Apart from its historical and mythological significance, the Yogmaya Temple in Delhi is renowned for being the first-of-its-kind where the deity Yogmaya is worshipped.
Situated in the heart of Mehrauli, the temple has a replica of the Goddess Yogmaya, also called the “Pure Goddess,” made of black stone and placed in a marble well, 2 feet wide and 1 feet deep.
According to Hindu Mythology, Yogmaya means divine illusion and she is worshipped by many as the mother of all beings. Apart from Yogmaya, the temple also has other deities such as Lord Ram, Shiva, Ganesha and other popular Hindu gods and goddesses.
The sanctum of Goddess Yogmaya is leaded with a 42-feet Vimanam (temple tower), and enclosed with a dome. The temple complex has around twenty-two towers, besides the courtyard floor, originally constructed in red stone and replaced with marbles.
The day begins at 5 am, when the temple opens and the morning aarti of Yogmaya Devi takes place. Evening aarti takes place at 7 pm. A shringar is done of the devi, with flowers before the aarti. The temple is filled with devotees during aarti time but usually remains silent during the day.
Legend has it that Bhagwati Yogmaya or Jogmaya is a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu and the sister of Lord Krishna. Bhagwati Yogmaya, on the instructions of Shri Krishna, took birth as a girl to Yashodha, whom Vasudeva took back, after leaving Krishna there. Yogamaya, after slipping out from the hands of Kansa, got stuck in a hillock near Delhi and left her Pindi there, which is worshiped in the Yogamaya Temple. “Chanchak Baba was the first pujari who looked after the Devi’s temple and he then handed over the temple’s duty and working to the Vats family. Vinod Vats is the current head of the temple.” said Kuldeep Mishra, the head pujari of the temple.
The Yogmaya temple is believed to be one of the few temples in Delhi belonging to the Mahabharata period, constructed by the Pandavas after the war ended. The temple has managed to hold its own for 5,000 years, despite attempted damage and destruction by Ghazni, a Persian ruler belonging to 970 A.D.
According to Kuldeep Mishra “During the Mughal era, Aurangzeb tried to convert this temple into a mosque but could not do it. The reason behind it was that the labour Aurangzeb hired for this purpose, cut their hands during the night and whatever work they did the whole day vanished in the night. Aurangzeb is be.lieved to have apologised later and offered ‘Chattar’ to the Devi. The Jogmaya or Yogamaya Temple is one of the five surviving temples of the Mahabharata period and is the only temple belonging to the pre-sultanate period, which is still in use. Janmashtami is celebrated as the birthday of Yogmaya and the rituals are the same as those for Lord Krishna.
The temple celebrates a lot of festivals round the year with a lot of enthusiasm. These include the Kalki Devi Janmohatsav, celebrated between July and August, and the Khatri’s Kuldevi festival, celebrated a day before Rakshabandhan. Perhaps, the most famous festival celebrated only in this temple is the ‘Phoolwalon ki Sair.’
PHOOLWALON KI SAIR
The festival is celebrated for 7 days and is a unique phenomenon where Hindus offer the floral chaadar at the Dargah of Khwaja Bakhtiar Kaaki on the first day and Muslims offer the floral chhatra (canopy) at the ancient temple of Devi Yogmaya on the second day. On the third day, the floral pankha is offered at the Jahaz Mahal by the CM of the Delhi and by people from different states. The ‘pankha’ has become a symbol of communal harmony and national integration.
“The festival’s history goes back to the Mughal Era (1812) when Akbar Shah II’s younger son Mirza Jahagir was banished from Delhi and his mother Queen Mumtaz Mahal Begum vowed that if her son’s banishment was revoked, then she would offer a chaddar of flowers at the Khwaja Bakhtiar ‘Kaki’ Dargah. Jahagir’s banishment was withdrawn in a couple of years and like a devout lady, Mumtaz Mahal Begum went to Kaki Dargah to redeem her vow. Since then, the festival began celebrations, but it was stopped for a while during the Quit India Movement (1942) by the Britishers.
Jawahar Lal Nehru, the then Prime Minister of India, revived and inaugurated this festival in 1962 to promote harmony among the Hindus and the Muslims.
After its revival in 1962, the festival is organized every year by the “Anjuman Sair-e-Gul Faroshan”, a society registered under the Societies Registration Act, said Usha Kumar, general secretary. Another tradition is that before the commencement of the festival a similar floral pankha is offered to the Lt. Governor of Delhi, the chief minister of Delhi, The divisional commissioner and the police commissioner of Delhi.