While passing through Narayan Peth, among the cluster of houses and shops it is possible to miss the old Murlidhar temple. The rapid development in this area in the last few decades may have covered its once-visible view, but those who reside in the area around the temple, especially the older generation, are very much aware about its relevance to the pre-Independence era.
“The story goes that some time in the late 1920s, when young freedom fighters Chandrashekhar Azad and Bhagat Singh were in Pune to meet Rajguru, they chose this temple for their secret meetings,” says city-based historian Mohan Shete.
“A boy named Patki was asked to stand guard at the temple door and alert them when anyone approached the temple. Whenever anyone came near the temple door, the boy would ring the temple bell and Rajguru, being learned in the Vedas, would start reciting Sanskrit shlokas,” says Shete. This anecdote is also mentioned in the book ‘Inquilaab’ on the life of Bhagat Singh, by city-based author Mrunalini Joshi.
However, due to a property dispute between the co-owners of the land on which the temple stands, and a court case which is still on, the temple was closed to the public several years ago. A notice outside the temple, which remains closed with an iron grill door, states the same. Still, it is one of the sites which is visited by participants of the Freedom Trail, a tour to highlight the history of the freedom struggle conducted by city-based organisation Janwani, which was formed as a social wing of Mahratta Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture.
“The participants are intrigued about the temple, especially its relevance with Rajguru. Not many people know that he spent many years in Pune. Another temple in Narayan Peth, near Paranjape building, where the Vinchurkar Wada once stood, was frequented by Rajguru during his childhood as he stayed nearby,” says Prajakta Panshikar, Deputy Director, Heritage Conservation and Management, Janwani.