Contents: Khandoba, Jejuri Temple and Dhawadi Nimgaon Temple
Khandoba is one of the most popular tribal deities in the Deccan.
In Maharashtra , besides being known as Khandoba, he is also known as Yelkot and Malhari Martand. He is also identified with Mallana in Andhra Pradesh, Mailara in Karnataka and amongst a section of muslims as Mallu Khan.
Khandoba is widely believed to be an incarnation of Lord Shiva and is worshipped as the presiding deity by the Dhangar, Teli,Ramoshi, and Mang communities and even by some in the Lingayat,Maratha, Deshastha Brahmin,Mali and Jains community as a incarnation of Lord Shiva.
As the mythology goes, Lord Shiva assumed the form of Martand Bhairava to vanquish two asuras by the names of Mani and Malla. Along with his army of a crore which gave him the name Yelkot (leader of a army of a crore) he is said to have defeated the demon army.
Pic source: Uttam Patil, Jejurigad from a distance
It is said that the duel between the God and the demon took place on a hillock called Jayadri, which is todays Jejuri, a town situated around 45 kms from Pune, Maharashtra.
Because the lord slew the demon using a sword called Khanda, he has come to be known as Khandoba.
Khandoba is usually shown riding a white horse. This horse is said to be an offering to the lord by the dying demon Mani as his gesture of repentence. In return he was transformed into a demi –god and is usually present in Khandoba temples and is even presented goat meat as a offering by the devotees.
The unrepentant Malla was however decapitated by the Lord.
Today the temple premise is almost covered with bhandara or yellow turmeric powder, because the root of turmeric is said to be in the shape of a linga, a phallic representation of Shiva. As is the belief, the Lord manifested himself as a turmeric before a group of shepherds that were frequenting this hillock. Hence this bhandara is always sprinkled over the idols.
Another indispensable part of the Khandoba iconography is a dog. It is said that when Khandoba slew the demon, a pack of dogs who assisted the lords forces jumped in glee abandon over the corpses of the demons. Hence alongside the statues of the Gods there is also an idol of the dog.
In the olden times , there were a group of boys and girls solemnized to the lord. They were known as Vaghyas (representing the dog) and Murlis (representing the Lords concubines) respectively. They used to perform ritual dances before the God. Their matrimony was prohibited and the Muralis after attaining puberty were subjected to solicitation. But this practice, especially of the Murlis has been curbed in modern society and mainly by law. Also several other bizarre and rather crude tribal rituals related to these temples (and not in tune to todays sensibilities), have also been banned.
The Khandoba temples also has idols of his wives viz. Mhalsabai a Lingayat (a caste found in border of Maharashtra,Karnataka and Andhrapradesh. They are worshippers of Shiva as the Linga) by caste and Banai a Dhangar (sheperd) by caste. Hegde Pradhan, the Lords brother in law (brother of Mhalsadevi) and commander of his armies is also venerated.
Khandoba also had other wives like Ramabai shimpin (weaver caste),Phulai Malin (gardener caste) and Khandai Bhagvin Telin (muslim oil maker caste).
The priests at Khandoba temples are traditionally Guravs by caste and not Brahmins as is generally the custom.
Some of the main Khandoba temples in Maharashtra are Jejuri: the primary temple, Dawadi Nimgaon near Rajgurunagar, Pali near Satara,Naldurg near Osmanabad ,Shegud near Ahmednagar and Satare near Aurangabad.
Jejuri is a town in Pune district, located around 45 kms from the city.
Its medieval temple is located on a hillock. There are 200 stone steps leading to the temple passing through toranas (huge doorway arches).
There are a lot of vendors on the way selling offerings meant for the Gods like turmeric powder, garlands,flowers etc.
Outside the main doorway one sees a majestic statue of a sharabha that is so revered in the Khandoba (Shiva) temples as the Lords incarnation and another figurine of an elephant.
The main temple itself is within a stone fortification (gadkot). It is said that Jejuri used to be a fort in the medieval times. This was the place where Shahajiraje met his illustrious son Ch.Shivaji raje after a long period of separation (sometime around 1662 AD).
The fortification is in form of a arcade passageway with a parapet covering the perimeter of the temple premise.
There are cusped windows opening from the passageway (on both sides) also giving one a view outside.
Outside the main temple one comes across a minor temple of the demon turned demi god, Mani and also four huge deepmalas line up.
The main structure consists of a sabhamandap with a adjoined garbhagriha.
Inside the mandap are two stone horses, one of them having a image Khadoba astride.
Inside the garbhagriha are two lingas one of Khandoba and anther of Mhalsabai.
They are covered with silver masks. In addition are several images of Khadoba-Mhalsa, two in silver, one in brass. The idol of Khandoba has a sword, a trishul , a damru and a bowl. The Mhalsa images hold lotus flowers. The pair standing in the centre was a gift from the Satara Chatrapatis in 1932. The third pair was donated by Serfoji Bhosale of Tanjore in 1725. Also alongside are figurines of female attendents known as Jogeshwaris. There is also a figurine of a horse, which was Khandobas vaahan (vehicle).
Outside the temlple is a twenty eight feet brass plated tortoise, a part of temple iconography. It is used as a rangashila or a platform while singing devotional songs.
The temple structure has a very ornate devali styled nagara shikhara , decorated with figurines of motifs,animals, deities,demi gods etc.
There are several smaller shrines dedicated to Ganesha,Tuljabhavani,Shiva,Ram,Hanuman,Banai,Hegde Pradhan etc.
The temple deity is supposed to be jagrut (alive) and can be quickly appeased by his loyal devtoees.
It is said that Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb had come down to Jejuri to vandalise this temple. But was stopped midway by a hornet of bees. It was only when at the advise of a hindu soldier, he made a offering to the temple, that the bees disappeared. The frightened emperor then decided to retreat from Jejuri and the temple was spared from descecration.
There is a way from the rear of the temple where one can also take up vehicles, although only midway.
One also comes across a medieval / post medieval artificial tank called Peshwai talao.
Dawadi Nimgaon Temple
This Khandoba temple is located at Dawadi Nimgaon, around 10kms from Rajgurunagar (Khed), 45 kms from Pune, off Pune-Nasik highway.
This temples jeernoddhar was done by Gangobatatya Chandrachud, the diwan of the famed Maratha sardar Malharrao Holkar of Indore in 1739. The actual Khandoba temples had previously shifted locations from nearby hills like Arud , Dhamantek to the vicinity of the actual temple, until being settled at its present location.
Dawadi Nimgaon was also the inamdari/jagir of Gangobatatya and his wada (mansion) still exists in the village.
The fortification and nagarkhana around the temple was done by Sardar Fatehsingh Gaekwad of Baroda in 1789.
The fortification has a similar parapet below an aisled arcade passageway , quite similar to the one in Jejuri.
Outside one sees a minor temple dedicated to Hegade Pradhan.
There are also several figurines of livestock which were so dear to Khandobas consort Banai.
The actual temple is divided into a sabhamandap and the gabhara.
The temple walls also have devkoshtas (aedicules) having idols of Vithoba Rakhumai and other deities from the inside.
The wall exterior has sharabha carvings. There are also several shilalekhs in the temple stating events related to the temple. One mentioning vandalism by the Mughal army in 1702 . Others mentioning instances of lightening striking the temple premises and also contributions made to the temple by the devotees.
The ceiling and shikharas are very ornate with beautiful motif work.
The temple also has some beautifully designed latticed windows.
There are also minor temples of Ganesha ,Mhalsabai,Banai in the precincts.
Both the Jejuri and the Dawadi Nimgaon temples are fine examples of medieval temple and fort architecture and must see places for both pilgrims and tourists alike.
Text and photographs (except the ones credited) by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha