A little over 40 kilometers away from Pune is the temple of Lord Khandoba in small town known as Jejuri. Lord Khandoba is given high reverence by the Dhangars which are an old Indian tribe of shepherds; the deity himself is a form of Lord Shiva and is considered to be the God for warriors are shepherds. This temple is visited by many Marathas as well as devotees from parts of Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka are known to make pilgrimages to Jejuri.
If you start from Pune a day is all you need for Jejuri. It does not have many hotels so staying here is not the best options. It can be reached by road or rail from Pune, there are many state transport buses and quite a few express trains which leave from Pune station.
Jejuri is called Majhi Sonyachi Jejuri (My Golden Jejuri) by the locals and it is known as Khandobachi Jejuri (Lord Khandoba’s Jejuri). Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj , the great Maratha warrior and ruler was known to visit Jejuri at the beginning of every conflict to seek blessing from Lord Khandoba. Due to its importance to the Maratha warriors, the Mughal invaders had successfully conquered the region and during its reign the temple was destroyed and then reconstructed to serve as a mosque.
Revered as Mallu or Ajmat Khan by the Muslim devotees, Lord Khandoba is also worshiped by a few Muslims and the reason may be that Jejuri at some point in history was under the Mughal rule. Many times he is also portrayed as being a Muslim himself as some of the distinguishing Mulsim features includes his usual appearance as that of a Pathan on a white horse. One of his wives is believed to be a Muslim and so is his horse-keeper in Jejuri.
The temple’s architecture is a mix of Mughal and Maratha styles, while the main temple is at the center and rises on top of others there are few other temples in around the temple complex. When you arrive in Jejuri the most traditional way to enter the temple is by the steps which lead you to the main entrance. Turmeric is used to worship Lord Khandoba and is seen everywhere all over Jejuri, it is known as Bhandara. Even most of the houses in Jejuri are painted in yellow, and I personally believe that this may be the reason is known as Golden Jejuri, but I am yet to confirm this.
I would like to add that I am not a believer of any form of God and yet I like visiting temples as they not only represent heritage but also reveal some interesting stories from the past. Some of these might be myths and some passed down through generations by the game of Chinese Whispers. What you make of these stories is up to you.
In conclusion all I have to say is that Jejuri is worth a visit if you are in Pune and want to experience something different than an average tourist. It will help you learn a bit more about the Maharashtrian culture and the people.
I will work to upload similar stories of some of the less visited locations in India, starting from Maharashtra as I am currently based in Pune. If you do know of some interesting places around Maharashtra then I would love to hear about them from you.
Expense from Pune including travel, food and offerings at the temple:
- 600 rupees for fuel in my car.
- 500 rupees for lunch for three.
- 20 rupees for the offering.