We recently found an Indra temple, along with a few more shrines built in worship of Lord Shiva, in Chandori, a town by the river Godavari in Southern Maharashtra.
The temples of Chandori surfaced after over 35 years, and this came to surprise locals as well. The sarpanch of Chandori himself, Sandeep Tarle, had never seen the temples in his lifetime until the water of the Godavari started receding. This led to the resurfacing of some ancient temples, claimed to be over 10,000 years old by locals.
Of course we have no evidence of this, but we do know from the architecture of the temple that this style is Hemadpanthi (or Hemadpanti) Sculpture, which started in Maharashtra in 13th Cent AD. The temples are from the Classical period, but who built these temples is still unknown. The style was named after the prime minister Hemadpant (1259–1274 CE) from the court of Seuna Yadavas of Devagiri. The Seuna Dynasty claims to be descendants of the Yadavas, and that’s as far of the mythology of this place goes! Traces of this architecture are seen in Daulatabad, the Tulja Bhavani temple, Aundha Naganath temple, etc.
If you are familiar with Marathi, do watch this video about the discovery of the temples in Chandori:
What do we know? Locals say there are 12 Shivlingas (13 including one up the mound by the river) and one temple each dedicated to Lord Ganesha and Lord Indra. The last time the temples were seen was when the Godavari dried up in this region in 1982. According to TOI, some claim after the building of the Nandur Madhyameshwar dam in 1907, the temples were submerged, but a few locals agree the temple was built in the 13th Century and the changing of Godavari’s course led to the submerging of these shrines by the river. The temple situated in the deepest portion of the riverbed has a statue of a Hindu god in sleeping posture, which according to the locals, is Lord Indra.
What’s fascinating about finding an Indra temple? Well, only a few people in Tamil Nadu, during Pongal celebrate and worship the God Indra. There are a few references to the worship of Indra in rituals and festivals in Tamil literature, but temples were never built for him so widely, except in certain parts of Tamil Nadu (Kongu Nadu) and very rarely elsewhere. You can explore Indra’s appearance in Tamil texts and some festivals here. The most Indra is seen is in temples of other Gods in the form of idols.
The vedic era didn’t believe in idol worship or setting Gods in stone. When Gods like Vishnu and Shiva (seen as Mahadeva or formerly by some as Lord Rudra) gained importance and multiple temples were built for them across the Indian subcontinent, Gods like Brahma and Indra fell behind. By Vedic principle, Indra sacrificed himself for the popularity of other Gods. Indra’s position also became declining when the Puranas started gaining popularity, which their demigod deities, super human examples and this led to the eventual disregard for Indra because he started being portrayed as more of a wrathful and negative God when ‘humanized’ for people’s understanding.
Indra is the god of rain and thunder, and he is worshipped in spirit across the country, especially by many farmers who pray to him for rains and prosperous monsoons.
Special thanks to these sites — Aashish Chawla | TOI | Why we don’t have Indra temples