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Temples of the Gangetic Plains

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Prapita Maheswara Temple at Gaya(Bihar)

Deities: Shiva

Location: Gaya in South Bihar.

Significance: This is an ancient Shiva temple located in the predominantly Vaishnavite pilgrim town of Gaya. Prapitaamaheswara is said to be a witness deity for the performance of the offerings of the pindas to ancestors. Shiva is worshipped in the form of a Lingam.

Antiquity: The ritual of offering pindas or offerings to the dead has been long associated with Gaya and has been mentioned in the epics. (Vaayupuraana) The Prapitaamaheswara temple has been referred to in the Agni Purana. Shiva worship at Gaya has been referred in the Mahabharata too. The Prapitaamaheswara temple is one of the oldest temples in Gaya and it dates back to the Pala dynasty of the 11th century Ad as testified from stone inscriptions nearby.

Architecture. This temple is built of black basalt and it stands adjacent to two hills (Bhramayoni and Vasmakuta) that are considered sacred. The temple faces east and is attached to a sabha mandapa in the front. The massive stone slabs of the hall are supported by huge polygonal stone pillars placed one above the other. Five graceful domes top the mandapa. The enormous size and height of the mandapa are not in consonance with that of the temple. What is seen today is a result of renovative work carried out in the 14th century. The pyramidal tower of the temple shikhara is surmounted by an aamalaka and a broken iron trident.

Related temples in Gaya: The Vriddha-Prapitaamaheswara temple, Markandyesha, Falgisha, Kedaara, Rameshwara, Matangeshwara, Rinamoksha, Paapamoksha, Pitaamaheshwara temples in addition to the well known Vishnupaada and the Mangalagauri temples deserve mention.

Access and Accomodation: Gaya

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