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. Gaya and Buddha Gaya
nearby have been revered pilgrimage centers of India since antiquity.
The other well known temples in Gaya
are the Vishnupaada Temple, the Dakshinaarka
Temple and the Mangala Gowri temple.
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 CE
as testified from stone inscriptions nearby.
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.
in Gaya: The Kedaara, Rameshwara, Vriddha-Prapitaamaheswara temple,
Markandyesha, Falgisha, Matangeshwara, Rinamoksha, Paapamoksha, Pitaamaheshwara temples in
addition to the well known Vishnupaada and the Mangalagauri temples deserve mention.