Despite its heritage structure status,The Old Belbaug Temple at Somwar Peth lives an obscure life
For the last twenty years,the Old Belbaug Temple in Somwar Peth seems to have gone into hiding. One cannot spot the temple from across the lane on which it is located; nor does a board announce its existence. Ask around and the locals in the neighbourhood give one confused looks. Situated right opposite the popular Nageshwar Temple,the Belbaug Temple has lived a low profile life. This Grade II heritage structure is huddled behind the 20-year-old Laxmi Vishnu Apartments. A line of clothes,several coloured buckets and a sewing machine are the first things that greet one as one walks into the temple premises.
The apartment was built right where the sabha mandapam (temple courtyard) existed in the year 1992. “The mandapam had become too weak. It was on the verge of falling,so we ourselves decided to tear it down,” says Vaishali Khaparde,owner of the property. The temple was built 400 years ago and has since been managed and owned by the Khapardes. Now what remains is a small temple and a smaller verandah,which doubles up as the site for several household chores.
Though it is appalling to find construction so close to a heritage structure,there is some semblance of past grandeur here. Old lamps and intricately carved windows give the wooden structure the feel of a different era,in stark contrast to the abundance of concrete around. In the main hall sits a statue of Lord Vishnu. Outside,a sculpture of Lord Ganesh and Nandi are placed on either side. While the owners are aware that the structure is important,they have never been approached for any kind of help by the Pune Municipal Corporation. “We have been staying here for years. When the outer mandapam began to fall apart,we thought of making an apartment complex. Now,it helps us with the income that is generated through rent,” says Vaishali.
The family has grown around the temple. “We try to maintain it as much as we can. We recently painted the ceiling,” says Ramakant Khaparde. Freshly painted ceiling and doors,dipped in orange colour,are in different stages of drying. Pillars with old-fashioned designs on them stand tall,but for how long,one can’t be sure. Ironically,in another part of the city,a replica of this structure stands on a firmer ground. Sitatued on Laxmi road,the Belbaug Mandir here was constructed by Nana Phadnavis in 1769. “My grandmother has often told me that Nana Phadnavis first wanted to buy this temple from us,but we refused,so he told us that he will try and create a replica. And he did just that,” says Vaishali,as she offers a cup of tea. As one sips the warm beverage,the awareness of the changing neighbourhood slowly starts to seep in.
(The Old Belbaug Temple is situated at 179,Somwar Peth,opposite Nageshwar Temple)