The serene Bhunda Temple

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 14 Sep 2017 09:06:53



Vijay Phanshikar

Even more than sixty years ago, Sitabuldi was known as a crowded area, may be proportionate to the city’s population and its commerce then. People were always milling around, almost always in a rush to go somewhere, always bereft of enough time to connect with others. And in the thick of all that, going to Bhunda Mahadev Temple at the western end of the Tekdi Line and spending some evening time in that beautifully carved and finely architectured place of worship with Mother was a matter of special joy for us siblings.

Today, more than sixty years from that moment, Bhunda Mahadev Temple is still almost the same place, serene and almost secluded once you enter its sanctum sanctorum. The architecture of that little place is so designed that you get a feeling that you have been quarantined from the din and grime of the chaotic urban surroundings and the obnoxiously thick and shrill traffic flow all 24 hours. Stand in front of the east-facing door of the little temple and look inside and you will get transported into a zone of serenity that may even surprise you at least for a while. The temple has the ability to create a cocoon of spiritually impregnable walls that keep everything else out.

When ancient Indians developed temple architecture, their idea was simple: To provide the devotees an ambience that would withdraw them from the physicality of the mundane surroundings and place them in the middle of a spiritually cleansed place. The Indian temples were often multi-layered and led the devotee from the brightly lit outside to the inner layers that were getting increasingly darker. Finally, in the sanctum sanctorum, the devotee confronts a pale light in which the idol is barely visible, good enough to develop an inner focus.

When he evolved his own method of designing and constructing temples in the face of cruel invasions that aimed at destroying everything virtuous, the then Prime Minister Hemadri -- in ancient times -- took care that even in hurriedly created temples, the calmness of ambience was
retained. In all the thousands of Hemadpanthi temples dotting the Indian landscape, devotees experience the same serene feeling.

In his seminal work ‘Four Books on Architecture’, Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio (1570, originally
published in Italian) discusses various aspects of architecture. In the fourth book, he talks of Roman temples, mainly the Pantheon, and how its design impacted human mood. He developed a theory, architecture has a specific ability to shape human emotions and elevate those to sublime levels.

Despite it being in the thick of the urban din and dust, the Bhunda Mahadev Temple, too, displays a similar capacity even though it is a very small place just on the edge of ever-increasing urban indifference. Now also, I feel tempted to stop by the Bhunda Mahadev Temple and go in for a few minutes, draw in that serenity, fill the chest with an indefinable faith in goodness, and then carry on with the chores at hand. In childhood and youth more than sixty years ago, that was a prime temptation.

Nagpur, of course, has countless such temples that offer similar serene feeling to anybody visiting those at any time of the day or night. The rippling sound of the temple gong, the pale light filling the sanctum sanctorum, the carefully crafted stones, the fine carvings -- all these influence human mood so wonderfully that one does not mind the materialistic chaos in the surroundings later on.

Bhunda Mahadev Temple, for me, has had a special significance -- on personal as well as professional levels. Personally, I often recharged my spiritual battery by visiting the place. Professionally, the temple has stood witness to my work as a Reporter and News-photographer as I often stood in its premises while covering countless political and social protest marches and rallies that the cops would stop near the Morris College T-Point.

In the past fifty-one years of professional work, I have often taken resort to the Bhunda Mahadev temple for a quick snatch of calmness.  I have witnessed from the temple’s shadow many protests taking violent turn. I had felt terribly sad and sunk when I saw dozens of human bodies lying on the road having been trampled upon by their Gowari kin who wanted to rush away from a perceived police firing.

And to restore my sense of sanity, I remembered having walked to the front of the Bhunda Mahadev Temple to urge the Lord -- Shiva -- to give me courage to face the human trauma of extreme nature. Yes, those few moments in the Lord’s presence have often refurbished my faith in goodness and virtue. I have felt that very soothing inner calm in those moments that tested my sense of balance.

Even today, the Bhunda Mahadev Temple has not lost its calm charm. In fact, I find that it has increased in these times, perhaps as a divine reposte` to the madly materialistic world around.