Jejuri Bhandara Festival: Shower of Turmeric
The Bhandara festival at Khandoba Temple, Jejuri takes place on Somvati Amavasya- a new moon day that falls on a Monday. It usually occurs two or three times in a year. This year Somvati Amavasya will fall on these dates: 4th February 2019, 3rd June 2019 and 28th October 2019. Annual six-day fair (Jejuri Yatra) is celebrated from the first to sixth lunar day of the bright fortnight of the Hindu month of Margashirsha. The sixth day (Skanda Sashthi or Champa Sashthi) will fall on 2nd December 2019 this year.
India is a land of colours and festivals. Jejuri, which is about 50 kms from Pune actually lives up to its name. The town is aptly named “Sonyachi Jejuri” which means “The Golden Jejuri”. Devotees of local deity, God Khandoba celebrate the Bhandara festival with great enthusiasm on Somvati Amavasya in Jejuri. And their ritual of celebration is unique – an astounding amount of Bhandare (turmeric) is being thrown all over the temple premises by devotees.
Myriads of devotees from all over Maharashtra and neighboring states flock to Jejuri. As golden hue of turmeric engulfs the town, its starts reverberating with the holy chants of ‘Yelkot Yelkot Jai Malhar’. It is sight to behold and moment to experience as the entire atmosphere gets soaked into ‘mood of ‘Bhakti’ or divine celebration. One of India’s popular poets, Arun Kolatkar describes his pilgrimage to Jejuri which won him Commonwealth Prize in his poem Scratch:
What is god
and what is stone
the dividing line
if it exists
is very thin
and every other stone
is god or his cousin…
Scratch a rock..and a legend springs
Popular Legends of Khandoba
Khandoba is God of many names – Malhari, Mallari-Martanda, Mhalasakanta, Mailar, Mairala, Mallukhana and Bhairava. The cult of Khandoba is popular throughout the Deccan Plateau in the states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Khandoba is the kuldevta (family deity) of a number of nomadic, agricultural and hunting communities, and various merchant, warrior and Deshastha Brahmin castes. It is a strong belief that Khandoba married women from different communities to indicate the equality of various castes and communities. Khandoba’s fourth wife is said to be a gardener whereas his fifth wife was from oil presser caste. Beyond Hindus, Khandoba is also worshiped by Muslims, who call him Mallu Khan, and by the Jains and Lingayats.
His idol is typically depicted with four arms, in one of which he holds a Bhandara-patra or the bowl of turmeric powder. Khandoba is worshipped with turmeric, belfruit-leaves, onions and other vegetables. Some devotees also offer him puran poli – or a bharit rodga of onion and brinjal. Many devotees in different sects also rever the deity as a lover of non-vegetarian delicacies and offer goat flesh as one of their offerings. It is believed that a newly married couple must visit the Khandoba temple to celebrate their wedlock. Some of them also visit the temple when they want to make a wish for a child as Lord Khandoba is known to be the god of fertility among believers.
The legends of Khandoba are found in the text Malhari Mahatmya and also narrated in folk songs. The legends revolve around his victory over demons Mani-Malla and his marriages. According to Malhari Mahatmya , the battle between Khandoba and the demons Malla and Mani is the prime story behind the birth of Lord Martanda Bhairava. The name Malhari or Mallari comes from the words ‘Malla’ and ‘ari’ which means the destroyer of Malla or the enemy of Malla. The demon-brothers named Malla and Mani were creating a havoc in the world as they had got a boon from Lord Brahma. All Gods prayed to Lord Shiva to destroy these demons. Lord Shiva incarnated himself as Khandoba on earth and killed both brothers in fierce battle. While dying Mani asked for forgiveness by offering his white horse to Khandoba. He gained boon to be in every shrine of Martanda Bhairava.
There are more than 600 temples dedicated to Khandoba in the Deccan region. The Khandoba temple in Jejuri is the most significant amongst these. It is said Khandoba, accompanied by his two wives, Mhalasa and Banu, settled down in Jejuri thanks to the invitation of an ardent devotee. In fact, there are two shrines on top of a hill in Jejuri: one is Kadepathar and another is Gad-kot Temple. Kadepathar is difficult to climb. The second one is the newer, popular and is relatively easy to climb. This temple is picturesque—a fort-like enclosure on the top of a conical hill rises above the town, and the steps leading from Jejuri town to the fort. These buildings and structures are said to be the result of the navas or vows made to Khandoba. Any devotee whose wish is fulfilled here has to build a step or erect a pillar or construct an arched gateway or sculpt an image of a bull, tiger or an elephant. The main temple enclosure consists of a mandapa (audience hall), a garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum) and a central courtyard lined with four large stone deepa stambhas (lamp towers).
Sonyachi Jejuri – Golden Jejuri
There are two main festivities that take place at Khandoba Temple. Jejuri Yatra is six-day festival, from the first to sixth lunar day of the bright fortnight of the Hindu month of Margashirsha. It is celebrated to commemorate the fierce battle between Khandoba and demons Mani-Malla. On the sixth day (Champa-Shashthi), Khandoba is believed to defeat and kill the demons. The other festival is Somvati Amavasya, which is a new-moon day that falls on a Monday. Chaitra Pournima and Dasara are also celebrated at Khandoba Temple.
Rituals Performed During Festivals
During festivals, there are various activities that take place in the temple premises (Gad-kot Temple). Devotees throw turmeric on each other and all around, filling the air and the skies in beautiful hues of golden. This is why the temple premises is called the ‘Sonyachi Jejuri’ which translates to ‘The Golden Jejuri’. Devotees also chant and shout out hymns in praise of Lord Khandoba like ‘Yelkot Yelkot Jai Malhar’, ‘Sadanandache Yelkot’. There are devotees who are engrossed singing devotional songs. These musicians are an integral part of the cult of Khandoba and are called ‘Waghyas’ meaning tigers. Traditionally, the Waghyas were entrusted with spreading legends of Khandoba through songs and poems. There are devotees who engage in flagellating themselves and still remaining unharmed. It is devotees’ belief that they are in divine ‘trance’ and hence immune to any physical pain.
There is procession of thousands of devotees carrying the palki or palanquin. It carries the idols of Khandoba and his first wife Mhalsa for a holy bath from the temple on the hill to the Karha River. The procession is best seen from the roof-top of the temple where I can only admire sea of pilgrims drenched in turmeric and chanting ‘Yelkot Yelkot Jai Malhar’. With the holy dip in the river, the ritual of the Khandoba’s marriage is recreated. At the end of the day, the idols are taken back to the shrine. A series of thousands of lamps get lightened on the spectacularly constructed Deepmalas to welcome the gods to their abode.
Significance of Turmeric
There are many reasons in folklore which tell the importance of turmeric during festivities. Many believe that the tradition emerged from the old Hindu tradition of applying turmeric to the bride and groom on the eve of their wedding day. Since the festival celebrates the wedding ritual and great union of Lord Khandoba and his wife Mhalsa. Some believe it to be the offering respect for his being from the Surya- the symbol of power and brightness. Many paintings depict him riding a horse with a bowl full of turmeric powder in the hand may serve the reason of the amber golden celebration. For the devotees at Jejuri, turmeric signifies gold. Therefore, throwing turmeric around symbolizes the gold and riches that Lord Khandoba should bless them with.
How to reach Jejuri – Location and Map
Jejuri is about 50 km from Pune. It is well-connected to other parts of the state. Visitors can take government run buses from Pune or hire private cabs to reach Jejuri. Jejuri Railway Station is the nearest railway station to Khandoba Temple. You can also board trains from places like Pune and Mumbai to reach Jejuri. Pune Airport is the nearest airport to the town of Jejuri.
Jejuri Itinerary – Nearby Attractions
Jejuri is a perfect day-trip destination for residents of Pune. Along with Jejuri, there are two main attractions nearby. Moreshwar Temple of Lord Ganesha is about 18 kms from Jejuri in Moregaon village. This temple is considered to be the first temple among the Ashta Vinayak temples of Lord Ganesha and also one of the popular places of pilgrimage. At a distance of 23 km from Jejuri, Fort Jadhavgadh is an ancient hill fort situated at Jadhavwadi in Pune district of Maharashtra. Fort Jadhavgadh lies at an altitude of 2511 feet and commanding a spectacular view of Diva ghat.