Paithan, located 56 kilometers south of Aurangabad, has shot into global prominence for its beautiful silk sarees which sport intricately embroidered gold or silver borders. That apart, it is known for being the birthplace of Sri Nimbarka, the founder of the Nimbarka Sampradaya tradition of Vaishnavism. The city was also the home of the great Maharashtrian saint Eknath Maharaj, whose ‘samadhi’ can be found there.
Paithan was the capital of the Satavahana Empire of ancient India that ruled from 2nd century BC to 2nd century AD. As per legends, Pratishthana, as it was known then, was built by King Ila who was the ruler of Bahlika. He once strayed into Lord Shiva’s forest during his hunting trip and was therefore cursed to become a woman. By praying to Shiva’s consort Parvati, Ila managed to stay as man and woman alternatively every month. He would not remember events of one stage in the other. When he was a woman, he married Budha through whom he had a son. Budha helped Ila attain his former self by pleasing Shiva through an ‘Ashwamedha Yajna’ (horse sacrifice). Ila then left Bahlika and established the city Pratishthana from where he ruled for long.
Historians find Paithan very interesting and the city’s various locations have, from time to time, thrown up evidence of pre-historic and proto-historic antiquities. Even now a number of antiquities of different periods are abundantly available on the surface of the mounds at Paithan. Thus we come across an amazing variety of beads, terracotta, bangles and coins of the Satavahana period. Meanwhile, apart from the thriving of the three major religious sects such as Buddhism, Jainism and Vedic at Paithan ever since it became the capital city of the Satavahanas, all the religious movements during the medieval period have centered round this historic city.
From ancient times Paithan was an important emporium of commerce with links connecting it to trading centres across India and even Europe. It developed its own religion and educational institutions and in the field of art drew the attention of Muslim invaders whose culture left its imprint upon the life and manners of the people of Paithan. During the 17th century, the Marathas, recognising the value of Paithan as a nodal hub of religious and economic importance, strove hard to keep it under control. Many Maratha rulers made it a point to stop at Paithan while on their way to other places. In 1679, for instance, Chhartrapati Shivaji halted at Paithan while proceeding to Jalna. The Peshwas also kept close connections with Paithan and Balaji Bajirao in 1761 married into the Wakhare family – known moneylenders of Paithan.
The village of Mungi in Paithan was the birthplace of Nimbarka, the founder of the Nimbarka Sampradaya tradition of Vaishnavism and the town was also home to the great Maharashtrian saint Eknath. Devotees flock to pay respects at his ‘samadhi’ during the time of ‘Paithan Yatra’, also known as ‘Nath Shashthi’. The town is also well-known as a Digambar Jain Atishay Kshetra. A beautiful black-coloured sand idol of the 20th Jain Tirthankar, Bhagwan Munisuvratnath, is installed in a temple here. In terms of commerce, the town is mostly famous today for its sarees.
For tourists, the Jayakwadi Dam is a major draw and enthusiastic bird watchers often come here to study and photograph the many resident and migratory birds this area supports.This is the world’s first dam made from soil. It has 27 gates. On August 9, 2006, Paithan experienced its worst flood in known history when the dam’s floodgates were opened because of heavy rainfall in the region. Photography at this dam is banned and driving your vehicle up to it is not permitted. Paithan is also famous for the the Natha Sagar reservoir and the Dnyaneshwar Garden which are favourite spots of the tourists. The migratory birds in the Nath Sagar reservoir attract many bird watchers at this location. The Dnyaneshwar garden is designed on the lines of the Brindavan Garden of Mysore and is a popular place for the tourists.
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