For every pious Hindu or Shaiva devotee, Ghrushneshwar is the last stop of what is known as the Dwadash Jyotirlinga Yatra. It is here that you will find the 12th ‘jyotirlinga’. Located near Verul (Ellora), 11 kilometers from Daulatabad in the Aurangabad district, Ghrushneshwar is also a favourite with tourists who come to see the caves of Ajanta and Ellora. If finding spiritual solace is your aim, Ghrushneshwar offers that and much more.
The temple at Ghrushneshwar stands as an illustration of the architecture of the 18thcentury. Built of red stone it is composed of a five-tier ‘shikhara’. The temple is 240 x 185 feet tall and houses beautiful carvings and sculptures of many Indian gods and goddesses. Holy water is known to spring from inside the temple. In Padma Purana it is said that Lord Shiva stayed here in the form of a ‘linga’ on the request of his most devoted lady, Ghrushna.
According to folk lore, Ghrushna’s son was killed by her relatives. Still, she was patient and continued to repose deep faith in Lord Shiva. Pleased with this, Shiva came and resided here for some time, which is how the place acquired its name. The Shivalaya Tirtha Kunda was created through the efforts of Bramha by bringing sacred water from eight different ‘kundas’. Another famous legend tells us that Shiva appeared in the form of a flame on the palm of Parvati, his wife, while she was rubbing her finger on the palm to mix saffron. The flame created due to ‘gharshana’ (friction) was then put into a stone linga and so named Ghrushneshwar.
The place is also referred to by another name, ‘Kusumeshwar’, as appears in some ancient scriptures. Krishnaraj, the Rashtrakuta king of the 8th century, is believed to have built this huge and beautiful temple on the banks of river Elaganga, at the feet of Mahishadri in the village Verul. He is the king who created the world-famous Kailas of the Ellora Caves. In 1599 CE, Malojiraje Bhosale, grandfather of Chhatrapati Shivaji, reconstructed the temple and the Shivalaya Tirtha Kunda. It is said that Mughal Emperor Aurangazeb destroyed this temple. An inscription here tells us that the Ghrushneshar Temple which we see today in red stone was reconstructed by Gautamabai, wife of Malharrao Holkar in 1730 CE.
The temple is ‘dakshinabhimukh’ (main entrance facing south) and stands on a platform. It has a large courtyard and a high wall built around it. There are three ‘dwaras’ – one ‘mahadwara’ (main entrance) and two ‘pakshadwaras’ (side entrances). There is a small shrine of Kokila Mata at the main entrance with her hand raised up. The temple has two chambers, a big ‘sabhamandapa’ with beautifully carved columns, and a ‘garbhagruha’ with black-stoned ‘jyotirlinga’ fixed in an underground chamber of the shrine. A five-tiered shikhara and the ceiling of the temple is decorated with beautifully carved sculptures of a variety of birds, animals, plants, hunters with bows, musicians, dancers and some girls playing in a circle with their hands inter-linked with each other – a rhythmic movement known in Maharashtra as ‘fugadi’.
The temple is crowded on all the Mondays, especially so in the holy month of Shravan as well as on Mahashivaratri, an auspicious day for Shaivas. On this day a palanquin procession of Lord Shiva is taken from the temple to the Shivalaya Tirtha Kunda. Vaikuntha Chaturdashi is a special day celebrated here when Shiva is offered ‘tulsi’ leaves, a favourite of Lord Vishnu. The Shivalaya Tirtha Kunda near the temple is a ‘must visit’ place. It is made of red stone with four entrances and 56 steps on each side. There are eight temples of eight different ‘tirthas’ near it. The Ghrushneshwar Temple is managed by the Devasthana Trust.
*Source Maharashtra Tourism