rashtrakut Dynasty.
When you enter you see two short columns on both the sides of about 2 feet height. Both the columns have different designs and no symmetry, so one cannot predict if they were part of the entrance gate. Located a few footsteps ahead is a huge banyan tree. Whenever I visit this temple a feeling of calmness and peace always touches my heart.
This temple was carved in a single stone. You need to climb down a few steps to enter the temple. One can see a beautiful Nandi Idol of stone on the left hand side. You must take a few minutes to appreciate the nice ornament carvings on it. It is situated under a Champa tree. When visited during Spring and Rainy season one can see the natural shower of Champa flowers on this Nandi Idol.
In the centre is a Nandi mandap. It is simple canopy structure and Nandi is at the centre. This Nandi Idol is worshiped daily. After this Nandi Mandap a small cave based on four columns is seen on the left hand side. In the ancient times this might have been used by the travelers.
When you enter the main temple you can see its structure made up of 60 square columns 10 columns in each row. After entering the main temple some unfinished carvings can be seen on both the sides.
On the floor one can see Saripaat (ancient board game) carved. Also few flower and leaf carvings are found on the floor. The temple is carved out of Basalt rock.
In the inner sanctum (garbhgruha) the Shivaling can be seen. It is worshiped daily. Simple carvings are seen at the top of the door. Also one can see Monster mask (Kirtimukh) carved on the entrance step of the sanctum like all other lord Shiva temples. This monster is believed to be eating all our sins.
On the left and right of the Shivaling are the Idols of goddess Parvati and Lord Ganesh. While taking Pradakshina one can see idols of Lord Shriram, Sita and Lakshman carved in white stone and Lord Hanuman in front.
Unfortunately this temple was not completed. One can see completed columns and incomplete ones and can understand the difference very easily. This is supposedly because of a fault line identified behind the main temple which may have made entire structure unstable if carved further.
This temple Patal (Underground) Ishwar (god) is frequently visited by foreigners. This place is under the control of Archaeological survey of India. This place has tremendous importance for students of Architecture, History, Archaeology and Geology.
It is indeed a pride of every Punekar.