Should even one’s enemy arrive at the doorstep, he should be attended upon with respect. A tree does not withdraw its cooling shade even from the one who has come to cut it. ~Mahabharata 12.146.5
Getting to Bhuleshwar Temple was no easy task – just as getting to anywhere in Pune is fraught with challenges of the traffic kind.
We hit heavy, heavy traffic on the road due to construction. As is common in this country, the construction was unmarked. The cars and motorcycles, as is the norm in Pune, created their own paths and lanes contributing to the heavy congestion when they, inevitably, had to merge back into the main line of the street. Hurry up and wait. I was thankful I had a driver to get me through the mess.
The temple was high on a hill out in the country. The road was steep and a bit twisty accommodating one car at a time through the tight curves. I wondered if the small engined car would be able to push it’s way up the hill or if we would have to get out and walk the final approach. The driver turned off the air conditioner giving the car a bit more oomph and she became the little engine that could making it all the way to the top before coming to rest beneath a tree with red flowers and a much deserved rest.
The temperature crashed through 100 F (38C) barrier much the same as it has been every day since I landed on the waning days of March 2013 so I was glad the final approach did not need a human powered ascent. I have been enjoying this heat since I escaped the long, dreary Chicago winter but am careful not to immerse my fair skin in too much of the sun’s rays.
Here, we were in a desert country. I have long been a fan of spartan desert landscapes. For many, deserts are something to be avoid at all costs. Not me, I would much prefer the wide open vistas available in the desert than being in a dense forest of trees with views reduced to the grove of trees in the immediate vicinity and the ever present mosquitoes hunting in swarms as thick as clouds.
Cooling trees were not abundant, barely dotted the landscape. More common was a plant reminiscent of the century plant, an agave, found in the US desert Southwest. There were quite a number of these plants, some in stands so thick, it would have been impossible to walk between them without getting a spine in the flesh from the pointed leaves. A few still had the remnants of tired, dried out stalks standing high overhead, none sprouted the bonnet of joyous flowers that explode when the stalk reaches it’s peak. It just wasn’t the season for flowers. They will remain hidden until the monsoons drop precious water on this hill.
The cool temple interior was exquisite. Stone carvings were everywhere. It seemed as though the ancients chiseled there way into a mountain leaving beauty in their wake. Some were small and delicate, the perfect size for a child’s play set except these were an adornment of the wall not something that could be taken off the shelf and played with.
The corridors were lined with pillars carved in geometric forms. Others were adorned with figurines. Most every wall was decorated in some way by the ancient artisans. Sadly, many of the statues were partially broken, disfigured in some way hiding from my arms an bit of it’s original beauty. Arms missing, heads missing. I wasn’t sure if this was the result of natural decay or vandalism. Since it dates back to 1230 AD, I will go with the decay theory, a theory congruent with the decay of my own body as the years fly by.
The temple was built to honor the Hindu god Shiva know as the transformer or destroyer. Taking pictures of a god’s face is frowned upon so I was not able to collect any images of the god. I was able to get a picture of Nandi the bull that looks at the god. Perhaps, if we look deep into the eye of Nandi, we can see Shiva reflected in the bull’s soul.
Visiting creations honoring deities is easily one of my favorite adventures when travelling. It is in these places that man puts his best effort forward and creates stunning beauty. I get great joy when I visit places like Il Duomo in Milan Italy, the Blue Mosque in Istanbul and cave churches scattered through out Turkey, the Karla caves in Lonavala India, and, of course, Bhuleshwar Temple.
Looking with modern day eyes, I find it amazing that these creations were done without computer simulation, without power tools. I find it amazing these creations were crafted with primitive hand tools with blueprints existing solely in their imaginations of their creators.
I find myself wondering about the history behind the temple, the meaning behind the carvings, the story of the lives of those who’s blood and sweat made his place possible.
I also find myself wondering if these beautiful carvings were made out of love or of fear. Were the artisans full of fear at making a design not perfect such that it would be found offensive by their god. Was it this fear that drove them to create beauty? Or were they so full of love for their god that they did everything in their power to make beauty worthy of a god?
I think back to my dad and his wooden creations. He enjoyed the creative process, spent many an hour in his workshop creating beauty, striving for perfection. I can see him as the legacy of those ancient craftsmen, albeit without his beloved power tools, spending day after day meticulously creating intricate beauty.
With this in mind and my own experiences in the creative process, I don’t believe consistently exquisite creations can come from a source of fear. I must conclude the ancient artisans worked out love – love for their craft, love for their creations, love for their creator, that this beauty left behind is a loving gift they bestowed to posterity. I see the entire temple as a manifestation of man’s love for god.