What’s in a name? Lots, if it’s a weirdly-named Pune temple
The odd names for temples in the city such as Jilbya Maruti, Pasodya Vitthal and Khuni Muralidhar have intriguing stories about how they came to named so
Officially the marker of a location within a city is generally the pin code, which was started in 1972. But traditionally Pune is known for its distinct quirks related to places, and one method is using weird and interesting names of temples as location markers. Customarily, the best manner of marking and locating places would be to name temples in relation to places and trade, and thus temples were major landmarks of any area, and Pune city is no exception. These names need to be preserved because of the cultural and heritage value they bestow on the place, and such local legends give Pune its distinctive character and identity.
Hearing names of temples like Hathi Ganpati (near Jnana Prabodhini school), Pasodya Vitthal, Pasodya Maruti, (Rawiwar Peth) Bhangya Maruti, Chimnya Maruti, Bhikardas Maruti, Patrya Maruti (Narayan Peth), Modi Ganpati (Narayan Peth), Jilbya Maruti (Shaniwar Chowk), Akara Maruti, Dulya Maruti (Ganesh Peth), Khunya Muralidhar (Sadashiv Peth, Bhopatkar Road) to name a few, raises questions as to how gods and temples ended up with such bizarre names. A glance at the stories surrounding these names helps us to understand that the names were related either to trade, a particular incident, and owner or patron of the place where the temple was based, to help mark the location.
During Peshwa rule, there were many small temples built across Pune city. Among the temples, the most favoured were Maruti, Ganpati and Vitthal. In order to mark a location or give direction, it had become impossible for people to use just the name of the temple. Thus started the trend of associating the temple, with a nearby landmark or story. For example, in Pune there is a temple known as Batata Maruti, in front of Shaniwarwada, as there is a well established potato and onion market around it. So if anyone has to explain directions to someone, just saying near/in front of Batata Maruti solves the problem.
The story of Modi Ganpati, is very interesting .The story as far as naming it ‘Modi’, goes that the temple got its name as the temple idol was found in a farm of Khushrooshet Modi’s garden.
Another distinct story is that of Pasodya Vitthal. It is alleged that the surrounding area of the temple was used for selling Pasodya, that are bags and Ghongadi (woollen blankets). Pasodya or simple woollen blankets were very important for people in the city. Or what about Bhangya Maruti, named after bhang or opium, as it is alleged that opium used to be sold in the vicinity?
The most fascinating name is that of Khunya Muralidhar or the Murderer Muralidhar. The question is why Lord Krishna is addressed as a murderer. There are two myths around this name. One is that Sadashiv Raghunath alias Dada Gadre built this temple in the year 1717. At one time, a British officer called Boyd was going through the temple with his soldiers. During that time, Gadre’s soldiers, who were Arabs, had a major fight with the British soldiers. In that fight, around 50 to 100 soldiers lost their lives. Since that time the temple is known as ‘Khunya Muralidhar’. Another myth is that the Chaphekar Bandhu freedom fighters had murdered British Officer Rand Aster and one of their colleagues, Ganesh Dravid, shared this information with the British and betrayed them. Angered by this, the Chaphekar bandhus killed Ganesh Dravid in the chowk near the temple. Later on they were hanged by the British government. Due to this murder, it is alleged that the temple was named Khunya Muralidhar. But historian Mandar Lavate refutes such claims, and states that it was the fight between company soldiers and Arab soldiers that led to the naming of Khunya Muralidhar.
The story around Dulya Maruti is also interesting. It is said that during the third Panipat war, when the Marathas were defeated by Ahmed Shah Abdali, the news of the tragic demise of Senapati Sadashivrao Peshwe and Vishwasrao Peshwe filled Punekars with sorrow. It is alleged that the pain was so much that the Maruti started shaking with anguish and sorrow, and so it was named Dulya that is ‘Shaking Maruti’.
In recent times, Pune is witnessing new landmarks such as hotels, malls, theatres, restaurants, and theses temples have lost their shine and significance as location markers. The new generation has no idea about their relevance and their quirks. On the contrary, nowadays it is difficult to find these temples and many have forgotten their history and connotation.
Originally published on The Golden Sparrow