The Sankranti ‘sunbeam’ is a yearly occurrence at the ancient Gavi Gangareshwara temple in south Bangalore. Carved out of a single big rock cave, the temple takes its name from gavi, meaning cave. One has climb down the steps into the cave for a darshan of Lord Shiva, the main deity.
The Shiva lingam is tall and attractively carved. The water outlet from the pedestal of the lingam is to the right instead of to the left. A trickle of water flows perennially in the cave and thus, Lord Eshwara, with Ganga flowing quietly by, resides in the cave — hence named Gavi Gangareshwara.
Inside the sanctum sanctorum are two beautiful cave-like passages, walkways around the inner shrine. The cave temple has monolithic pillars in the shape of Shiva’s trident with drum attached. Besides the lingam and the Nandi bull, the temple site has the idol of Agnimurthi (fire god) bearing two heads, seven hands and three legs. A fifth generation priest is in charge here, who takes time off to drop little nuggets of history for pilgrims’ pleasure. The Shiva lingam and Nandi bull,apparently, had emerged on their own. Thus, even though the temple face south, which is highly unusual, nothing was changed.
In front of the temple are four monolithic pillars — two of them supporting suryapana discs, one with a damaru and the other with a trishul (trident), each rising to five metres height.
The temple’s grandiosity lies on Makar Sankranti. In another confluence of faith and science, a unique phenomenon occurs here, every year, on this day. A beam of sun rays passes through the two windows to the south of the cave, facing the temple, and slides down through the horns of the monolithic statue of Shiva’s Nandi bull. Then, the sunbeams fade away, after touching the lingam.
The sun rays do not enter the temple on any other day in this pattern. The time varies somewhat, but it always occurs around winter solstice.