Pic: Kashi Vishweshwar mandir,Mahuli
We don’t come across many villages, towns with such an abundance of temples as Sangam Mahuli and Wai. Both are located near Satara and are very famous for their old temples. Moreover, they are actively used as film locations by many filmmakers.
To reach Mahuli from Pune we take the Pune Bangalore highway, and after crossing around 108 kms, we turn left, just before the Satara city limits (avoiding the flyover, rather going alongside and turning left).
Pic: Rameshwar mandir,Mahuli
Situated hardly 5-10 kilometres inside are the twin villages of Sangam Mahuli and Kshetra Mahuli. They are located at the confluence of rivers Krishna and Venna and thus are immensely significant pilgrimage centres. All the local royal families have constructed temples in these towns and are also used for performing the obsequies of the dead.
Pic:Dholya Ganpati mandir,Wai
The highway being wide and clear, it took me an hour and half by car to reach Sangam Mahuli from Pune (total distance 110kms).
I entered the village through an archway having the words “ Tirtha Kshetra Dakshin Kashi Sangam Mahuli Praveshdwaar “, embellished on it. A majestic statuette of Lord Shiva in a aedicule , built atop the arch signified that he was the divine guardian of this village.
Pic: Someshwar mandir
A few hundred meters inside I saw a temple on my immediate left. It had a brightly painted shikhara which grabbed my attention.
Pic: Someshwar temple
On making a few enquiries, I learnt that this was the Someshwar temple which was managed by the royal family of Satara. The temple is quite simple in appearance.
Pic:Someshwar temple sabhamandap
The basic structure has been built in black stone and the columns are made in teakwood. The entire temple is surrounded by a stone wall.
On my immediate left I could see a stone structure with a stairway going up the terrace.
The terrace allowed me a panaromic view of river Krishna and the village ahead.
The temple is newly painted in creamy white and is very well maintained. The sabhamandap is supported by carved teak pillars supporting teak ceiling.
The exterior walls of the sabhamandap (assembly hall) are in stone with a slantying tiled roof perched overhead. A antarala (vestibule)perched on a high platform separates the sabhamandap from the gabhara (sanctum).
The antarala has an decorated stone idol of Nandi (as also on outside), while the gabhara houses a large Shivalinga.
The temple was said to have been originally constructed by Rajmata Sagunabaisaheb, the queen of Chatrapati Shahajiraje Bhosale (a.k.a Appasaheb) in 1874. Its renovation was done by the current scion of Satara royal family HH Udayanraje Bhosale.
After taking the blessings of Lord Shiva we walked out of the temple premises and hit the road again.
Driving a quarter of a kilometer ahead, I came across a masouleum dedicated to Chatrapati Shahu maharaj the grandson of the legendery Maratha king Chatrapati Shivaji.
It was earmarked by these beautiful carvings on its stone platform , of the mythical half bird half animal Sharabha (said to be an incarnation of Lord Shiva) fighting a gigantic serpent like creature,
another showing a sharabha lifting elephants in its bare paws, a hattishilpa, deities etc.
Pic: one of the several samadhis present
Facing the masouleum are several samadhis. But one dedicated to a dog particularly caught my attention. It was the Samadhi of Khandya, the pet dog of Ch.Shahu who had laid down his life saving his master during an hunting expedition.
Also next to the mausoleum was a large wooden chariot, probably used as a vehicle for carrying the deity idols during processions and festivities.
After crossing the masouleum, one enters the heart of the village which has these group of temples like the main Kashi Vishweshwar temple,the Ram temple , the Vithoba temple etc. This land was donated by Ch.Shahu Maharaj to Shripatrao Pant Pratinidhi, his erstwhile minister, and aristocrat from nearby princely state of Aundha, as a ‘Brahman dakshina’. Pant Pratinidhi duly utilized it for constructing temples and further donated the land to another Brahmin, Anant Bhat Galande, a pandit in vedas.
The Kashi Vishweshwar temple has the most impressive architecture one comes across amongst 17th-18th century temples. It was built in 1735 by Shripatrao Pant Pratinidhi. The temple plan measures 50 feet in length and 20 feet in breadth and is built in basalt stone.
The stone ceiling is supported by alternate round,octagonal and square columns of short length afixed on short walls resting on a raised plinth. The ceiling consists of a central dome with a bulbous ribbed head surrounded by relatively smaller spires and a meghdambari style aedicule covering the entrance.
Just before the entrance is the Nandi mandapa with this exquisitely carved dome. All the domes have figurines of deities moulded in stucco over a basic brickwork.
The temple walls (mandovara) are segmented horizontally and are vertically corrugated. The pillars of the temple are also layered as per the traditional temple designs.
The temple pillars also have figures of yakshas (or a devotee?) carved on their top faces.
The temple plan is divided into a sabhamandap, a antarala and the garbhagriha.
The walls flanking the passageway to the garbhagriha have niches with idols of Lord Ganesha and Godess Parvati (in a shakti form) placed within.
The garbhagriha itself is square shaped and houses this beautiful Shivalinga. After offering our obeisance to the divine form , we ventured in the temple courtyard. The temple boundary has a arcade passageway.
We could see various rituals being performed in the confines of this passageway.
The end of the passageway has this rather tall hollow structure. We were told that in the olden times there used to be this huge nagada here which provided a signal for the local villagers of events like arti or even the rising levels of the rivers that flowed alongside.
One also saw a huge stone ‘deepamala’ (lamp pillar) in the courtyard, besides minor temples dedicated to the
Snake god (the snake being a part of Shaivite culture, and is worn by Lord Shiva around his neck) and Lord Hanuman.
The Kashi Vishweshwara temple also witnesses the crossing of rivers Krishna and Venna flowing perpendicular to each other.
From the elevated platform of the temple one also gets a grand view of the Rameshwar temple lying across the river Krishna and the Sangameshwar temple (along with Gosavi smadhis) across river Venna.
Pic: Sangameshwar temple and Gosavi samadhis
The acess to these temples wasn’t possible because of the high water levels, but I was told that there were other roads to enter these temples.I observed that the river bed below the temple premise was rather unkept, possibly because of the obsequies and rituals performed at the river bank.
As I strolled around, I came across this small platform having two Shiva lingas placed side by side. I was told that it was the original samadhi sthal of Ch.Shahu maharaj and his widow Rajmata Sakwarbaisaheb (marked by her stone image) who went Sati at this very spot. The story around the two Shivalingas goes that, previously there was only one Shivalinga which was washed away by a flood. Hence it was replaced with a second Shivalinga. But later the earlier Shivalinga was discovered nearby and subsequently replaced alongside the new one.
Pic: Rai Rakhumabai Vithoba mandir
Neighbouring the Kashi Vishweshawara temple are the Rai Rakhumabai Vithoba temple ,constructed by one Jyotiba Bhagwat sometime in 1730,
Pic: Ram mandir shikhara in the background of the passageway
as is the Ram mandir, built by Trimbak Vishwanath ‘Mama’ Pethe , another nobleman related to the Bhat Peshwe family in 1772. Due to the paucity of time we decided to skip the visits to these temples (there are in all 10-12 temples at Mahuli), as we hoped to cover the Rameshwar temple and the temples at Wai and Menawali which were at a priority in our itenary.
Pic: Rameshwar temple
Our next stop was the Rameshwar temple. To enter here we had to retrace our path and once again reach the archway from where we had entered initially. On the immediate left is a road taking one over the Wellington bridge. After crossing the bridge one has to turn left and pass through a small aley,then a narrow rough road through the fields before we reach the Rameshwar temple.
The first thing we see is the finial of a stone structure constructed at the rear side of the temple.
To enter the actual temple we descended down a series of stone steps.
The temple has a nagara style shikhara made in brickwork , lime and gypsum. The sabhamandap and gabhara are made in stone.
The sabhamandap houses the idols of Lord Ganesha and Parvati aai .
Outside, is a Nandi mandap with a very ornately decorated Nandi idol. Whats unique abut this Nandi are smaller figurines of two women flanking the Shivalinga under the shade of a hooded serpent.
In the premises are minor temples dedicated to Lord Kartikeya (or is it the four headed Shiva or Brahma??), Garuda and other deities.
There is also a tall stone ‘deepasthambha’ alongside.
There are around thirty five steps (built by one Parshuram Narayan Angal of Degaon village in 1700. Shri Angal was also the constructor of this temple) that lead down to the river (Krishna) below. Alongside are also some unfinished steps, whose construction was said to have been started by Peshwa Bajirao II either in the late eighteenth century or in the early nineteenth century, whence he was deposed by the English.
After the ‘dev pooja’ (prayer to god) we decided on some ‘pait pooja’ (prayer to our famished stomach-lunch), and we quickly found a restaurant, Hotel Swarajya nearby. Again we had skipped the visit to the Bilveshwar temple nearby and we proceeded straight towards Wai.
The Mahuli – Wai distance is around 45 kms. Wai is again a very ancient town. It was then known as Viratnagari. As per mythology, the Pandavas were said to have stayed here in the thirteenth year of their exile. In the mid seventeenth century , the Adilshahi commander Afzal Khan had halted in this very town before proceeding to launch his attack on Ch.Shivaji’s regions. We had two destinations in Wai on our itenary. One was the famous Dholya Ganpati mandir on Ganpati ghat and Nana Phadanvis wada at Menawali, hardly a kilometer or two away from Wai.
The Dholya Ganpati mandir is situated on a river ghat. It was constructed in 1762 by Shrimant Ganpatrao Bhikaji Raste. It’s a large but very unassuming temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha.
But particularly impressive is the monolith statue of Lord Ganesha with a protruding belly giving it the sobriquet ‘Dholya’, inside the temple.
Alongside the Dholya Ganpati temple is another old temple built by Sardar Raste. It is called the Wai Kashi Vishweshwar temple.
It is quite similar the Kashi Vishweshwar temple at Mahuli, as far as the basic design and material of the shikhara is concerned.
Particularly beautiful in the intricately carved Nandi idol in the Nandi mandap just outside the sabhamandap.
The shikhara has various deities carved in niches created on the faces of the ‘meghdambari’ style aedicules which form a part of the superstructure along with ‘nagara’ styled ‘kalashas’ (top head to the spire).
There are several more Shiva temples in the vicinity.
On the way , we got a splendid view of the Pandavgad fort (built by the Shilhara ing Bhoj II) crowning the Mandardevi mountain, which also houses the famous Kalubai mandir.
We also passed through this gigantic gatewall before reaching Menawali's wada premises.
Menawali was famous for being the home town of Nana Phadanvis , the regent-minister during the time of Sawai Madhavrao Peshwe. We were very eager to see his ancestral wada (mansion) and the twin temple of Shiva and Vishnu on the ghat facing river Krishna.
This location has been used several times in many movies like Swades,Omkara,Gangajal,Mritydand etc.
The Nana wada seemed to be under renovation, but we did manage to click a few photographs of this once palatial monument, which today in in virtual ruin. Nana Phadnavis used to store his documents (some are still preserved in the Modi script).After Nana died in 1800, Peshwa Bajirao II who always had friction with him , confiscated this wada. But the British (Sir Bartle Frere-governor,Bombay) returned the property to Nanas widow Jeubai in 1804, and the wada is since in possesion of the Phadnavis family till date.
The twin temples of Shiva and Vishnu, just a few steps away from the wada are also a pleasant sight. This entire structure including the temples, the wada’s outer walls is built in a peculiar looking yellowish brown stone which provides a unique effect.
There is also an structure facing the Shiva temple which houses a huge Portuguese make bell made in panchadhaatu (5 alloys), probably collected from the Bassein campaign.
By this time, it was getting dusky because of the approaching winter and we decided to bid adieu to Menawali. But I was sure about onething that I was definitely going to return here sometime in the near future, moreso to cover the temples we had skipped and also view the spectacular Dhom dam site which is just a few kilometers ahead.
Pic:(below) latticed serpent design window at Wai Kashi Vishweshwar temple
Text and photographs: Abhijit Rajadhyaksha, Acknowledgements: Vikrant Mandape