If one temple is an embodiment of tranquility, another could be a treasure trove of an artist’s creativity. ‘Where’s the need for such elaborate artistry & display of extravagance’, you may wonder, when it is the God within that we wish to seek out.

The sculptor sculpts stones & transforms them into masterpieces, demonstrating a lesson for man. Ultimately, where there’s beauty, there dwells divinity & that’s the eternal truth—Satyam Shivam Sundaram. Call it beauty, call it grace/elegance, where there’s grace, there dwells godliness.

A temple from a far-flung century seems so improbable in the mare’s nest that Mumbai is! A temple that’s renowned for its exquisite architecture & profuse carvings in the fringes of suburban Mumbai? That’s the Ambernath Shiva Temple, for you!

Having heard about its aesthetic appeal, I had yearned to visit the place but never got to it. Ultimately, one afternoon in early June we ventured out.

An hour’s train journey to Ambarnath Station & a 10 minute rickshaw ride from the station got us to the temple purlieus.

As we inched closer, the black shikhara (towers) of the temple began looming in sight.

In moments, we came face to face with this sacred monument of sizeable antiquity. The dark façade adorned with intricate ornamentations stood before us, its primordial exquisiteness a far cry from the ugly mundaneness of the city.

This Shiva Temple dating back to AD 1060, is known to have been built by King Chittaraja of the Shilahara Dynasty, who had established his empire in Konkan & Kolhapur, during the Rashtrakuta era.

Some locals also claim that it was built overnight by the Pandavas.

Also known as Purathana Shivalaya, the temple falls under the aegis of the Archeological Survey of India.

Built using black basalt & lime, the most striking feature is the shikhara (tower) of the temple. While the ingress to the sanctum has a shikhara that’s complete & shaped like a cupola, the one on the side looks incomplete & bears no resemblance whatsoever, to a cupola.

And yet, from a different angle, the temple looks symmetrical without any side tower jutting out.

It seems the temple was designed according to the Bhumija style of architecture.

Brahma & His consort —Savitri

Like ordinary mortals, we, at the first opportunity, circumambulated the temple only to check out the complex carvings & capture them.

Other devotees too appeared so enamored that despite the scorching heat, they were out there —relishing the array.

The God within had to wait, for so mesmerizing were the embellishments outside. Yet, isn’t it also true that beauty & joy goad humans closer to divinity?

There was nary a soul which stepped right in, ignoring this splendour.

The ones who did, were sated with the treat their eyes partook of.

It had drizzled the previous day but the Sun still shone with vigour & hence, when our eyes strained to capture the grandeur, we let our camera do the work.

The walls stand lavished with engravings of Gods & Goddesses, Apsaras & nymphs, beasts & demigods


It was as if we had entered another state!

The elaborately chiseled panels seemed to throb with life.

On one side of the complex is a flight of steps, which offers a sweeping view of the temple. However, the scaffolding obstructed our view.

When the heat became unbearable, we had no choice but to step in. Isn’t that the way with life too? Divinity is the recourse when life gets intolerable. Until then, we are slaves to our senses, even though the perils & pain are well-known.

The ingress to the temple was welcoming —like the childhood home one might’ve left behind; the home with its haimish feel, a reminder of one’s halcyon days.

The two Nandis at the entrance

Another salient feature is that the temple is hypaethral (partially open to the skies) & a flight of 20 steps takes you down to where the Shiv Linga, is emplaced.

Photography is not permitted here & that made for an undisturbed communion.

A Sculpted Pillar Inside the Sanctum Sanctorum

The inner chamber with its natural dankness provided some respite from the heat &, the fragrance of flowers & frankincense instantly invoked a divine feel.

However, given the small area that was teeming with devotees, the priests ensured that none lingered for more than 5 minutes.

We had a fleeting glimpse but that was enough to compose us. It’s so surprising that the ornate beauty outside got us excited but it was the sight of the divine within the chambers, that actually made us feel contented!

After our brief shufty, we continued surveying the precincts. Enclosed within, is a pond with turtles & another charming temple of Lord Hanuman.

However, outside lies a stagnant lotus pond that’s quite filthy & from which had risen a few pink lotuses. The pond seems to double up as a dumping place for trash. I wish the ASI or designated authorities clean the pond & gentrify the place, for, a place of such significance definitely deserves to stand out.

Ok, now for some guidelines..

Ambernath is quite far from the city & hence, it’s advisable to take a train, which is the quickest mode of transport.

Try going in monsoon or winter, so that you can spend enough time outside.

Chikhloli Dam between Ambarnath & Badlapur is supposed to be beautiful with its scenic waterfalls. So, a monsoon visit to both places can make for a refreshing picnic.

Matheran is 37 kms away from Ambernath. Hence, you could plan a stopover here, en route to Matheran.

For a while after we left the temple confines, the temple & the images of sculpted figurines flashed before my eyes but was soon overshadowed by the here & now.  However, like the sculptors of yore, who created beauty (Sundaram) & thereby evoked divinity (Shiva) auspiciousness/orderliness/ divine order, I realized that we too could try looking for this truth in the ordinariness..


  1. Gopinath Iyer

    Nice pictures and amazing detailed information. Thanks for bringing to life temples hitherto unknown and little cared for.

  2. Kishore Kumar

    Wow ! Yet another hidden gem ! Lovely sculptures and excellently described as usual ! Thanks !

  3. Paritosh

    We would have loved to visit along with you. Will visit to experience the content herein. As usual, the literature is utterly meaningful as expected from you. Cheers

  4. Ravi Kumar

    Very..nice ….creates interest …to make a visit soon…..never knew Mumbai has ancient temple near by…..good photography too….well crafted article….all the best…..

    1. Shubhrata Shankar Iyer

      Yes, Mumbai does boast of some such temples. Some of them are my favorites, as I have always liked visiting perhaps due to the tranquility they exude or because of their magnificence. Thank you once again for going through.

  5. Vidya Vijay Kulkarni

    I liked the way you have projected Temple’s beauty by giving images from all angles to highlight epitome in its structure/architecture and your flowing language always fascinates me !

    1. Shubhrata Shankar Iyer

      Thank you so much for that. You have never failed to go through my blog & comment too. I’m motivated to write more because of readers like you..

  6. Sunny Gupta

    Very well penned and heartily appreciate your efforts to put the limelight on such hidden gems.

    Please keep it up and wish if we all can visit such exclusive memorials together, if that can be arranged.

    Once again, thank you soo much for sharing your experiences.

    1. Shubhrata Shankar Iyer

      Thank you for finding the time to go through. Of course, we all can plan a visit to some of these. I’ve more planned in my bucket list. Shall keep you informed.

  7. Samir Mehta

    These gems for the inner minds crown 👑 lying scattered in the skirts of Mumbai and these captures of yours and peccable writeups have been a divine recourse for me. Excellent thoughts. Simply enthralled. 🙏🙏🙏

    1. Shubhrata Shankar Iyer

      Thank you so much. I’m so glad that you enjoyed it :-). Sometimes, readers are the ones who give me the impetus to continue blogging.

  8. Radhika Vijay

    Lovely pictures. From some angles looks like a temple in Kerala.Will definitely make it a point to visit while in Mumbai. Thank you

    1. Shubhrata Shankar Iyer

      Ok. Which temple in Kerala do you mean? I’d love to visit the place. I felt this was close to the Hampi group of temples, in Karnataka. But yes, you must visit the place; I’m sure you too would like it..

  9. Rajesh Keshri

    वास्तु स्मृति- अम्बरनाथ शिव मंदिर- मनोहारी स्थापत्य कला। इस मंदिर की गिनती अजंता एलोरा आदि के साथ भारतीय वास्तु और शिल्पकला के नायाब धरोहरों में होती होगी और प्राचीनतम हिंदु मंदिरों में भी। देखना एक अद्भुत अनुभव होगा।
    पुरातत्व विभाग की देखभाल भी बेहतर लगती है।
    पर्यटकों के लिए मंदिर की बजाय अपने अनोखे स्थापत्य के कारण यह ज्यादा लोकप्रिय होगी।
    हमेशा की तरह- Mesmerising description enticing immediate visit- Thankyou tra-versa! 👌

  10. Rajesh Keshri

    When the heat became unbearable, we had no choice but to step in. Isn’t that Human behaviour explained so wisely. 👌
    “the way with life too? Divinity is the recourse when life gets intolerable. Until then, we are slaves to our senses, even though the perils & pain are well-known”

  11. Rajesh Keshri

    Human behaviour explained so wisely. 👌
    “When the heat became unbearable, we had no choice but to step in. Isn’t that the way with life too? Divinity is the recourse when life gets intolerable. Until then, we are slaves to our senses, even though the perils & pain are well-known.”

  12. Subodh Ekbote

    Lovely blog👏👏 Am impressed and surprised to see the beauty and vibe of this place.. its soo pure, peaceful and relaxing .. I will surely plan a visit sometime here 😊 Thanks and wishing you the best for your blog. Keep writing and inspiring 💫

  13. Sangeetha+Iyer

    What a beautiful temple, how aptly described. Very well written, and this temple reminds of another temple I visited recently ( one of the oldest). Thanks for this 💜💜

    1. Shubhrata Shankar Iyer

      Thank you for liking. Which other temple did it remind you of?

      1. Sangeetha+Iyer

        In Coimbatore, I’ll write about it soon.

  14. Sonali Bhagwate

    Very well written Shubhrata..Your write ups always adds to my info and inspires me to dig deeper and deeper into our lesser known ancient beauties. Thanks and keep writing..

  15. Sudha

    Beautiful write-up and pictures of this peaceful ancient temple. Do keep writing 👍

    1. Shubhrata Shankar Iyer

      Thank you so much for like both. Do keep reading… 🙂

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