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A lazy rainy Saturday afternoon added to a day off from work seemed like the perfect weekend for us.

It was the monsoon season in Pune. For us roommates, the kitchen always served to be the ultimate Great Hall of conversations, from the gossips of an upcoming wedding, or the conspiracy against the new agonizing boss, to the eavesdropping aunt next door. The kitchen walls have heard it all. “So what’s the plan for today?” asked Kanika enthusiastically, while we were preparing our brunch. Only Kanika and I were home that day. It would be a sin if such an exceptionally beautiful day is left unexplored.  After thinking for a while I said “let’s explore a new place in the city.” Kanika felt it was a good idea.

It’s something really amazing to have an enthusiastic travel partner with you. It just doubles your fun during the travel. Kanika was one such sweetheart. It was time we both set for our expedition of the day not really aware of our destination or definition of the ‘unexplored-new-place-in-the-city’. We just headed towards the city center from our Ghetto of the IT crowd clad town.

We searched for many places in and around Pune on Google, but nothing caught our attention. I have always been fascinated about the rock-cut cave temples of India. I found them quite mysterious and always felt there was a lot they wanted to convey us than just the fact that they once served as shelters. These caves are usually situated far from the city so visiting them and returning back in a day is usually not possible. So very randomly and with very little hope I searched if there are any rock-cut cave temples around Pune and WHOA!! I was shocked to see that there was indeed a rock cave temple in the midst of the city, at Jungli Maharaj Road.

J.M. Road is one of the busiest roads of Pune. I have traveled many a times on the road but hardly realized there could be caves hidden somewhere around. Following our GPS, we finally managed to reach the temple which would further lead us to the caves. The caves make way through the temple dedicated to the Hindu deity Lord Pataleshwar. Making our way up the pavement of the few damp steps of the temple, we reached the entrance where the magnificent caves, illuminated by their own glory stood.

On the very entrance of the caves, stood the garbagriha, a circular room which housed the Shiva Linga. Protecting the Shiva Linga, was the Nandi mantapa or the Nandi statue. The garbagriha is surrounded by the caves which once probably served as the viharas. One strange phenomenon I noticed about the temple’s architecture was that, it resembled a Buddhist as well as a Hindu temple. When we asked the curator of the temple, we were told that the temple construction was initially started by the Buddhists but was discontinued later due to some unknown reasons and later the construction resumed after many years by the shaivites, thus dedicating the temple to the Hindu god, Shiva. The architecture pertaining to both the religions can be clearly seen even today. The vihara is a semi circular rock-cut cave, cut out of a single rock which houses a few Hindu deities and a corridor alongside. Not a huge cave, but the serenity it bestows is just mesmerizing.

It was just impossible for us to believe there could stand such an awe-inspiring structure hidden amidst the chaotic life of a busy city. The rain just augmented the beauty of it that day. We spent almost half a day at the Temple and it was now time for us to leave. With great difficulty, we bid the splendid place adieu and wished to come here often.

This place is definitely worth a visit and I would recommend a day dedicated to it if you are holidaying in Pune/ Mumbai. The best time to visit is during the monsoons, which makes it all the more beautiful. The temple is open between 8.30 am and 5.30 pm and is an ideal place for nature lovers and photographers.

The Garbagriha