Nashik (Maharashtra), Jan 12: Just 10 days ahead of the 'Pran Pratishtha' of the much-anticipated Lord Ram Temple in Ayodhya, Prime Minister Narendra Modi prayed at the historic Shree Kalaram Temple in Panchvati area of the district, here on Friday.
The PM was welcomed by the trustees of the Shree Kalaram Temple Trust, then he was taken around the temple precincts, took ‘darshan’. performed an ‘aarti’, was honoured with a shawl and later presented with a photo-frame of the temple idols, a replica of the temple and a plaque.
Later, Modi sat with some priests and bhajan singers and took part in the singing of holy hymns by playing a pair of mini-cymbals, at the temple situated in the lush green hills of Panchvati overlooking the northern banks of the River Godavari.
The temple, steeped in folklore, derives its name from a black idol of Lord Rama along with Sita and Lakshman, plus a black statue of Lord Hanuman at the main entrance of the temple.
According to legends, the Prince of Ayodhya, Ram, Sita and Lakshman had lived in the Panchvati area for over two years of their 14-year ‘vanvaas’ (exile) from Ayodhya Kingdom, and the Shree Kalaram Temple also has 14 steps, symbolizing the exile period.
The temple’s official website informs that the present temple construction began in 1780 by Sardar Rangrao Odhekar and Sawaee Madhavrao Peshwa, and is a unique example of the architecture of that era.
While the main temple was completed in 1792, later the sabhamandap, the stilt around the temple and fencing were also finished by 1799.
The expert masons of that period dug out blocks of the best quality black stone from the Ramshej Hills near Nashik and then tested each block in boiling milk before using it for the temple construction.
“The main structure of the temple stands in the middle of a walled enclosure with 96 pillars and entrance on the east through an arched portal. The ‘Kalash’ is made of 32 tons of gold. The copper peak of the temple is gold-plated and looks ravishing by day and night as well,” as per the temple website.
The blackstone Shree Kalaram Temple construction cost Rs 23 laks and 2,000 workers toiled on it for 12 long years to build the magnificent structure as it stands today. The copper peak of the temple is gold-plated and is all glitter during the day and night.
The temple has a more contemporary historical and social connect, when in 1930, Dr B.R. Ambedkar, the champion of the deprived masses, social reformer and the Chief Architect of the Constitution, led a huge protest here, seeking entry of Dalits.
Nashik district is ranked as the pilgrimage capital of Maharashtra with River Godavari, believed to be the ‘Dakshin Ganga’, and associated with Lord Ram, the Panchvati Hills and the Shree Kalaram Temple, and it was in the Panchvati hills where Lakshman cut off the nose of demoness 'Shurpanakha', the sister of demon King Ravana of Lanka, after she attacked Sita.
The district also has the Shri Trimbakeshwar Shiva Temple at Trimbak town, around 28 kms from Nashik which is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas, and the River Godavari also originates from here, plus the revered Shree Kapaleshwar Mahadev Temple.
Trimbakeshwar-Nashik is also the site for the great Kumbh Mela held here every 12 years -- the next one scheduled in 2027 -- in which millions of pilgrims congregate here from all over the world.
The government now plans to make an integrated pilgrim tourist circuit for the region comprising Panchvati, Trimbakeshwar, akin to the Ayodhya-Kashi corridor.