Turmeric festival or BHANDARA is an extravaganza of colorful celebration of faith and devotion with golden yellow turmeric powder in south western rural Maharashtra, mainly by the Dhangar community. Dhangars are shepherd by profession, mainly reside in the south Maharashtra and north Karnataka who consider Khandoba of Jejuri and Birudev of PATTANKODOLI and HULJANTI as their family deity and household god. SOMWATI AMAVASSYA of JEJURI, VITHAL BIRDEV YATRA of PATTANKODOLI and BHANDARA of HULJANTI are the three of their prominent events which form the golden trio of BHANDARA FESTIVALS.
“Sonyachi Jejuri”- as the holy town Jejuri is called aptly by the native Maharashtrians, which means “The Golden Jejuri”, comes alive when one looks from the roof top of the Khandoba temple at the porch, at the stairs, at the roads, at the entire Jejuri city and at the people around it when they gather here in myriads during the sacred day of Somawati Amavashya(new moon day that falls on Monday) to pay their reverence to their family god Khandoba
A veil of golden yellow turmeric powder engulfs the entire town in combination with the holy chants “yelkot yelkot jai malhar” “sadanandache yelkot” offered by his dedicated followers. The complete area starts reverberate with faith and devotion. The entire atmosphere gets soaked into the mood of a devine celebration with the purity of golden turmeric.
Thus Bhandara of Jejuri has become a universal pilgrimage and an utmost colourful offbeat rural festival. On the very auspicious day, a Palkhi(palanquin) is taken out from the main temple situated at the hilltop carrying the idols of Lord Khandoba and his wife Malsha for a holy bath in the river Karha. The procession climbs down the 200 steep stairs those connect the temple to the ground level along with the protective stone walls. It continues amidst the devotees’ religious chant mixed with their Bhandara(turmeric powder mixed with dry coconut) offering. A golden yellow cloud prevails everywhere the procession goes through. With the holy dip, the ritual of the Khandoba marriage is recreated. At the end of the day, the idols are taken back to the shrine. Thus, Jejuri influences the heart of millions with its Midas touch.
Rural Maharashtra is widely known to its people as the abode of its various regional gods and the colorful vivid celebration related to them. These celebrations are done annually to different villages by the regional communities or dwellers to pay their reverence to their family deities, which are commonly known as JATRA. Vitthal Birdev Jatra of Pattankodoli is probably the most colorful, decorative and sacred among those all.
Birdev or Birudev is worshiped by the Dhangar communities of the states mainly inMaharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Goa as their family god who is considered mythologically as the reincarnation of Lord Shiva. Dhangar is the community who live by herding domestic animals, specially ship and goat. They are nomadic in nature and can be identified easily with the three yardstick…Kada(iron bangle), Ghongadi(blanket made of raw sheep wool) and kathi(the long stick) along with their stout postures and stark features smeared with Bhandara(turmeric) on the forehead and feta(headgear) on top . The annual Jatra of Lord Birdev is celebrated in a small village named PATTANKODOLI near Kolhapur, Maharashtra to commemorate the birth anniversary of Lord Birdev every year few days after Dussehra. Followers and devotees from all the adjacent states gather here to celebrate a lifetime experience. Lord Vitthal, another very prominent god of the region is worshipped together who is believed to be the reincarnation of Lord Krishna himself. The juxtaposition of these two gods reminds us the co-existence of Lord Krishna and Balaram of the mythology which it is seemed to be derived from. The celebration is marked by throwing golden yellow turmeric powder all around. The entire place get reverberated with the faith of holy chant and layers of turmeric dust.
The most prominent part of the event is announcing the decree of fortune of the nearby States by an enormously respected person named KelobaRajabhauWagmore(Farande Baba),who starts from his distant village Anjungaon of Sholapur for Pattankodoli by naked feet on the day of Dussera. He reaches Pattankodoli on the 7th day maintaining complete fast. Millions of followers follow and accompany him with colorful big traditional umbrellas called CHABINA. The crowd gets rejuvenated and excited all of a sudden. Baba encircles the temple with his followers and then enters it while performing the most fabulous HEDAM dance. Entering the temple he pronounces the prophecy in a typical Kannad dialect. Temple priest gets the notes translated for all. It is said that 90% of those prophecies done by Baba towards the rainfall, crops, weather and economy of those villages gets proved true. Colourful umbrella, traditional drums, music and dance convert the place into a perfect traditional extravaganza. Baba again leaves the place when the celebration gets over by foot to reach his native place after the 7thday.
Bhandara Festival of HULJANTI is the symbolic outburst with colour of life and dedication of faith to the almighty god. This is considered as one of the most colourful, sacred and religious festival among the Dhangars. Devotees in millions from distant places gather to show their devotions during the holy day of new moon after Dussehra in this least known hamlet HULJANTI, which is situated in the border of Maharashtra and Karnataka. An interesting mythological story is earnestly believed by the DHANGAR deciples of the household god Lord BIRUDEV which revolves around the celebration.
The name of the village HULJANTI is constructed with two words…HUL, which means tiger and JANTI- means den. In a word, the place is famously known as “tiger’s den” to pay respect to the great Dhangar leader MAHALINGRAYA. People believe, once Lord BIRUDEV came to meet his dedicated deciple Malingraya here in a forest. The celebration is therefore to denote the god’s meet with his human representative on the auspicious day of BALI PRATIPADA, the day after Karthik Amavasyya in the village Huljanti. Devotees bring big chariot(Palkhi) with the idol of god and their pathfinder leader MAHALINGRAYA smeared with auspicious turmeric powder. Two more Palkhi is brought in the same occasion to mark Malingraya’s meet up with his loving accepted sister Silvanti Devi and father Bramhdev. Devotees run with the Palkhis n meet at a point. People from everywhere throw turmeric powder all around, the sky and the air get fully covered and drenched with the faith painted with golden yellow and holy chants “Mhalappa Che Chngbhale”. Palkhis are ushered by hosting red flags and blowing Tutari(teaditional bugle). Faith and religious feelings overpower the human behavior all around.
Huljanti, despite being a very lesser known festival among the Indian people, touches the heart of the onlookers to the extreme core for its being soaked into the unfathomable vibration, devotion and dedication smeared with the golden midas touch of human behaviour and sensitivity with unimaginable faith.