The Akshayavat Temple, also known as Shri Adi Vat Madhav, is an important Hindu temple situated in the holy city of Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh, India. This ancient temple holds great religious significance and is deeply revered by Hindus across the world.
Prayagraj, earlier known as Allahabad, is one of the oldest living cities in the world. It is situated at the confluence of three holy rivers – Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati. This confluence of rivers is called ‘Sangam’ and is considered extremely sacred by Hindus. Prayagraj finds mention in many ancient Hindu scriptures and is site of the legendary Kumbh Mela which is held here every 12 years. The city is home to numerous temples, among which Akshayavat Temple is one of the most prominent.
Akshayavat Temple derives its name from the ‘Akshaya Vata’ or eternal Banyan tree that grows in its premises. According to mythology, the tree is immortal and can never be destroyed. It is believed to be over 3000 years old.
The temple finds mention in several ancient Hindu texts. As per religious beliefs, Lord Rama visited this site along with Laxman and Sita during his exile. He is said to have performed a religious ceremony under the sacred Akshaya Vata to ensure success in the war against Ravana. Even today, the Akshaya Vata is worshipped by devotees and is believed to fulfill wishes.
Another significance of the Akshayavat Temple is its location. It is situated right on the banks of the river Yamuna in the Sangam area along with temples dedicated to Lord Narasimha and other deities. The Saraswati Kup, an invisible holy well which demonstrates the presence of the mythical Saraswati river is also located nearby. Devotees believe taking a dip at Sangam and praying at Akshayavat Temple will rid them of sins and cycle of rebirth.
The renowned Chinese traveler, Hwensang, once graced this site during his Indian sojourn. Back then, it resembled a mound. However, the temple and the legendary Akshvat tree were submerged when Emperor Akbar constructed the fort.
Descend the steps to be greeted by Dharmaraja’s idol, and as you ascend, the deity of death, Yamaraja, watches over. The narrow corridor symbolizes our life’s deeds. The temple complex also houses exquisite sixth-century sculptures and walls from the Devangan era, concealed by Akbar. Notably, this sacred space witnessed Mata Sita’s bracelet donation during the Treta era. Devotees can also find the deity in his Ardhanarishwar form and a statue symbolizing Prayag, the pilgrimage’s crown jewel. A perpetual flame dedicated to Lord Shani burns throughout the year, symbolizing unwavering faith.
The Akshayavat Temple complex houses a number of shrines dedicated to various deities. The main shrine is the ancient Akshaya Vata itself, under which an idol of Lord Vishnu has been placed inside a small cave-like structure. The interior of this cave has carvings depicting events from Hindu scriptures.
Another important shrine is dedicated to the Navgrahas, the nine planetary deities of Hindu astrology. This temple has an idol placement in sync with the Navgrahas to remove negative planetary influences.
There are also separate temples for Goddess Parvati, Lord Ganesha, Lord Hanuman and Nav Durga. The walls of the temple depict scenes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata through murals and carvings. The sprawling courtyard has ample space for devotees and priests to perform rituals and prayers.
Adjacent to it lies the Saraswati Coup or Kamyakupa, a well once believed to grant salvation to those who leapt into its depths. Emperor Akbar later sealed this well, leaving only its covered section visible. A red-marked circular spot indicates the original Saraswati Coup, a testament to Akbar’s reign.
Overall, the architecture of Akshayavat Temple is simple yet majestic, with its proximity to the holy Sangam adding to its divine significance.
The Akshayavat Temple holds great importance in Hinduism for multiple reasons:
Thus, with its central place in scriptures, ritualistic role, sacred location and branches of worship, the Akshayavat Temple forms a vital part of Hindu ethos and identity. It will continue to be a significant theological and cultural center for the Sanatan Dharma.
In summary, the Akshayavat Temple of Prayagraj is an ancient and sacred site of immense religious significance for Hindus. Its legendary Akshaya Vata tree, presence of key deities, location at Sangam and role in scriptures make it a popular pilgrimage center. The temple provides spiritual solace and connects devotees to the ancient Indian heritage. It will continue to be an integral part of the Hindu religious ethos in the years to come.