Sutradhara’s Tales: A tale of Pune’s other village deities; steeped in tradition alive today
Have you ever noticed the boards welcoming you, or bidding you farewell, as you travel in and out of a city, district or state? These boards often mark the political boundary of the city, district, state, or even nation.
Our ancestors, however, were way more creative. They used cultural and religious markers to mark the spaces through certain etymologically derived names, cultural associations, and symbolisms unique and tailor-made for each kind of cultural landscape.
What’s more, these were organically evolved, accepted and used by the community. These markers had multiple layered meanings and served a primary function of being cultural spots and also proved to be utilitarian by defining these spaces.
Do you know the other two village tutelary deities of Pune, besides the Kasba Ganpati we talked about in the last column?
If you visit the bustling streets of Appa Balwant chowk (aka Pune’s bookshop hub), tucked in a narrow lane at the corner is dainty little temple of Tambadi Jogeshwari Devi, the “gram-devi” of Pune.
Jogeshwari Devi is considered a Shakti of Shiva, consort of Bhairava and a yogini, in the folk form. The particular name Tambdi (carmine coloured) Jogeshwari is derived from the slaying of the Tamrasur demon, a commander of the Mahishasura by goddess Jogeshwari, as per the Puranas.
Pune, known for its whimsical names, also has shrines of “Kali (dark) Jogeshwari” and “Piwali (yellow) Jogeshwari”, established in later times.
The Ambil odha (stream) was once the physical limit to Pune’s extent. This Jogeshwari, believed to be self-emanated and protective in nature, marked the boundary of the then Pune, established by Trimbak Bendre in 1545.
Even today, the main gurav priesthood of the goddess belongs to Bendre family.
The temple is a medieval temple built in 1750 in brick mortar and followed the standard plan of square garbhagriha (sanctum) and sabha mandapa. The entire complex was much larger once, but it was divided into half due to a road widening and one of the Deepamalas was removed. Thus, the other votive Deepmala of the temple survives on the other side of road. It is believed that the Deepamalas were erected when Jijabai and Shivaji started a new beginning for Pune through a symbolic ploughing of land with a golden plough.
The main idol of Tambdi Jogeshwari was heavily covered in vermilion until recently, then it came off to reveal the original sculpture. The four-armed standing sculpture of Jogeshwari, with trishula (trident), skull (panpatra), and damru as attributes, symbolises a fierce form.
During the freedom movement, Prabhat pheri - the morning marches - would commence from the temple of Jogeshwari. Marriage invitations are extended to Tambdi Jogeshwari regularly and devotees particularly flock o the temple during the Navratri Dasserah festival and Ganeshotsav.
The third Gram devata of Pune, the most obscure and as old as other two, is Nava (new, ironically!) Kalbhairava in Kasba peth. There existed an older - Juna Kalbhairava temple near Kumbharwada, which was later demolished during the building of the Dhakta Sheikh Salla Dargah.
Today, the management of the old Kalbhairav temple is with the Devarkar family.
A very common explanatory myth employed to explain shifting or creation of new religious cult site applies here and relates to the Ladkat family, original settlers of Pune from the Mali area. A particular member from the Ladkat family used to visit the old Bhairoba at Kumbharwada from his residence at Janaicha Thal in Bhavani peth. As he grew older it proved difficult to continue this ritual.
Hence, Bhairoba came to him in a dream and suggested that God will follow behind him and relocate somewhere near the Ladkat residence to make it easy for him. The only condition was that Ladkat should not look behind. Ladkat could not control his excitement and turned his back to check. The Bhairoba disappeared on the spot, near the Kasba peth boundary area. Ladkat then dug the area to find the idol of Kal Bhairav which was subsequently established and consecrated at the new spot - God and temple - Nava Kalbhiarav.. The management of the temple has continued to be with Ladkat family.
The location of Navin Kalbhairav temple is quite strategic. It is placed near what once was the city wall. It is strategically placed at the crossroads of small lanes, full of old wadas and meandering lanes.
The temple itself is renovated, but still bears the mark of old architecture in the domical garbhagriha with facets in corners. The chain hung in the garbhagriha is known to relieve people of chromic body aches and back pains.
Though monuments undergo changes, traditions die hard. Pune exhibits its rural origins in the practice of Bagad, prevalent in eastern Maharashtra even today.
Just outside the Kalbhairav temple is a tall wooden pole which is used to erect the “Bagad” and is under worship. “Bagad” is a traditional ritual in which devotees fulfil their vows to the local deity by whirling themselves on a wooden pole. Sometimes the devotees pierce and hang from hooks. This takes place sometime around the Rangpanchami festival or Chaitra poornima. A similar Bagad ritual takes place in the older village of Hinjewadi, the IT township on outskirts of Pune.
Annually, on Chaitra poornima, the procession takes the palkhi of Bhairavnath to the Bolhai temple near the Zilla Parishad. Bolhai devi is the sister of Kalbhairavnath whom he pays annual visits to and offers gifts.
Road widening has pushed the Jogeshwar temple aside and the Metro threatens the Nava Kalbhairav, but the village deities still continue to guard the interests of Pune’s inhabitants as they firmly stand on their humble grounds.
Saili Palande-Datar is an indologist, environmentalist, history researcher and farmer. She can be reached @ email@example.com