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Gavi Gangadhareshwara temple
For centuries, the Gavi Gangadhareshwara temple has fascinated researchers and drawn hordes of devotees.
Science and religion are formidable adversaries, perpetually at war. But at the Gavi Gangadhareshwara Temple near Chamarajpet, the two combine to produce a spectacular effect that has both scientists and devotees fascinated. For centuries, this temple, which is hewn out of rock and dedicated to Lord Shiva, has drawn massive crowds on Makara Sankranthi day. The majority throng to watch what they believe is a divine event, but the phenomenon has also turned the temple into a laboratory for astronomers.
On Sankranthi day (January 14 or 15 depending on the Hindu calendar), the rays of the setting sun pass through the horns of the idol of a Nandi (bull) in the courtyard and illuminate the Shiva Lingam, the main deity deep inside a cave. The event is so popular that it is usually telecast live on television.
The temple is believed to have been sculpted in the ninth century and later renovated by Kempe Gowda, the founder of the city. For years, the temple has generated plenty of curiosity among the scientific community. The two large stone discs in the front yard – called Surya Pana and Chandra Pana – are a unique feature. The discs are identical in size and the engravings on either side of the disc resemble crosshairs of a telescope. No one quite knows the origin or the purpose of the discs. Moreover, they are only found in this temple.
P Jayanth Vyasanakere, K Sudheesh, and BS Shylaja, who have done extensive research on the temple, revealing that the light from the setting sun floods the south-western part of the temple, passes through an arch and a couple of windows placed perpendicular to each other, and then through the horns of the Nandi. It illuminates the idol kept deep inside the cave for about 15 minutes (between 4.55 pm and 5.15 pm).
Another unique feature of the temple is that it was built to mark both solstices, which are important events in the Hindu calendar. Between 2005 and 2008, these scientists closely observed the shadow cast by the sun’s rays and have also studied the design of the building. From two paintings made by British artists William and Thomas Daniell, the trio concludes that the phenomenon was brought about by renovations made to the temple around 200 years ago. A detailed inspection of the paintings shows that the passage of the sunlight into the cave was probably intended to mark the winter solstice.
Subsequent constructions and renovations have perhaps altered the effect so that it coincides with January 14. They conclude that the two large discs in the courtyard are aligned to the summer solstice. The shadow of a recently erected bronze pillar coincides with the vertical marking of the disc, a fact which had gone unnoticed for years.
The temple is hewn out of the rock. The main deity, the Shiva Lingam, is placed deep inside a cave and is illuminated by the rays of the sun on Makara Sankranthi.
You Must Know!
- This temple houses a unique idol of Agni, probably the only one of its kind in south India.
- There is also a splendid image of Shakti Ganapati with 12 hands.
- Four monolith pillars in the courtyard represent Damaru, Trishula, and two discs