Pune Temples

Growing up in India, I never visited Pune. In fact, my family didn’t really travel very much when I was a kid. The firs time I visited Pune was in 2007, with my then boyfriend (now husband). I liked the city instantly because it’s a lot more liberal than the town I grew up in. Pune also has a lot of history and culture and I finally had the opportunity to visit some of these places recently. The city is spread out so getting around can take a long time and the public transportation isn’t as good as Bombay. But, with Uber and other such options, at least it’s cheap. Most of my Uber rides cost $2 or less!

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Chaturshringi Temple

Chaturshringi Temple

It’s located on top of a small hill in the city, near the University of Pune. At the base of the temple are lots of little shops selling flowers and other religious trinkets you can offer to the gods. Chaturshringi translates into four peaks. You have to climb over 100 steps to get to the top. The temple is 125 feet wide and 90 feet high. According to the legend, a wealthy merchant in the 17th century visited all the temples of goddess Ambareshwari. As he got older he couldn’t travel anymore. One night, the goddess came to him in dreams and told him to go to the mountain. When he went there, he found a natural statue of the goddess and a temple was built in that location.

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Shops at the base of Chaturshringi Temple

The first god you see as climb over 100 steps is the Hanamun Shrine. We went in the middle of a weekday so there weren’t too many people. I’m not very religious so I don’t remember which gods and goddesses were at the main temple. Since I visited in winter, the weather was perfect to climb all the way up to the top, past the temple. At the very top, you get a nice view of Pune city.

IMG_0865-001After sitting at the top for a few minutes, taking in the views, we started our climb down. We took a few breaks on our way down and noticed lots of people were just sitting there with friends and family, hanging out. It felt like people were there more to just take a break than to visit the actual temple. We also noticed a very old, rusted, aerial tram on the side. When we looked more closely, we also saw gates carved from stone which must have been the old entrance before the renovations.

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Old aerial tramway
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Old entrance to the temple

Even though the temple is in the middle of the city, it felt very peaceful. I felt like I was miles away from the city but as soon as you leave the temple ground, you are back in the middle of all the hustle and bustle. It was a very relaxing way to spend the morning and definitely worth visiting once even if you aren’t religious.

Pataleshwar Cave

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this circular structure is the first thing you see

Only about 2 miles from the Chaturshringi temple and part of Pune downtown. This beautiful rock cave was carved in 8th Century from a single rock. When you get out of the Uber, the first thing you see is a huge banyan tree. The tree is striking but the first impression of the rock cave isn’t that great. Mainly because there is no entrance sign so you just kinda walk around until you find the entrance which is past the banyan tree and down a few steps. There are absolutely no signs to tell you what you are looking at, no information to help guide you through the cave but it was surprisingly clean.

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all this was carved out in 8th century!!

The temple is dedicated to god Shiva. However, Patal means underground and Ishwar means god. Lord Shiva is destroyer of evil and associated with mountain. So, my guess is that the name is supposed to indicate the location – a temple that is underground. Not that it’s a temple for the god of the underworld. Since there are no signs or information posted anywhere, all I can do is make an educated guess.

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Shiva’s bull, Nandi

Lots of people living in the city do not know Pataleshwar even exists in downtown Pune. The first thing you see when you enter the cave is a circular structure that houses Shiva’s bull called Nandi. There is an outdoor courtyard where you can sit and relax but there isn’t much shade.

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one of many carvings you see inside the cave

Once you go inside the cave, you see lots of carvings on the walls and the floor of the cave. The temple is carved out of basalt rock and is about 3-4 meters on all sides. In the cave you see smaller areas for different gods and goddesses and the main room houses shivalinga. There were a few people praying and after a while a huge group of elementary kids came in. It looked like they were on a field trip and the kids just roamed around on their own. No one was there to give them a tour and educate them on the history, archaeology, and other aspects of the cave.

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inside the cave

The cave was never finished possibly because of faults in the rocks or due to political turmoil. There is a circular path so you can walk around to the unfinished parts of the cave as well. I so wish there was more information posted about the carvings, what they mean, the details about the cave, how long it took to carve everything, why was it left unfinished and so much more.

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one of the gods inside the cave

The cave is one of the oldest monument in Pune and is managed by the Office of Archaeological Survey of India. I wish and hope that one day they would offer guided tours, put up signs that provide more information about the cave. They can charge a nominal fee to help fund the project and offer knowledgeable guides for those who want to learn more. It is such a unique place that is undervalued and underutilized by the city.

For more pictures of my latest travels, follow me on Rupal’s Travel Diaries

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large carving on the wall inside the cave