One of the finest examples of the Hemadpanthi style of architecture is the Gondeshwar Temple at Sinnar. Considered to be the largest, most complete and best preserved medieval temple of the Deccan, Gondeshwar Temple bathed in the golden hue effulgence of the sun at sunrise and sunset is a spectacle to behold!
According to historical records, Sinnar also known as Sindinagar or Seunapura was governed by Bhillama III of the Seuna or Yadavas of Devagiri as a feudatory of the Kalyani Chalukya (also known as Western Chalukya) king Jayasimha II. However, with time this place lost its prominence and was re-established by a Gavli chieftain, Ravi Singuni during the 11th century. There is a bit of confusion over who built this temple in the 12th century as one record gives credit to Ravi Singuni’s son Rav Govinda and another to Govinda Raja.
This impressive Shivapanchayatana temple complex has the central shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva and four temples around it dedicated to Parvathi Devi, Lord Ganesha, Bhagawan Surya and Lord Vishnu. The symmetry and proportion of this temple complex is most striking as is the ornate detailing on the exterior walls.
This temple complex is built in the locally available black basalt stone and lime and stands on a rectangular pedestal of about 38 metres by 28 metres. There are two gateways on the south and east. There is a Nandi pavilion in the front of the main entrance of the temple.
The central shrine has a sabha mandap with a dome that is about 6 metres in height supported by four elaborately carved pillars and bounded by three richly decorated porches. A beautiful Kurma avatar sits in the centre of the hall facing the sanctum sanctorum which has a towering shikara over the Shiva Linga.
The ceilings of the porches have lovely outer rings of cusped ornaments with a central carving and appear to have been carved from a single stone. The face of the octagonal band has sculptures of sages, warriors, social life, erotica, processions, musicians, dancers and instrumentalists.
The rathas in the temples are in perfect harmony with the horizontal mouldings. The entire composition of decorated pillars, elephant bands in the base of the walls, highly ornamented porches, floral motifs, Brahmi, Gaja Lakshmi, Shiva performing the Tandava, Gomukh, Makara, graceful figures of women, apsaras, gandharvas, kinnaras and panels depicting scenes from the Ramayana, Mahabharat and Puranas is absolutely breath-taking.
The open circular cut-out in the ceiling with the main temple in the background is a delightful surprise. The main courtyard is about 100 metres in length and 80 metres in width. There is a temple tank to the east of the complex.
The magnificent shikhara which bears resemblance to the Bhumija style is stunning to say the least! Photographs will not be able to do justice to the visual play of light and shadow on the rathas, the horizontal relief work and the intricately detailed sculptures. This architectural marvel is a hidden gem that has withstood the harsh weather conditions for centuries and is now a protected monument of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)