Veer- Shrinath Mhaskoba Festival

‘’Savai sarjachya Navane Changbhala’’ ‘’Shrinath Mhaskobachya Navane Changbhala’’

The photo story that I am presenting is from a village called Veer which is 26 kms from a well-known village called Saswad near Pune. It is based on a very famous village deity called Shrinath Mhaskoba and the yearly festival that ensues during this time. This deity is the Kaal Bhairava avatar of the Hindu deity ‘Shiva’. The community called Dhangar popularized the worshipping of Kaal Bhairava through Shrinath Mhaskoba.

This festival witnesses the marriage of two gods; Mhaskoba and Mata Jogeshwari. A congregation of devotees from a village called Kodit near Saswad walk on foot covering a distance of 30 kms carrying a Palkhi towards the village called Veer. The marriage is carried out according to Hindu customs and is celebrated for around 11 days and nights. This festival attracts Palkhis from all over the nearby regions including Kodit, Kanheri, Rajewadi, Bhondwewadi, Pune Kasba Peth, Wai and Sonwadi. These groups amounting to lakhs of people celebrate the marriage ceremony with fervour.

This 10-day festival attracts around 10 to 15 lakh devotees who gather in the temple at Kondit. Some devotees stay for 10 days with their families in the village itself to contribute to the service of the marriage. Some devotees maintain their traditional roots by travelling in a bullock cart to the village and cook their meals on a traditional ‘chuul’ which is a makeshift stove. I found the devotion in the people for traditional rites most interesting during my time at the village.

The guard-fleet of the gods marshal during the night and day. The excitement never dies down in the course of this 10-day festival. The fleet of the gods perform a dance form each day of the festival which compels watchers to stop in their tracks and admire with fascination. There is a participation of all kinds of devotees in these performances including children as well as old devotees. The devotees carry out these activities with utmost sincerity and discipline. This festival is famous for the red colour that is strewn around everywhere during the festivities called Bhandara. ‘Savai sarjachya navani changbhala’ or ‘ Shrinath Mhaskoba Navane changbhala’ are the chants that the devotees shout while tossing the red colour in the air. The amount of colour used in this festival is measured in tonnes. Every year, a different family is chosen to carry out the festivities for the deities. There is no discrimination based on religion while choosing these families. The traditions call for some specific families to be chosen for this festival based on authority.

After the 5th day of the yatra, there is a ceremony called ‘Bhaknuk’ where it is believed that their deity assumes a devotee’s body and communicates with the rest of the devotees about predictions based on rain, prosperity and ups and downs for the village. There is a lot of excitement to attend this ceremony from the villagers especially the farmers. When the deity is believed to have entered the body of the devotee, they perform astonishing stunts with swords.

I was helped in a great amount by the devotees present at the village for carrying out my photography. I am extremely grateful to the trust members and the rest of the concerned authorities of the Veer Temple. My humility is further extended towards Viki More and Swapnil Badhade-Bhosale; without whom my service would have not been fruitful towards the cause.