The first ever mention of Mahabaleshwar was made as far back as 1215 when the King Singhan of Deogiri visited the place and built a small temple and water tank at the source of the Krishna river. Later, a number of different dynasties and rulers invaded the place- a Brahmin dynasty in 1350, the Maratha family of Chandarao More, Chatrapati Shivaji and later the British. Most of the monumental constructions of Mahabaleshwar are the works of these different rulers.
The name Mahabaleshwar itself is said to be derived from the Mahabaleshwar temple, the most important monument of Mahabaleshwar. Apart from this, a number of different historical as well as religious monuments may be found here.
' Historical Monuments of Mahabaleshwar
Well known among the historical monuments of Mahabaleshwar are Mount Malcolm, Morarji Castle and the Mahabaleshwar club.
One of Mahabaleshwar's most well known landmark is Mount Malcolm. Built in 1829, it is a well known landmark from the days of the Raj. Malcolm house is the residence of the founder of the hill station, Sir John Malcolm. It has been built in an impressive architectural style, royal in its splendour. It stands on Prospect Point and has a fine front entrance closed by railings.
The Morarji Castle is an ancient structure reflecting the British architectural style. It was at this castle that Mahatma Gandhi used as a halting place when he came here in 1945 during the freedom struggle .Some other colonial style structures can also be found near the building.
The Mahabaleshwar Club a quarter century old built by the British retains its charm even today. The club is famous among the tourist for its golf course where you can also view this game.
The Frere Hall built in 1864 resembles an English post office with its leaded lights, stone tracery and mullioned and windows in the Gothic style common in Indian hill stations. Designed as a library, meeting hall and theatre, it is part of the club.
The Beckwith Monument occupies a commanding position standing tall at thirty feet. The obelisk commemorates Lieutenant-General Sir Sidney Beckwith, Commander-in-Chief, Bombay Army, who died there on 15 January 1831. Beckwith served with Lord Cornwallis, impressed Nelson at Copenhagen and later formed the Rifle Brigade.
The Lodwick Monument was built in 1874.It comprises 25 feet pillar crowned by an urn. At the base is a marble bust of General Lodwick. Lodwick, the first European in the hills, died in France aged ninety.
Other points of interest are Church Square, an open space below Christ Church near the Club on the road leading to Yenna Lake; Reay Gardens; the Civil Hospital, adjoining Christ Church; and the Petit Native General Library (1901).
Religious Monuments of Mahabaleshwar
Among the religious monuments of Mahabaleshwar, the most well known is the temple of Mahabali, from which it got its name. Apart from this there are also to be found a couple of other temples and churches here.
The Mahabaleshwar temple is situated in old Mahabaleshwar, popularly called Kshetra Mahabaleshwar.It is dedicated to the Lord Mahabali, another name for Lord Shiva. The temple has been built in the Hemadant style of South Indian temples. It is surrounded by a five feet high stone wall. The central temple is divided into two apartments. The inner room is the sanctum sanctorum and the outer room is the hall. The temple consists of a Lingam, a small black stone structure which is believed to have been formed by a natural piece of rock. It hardly retains its original shape. There are found certain hollows in the temple which represent the rivers which have their origins in the surrounding area. An underground live spring below the rock keeps these hollows full all the year round.
The Panchaganga temple lies at the heart of Mahabaleshwar, adjacent to the Mahabaleshwar temple. It is thus named because it is situated at the site of the confluence of the five holy rivers- Krishna, Savitri, Gayathri, Koyna and Venna. These rivers flow out of a cow's spout, the Goumukhi. On the northern side is a conduit through which the Ganga River appears every twelve years. From a conduit on the southern side flows the holy Saraswati River. The temple was built in the thirteenth century by a ruler of the Yadavas of Devagiri. It was later renovated by the Maratha Emperor Chatrapati Shivaji.
The Shri Ram Mandir was constructed by the late Pratapshet of Amalner. It has the most beautiful idols of Lord Ram, Lakshman and Sita.
The Christ Church, built in 1842, was enlarged and extended in 1867. There is some good stained glass depicting Jesus Christ, the four Evangelists, Moses and St John the Baptist in the chancel. A half mile from the Church, on the right of the Bombay Point Road, is the Cemetery.
The Roman Catholic Holy Cross Church, although falling apart, attracts many tourists to its stained glass windows. It is truly a sight to behold. It is now being maintained by a Hindu family.
Mahabaleshwar is not merely a beautiful hill resort with a serene and captivating landscape. Rather the various monuments carry in them the history of Mahabaleshwar.
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