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Ambarnath Shiv Mandir – Ambarnath Shiva Temple Near Mumbai

Ambarnath Shiv Mandir near Mumbai is both famous as an architectural marvel as well spiritually and religiously important place. Ambarnath Shiva Temple is famous for its wish fulfillment deity. Many devotees suffering from ailments, those desirous of having children; those wanting to recover lost people or lost objects; and others having some unfulfilled desires visit the shrine. For some, the visit to this temple is for moksha or liberation. Ambarnath Shiva Temple is a classic example of the fantastic architectural and structural achievements of the 10th century craftsmen.

The temple is around 3 kilometer away from Ambernath Railway Station and is built on an east-west axis.

Ambarnath Shiv Mandir History

Upon the beam above the inside of the north door of the hall is engraved an inscription which records in Sakha 982 (1060 AD) this temple was built during the reign of the Silsahara Chief Mummuni or Manvani. This temple was probably rebuilt on an original at the same site by the Mahamandaleshwara of the Northern Konkan whose capital was Puri, which was possibly situated on the Salsette Island near the Kondivte caves, and 6 to 8 kilometers south of Kanheri. Silaharas of the Northern Konkan were vassal to the Rashtrakutas and the later Chalukyas of Kalyana. Manvani was thus in all probability a feudatory of the Chalukya King Someshwara I and they carried the Suvarna Garauda Dhwaja or the banner of the Golde Garuda. They bore the title of Tagarapura – Parameshwara or the Lord of the city of Tagara, or Ter in Maharashtra.

Ambarnath Shiva Temple Architecture

The temple appears to be carved from a single rock for the common man but in fact is a fine example of Silahara masonry without lime mortar.

The protective wall is 50 meters long and on the south-west side 35 meters wide. The temple is 30 meters long and 24 meters wide with a shikhara of 60 meters high. The temple was surrounded by a courtyard containing smaller buildings but now most materials have disappeared. There was a pavilion right in front of the west or main entrance under which Nandi rested facing the shrine. On the south of the courtyard there is a small square tank with steps and to the west of the temple there were two carved gateways.

Amarnath Shiva Temple is one of the earlies examples of Deccan style of architecture. It was customary to construct gateways, and many such archways mush have existed around the temple. Similarly, old Dharmashalas, schools for Vedic scholars, residences for the priests and attendants must have existed here.

The mass of the building looks heavy owing to the truncated condition of its Shikhara, and the absence of the many crowning finials of the roof. The mass is broken into a thousand facets of light and shade, and reveal themselves in all their fantasy of design and form. The walls are arranged in alternate projections and recesses. These are crossed again by deeply cut mouldings and horizontal lines. The great profusion of images, large and small produce a most pleasing texture around the surface.

The mandapa has three entrances each with its own porch. Four free standing pillars support the ceiling of the hall and these with six others in the three porches are all that is left today. The pillars are richly carved, and the ones in the hall resemble those at Vimalasa’s temple at Abu. The pillars have a square base, and rise to a round neck and round capitals. The carvings on the pillars start from the base, and numerous figures are elaborately carved to give a fine-textured appearance.

The plan is made up of two squares set diagonally against one another, touching corner to corner. The smaller square forms the shrine and the large one forms the Mandapa. The sides have been whittled down to narrow panels, by the deep recessing of the corners into angles. The projections around the wall form several buttresses to strengthen them. The projections and recesses produce a fanciful, yet pleasing pattern for the exterior.

The floor of the temple sanctum is sunk below the outside ground level, and is some 2.5 meters lower than that of the hall. It is approached by steps from the antechamber of Antarala. As usual, there were two levels in the Gabhara. The upper level, which had ceremonial image or Linga was crushed when the Shikhara fell down through its floor and destroyed it. The broken ledges of masonry in the Gabhara indicate the presence of this floor. The duplicate linga for every day worship is placed in the upper shrine, whereas the principle linga is placed below. This was so arranged when the Muslim aggression was feared and when the entrance to the lower level was closed and the iconoclasts were allowed to wreak their arrogance upon the upper Linga, which was the dummy.

The ceiling panels of the Sabhamandap are very richly decorated. In the central bay, which rests on four main heavy beams and four pillars, is the main dome with beautiful carvings. It rises in a series of concentric circles to a central pendant. The lowest circle is carved with running scroll, while the remaining four are scooped out into half cup-shaped and cusped hollows. The triangular spaces in the corner are filed with Kirtimukha face and scroll work.

Between the central dome and the doorway of the shrine are flat ceiling panels which are decorated with lotus rosettes and other flat ornaments. In the hall the faces of the beams are decorated with rows of little figures in miniature pillared niches.

The raised threshold of the doorway has a Kirtimukha face on either side of the central boss and before it, is the ornamental Ardhachandra or low step, like a semi-circular mat. The exterior moldings have many features. One o the seven bands, three are missing in this temple. The Chajali above the Garaspatti or band of faces, the Ashvathara or the band of horses which should have been above the band of elephants, and the Harathara, or band of men, which is usually the topmost moulding of the base or pitha.

On the wall or Mandora are mouldings and figure panels. The Jangha, or the band of figure panels are the principle external images which adorn the temple. They are made up of Gods and Goddesses, yogis and dancing girls. There are three niches on the outside of the walls of the shrine. The niche on the back wall has a trimurti or trinity of Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu. It is in the form of a standing male figure with three faces and eight arms. On the North, the principle niche is occupied by Mahakali, while below her on the base stand Brahman and Saraswati. Above Mahakali is a Trimurti and above the Trimurti in a circular niche is Nateshwara. The central niche on the south side has Shiva dancing the Tandava or Nateshwara.

The bands, scrollwork, images and other carvings render this temple unique in this region. The roof from the cornice above is in the Northern style architecture.