Chapter 1


Situated in the hilly country in Maharashtra known as the Balaghat, the knoll on which this temple is located is called ‘Yamunachal’. The Devibhagwat counts it among the 51 ‘shaktipeeths’ (places of shakti worship) in India. Dr.Dhere, stating that there cannot be even a remote logical connection with the Yamuna River in North India, traces the origin of the name to a Sanskritization of the Kannada name ‘Yamman Gudd’ (or Yamai Hill). It is common knowledge that the privilege of ‘first worship’ is accorded to the Matangi at the entrance to the temple. It is also well established that Matangi-Yamai-Yallamma-Renuka are all names of the same ancient mother goddess. As such, says the author, the evolution of Tuljabhavani from Yamai to Mahishasuramardini is at once enigmatic, striking and eternally inspiring. The root ‘emm’ in the name ‘yamai’ denotes ‘mahisha’ (or ‘ox’), which facilitated the ready identification of the deity with Mahishasuramardini, the goddess that has commanded adulation of Indian religiosity (and especially that of Maharashtra) since the time of the Kushans.

The Sen, Karnat, and possibly also the Kadamba, rulers were unremittingly bound with Tuljabhavani worship. It is a fact of history that these two ruling dynasties carried the fame of their deity to distant Bengal, Mithila, Himachal and Nepal. Later, in the seventeenth century, Shivaji’s exploits gained for him an unassailable place in the annals of Tuljabhavani worship. Shivaji made the principles embodied in the deity the virtual raison d'être of his political activism, and Tuljabhavani became a symbol not just of spiritual freedom, but also of national emancipation; it provided her votaries in every age with the strength to subjugate the ‘mahishasur’ of all that was undesirable, evil and inauspicious.

In the present book, Dr.Dhere tracks the all-India ‘conquest’ of the deity giving such details as he found noteworthy from a researcher’s point of view, leaving others that might appeal to the faith of the faithful to be gathered from the numerous literature that is available.

Tuljapur is situated in the present Osmanabad district, about 45 kms. from Solapur. The temple, which is enclosed within a fortress, faces the East and consists of spacious attributes of the garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum), gooddhamandap (assembly hall), etc. The enclosure wall has several small rooms built into it on the inside to house idols of parivaardevata (deities of patron-families). Dr.Dhere cites renowned researcher G.H.Khare’s observation that, except for the ‘Kallolteertha’, there is no evidence of any pre-Islamic structure within the complex.

The author then gives a description of the idol.

The story of how the Goddess vanquished Mahishasura and put him to death was first effectively narrated in the Devimahatmya or Saptashati, which is contained within the Markandeya Purana. Later devotees, charged by the account, created literature that inspired people to resist evil, even at the cost of their own lives. The author discusses this inspirational myth at length in the chapters that follow.

Various teerthas (or water bodies of religious importance), the numerous mutts (monasteries) are described in some detail.

Hingalaj, Koshtambika & Tuljabhavani
Just as an idol of the goddess ‘Hingalaj’ is located within the Garibnath Mutt in Tuljapur, a temple to the same deity exists in Ter, a town 46 kms away. It was an important place in the Satavahana Era, with trade links to distant regions. It appears to have been even more so, since the Shilahars took pride in calling themselves ‘Tagarpuravaradheeshwar’ (Lord of Ter). The Rashtrakuts as well as the Chalukyas contributed to the development of the town.

It was also a center of several religions and cults, as may be seen from the temples, idols, architecture and archaeology of the place. Dr.Dhere takes special note of the large number of ‘Lajjagauri’ idols found and says the incidence is evidence of close identity with the deities Matangi and Shakambhari. The ‘Kostambika’ goddess that finds mention in local religious lore is none other than Tuljabhavani. So, too, is ‘Hingalajai’. Citing an article by S.B.Joshi, the author shows how political changes affect the religious world. This goddess was originally worshipped in the Makran Mountains of Baluchistan in Central Asia and used to be an important place of pilgrimage for the Nath Sampradaya. It has become impossible now, after the creation of Pakistan, to make that pilgrimage, says the author, and adds that an inquiry into the denial of freedom of worship with its attendant aggressive/violent changes, would give a new and comprehensive direction to research in cultural sociology.

Hingalaj, Mahishasurmardini & the Nath Sampradaya
Referring to research on Erotic Sculpture by Dr.Devangana Desai, Dr. Dhere shows how the ’64 Yoginis’ found at diverse places like Khajuraho, Bheda Ghat, Hirapur (Orissa), Ranipur-Jharial, Dudhai, Tryambakeshwar (Maharashtra), Mangalore, etc., are all inspired by the Nath tradition of Matsyendranath-Gorakshanath. Ancient idols of mahishasurmardini are from the Kushan Era. The Kushans came to India from the very same direction as did Hingalaj, a fact that at once solves the riddle of why Mahishasurmardini Yogini in Khajuraho is also known as Hingalaj, and also astounds the researcher’s curiosity with the manner in which forms of worship can evolve.

Symbolism of Deity’s Intervals of Rest
Varying with tradition and custom, every temple observes certain predetermined intervals when the deity is believed to sleep. Dr. Dhere gives details of such periods observed at Tuljapur and explains that these intervals are really meant to be taken symbolically. It is a period during which everyone ought to rest in order to leap into action with renewed vigour in pursuit of new exploits and new directions.

The rite of ‘Seemollanghan’ (extending frontiers) occurs on Dasara at the end of the navaratri (9-day festival). The Marathas actually followed the practice of commencing new military expedition on this auspicious day. From ancient times, this was a time for a rite known as ‘nirajan’ – repair and maintenance of weapons and implements to impart a finer ‘cutting edge’ to one’s new undertakings.  

The various routine and special rituals followed are then described in detail. Of especial interest are the rites known as ‘bhendoli’ (a long piece of cloth) and ‘kathi’ (stick).

The Kadambas and Tuljabhavani

Dr.Dhere says that despite his earlier statement that the Sen, Karnat and Kadamba dynasties of South India had contributed in cultivating Bhavani worship over most of the Indian subcontinent, there is no direct evidence either in artifact or literature to presume that the last of those ruling families was devoted to the Goddess. He expresses astonishment and just disgust at the conviction and nonchalance with which ‘researchers’ like V.K.Joshi falsely cite references that do not exist.




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