Aundha Nagnath, Maharashtra
The Nageshvara Temple is one of the Jyotirlingas, one of twelve Hindu temples of particularly special importance to the deity Shiva. It is traditionally the tenth temple of the list, though not necessarily in either importance or in order to be visited. Per the Jyotirlinga legend, Shiva appeared on the spot as a beam of light. Like several of the other Jyotirlingas, the site of Nageshvara is uncertain, and it is probably the most controversial of all twelve sites. At least two major rival temples also claim to be the location of this particular Jyotirlinga.
The Nageshvara Temple is absolutely the hardest of the twelve Jyotirlinga shrines to identify. Named in the list of twelve lingas, there is virtually no clue given as to where this site is except that it is located deep in a forest. The three claimants are the Aundha Nagnath Temple in Maharashtra; the Nageshvara Temple in Gujarat; and the Jageshwar Temple in Uttarakhand. The dominant claimant appears to be that of the Aundha Nagnath Temple.
Aundha Nagnath is a very old center of Hindu worship. As with many of the Jyotirlinga shrines, that of Nageshvara is tied to a tale of a battle between Lord Shiva and a demon. After defeating the demon, who had taken the local villagers hostage and kept them imprisoned under the sea, allowed his linga to reside here (again, this story may actually refer to one of the other villages).
More specific to Aundha Nagnath, a tale is told of two popular Hindu saints, Namdev and Visoba, who once met at the temple. Mamdeth, finding Visoba with his feet resting on the linga, chastised the famous guru. However, the guru observed that no matter where one stood, Shiva was there anyway, proving his omnipresence.
Temples have stood in Aundha Nagnath since the Middle Ages. The current structure dates largely from the 13th century. This temple was badly damaged by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb during the 17th century. Perhaps because of its uncertain location, the Aundha Nagnath Temple does not receive quite as many pilgrims as the other Jyotirlingas, but is still considered one of Maharashtra’s more important Hindu sites.
The Aundha Nagnath Temple is one of the most easily recognized Hindu temples in India, which is saying a lot. This is thanks in large part to the two completely different styles of construction that cannot be mistaken even by a small child. The bottom half of the temple dates back centuries. Built of well-weathered stone, every inch of the lower half is covered in intricate carvings. The top half of the temple, constructed much more recently, consists of some of the most brilliant white marble work ever seen. The effect is that the place looks as though one brand new temple was simply dumped on top of a shabby old temple.
The temple interior is more uniform, though it too has enjoyed considerable renovations in recent years. The centerpiece linga juts out of the ground directly underneath the towering, brilliant white pyramid dome that completely dominates the surrounding neighborhood.
The Aundha Nagnath Temple is located on the south side of the city of Aundha Nagnath, approximately 250 miles east of Mumbai. As of this writing no visitor information was available. Web: www.maharashtratourism.gov.in (official tourism website of Maharashtra).
There are no other temples in Aundha Nagnath that measure up to the stature of the Jyotirlinga, despite the rival claims. However, for those pilgrims who want to be absolutely certain they have visited the correct Nageshvara Temple, there is the Nageshvara Temple in the city of Dwaraka and the Jageshwar Temple in Almora.