Submitted by Ajoy
( Part 2 | Part 3 )
In India’s social fabric, most families owe allegiance to the presiding deity of the particular village from where the family or ancestors originated. In present times when many people have shifted to urban areas, it is difficult to keep this bond alive on a day-to-day basis, so they visit the local temple.
Many make a point to visit their native place at least once a year, most likely the day when the deity’s annual utsav is held. Utsav is akin to a fair or a congregation celebrating the continuity of life due to the blessings of the deity generally held close to the temple. In our family the presiding deity is Vinzai Devi, located in the village of Tamhini close to Pune. Vinzai Devi, basically Durga Devi, originates in the Vindhiyachal Mountains of Utter Pradesh. Her utsav falls in the Indian calendar month of Chaitra (April) on poornima (Full Moon day), and the occasion of Hanuman Jayanti (birthday). Traditionally, the ustav a two-day function, was held on April 2nd and 3rd this year.
Pilgrimage to Vinzai Devi’s Ustav
Pilgrims from three different locations in Mumbai and it’s suburbs can take advantage of a bus service, which fee includes food and beverages at the temple. This tour, arranged by the temple committee, allows for a three day excusion. This bus service is convienent for those staying all three days, since the bus returns only on the final day. Unable to take the bus because I was allowed only one day of office leave (April 2nd), and being that the temple is located off the beaten track, we had to plan in advance for the trip. We arranged our own transport, staring on the 1st (Sunday) at seven in the morning from Thane (a city next to Mumbai). We took the Mumbai Pune Expressway and after about an hour of drive took a left turn just before Khandala. This detour took us to Pali where we visited Ballaleshwar, a Ganapati Temple, one of the Ashta Vinayak temples of Maharashtra.
After taking Ganpati Bapa’s darshan and blessings we took the route towards Kolad on Mumbai Goa highway (NH 17). We had a good breakfast at ‘Mai Bhavani’, a restaurant built in lush green surroundings having a beautiful temple dedicated to ‘TULJA BHAVANI’ Devi. After a hearty breakfast we left for Vinzai Devi’s temple at 11 AM. From Kolad we took the road towards Pune which goes via the Tamhini Ghat (Mountain Pass). Enroute we stopped by the Mula Sthan (Main Spot), an area in the jungle where the Devi is believed to have first manifested as requested by Rama Prabhu. This spot, marked by three big stones, is about a 50 minute trek from the main temple. Because this is in a secluded area, most people only visit the main temple. By road it is about 25 kilometres to the main temple, it takes about half an hour to reach from here. The trip to Vinzai took about a total of two hours from Kolad.
Arriving at Vinzai Devi’s Temple
The temple complex consists of three buildings. The main temple has five pinnacles as its dome. The center dome is the tallest with the other four by its side. This east-facing building has a large hall and houses Vinzai Devi, MahaSaraswati Devi, MahaLakshmi Devi, Waghzai Devi, Shirkai Devi, and Kamlaja devi. Opposite to this building are two smaller buildings. One, facing west, houses Lord Khandoba, Kalika Mata, and Lord Bhairav (as pictured below, in that order). The smaller building next to it, facing north, houses Lord Hanuman.
The temple, surrounded by hills on all sides is located in a valley close to the south west end of the beautiful Mulshi Lake. There is a small brook which flows near the temple during the rainy season (June to September). The Village of Tamhini is located north of the temple. The temple also has a small office and some rooms for people to stay. A temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and Lord Ganesh is planned. If and when this happens, this place would be recognized as a Shakti sthal.
On reaching the temple we first settled in the tents, which had been set up for the occasion. The tent was basically a big shamiyana (type of tent), which could accommodate about a hundred people. We laid down our luggage, got fresh and entered the temple for the afternoon arti. Although the utsav was supposed to start the next day, about fifty people where already there at Tamhini. The arti is conducted very beautifully here; it was very soothing and drove away our fatigue immediately.
After a healthy lunch, we helped in the organizational activities at the temple by supporting the committee members in preparation for the upcoming event. By evening a large group of people had arrived at the shrine, and tea was served as the evening drink. At this time a welcome announcement detailed the schedule of events, basic rules, request for help (volunteers for help/ japa) and an appeal for funds. Overall everything was conducted cordially and systematically. The evening arti began at 8:00 PM. I can only say one needs to be physically present to experience it as the feeling is so beautiful.
For more photos narrating this post, click here.
Related Posts/Sites: Astha Vinayak | Ballaleshwar Pali (Wikipedia) | Vinzai Devi (Previous Post by Ajoy)
End Part 1 of 3. Stay tuned for Part 2, to be posted on November 7, 2007. Part 2 details the rituals, mantras and bhajans. Also, a special video will be attached. Part 3, also posted on the same day, will provide bhajan with English translation.
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