he ancient hill-fort of Harishchandragad located in Malshej Ghat in the district of Ahmednagar at about an altitude of 4,670 ft is a historical treasure chest. It is believed to have conclusive finds of microlith (chipped stone used as tools) used by man about 35,000-3,000 years ago in the Microlithic Age. This sacred place has also been mentioned several times in the ancient scriptures of Matsyapurana, Agnipurana and Skandapurana.
The carvings in Harishchandragad Fort and varied constructions in the surrounding area strongly suggests the existence of diverse cultures. Locals say that the fort was built by the Kalachuri dynasty in the 6th century and the caves of Harishchandragad Fort are believed to be carved out in the 11th century. All of them have idols of Lord Vishnu and the Harishchandragad Temple was also built along the same time. The temple is dedicated to Harishchandreshwar and built in the Hemadpanti style of architecture (style incorporating black stone and lime without using any mortar using the technique of mortise and tenon joint).
The great sage Changdev stayed at the fort spending his time in deep meditation in the temple and also wrote the famous manuscript ‘Tatvasaar’ in the 14th century. The fort was in the control of the Mughals in the 16th century before the mighty Marathas captured it in the 18th century.
This temple carved from a monolithic has some stunning sculptures and an inscription set by Rishi Changdev in Devanagari. The carvings inside the Harishchandreshwar temple and in Kedareshwar cave suggest that the citadel belongs to the medieval period which is also in consonance with the style of architecture.
The holy river commonly referred to as Mangal Ganga is stated to originate from the water tanks surrounding the temple. The Saptatirtha Pushkarni meaning Seven Waters is by the eastern side of the temple known for its healing properties. An interesting aspect of this Pushkarni is that the water is icy cold despite being out in the open! There are many notable places of interest here and one can really experience the impressive quietude, weathered rock and stunning view from this vantage point.
There are three caves close to the temple. The most mysterious is the Kedareshwar Cave which is located to the right of the temple. This beautiful cave has a 5 feet tall Shiva Linga sitting in the middle of ice-cold water. The water is about waist-high and the Shiva Linga is quite difficult to access owing to the cold nature of water. There are lovely sculptures carved out in the cave. Locals say that this cave is quite inaccessible in the monsoon because of a huge stream that flows across the way. Another interesting point is that water seeps into this temple every day through the four walls.
There is a huge rock above the Shiva Linga and four pillars around it support the cave. Now legend has it that these four pillars represent the four Yugas of Satya, Treta, Dwapura and Kali. A pillar breaks off on its own at the end of each Yuga!
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)