Temple architecture

Tales of Sutradhara: Temple of Trishundya, place of monastic school and sectarian devotion

The peth neighborhoods of Pune hide within themselves rare and fascinating gems in the form of heritage monuments. Any avid explorer of the city who stumbles across an ornately carved temple, known as the Trishundya Ganapati Temple, is amazed to find the ornately carved, cave-like facade surviving amidst the crowded and towering modern buildings.

The Trishundya Ganapati temple in Somwar peth is a unique temple in itself, particularly because it combines as a samadhi (memorial) temple, a school of practice for Hatyogis and a place of devotion for followers of shakti tantra-mantra in the form of Ganesha Shakti. .

With the double capacity of place of devotion and samadhi mandir, the temple inherits the strangeness of the architecture, the sculptures of deities, the patterns and the carved symbols.

The late Bhimgiriji Gosavi of Dhampur near Indore built this temple from 1754 to 1770 CE. It is the only temple in Pune entirely built in stone masonry and its interior resembles carved caves. Its exterior appearance reflects the combination of regional Rajasthani and Maratha influence on architecture and design. Sculptures from Madhya Pradesh and the Gujarat school seem to have marked the interior representations of the temple. South Indian architecture is seen in the hexagonal columns, dome, capitals and other final features supported by celestial deities, all performing the function of protection.

Originally, this temple was to be built in honor of Lord Shiva. The Linga of Rameshwara is mentioned in the inscription, related to the temple. It can be said with certainty that over the years a three-trunked idol of Lord Ganapati has been installed here to support the tradition of the Tantric Ganesha sect. According to legend, it is believed that the pawnbrokers of the Giri, Gosavi and Goswami sects, used to acquire through their huge profits precious diamonds and these were then used as idol eyes. The idol being sacrosanct, the money remained safe from the dacoits. These Gosavis repeatedly served as moneylenders to finance the military campaigns of the Maratha nobles and the Peshwa family.

It is also provided in this temple that the water or tirtha flowing from the idol of Trishund Ganapati should sprinkle Baba’s samadhi, in the cave below.

The architectural design of this temple consists mainly of the temple, above, and the cellar below, adjoining the samadhi as well as the school of practicing Hatyogis. The said school was discovered in the foundations of a house near the Nagzari bridge in Somwar peth during the excavations.

The plinth of the temple is higher than average, which ensures adequate headroom for the sabhamandapa cave. The guru used to give lectures, teaching mantras or mystical verses, in the main cave hall, while in the adjoining connecting underground rooms, students practiced yoga and mastered the knowledge available to them. transmitted. The basement was built in such a way that the master and student practitioners were never forced for months to leave the premises for any reason. All their needs could be met on the spot. There was a well-trodden archway leading down to the Nagzari stream to answer the call of nature. These underground passages would eventually lead to the house that was near the temple where some of the disciples would stay. All around the well in the courtyard of the house there are such underground chambers for the students.

The steps in front of the samadhi in the main underground hall are four meters deep and reach the wall of another well, located at a distance of 15 meters from the main temple. In the wall of this well itself, there was a large bathroom whose ground level equaled that of the water level of the well. In the bathroom, there was a large marble stool for the comfort of the master. At present, the well mentioned above and the bathroom are buried under the Pune Municipal Corporation and the firewood depot located here. If and when the well is dug up, Maharashtra and especially Pune will possess a very rare example of an ancient mathematical type of temple architecture.

The cloisters in the cellars had doors whose signs are clearly visible. The walls of these rooms have several niches. Each of these rooms had slots in the ceiling, through which ropes could pass. Hatyoga practitioners used to tie themselves upside down. Just below was placed burning charcoal on which certain herbs were repeatedly thrown, and the smoke thus produced was inhaled by these students. It was all part of their Dhumrapana ritual. In the Giri and Gosavi sects, Panchagni sadhana or worship with five types of fire was of paramount importance.

All of these rituals were performed with the intention of training the body and also the mind, forcing it to face and survive different forms of penance. The result was that the sage’s body withstood the ultimate test and strain, and his mind was finally subdued. Celibacy was essential for the followers of this sect but today there are few followers. The younger generation broke away from this rigorous practice and married and settled down.

The entrance has a usual crescent-shaped chandrashila. The facade of the temple is profusely carved with carvings and patterns. The façade is divided into three parts separated by “ghat-pallava” pilasters, kirtimukhas surmounted by “kichaka or bharvahaka yaksha” capitals. Mythical composite creatures such as gaja-vyala are seen flanking both sides of the torana. The central part is adorned with Mewar style makara torana decorated with monkeys and peacocks on both sides. The central figure is that of abhishek lakshmi/gaj lakshmi, another auspicious symbol. The main lintel has Ganesha. The lintel has a row of musicians playing various instruments and the top has a carved sculpture of Sheshshayin Vishnu. The mandarak is flanked by flat-faced kirtimukhas and has two elephant-adorned deities at the base.

The facade has typical Rajput style arched chhatris depicted on both sides. A particular sculpture is depicted on both sides making a socio-political statement at this time. Chained rhino captured by three uniformed British officers (the second is also on the other side). This marks the victory of the British colonial power over Bengal and Assam where the rhino represents these regions (Bengal 1757 CE; Assam 1765 CE). There is a sculpture-pun (shilpa-shlesh) where three four-legged officers are represented. The dwarshakha has a single pilaster-stambhashakha with tall guardians (dwarpalas) on both sides.

More details about this temple, included as a Tier I protected monument in the Pune Municipal Corporation’s heritage list, next week.

Saili Palande-Datar is an Indologist, ecologist, historical researcher and farmer. She can be reached @ sailikdatar@gmail.com