The world’s first Adi Shiva Linga is found in the Gupteshwar Mahadev Temple in Mandleshwar on the banks of the Rewa River. This temple is considered to be the oldest Shiva temple in the world and has been described in detail in the Puranas.
Legend has it that a pindi (upper part of the Shiva Linga) fell at this spot due to the curse of a Rishi. Parvati Devi carried this divine embodiment of Lord Shiva and consecrated it in the cave as Gupteshwar Mahadev. This ancient cave temple has existed since antiquity.
For many years, a stream of the sacrosanct Narmada used to fall continuously on the Shiva Linga, but this stream has since been closed. This cave temple was largely unknown for thousands of years.
It is in this place that the legendary debate between Jagadguru Adi Shankaracharya and Mandana Mishra took place in the presence of the latter’s wife who also engaged in a lengthy discussion on the quintessence of the Vedas with Adi Shankara. After Jagadguru defeated the both of them, they begged to be accepted as his disciples. This temple has been mentioned in the exemplary book Shankara Digvijaya written by Vidyaranya.
The Chhappan Dev Mandir established by Jagadguru in honour of Mandana Mishra is located at a little distance from the Gupteshwar Mahadev Temple. Lord Bhairava is placed in the southern part of the temple, Guru Gorakhnath is seated in the north, Lord Kartikeya is placed in the west and Nandi in the east with the presiding deity Mandaneshwar in the centre.
Locals say that Aurangzeb destroyed many temples in this historical city in the 16th century. Idols of about 56 temples nearby were hidden in an opening in the dome of the Mandaneshwar Temple. This temple has since been known as Chhappan Dev because of this incident.
The water in the five stepwells attached to this temple is believed to have healing powers. People come from far-flung places to bathe in these holy waters to rid themselves of skin diseases, paralysis and other serious ailments.
Mandleshwar is visited by few as most people head straight to Maheshwar, the capital of the Holkars. This vibrant city has many beautiful bathing ghats, old temples and kunds.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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