The Ambarnath Temple is situated in the town of Ambarnath (which takes its name from this ancient temple), a station near Kalyan, Ulhasnagar on the central railway route of Mumbai railway.
The temples construction started sometime in 1061 AD (in the year Saka 982), by Chittaraja , a Shilhara king and continued in the time of his successor Nagarjuna. His younger brother, Mammuni is said to have made latter additions to its structure and completed its constructions.
The Shilharas were vassals of the Rashtrakutas and later the Kadambas. They ruled over regions of Kolhapur , Thane, Kolaba and Mumbai in present day Maharashtra state.
In the Shilhara inscriptions (no.17) it is mentioned as Sti Ambatandtha devakula .
The temple is built from black basalt stone and is constructed in the Bhumija style, which was so popular in the Deccan region of those times.A lot of Chalukyan and Gujrat Solanki (like in the Sun temple at Modhera) architectural influence is also evident.
The temple is an architectural marvel with beautifull sculptures,statuetes,figurines and motifs covering almost every nook and corner of the temple.
The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva .It measures 60 ft in length. The plan is star shaped.The Garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum,13ft in length and breadth, its door being 9X4 ft) is in a underground cellar accessible after climbing down a series of stairs (9 nos, 8 ft below level) and houses a 'swayambhu' (not man made) Shivalinga. The vestibule consisits of pillars carved with figurines of various Gods and Godesses along with a a ornate lotus shaped ceiling which immediately catches the eye. The roof is missing and temple is directly exposed to the sky (ambar) , which is how the temple may have derived its name.
The stone used in the construction regardless of its flaky nature, has withstood the ravages of time and five elements. The construction is similar to the hemadpanthi style , i.e using carved male female stone blocks and is devoid of use of any mortor (though there r traces of lime, which may have been used /added more recently).
The temple plan is corrugated and accomodates several sculptures of celestial beings, animals and intricate motifs. The mandapa has been provided with three entrances (south,east and west), each having a porch. One of the porches(west) has a typical Nandi (Shivas vehicle, the Bull) statue guarding the gabhara (which usually finds its place in the antechamber).
The Ambarnath temple is one of the most unique and the most beautiful of the ancient temples found in Maharashtra and a testament of the skill and the excellent craftsmanship of its sculptors.
Here are some photos clicked in and around the temple:
Pic: corrugated wall structure
Pic: Brahma statuette in the aedicule(window)
Pic: Mahakali statuette in the aedicule
Pic: Sculpture of Apsaras(nymphs) dancing and beautiful motifs carved on the walls.
Pic: ornate ceiling of the antarala
Pic: Shiva in meditation statuette
Pic: Misc. sculptures.
Pic: Yakshas carved on the pillars
Text and photographs : Abhijit Rajadhyaksha