1,000-year old Shiva temple in Maharashtra to be revamped

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Thane (Maharashtra), Dec 21 (IANS) After nearly 10 centuries, the striking Shiva temple in the Ambernath town here is poised for a huge makeover with several world-class facilities for the devotees and tourists who throng there.
The spectacular stone temple, around 60 km north of Mumbai, is considered among the oldest and still-functional Shiva temples in Maharashtra.
The revamp project was announced by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday with an outlay of Rs 43 crore to upgrade the facilities at the temple which falls under the jurisdiction of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
“Many years ago when I had visited the temple, I saw it lacked many facilities. It’s time to augment the amenities,” Thackeray said about the project, which would be extended to other ancient temples in the state.
The revamp project shall be guided by Urban Development Minister Eknath Shinde and his son Shrikant Shinde, Shiv Sena MP from Kalyan.
“I am regularly monitoring and reviewing the project status to ensure it proceeds well,” Shrikant Shinde said on Monday.
The announcement sent waves of excitement among the 3 lakh plus population of Ambernath city, and another 17 lakh in the rural settlements in the vicinity.
“This Shiva temple is ancient with immense heritage value. People come from all over the state and even elsewhere to admire its beauty and offer prayers here,” M.P. Joshi, a local history enthusiast, told IANS.
Besides, the surrounding hills attract many trekkers, picnickers, nature lovers, heritage buffs and experts on a regular basis.
“The Shiva temple is in its full glory during the annual 10-day Maha Shivratri celebrations, when over 100,000 people descend here from all over the state and outside for the festivities and other cultural programmes,” Joshi said.
Said to be built in the 10th century AD on the banks of Waldhuni river, the temple’s exteriors and interiors are adorned with eye-catching and exquisitely carved images of Hindu gods, goddesses, animals and other figures.
Popular as the ‘Shiv Mandir of Ambernath’, it was originally known as Ambreshwar Shiva Mandir, and locals call it Puratana Shivalaya. It stands imposingly barely 2 km away from the Ambernath suburban railway station.
Another local, B. Talreja, pointed out that the temple stands in a green oasis of around 1 km on all sides, free of any human developments or encroachments.
“However, it lacks even basic amenities for the pilgrims and tourists. But now we are certain that it will be beautified and all facilities shall be provided,” Talreja said.
Located on the ancient trade routes connecting the Deccan plateau and beyond to the eastern and northern India, the temple will witness phase-wise augmentation of various facilities like a new garden, amphitheatre, resting places for the tourists, parking, children’s playing area, and beautification of the Waldhuni riverbanks.
Built in a ‘bhumija’ form, the sanctum-sanctorum is situated below the ground, approachable by 20 steps from the surface. It falls in the classical styles of the Shilahara King Chhittaraja, and is said to be later renovated by his son Mumunni around 1060 AD.

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