All over India, people worship the Mother Goddess in different forms. The Adi Shakti or the primordial power who created the universe is worshipped as Devi Parvati, Durga, Kali, Ambebhavani, Chandi, Matangi, Katyayani or Bhavani. In every part of the country, the Goddess is known by different names and in different forms. tulajabhavani temple tulajapur is also counted amongst the three and half Sakti Peethas of Maharashtra, the other three being Mahalakshmi mandir at Tulajapur, Renuka Mata mandir at Mahur and Saptashrungi mandir at Vani which is said to be half a Shakti peetha.
The 51 Shakti Peethas or the 51 holy places of Devi worship are highly revered amongst the believers of Shaktism. Tulajabhavani mandir in Tulajapur, Osmanabad district in Maharashtra is one amongst the fifty one. Tulajapur town is situated about 45 km from Solapur and the Tulajabhavani mandir is one of the most ancient temples in Maharashtra. The original temple was built in 12th century CE by Maratha Mahamandaleshwar Maradadeva Kadamb.
The presiding deity of the temple is Devi Bhavani, alternatively known as Tulaja Bhavani, Tulaja, Turaja, Tvarita, Amba, Jagdamba and Durga. “Bhavani” means the “one who gives life” and the source of all creative energy, but that is not the only aspect of the goddess. She is also the destroyer of evil and protector of her devotees. Bhavani is the combination of the “ugra” or ferocious and the “karunaswaroopini” or merciful aspects of the Divine Mother. The Lalitha Sahasranamam says that Bhavani means the deity who gives “mukti” or salvation. Worship of Bhavani Mata is widespread in Maharashtra, Telengana, Northern Karnataka and Nepal.
Tulajapur temple finds mention in the Skanda Purana. As per the Puranic tale, a sage by the name of Kardam lived in the area of present day Tulajapur. After his death, his consort Anubhuti found herself tortured by a demon called Kukur. In order to safeguard herself and her infant child, she prayed to Bhavani devi on the banks of Mandakini river. Pleased by her penances, Bhavani appeared at that place, killed Kukur and decided to settle atop the Yamunachala hill in Balaghat mountain range. Bhavani or Durga also defeated the demons Madhu-Kaitabh and Mahisasur. Another legend narrates how Devi Durga vanquished Mahisasur at this place and settled down here as Tulaja Bhavani.
Tulajapur temple’s history is intrinsically woven in the history of the Maratha empire as Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was a great devotee of Devi Bhavani. He was a regular visitor to the temple and local legend says that the Goddess was so pleased with his devotion that she gave him the “Bhavani kadga” or the divine sword which made Chhatrapati Shivaji invincible. Devi Bhavani was the “kuldevi” or patron deity of the Bhosale royal family. Today she is revered by lakhs of people belonging to all castes and rungs of society, from the Brahmins, to Marathas to even the Kolis. One interesting fact is, the main priests of the Tulajapur temple are not Brahmins, they belong to the Kadamb Bhope clan who are Maratha by caste. The Kadamb Bhopes are descendants of Maradadeva Kadamb and have served the temple ancestrally. The priests of the Matanga Devi and Adimaya temple inside the main complex are Mahars.
Tulajabhavani mandir sits atop the Yamunachala or Balaghat hill range and buit in Hemadpanthi architectural style . The main gate or “mahadwar” is called Sardar Nimbalkar gate while the other two gates are named as Raja Shahaji Maharaj gate and Rajmata Jijabai gate, after the parents of Shivaji Maharaj. It is a common custom in Hindu temples to take a holy bath in a kund or pond inside the temple premises before entering the main shrine, for this purpose, there are two ponds, one called Gomukh Teerth and the other called Kallol Teerth or Kalakh inside the main gate of the temple.
One interesting aspect of the temple is the presence of two libraries inside the complex, the Shree Santh Dnyaneshwar Dharmik Library and Shree Tukaram Dharmik Library. The idol of Tulaja devi is about 3 feet in height and made of granite, she is eight armed and holds different weapons in her hands. In one hand she holds the decapitated head of Mahisasur. The idol is said to be “swayambhu” or self-emanted, she is decked in sarees and jewellery. The most important festival celebrated here is Navratri. On Dussera and Khandenavami, “ajabali” or animal sacrifice is practised.
The other shrines inside the complex are Markandeya rishi mandir, Siddhi Vinayak, Aadishakti, Aadimaya, Matangadevi and Annapurna. It’s a ritual to offer puja first to Aadimaya and then to Tulaja devi. Other interesting rituals and daily practices at the temple include “Chaughada” which is the playing of drums to herald the beginning of puja, “Charantirtha”, abhisekham, dhup arati, shej arati and Prakkshal. The important festivals celebrated here are Navratri, Mohnidra (on Ashivana Shuddha Dashami), Ghornidra (Bhadrapada Krishna Ashtami) and Mayanidra (Pousha shuddha Pratipada). On these special days, the Devi idol is taken out of the garbha griha and taken in procession in a palanquin.
Devi Tuljabhavani is the benevolent protector of all her devotees and temple draws lakhs of devotees every day of the year.
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