Anjaneri – The Birthplace of Hanuman

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Anjaneri is a village in the Nashik district of Maharashtra. The village is situated at the foothills of the Anjaneri (or Anjani) mountain, named after Anjana, the mother of Hanuman. The mountain is a part of the Trimbakeshwar Range and consists of several other peaks of interest. Brahma Purana narrates Anjana’s story and Hanuman’s birth in chapter 84. While extolling the greatness of River Godavari (or Gautami as mentioned in the Purana) and pilgrimage spots on its banks, the Purana describes the Paishacha-tirtha. The tirtha was situated on the right bank of the river near the Brahmagiri mountains. Next to it was the Anjana mountain. Anjana was a celestial apsara in Indra’s court. Once she mocked Indra for his thousand eyes and Indra cursed her to be born on the Earth. Adrika, another celestial apsara, was similarly cursed by Indra at the same time. Anjana was born with a monkey’s head and Adrika was born with a cat’s head. Both the apsaras lived over the Anjana mountain and were married to Kesari, the king of monkeys. One day, sage Agastya visited the mountain while Kesari was away. Both, Anjana and Adrika took great care of the sage and he gave them a boon to beget glorious sons. One day, Vayu and Nrrtti were passing by the mountain and got enamored over Anjana and Adrika. In due course, Anjana begot Hanuman from Vayu and Adrika begot Adri from Nrrtti. When the sons grew older, on the advice from their divine fathers, they took their mothers to take baths in sacred tirthas. Anjana took a bath in the Anjana-tirtha and Adrika in the Marjari-tirtha and both were released from their curse.1 This story is only found in a certain recension of Brahma Purana.2 Godavari originates from the Brahmagiri mountains, part of the Trimbakeshwar Range. Anjaneri Mountain is also part of the same range. Brahmagiri and Anjana mountains of the Brahma Purana thus correspond to the Trimbakeshwar Range peaks bearing the same names.

There are many other mythological stories about Anjana’s origin and Hanuman’s birth. As per one account, a heavenly nymph named Punjikasthala was once cursed by a sage because of her capricious and naughty behavior. As per the curse, she was to be born on the earth as Anjana, the daughter of a monkey ruler Kunjara. When she grew up, she was married to Kesari, the monkey ruler residing on Mount Gokarna. Another account tells the curse was from Indra as the nymph Anjana mocked him for his thousand eyes. Another nymph named Adrika also mocked Indra at the same time and was cursed together with Anjana. As per the curse, Anjana was to be born with a monkey face and Adrika with a cat face. Both were born and remained with the monkeys and at the attainment of a proper age were married to Kesari, the monkey king.3 There are many more accounts however we need to go into details of those. The point to note is that in none of these different accounts mentioned above, there no mention of Anjaneri hill or region, instead we find mention of Venkadri Hill, Godavari River, Gokarna, etc. in some accounts.

The history of the village before the Yadavas is not certain. Though a few copper-plate charters have been recovered from a resident of the village, however, those charters do not mention the village or the mountain.4 As these copper-charters were easy to carry thus they traveled large distances with their keepers and many times did not belong to the place of their recovery. A stone inscription of the twelfth century CE in a temple at the village mentions a king named Seunadeva. It is generally believed that Seunadeva mentioned in the inscription belongs to a lateral (or minor) branch of the Seuna (Yadava) dynasty that ruled over Anjaneri. Seunadeva made some grants to a Jain temple and refers to himself as Mahasamanta. As the main Yadava branch was reigning independently by this time, Seunadeva of this inscription would belong to another minor branch of the Yadava family.5

Over the Anjaneri hill is a fort however, there was no attempt to artificial means of defense over the hill in the past. The state gazetteer mentions that the hill was intended as a health resort for people from the district to visit in April and May to avoid the heat waves of the plains. Raghunathrao Bhat (1734-1783), son of Bajirao I, built his summer palace here when he was exiled to Anandvali. He was accompanied by his court, retinue, and state elephants.6

The antiquity of the village was first documented by John Wilson in 1851. His account goes, “Five miles from Tryambak is the hill fort of Anjana or Anjani. Below it are the remains of temples very extensive and very highly finished. They seem to have been in their present ruined state for several hundred years. These, too, are said to date from the time of the Shepherd Kings and to be more ancient than those of Elora. In the centerpiece of the door of all of them is a figure of Buddha in a sitting or standing posture, having the hooded snake as a canopy, and surrounded by rich foliage and highly finished cornices. In one, and only in one, could I find an image of Buddha still remaining. It is of a large size and in usual cross-legged posture. There have been many others, however, but they are thrown down and broken. Among the ruins of some others, I saw figures of Ganesha and the Linga, as worshipped at the present day; and temples in which I observed these latter seemed to be of the same date as the others. From one of those having Buddhist figures, I copied a long inscription in the Sanskrit character and in excellent preservation, a copy of which I had also the pleasure to send to Mr. Wathen in whose hands it now is. (sic)”.Though the learned scholar mentions Jaina monuments in his memoir, however, he got confused in the case of Anjaneri temples where he identified Jaina Tirthankaras mistakenly as Buddha.

The 1883 Nasik gazetteer from James Campbell improves on the political history of the village but does not improve on its antiquity and monuments.8 Anjaneri was included in the antiquarian list prepared by Jas Burgess in 1885.9 The revised list prepared by Burgess and Cousens in 1897 improves on the details however the description remained at a very superficial level.10 The credit for properly documenting the antiquity of the village goes to Henry Cousens who published his accounts in 1931.11 In 1947, A V Naik submitted his Ph.D. thesis, “Archaeology of the Deccan”, to the Deccan College, Pune, and covered Anjaneri in some detail.12 Since then there has been no significant improvement in the scholarly attention to the village and proper documentation of its sites.

Monuments – Henry Cousens mentions sixteen temples in the village and many mounds scattered with the remains of many temples. Out of the sixteen temples, two are dedicated to Vishnu, eight to Jains, and the remaining to Shiva.13 Cousens also mentions a temple on the top of the hill which was dedicated to Anjani, the mother of Hanuman. This temple is built utilizing materials from older temples. Two rock-cut caves are also found on the hill. In the upper cliff, below the topmost plateau, to the northeast, just above a pond, is a small roughly cut cave with a seated Jina image on its lateral wall. The cave has a small doorway flanked by roughly cut figures on either side. On the lower cliff, on the side of a gorge through which the rough ascent passes, is another small Jaina cave. The doorway is flanked with images of Parsvanatha.14 The annual report of the Archaeological Survey of India for the year 1982-83 mentions that T M Kesava located two groups of Jain caves of the Yadava period to the west of Anjaneri village, one was dedicated to Parshvanatha and the other was unfinished. As no photographs are supplied, it is not certain if these two caves were the same ones described by Burgess and Cousens.15

Jain Temple Group

Pancha-Digambar Jain Temple Group –  This group is the principal group of temples in the village. It consists of six buildings standing in various states of preservation, three temples, and three mathas (monasteries).16 It would have a few other temples but now only their foundations are left. Some time later the whole group was enclosed within an enclosure wall with an entrance in the south. While describing the temples below, we have kept the numbering used by Henry Cousens.

Temple No 1 – Shri Chakradhar Swami Charanakit Basatisthan
Shri Chakradhar Swami Charanakit Basatisthan
Entrance to mandapa

Temple No 1 (Shri Chakradhar Swami Charanankit Bastisthan) – This is the main temple in the group and is under worship. The temple was not under worship when Cousens visited it in 1931.17 The temple faces east and consists of a pillared verandah, a pillared mandapa followed by an antarala, and a garbhagrha. The temple exterior is plain except for a fretwork molding running around the temple. The pillared verandah is supported on two front pillars and two pilasters, the latter have fallen and reconstructed in brick during conservation. The doorway leading to the mandapa has a seated Jina image on its lalata-bimba. The lintel above the doorway has five images placed in separate shrines. The images in the center and terminals are that of seated Jinas. Images in the recessed space are Parshvanatha standing under a seven-hood serpent canopy and Suparshvanatha standing under a five-hood serpent canopy. Two niches, one on either side of the doorway, are presently empty.

The garbhagrha doorway has a seated Jina over the lalatabimba. The architrave above the doorway has five images in separate shrines. The images in the center and on the terminals are of the seated Jinas while the images of goddesses occupy the recessed space. Inside the garbhagrha is a pedestal, the image that once was placed over the same is no longer there. A platform in the mandapa is decorated as it is generally believed that footmarks of Shri Chakradhar Swami, a twelfth-century CE philosopher, and proponent of Krishna Bhakti. Though the temple was originally dedicated to a Jain Tirthankara, at some later period, it was reappropriated by the Hindus.

Temple No 2

Temple No 2 – This appears to be the most important temple in the group as evidenced by a stone inscription placed inside its verandah. The temple faces south and consists of a porch, a mandapa, and a garbhagrha. The porch or verandah is supported by two pillars and two pilasters in the front. The doorway connecting the porch with the mandapa is elaborately carved. It has an image of a seated Jina on its lalatabimba. The architrave above the doorway carries five images placed within separate shrines. The images in the center and on the terminals are of seated Jinas. The recessed space on the left has an image of Suparshvanatha standing below a five-hood serpent canopy. The recessed space on the right has an image of Parshvanatha standing below a seven-hood serpent canopy.

Inscription

Two niches on either side of the doorway are empty at present. The doorway has a beautifully carved chandrashila at the base. The inscription records the gift of three shops in the city for the upkeep of the temple of Chandraprabha by King Seunachandra III. It is dated in Saka 1063, equivalent to 1142 CE. It further mentions that a rich merchant named Vatsaraja with two others gave a shop and a house for the same purpose.

Temple No 3

Temple No 3 – This temple has not survived in full except for the walls of its mandapa and the cell. The walls and pillars are very plain. The doorway is also plain in contrast to the doorways of Temple No 1 and 2. An image of a seated Jina is carved over the lalatabimba of the doorway.

Foundations of monasteries

Monastery No 1, 2, & 3 – The remaining three buildings in the complex are monasteries as these do not contain shrines but only halls.

Temple No 7

Temple No 7 – This temple is situated near the above complex. The temple consists of a mandapa, an antarala, and a garbhagrha. The mandapa is supported by two rows of four pillars each, only a few have survived. The pillars are plain octagonal shafts. The garbhagrha doorway is tri-shakha (three bands) in design. The middle shakha (band) has decoration of geometrical motifs. A square bracket on the upper section of the shaft has a kirti-mukha motif inside. A bell is suspended from this square bracket. Below the bell is another square bracket with some floral designs inside. The uppermost section of the shaft has projected brackets and abacus designs. An image of a seated Jina adorns the lalata-bimba. An image of a Jina Tirthankara is placed inside the garbhagrha, however, Cousens mentions no image during his visit18, thus this image would have been placed later.

Temple No 8

Temple No 8 – This temple faces north and is situated not very far from the previous temple. The front portion is much damaged however the exterior of the vimana is survived with its jangha and partial shikhara. It had an octagonal mandapa in the front, only the rear portion with a few pillars and pilasters survived. Two niches are provided on either side of the doorway connecting the mandapa with the antarala. These niches are vacant at present. The temple is built over a high adhishthana (base) made of multiple moldings. This adhishthana was placed over a high-rising jagati (platform), comprising multiple moldings. Niches similar to miniature shrines are provided over the kapota molding of the adhishthana. These niches have a diamond motif inside. The jangha follows the pancha-ratha style while kapili connects the jangha with the mandapa. Niches are only provided over the bhadra-ratha. The karna, and prati-rathas have decorations of diamond motifs enclosed within niches-like structures. The shikhara is damaged however from the remains it appears to follow the latina mode of the Nagara style.

The pillars are exquisitely carved with sculptures and motifs. The square base is decorated with large images on its faces. The shaft above the square portion is decorated with a series of square brackets and moldings in between. The garbhagrha doorway consists of chatushshakha (four bands) pattern. The bases of the jambs have sculptures of dvarapalas, apsaras, and attendants. The outermost shakha is decorated with vyala-riders. The next shakha is decorated with roundels. The next shakha is a rupaka-skhaka consisting of panels housing deities. The last shakha has floral designs. The image over the lalata-bimba is much defaced and identification is tough. However, as the temple is dedicated to Vishnu, therefore, it would be some form of Vishnu over the lalata-bimba or an image of Garuda. The architrave above has five niches, three projected and two recessed. The middle projected niche has an image of Vishnu while the projected niches at the terminals have Shiva and Brahma. The recessed niches have Lakshmi and Ganesha. Inside the garbhagrha is placed an image of Narasimha over a Garuda-pedestal.

Varaha in the east
Narasimha in the south
Vamana-Trivikrama in the west
Goddess in the east over bhadra-lata
Goddess in the east over kapili
Vishnu
Narasimha

The temple is adequately decorated with sculptures over its exterior. The bhadra niches have sculptures of Varaha in the east, Narasimha in the south, and Vamana-Trivikrama in the west. Niches over the bhadra of the base tier of the shikhara are adorned with sculptures, however, the sculpture only in the east has survived. It is a sculpture of a goddess whose identification cannot be confirmed, however, it appears she is Brahmani. A niche at the same level over the kapili has another sculpture of a goddess, probably Parvati. A large chaitya medallion is provided over the bhadra-lata above the base-level niche. The medallion in the south and west have survived. Inside the medallion are placed large sculptures, Vishnu in the west and Narasimha in the south.

Temple No 9

Temple No 9 – This temple is situated in the same complex as Temple No 9. It is presently under conservation. The temple is probably dedicated to Vishnu as evident from images over its garbhagrha doorframe.19 The temple has survived with its garbhagrha and antarala, the mandapa once standing in the front has not survived. The exterior is very plain except for niches in the bhadra-ratha. The niches are empty at present.

Temple No 10

Temple No 10 – This temple is situated a little away from Temple No 9. The temple faces east and was once adorned with a mandapa. It has survived with its garbhagrha and shikhara. The brackets over the antarala pillars suggest that the mandapa was octagonal. The garbhagrha doorway is chatushshakha (four bands) with dvarapala and attendant figures at the base. An image of Ganesha is found over the lalata-bimba suggesting the temple was dedicated to a Hindu god, probably Shiva. However, the architrave above the doorway lintel has images of standing Jinas in the recessed niches and goddesses in the projected niches, suggesting the temple was associated with a Jain Tirthankara. Identifying these goddesses or yakshis is impossible due to the deterioration of sculptures. There is no image inside the garbhagrha however there are outlines of an image in standing posture, which also supports the view that the temple was dedicated to some Tirthankara. The presence of Ganesha over lalatabimba is not a regular feature in Jain temples however it is found in a few Jain temples.

Epigraphs:

  1. Anjaneri plates of Jayabhatta III : (Kalachuri) Year 46020 – These plates, along with the other two below, were discovered in 1936 in the possession of a family residing at Anjaneri. It is composed in the Sanskrit language and written in the western variety of the southern alphabets. The plates were issued from Bharukachchha by the illustrious Jayabhatta, the devout worshipper of Mahadeva. He is identified with Jayabhatta III of the early Gurjara dynasty. The object of the plates is to record the grant of three pieces of land in the village Toranaka in the Nandipura-vishaya. In the connection of the boundaries are mentioned the villages Jayapura, Viddheraka, and Budtisohi and the river Karilini. The donee was Brahmana Narayana, son of Chashtasvamin, of the Sandilya gotra, and the Kauthuma shakha of Chhandoga (Samveda), a resident of Brahmapuri. The grant was for the maintenance of the five great sacrifices, i.e. bali, charu, vaisvadeva, etc. The grant carries a date in the year 460 of an unspecified era. Taking the era as the Kalachurio era, the year 460 corresponds to 709 CE.
  2. Anjaneri plates (first set) of Bhogasakti : (Kalachuri) Year 46121 – It is composed in the Sanskrit language and written in the western variety of the southern alphabets. The record starts with the praise of Varaha incarnation of Vishnu. It is followed by four benedictive and one imprecatory verse. This is followed by the description of the Chalukya dynasty, drawn mostly from the records of the early Chalukyas. After comes the mention of the Maharajadhiraja Parameshvara Vikramaditya. It then proceeds to state that the illustrious Svamichandra, who was an ornament in the family of Harishchandra, was treated like a son by Vikramaditya. Svamichandra ruled over Puri-Konkana-14000 region. His son was the illustrious Simhavarmaraja. The latter’s son was Bhogashakti alias Prithvichandra, the donee of these plates. The royal order was issued to the residents of Goparashtra, Eastern Trikuta, Amraraji, Mairika, the eastern and western Mahagiriharas, and Pallusudhambaka district extending till Pretahrada. The object of the grant was the donation of eight villages, Jayagrama, Ambe-Avangana, Palittapataka, Kokilakshaka, Kalahaka, Mudgahitaka, Kshemagiraka, and Annagrama. The donation was made for the maintenance and worship of the god Narayana, installed in the form of Bhogeshvara. The temple was entrusted to the town of merchants and they were enjoined to look after the service and property of the God. The inscription is dated in the year 461 of an unspecified era. Taking the era as Kalachuri, the year 461 corresponds to 710-11 CE.
  3. Anjaneri plates (second set) of Bhogasakti : (Kalachuri) Year 46122 – While the initial contents of these plates are the same as that of the above, the plate supplies many new facts. We learn that King Bhogashakti resettled the town of Samagiripattana together with Chandrapuri, Ambayapallika, Savaneyapallika, Maureyapallika, and Kamsaripallika. These towns and villages were previously devastated however the record is silent on who laid them waste. The object of the grant was to record the rights granted to the merchants and other residents of the resettled town Samagiri, as well as to lay down fines in case of certain offenses committed by the residents and young merchants of the town. The record is not dated.

1 तारणीश झा (1976) | ब्रह्मपुराणाम | हिंदी साहित्य सम्मलेन | प्रयाग | pp. 471-472
2 Bhatt, G P (1955). Brahma Purana. Motilal Banarasidass. New Delhi.
3 Lutgendorf, Philip (2007). Hanuman’s Tale – The Message of a Divine Monkey. Oxford University Press. New York. ISBN 9780195309218. pp. 128-129
4 Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum – Inscriptions of the Kalachuri-Chedi Era, vol. IV, part I. pp. 90-96
5 Yadava, Maj Gen SDS (2006). Followers of Krishna – Yadavas of India. Lancer Publishers & Distributors. New Delhi. ISBN 8170622166. p. 116
6 Cambell, James M (ed.) (1883). Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency, vol. XVI – Nasik. Government Central Press. pp. 416-419
7 Wilson, John (1851). Memoir of the Cave-Temples and Monastries, and other Ancient Buddhist Brahmanical, and Jaina Remains of Western India published in The Journal of the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, vol. III, part II, December 1848 to November 1850. American Mission Press. Bombay. p. 86
8 Cambell, James M (ed.) (1883). Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency, vol. XVI – Nasik. Government Central Press. pp. 416-419
9 Burgess, Jas (1885). Lists of the Antiquarian Remains in the Bombay Presidency. Government Central Press. Bombay. p. 115
10 Burgess & Cousens (1897). Revised List of Antiquarian Remains in the Bombay Presidency. Government Central Press. Bombay. p. 46
11 Cousens, Henry (1931). Medieval Temples of the Dakhan. Central Publication Branch. Calcutta. pp. 43-47
12 Naik, A V (1947). Archaeology of the Deccan, a Ph. D. thesis submitted to the Deccan College, Pune.
13 Naik, A V (1947). Structural Architecture of the Deccan published in the New Indian Antiquary vol. 9, no. 7-12, July-December 1947. Karnatak Publishing House. Bombay. pp. 249-250
14 Burgess & Cousens (1897). Revised List of Antiquarian Remains in the Bombay Presidency. Government Central Press. Bombay. p. 46
15 Indian Archaeology 1982-83 – A Review. p. 137
16 Naik, A V (1947). Structural Architecture of the Deccan published in the New Indian Antiquary vol. 9, no. 7-12, July-December 1947. Karnatak Publishing House. Bombay. pp. 303-305
17 Cousens, Henry (1931). Medieval Temples of the Dakhan. Central Publication Branch. Calcutta. p. 44
18 Cousens, Henry (1931). Medieval Temples of the Dakhan. Central Publication Branch. Calcutta. p. 45
19 Naik, A V (1947). Structural Architecture of the Deccan published in the New Indian Antiquary vol. 9, no. 7-12, July-December 1947. Karnatak Publishing House. Bombay. pp. 249-250
20 Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum – Inscriptions of the Kalachuri-Chedi Era, vol. IV, part I. pp. 90-96
21 Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum – Inscriptions of the Kalachuri-Chedi Era, vol. IV, part I. pp. 146-154
22 Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum – Inscriptions of the Kalachuri-Chedi Era, vol. IV, part I. pp. 154-159
23 An Unusual Nathpanti Cave at Anjaneri, Maharashtra

Acknowledgment: Some of the photos above are in CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain from the collection released by the Tapesh Yadav Foundation for Indian Heritage.