One of the most popular deities in Maharashtra is Khandoba and Jejuri is the best known town of pilgrimage for his devotees. What also makes a trip to this temple worth it is that it is situated on a hillock and offers a fascinating view of the surrounding rural landscape.
Jejuri is situated on a 758-meter high hillock about 80 kilometers away from Pune in Purandar taluka. The temple here is a huge complex with the shrines of various deities, including of course that of Khandoba. The hilltop on which the temple stands is called Jejurigad and its history can be dated back to 1688 when it was included in the fiefdom of Manaji Shankar Nilkantharao along with Shikali, Chamili and Narayanapur. It was the Maratha ruler, Shahu Maharaj, who being an ardent devotee of Khandoba, had asked Bajirao Peshwa to construct a huge tank (37 acres) at Jejuri for the benefit of the devotees. This circular tank is ringed by a massive stone wall and is named after Bajirao.
In fact, there are two temples of Khandoba at Jejuri, one older than the other, both built at the end of the outlying spur of the Purandar range which sinks into the plains here. The newer one is larger and stands about 84 meters above the town. The smaller temple is believed to be more sacred. It is built on a small plateau called Kadepathaara 3 kilometers away from the town and is at a height of 133 meters. The old village site, now deserted, was to the east of the hill on which the new temple stands.
Kadepathaara is about 11 acres in area and hosts the more popular Khandoba temple of the two. You have to cross seven arches and descend several steps to reach the temple whose very extensive courtyard has a walled compound within which are 63 verandahs. This style of architecture is probably the main reason why villagers refer to it as a ‘kot’ or fort. It has three entrance gates and devotees have to approach the temple from the northern gate as the one to the east has presently been closed.
Devotees have to climb 385 uneven steps along which 150 ‘deepmalas’ have been erected haphazardly. This gate facing the north shoulders the ‘nagarkhana’ (musical gallery). The courtyard in which the huge brass tortoise with a diameter of 3 meters is located is also used as a ‘rangashila’ - a stage for performances like dances or discourses. In one of the verandahs are two huge bells, of which one is of foreign origin. There is also a large sword popularly known as ‘khaandaa’ which is more than a meter long and three centimeters wide.
Khandoba probably is the only god in Maharashtra who is considered as the family deity of almost all ‘varnas’ and castes unlike that of Mahalakshmi who is mainly of upper castes and Shri Vitthala of a few Warkari families. As per the ritual, devotees go around the temple chanting ‘Yelkot Yelkot Jaya Malhara’.
Distance from Mumbai: 200 kms