What is in a name?
A lot In India, miles of History , myths and fables which would give Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and the Avatar a run for their money.
Mahabaleshwar is a small town located in the hills within the Western Ghats and 120 kms from Pune.
Mahabal literally means of GREAT STRENGTH. Atibal means EXCESSIVE STRENGTH.
Thus begins the story of two Demon brothers/ Rakshas ( Hindi) or Asuras
( symbolising evil) , Mahabal and Atibal.
Both the demons were brothers and as the names suggest extremely powerful and strong. Obsessed and drunk with power they wreaked havoc on all of humanity.
Invoked by the prayers of the oppressed, LORD VISHNU slays the mighty Atibal after a prolonged and exhausting battle.( moral being that even great strength can come to naught if misused )
Now a shift to the present. There is a temple even today called ATIBALESHWAR ( see the picture above) near a far larger and revered MAHABALESHWAR temple in Kshetra Mahabaleshwar.
The architecture of the temple is however unique and makes it stand apart from other temples of the Kshetra Mahabaleshwar.
Built like a Pagoda it even has the edges tweaked upwards. Have a look
Furthermore, mysteriously it is dedicated to Lord Siva, not Lord Vishnu.
The Nandi (the name of Lord Shiva’s vehicle in the form of a BULL) clearly indicates the ruling deity is LORD SHIVA.
Inside the temple premises
The entire temple is made from a volcanic black stone . A characteristic of most temples of the region.
What is highly unusual and surprising is the interiors are pitch black. Not a ray of light penetrates the thick black walls.
What is hidden inside?Was the temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu in former times ? Have I read correctly?
It rains incessantly during the monsoons in Mahabaleshwar and you can probably see this in the pictures as well. The rains are wonderful as they keep the tourists away too.
This statue is rather unusual and a presentation I have never seen in any other temple in India.
It is indeed a mysterious temple and raises many unanswered questions.
The location of the exit is equally strange and seems to be an improvisation to facilitate a thoroughfare.
I have to go back to Mahabaleshwar to tell you the story of the demon Mahabal and the other mysteries that cloak the Kshetra Mahabaleshwar.