Table of Contents
Bahuchara ji is one of three main Shaktipeethas in Gujarat. Other two being Amba ji near Mt Abu and Kalika Devi on Pavagadh hill. I have been to Champaner Pavagadh, so this time when I had an opportunity to visit Ahmedabad, I took a detour to visit Bahuchara ji.
Who is Bahuchara Mata?
Bahuchara Mata is the patron goddess of the Mehsana region of Gujarat. She bestows many blessings on her devotees and visitors. People particularly visit her to get blessings of having a son. Women come to her with their domestic problems be it a tiff with the husband or troubles with in-laws.
Most importantly, Eunuchs worship her. You can see them sitting under a tree in her temple.
She is the Kuldevi of many communities including the Solanki Rajputs who ruled this region for a long time, Kolis, Charans, Bhils and Eunuchs. Solanki kings had rooster, her vehicle on their flag as well. They come to her for the Mundan or tonsure ceremony of their children. When you visit her temple, you can see many tiny-tots with their heads shaven. A swastik in red Kumkum is drawn on their freshly shaven heads.
She is also believed to be a Swaroop or manifestation of Hinglaj Mata of Sindh as well Bala Tripursundari who is the patron goddess of performing artists. Remember Kuchipudi also has a temple dedicated to Tripursundari. Internet tells me that there is a Bala Yantra in Sphatik or crystal in the garbhagriha but I could not see it.
Small metallic pieces with different body parts carved on them are offered to the Devi. In fact, these pieces being sold in the small steel boxes is the first thing you notice even before entering the temple. If you are suffering from any disease in any part of the body, you offer that to Devi and she will cure that part for you.
Inside the temple we saw so many devotees offering these, specially at the Adi Bahuchara temple. These are also offered for progeny, as many women as well families come here to seek children.
History of Bahuchara Mata
It is believed that Bahucharaji was a real woman who lived in the 14th CE just like Karni Mata of Deshnoke. She came from Maru desh or region around present-day Jaisalmer. Her father was awarded a Jagir or land in Saurashtra. Once while traveling to Saurashtra she along with her sisters were attacked by a bandit. She gave up her life but cursed the bandit to become a Eunuch.
Bandit realized his mistake and profusely apologized. Bahuchara ji then asked him to build a temple to her at the same place. It was then called Chunawal but now it is called Becharaji after the Devi herself. She also said that if Eunuchs would worship her dressed as women, they would get her blessings and a place at feet after death.
Bandit duly built the temple under a Shami tree. You can still see it in the temple premises even today.
Gaikwads of Vadodara
In the recent history, Gaikwads of Vadodara built the temple in the 18th CE, after one of the kings got cured after praying at the temple. In the 19th CE, they brought a South Indian Brahmin as the priest of the temple who leads the daily worship along with many others.
When Gujarats Baroda state railway was started by Gaikwads of Baroda, they used to pay 50 paise per passenger to the temple trust. They also used to give funds from the Taluka revenue for the maintenance of the temple. I am not sure if it still continues post independence.
Iconography of Bahuchara Ji
Bahuchara Devi rides a rooster. A colorful rooster as her Vahan or vehicle stands right in front of her temple.
She has four arms. Her upper right arm carries a sword like Durga, the upper left carried scriptures like Saraswati, her lower left has a Trishul or Trident like Maheshwari and the lower right hand is in Abhay or fearless mudra like Lakshmi.
This way she encompasses the traits of all the major manifestations of Devi.
Legends of Bhaucharaji
Pandit ji at the Adi temple of Bahucharaji beneath the Shami tree, tells me two interesting stories.
Once when the Islamic invaders were destroying Hindu temples on their way to destroying the Somnath temple. When they reached Siddhpur, the place where the famous Rudra Mahalya was, a Brahmin told the invading forces to try and destroy the temple of Bahucharaji. His strong belief was that the Devi is Jagrut or active and would protect them under any circumstances.
It was evening by the time invading armies reached here. They saw a lot of roosters, the vehicles of Mata ji, roaming all around. They were tempted and they made sumptuous dinner from them. In the morning one rooster from the temple gave a call and all the roosters that were consumed at night broke open the stomachs of the soldiers and came out. They all came out alive annihilating the army.
Since then, the Devi is seen as the protector of the followers of Dharma.
Solanki and Chavada Kings
Once upon a time, probably in 18th CE, there were two best friends. One was Solanki King of Kalri village and other was Chavada king of Patan. They were very close to each other and made a promise that if one of them has a daughter and the other a son, they would marry them. This would convert their friendship into a family relationship. As luck would have it, both had daughters. Solanki king announces his daughter as a son.
It is not easy to keep these things under wraps for too long. The news reached the king of Patan and he urged his friend to send his future son-in0law to his place on the pretext of a ritual.
Sacred, the princess ran away on her mare and reaches Bahucharaji. If her secret is out, there would be a war between two cans leading to lot of bloodshed. She prays to her to sort out the situation without any violence.
There was a huge pond here called Mansarovar. The princess sat next to the pond after praying and saw a bitch take dip in the pond and come out as a dog. Bewildered, she made her mare take a dip in the pond and it came out as a horse. Deciphering the Devi’s message to her, she too took a dip in the pond, she came out as a handsome young boy.
She then proceeded to Patan and was welcomed warmly before being wedded to the princess of Patan.
Another legend says that Bahucharaji killed Dandasur – an asur who used to rule Daityarajpur which is now known as Daitro. This falls in line with most Devi khsteras where some Asura was killed. For example, Mahishasur in Mysore by Chamundeshwari or Kolasur by Kolhapur Mahalakshmi.
Yet another legend says that a king once prayed here for a son. Indeed, a son was born to him, but an impotent one. The Devi then appeared in the newborns dream and told him to worship her dressed as a woman. This was the beginning of men dressing a women to worship mother.
Visiting Bahuchara Ji Temple
We reached the temple in the morning. After parking the car, we met various vendors but the most intriguing ones were the one selling metal sheets with body parts. We entered through a large arch that has a small temple dedicated to Ganesh on one end.
A crowded and chaotic lane leads to the temple. As soon as you enter the temple premises, you see a pristine white structure welcoming you. Its exudes purity and power. As you walk towards the temple entrance, you pass by two small temples on your either side. One belongs to Shiva and other to Ganapati.
Then bang opposite the temple, you meet the vehicle or vahan of Devi – a colorful rooster. Its colors stand out in complete contrast to the white temple.
White torans of the temple lead you to the fairly large mandapa. Inside the garbhagriha you see a lovely Murti of Bahuchara Devi, exactly how her iconography defines her. We paid our respects and then sat for a while in the mandapa. We stepped out to the sound of music playing in its Yagna mandapa.
An anushthan yagna was going on in this mandapa with many people reading Durga Saptashati in Gujarati.
On the other side of the temple are small temples of Narsingh Veer, who rides a horse. Remember Golu Devata or Kumaon and Khandoba of Maharashtra also ride horses.
There is a lovely triple storey deepstambh, again in white marble.
Devotees were distributing Sukhadi – a sweet made of milk and gud, as prasad to everyone.
As we talking around the temple to take Parikrama, we passed by the lovely Gargoyle in the shape of an elephant. It falls into a bucket being held by a lady in stone.
A pillared hall has colorful stands holding clay pots. Another pillared corridor around the temple had a Jhula where many women come asking for sons. Here you see many large images of Bahuchara ji. One of them shows her riding on a chariot drawn by roosters.
Just behind the temple, you see a pair of feet in marble with lot of Sindoor on it. People take it to apply on their foreheads and to make a swatik on the wall in front. I saw a similar practice in temples of Mathura.
You see the lovely carvings all around the temple.
This is a small temple right behind the main big temple. This is the original place where the Devi first appeared under a Shami or Varkhadi tree.
Every devotee visits this temple and offers the metal parts. This is where the Pandit ji told me the legends of the Bahuchara ji.
A path behind the temple leads to a small tank. Many small temples surround the Tank. Water from this tank is used for ritual purposes. We could see many Mundan ceremonies being performed here.
I read somewhere that Arjuna took a dip in this sarovar or tank to take the form of Brihanalla before entering the Virat Nagari to live incognito. They also say that Shikhandi of the Mahabharata also prayed here before fighting Dronacharya. Remember he was an incarnation of Amba, and was born a girl but changed his gender.
As I walked around the temple, I saw a group of Eunuchs dressed in bright colorful Saris and wearing lots of gold ornaments seated under a tree. Devotees who had come for Mundan ceremony would take their kids to them for blessings. Sometimes they would get up and do a Garba in a circle.
After observing them for sometime, I went and spoke to them. I was directed to Sonu Masi, the most senior of them. She had teeth of all gold and wore a lot of gold. I sat and chatted with them and they told me about the annual festivals they have after Labh Panchami that falls 5 days after Diwali and lasts for about 8-9 days. She showed me the videos of them dancing at the festival.
When I asked them about their relationship with the temple, she said we do the japa of the name of Ma and she takes care of us. She also told me that many people leave their eunuch children here and they are adopted by the community. Internet tells me that many grown up also come to this temple to join this community.
She blessed me with a coin that she first touched with her bangle and then gave it to me. They say their blessings have a lot of power. I am grateful to have received it and that too at the Shaktipeetha of Bahuchara ji. It is almost like the Devi blessing through these special beings.
On Full moon day, the Palki of Bahucharaji goes around the temple.
On the Full moon days of Chaitra and Ashwin months that falls after the two Navaratras at the onset on summers and winters, the festival of Bahucharaji takes place. Her palki visits the Shankhalpur village that is about 3 kms away from her temple.
Shami tree is worshipped on Dussehra.
Vallabh Bhatt Ni Vav
Located just 1-2 km away from the Bahuchara ji temple is Vallabh Bhatt ni Vav. Story goes that Vallabh Bhatt was an ardent devotee of Devi. He used to visit her without eating or drinking anything. Once on way to the temple, he was very thirsty but refused to drink water. Devi appeared before him and dug a Vav to get him water. The Vav or the stepwell came to be known after the devotee.
As of the now, it is more of a tourist kind of place with a small temple of Bahuchara Mata. The stepwell is closed and can only be seen though a mesh.
Becharaji or Bahuchar Mata temple is located about 80 kms from Ahmedabad. One can easily do it as a day trip from the city. Ahmedabad is well connected through air, rail and road. There is a dedicated parking outside the temple.
The temple attracts huge crowds during Navaratri, Purnima or full moon day and on special ceremonial days. I visited on a Thursday; the crowd was there but not too much.
You can spend anywhere from 30 mins onwards at the temple.
No photography is allowed inside the temple, you can click outside.
You can combine the visit to include Modhera Sun Temple, Rani Ki Vav Stepwell in Patan, Siddhpur and Unjha that has Umiya Mata temple.
It is an important Devi temple of Gujarat. Visit it.
There are facilities to stay in the town or in Mehsana as well.