Vishnupad Temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu rebuilt by Ahilyabai Holkar

Vishnupad Temple, Gaya – Footprint of Lord Vishnu

Vishnupad Temple is one of the ancient and most famous Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It is located in Gaya, Bihar, India on the bank of the river Phalgu, marked by a footprint of Lord Vishnu called Dharmsila, carved into a block of basalt. At the top of the structure is a 50-kilo god flag, donated by Gayapal Panda Bal Govind Sen, a devotee.

The Brahma Kalpit Brahmins, also known as Gayawal Brahmins, Gayawal Tirth Purohit, Pandas of Gaya, are the traditional priests of the temple from ancient times.

Legends related to Vishnupad Temple

Gayasura, a demon, did a heavy penance(Tapasya) and sought a boon that whoever sees him should attain salvation (Moksham). 

Since salvation is achieved through being righteous in one’s lifetime, people started to obtain it easily.

To prevent immoral people from attaining salvation, Lord Vishnu asked Gayasura to go below the earth and did this by placing his right foot on asura’s head.

Lord Vishnu footprint in the Vishnupad temple

After pushing Gayasura below the surface of the earth, Lord Vishnu’s footprint remained on the surface that we see even today. The footprint consists of nine different symbols including Shankam, Chakram, and Gadham. These are believed to be weapons of the Lord Vishnu.

Gayasura, pushed into earth, pleaded for food. Lord Vishnu gave him a boon that every day someone will offer him food. Whoever does so, their souls will reach heaven. The day Gayasura doesn’t get food, it is believed that he will come out. 

History of Vishnupad Temple

The date of construction is unknown. It is believed that Rama along with Sita had visited this place.

The present-day structure was rebuilt in 1787 by Ahilya Bai Holkar, the ruler of Indore, on the bank of the Falgu river.

Ahilya Bai Holkar had crafted the temple, sent her officers to examine and find the best stone for the temple in the whole region, and they finally found Munger black stone as the best option in Jaynagar. 

Since there was no proper road and the mountains were very far from Gaya, the officers saw another mountain where they can carve and easily bring the stone to Gaya the place was near Bathani (a small village in the Gaya district). 

The officers made the craftsmen from Rajasthan. They began carving the temple in Patharkatti (a village and also a tourist place in Bihar). The final temple was assembled in Gaya near the Vishnupad temple site. 

After completing the construction of the temple many craftsmen returned to their native places, but some of them settled-down in Pattharkatti village itself. 

Bihar government has marked this place as one of the famous tourist spots of Bihar. The 1000 stone steps leading to the top of the Brahmajuni hill on the southwest of the Vishnupad mandir provides the view of Gaya city and the Vishnupad temple, which is a tourist spot. There are also many small temples near this temple.

Architecture

This is thought that the temple was built with the footprints of Lord Vishnu in the center. In Hinduism, this footprint indicates the act of Lord Vishnu defeating Gayasur by placing his foot on his chest. 

Inside the Vishnupad Mandir, the 40 cm long footprint of Lord Vishnu is printed in solid rock and surrounded by a silver-plated basin. 

The height of this temple is 30 meters and it has 8 rows of beautifully carved pillars that support the pavilion. The temple is built of large gray granite blocks jointed with iron clamps. 

The octagonal shrine faces east. Its pyramidal tower rises up 100 feet. The tower has sloping sides with alternately indented and plain sections. The sections are set at an angle to create a series of peaks joined at the top. Within the temple stands the immortal banyan tree Akshayavat where the final rituals for the dead take place.

On top of the temple is a gold flag weighing about 51 kg. Inside the temple is a (Garbhagriha) a silver-coated hexagon railing also known as (pahal).

>>> Read about Nagara Style of Temple Architecture in India

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