A celebration that turns the town golden - Festival of Turmeric - By Mukkesh Sharma
It appears like a castle on the top of hill until you notice the temple like structures on top or the lamp-pillars on the arches on the steps, yes, it is a temple of Kahndoba in Jejuri located about 50 km from Pune.
This temple is the main centre of worship of Khandoba, also known as Malhari Martanda, a clan deity of many warrior, farming, herding and priest families of Maharashtra and the Deccan region. It is believed that this temple was the place for secret meetings of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and his father Shahaji Maloji Raje Bhosle.
Kahndoba is Marathi instance of Lord Shiva. His Idol in this temple is typically depicted with four arms, in one of which he holds the bowl of turmeric powder. Khandoba has many wives from many local communities but the most important being Mhalsa (Marathi instance of Goddess Parvati) who often rides into battle with Khandoba on his horse.
On the auspicious occasion of every Somvati Amavasya (in Hinduism new moon day falls on Monday is called Somvati Amavasya) Jejuri celebrates Bhandara festival. In the festival the devotees throw turmeric in the air and it is locally called as “Bhandara” (Bhandara in Marathi means turmeric) and hymns in praise “Yell kot Yell kot Malhari”.
This festival is celebrated thrice in a year and this year first celebration was on 4th of February 2019. Thousands of devotees cover the temple premises in turmeric as an offering to the Lord Khandoba.
At noon, Khandoba’s idol is taken out in procession called Palki or palanquin with his wife Malsha to have a bath in the river Karha.
This holy bath is carried out to recreate their marriage, and many believe that the turmeric ritual comes from the Hindu tradition of applying turmeric powder to the bride and groom before the wedding.
Therefore, it is believed that a newly married couple must visit the Khandoba temple to celebrate their wedlock.
The entire stretch of the winding path becomes yellow-tinted during the journey due to turmeric. A random hand darting out of the crowd and daubing your forehead with turmeric is a common sight during this festival.
By the time a devotee takes the hundredth step to the temple, Khandoba’s pilgrims would have showered turmeric on every passing person an idol.
The day-long celebration at the temple of Khandoba where devotees throw turmeric (which is the significance of gold) on each other and all around, filling the air and the skies in beautiful hues of gold.
This is why the temple premise is called the 'Sonyachi Jejuri' which translates to 'The Golden Jejuri'.