During a recent visit to Rajasthan, we came across a few temples which seemed to be well-known locally and besides its religious relevance it seemed to have some historic relevance too. The idea of mythology and history shaking hands got me interested and we decided to visit the temples. Today we will discuss the first temple and its historic relevance.
About a 100 kms from Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, is a temple known as the temple of Ghantiali Mata. Amidst white sand and what seemed to a picture-perfect setting was a small temple, which was thronged by locals and a few tourists who stopped there before proceeding further. The temple premises were quite simple and there wasn’t the usual chaos and commotion that goes with many a temple in India. However, we were told that the temple witnesses such crowds during the bi-annual Navratri (the nine-day festival dedicated to goddess Durga).
On reaching the temple, I spoke to the local priest, trying to understand the myths associated with the temple. The priest was more than happy to tell me a brief story. At this place, in the midst of a desert, was a menacing demon, Ghantial, who was harassing the locals. Goddess, Durga, fought a battle and killed the demon at this place and since then, there has been a temple in her honour and is since then referred to as Ghantiali Mata – the goddess who killed the demon Ghantial.
On the walls of the temple, was another story, which too is quite interesting, but seeped in communal overtones and needless to mention was written in a provocative red colour. Briefly, this is what was written. Once the Muslims (mentioned exactly in the same way), killed all the members of a family. The only survivor of the family was a pregnant daughter-in-law who had been to visit her parents and thus was spared. When she came to know that all members of her family were killed, she was grief-stricken and left the village and settled elsewhere and soon delivered a boy. The boy grew up and started going to school and one day came back crying as all her friends were teasing him for not knowing his father’s name. On insisting, the mother broke down and related the story of how his family members were killed before he was born. When the boy grew up to be a man, he one day left his home with a sword to avenge the death of his family members. On reaching the spot where the temple stands today, he felt tired and sat to take some rest. (In those days there was a very small temple in the same spot, dedicated to some goddess, details of which are not mentioned). Soon from nowhere a small girl appeared in front of the man and offered him some water, and after drinking the same, he suddenly felt very energetic. Then the girl said that to the man, that he will achieve his objective soon. The man wanted to know as to how she knew what he was seeking; the little girl said that she knew everything about the whole world.
The man knew that this was no ordinary girl and fell at her feet and sought directions to achieve his objective. The girl then told him where to go, but put a condition that he should not kill too many people. If he trusted her, then he should kill only one person from the community and the rest would die on their own. On hearing this, the man promised that if this happened then he would return there and offer his head to her. The girl went on to say, that mothers do not like to see the severed heads of their sons, but he should return here once his mission is accomplished.
The man goes to the village he was advised and there he saw a Muslim marriage procession which was going somewhere. He went close to the end of the procession and killed one person and stood on the side. Soon people saw one dead man amongst them and started to blame each other and there was a fight amongst them and soon all were dead – just as mentioned by the girl. The man was happy and came back to the spot where he had met the girl, but didn’t find her. He started calling out for her by calling “Mother, mother”, but the girl was nowhere in sight. Disappointed, he took out his sword and tried to sever his head and then he heard a voice coming from the small temple which said “Stop”. The man saw no one there and tried to kill himself again and he heard the same voice and this went on for three times, till the goddess came forward and held his hand and said – “If you kill yourself, then who will worship me?” and it is said that the man built this temple in the present form.
Every religious sight has a miracle or some story of origin to lend it its relevance or moment of glory. Be it the ‘Shakti-peeths’ or a road-side temple or a religious spot and this one is no different. It is this little divinity which brings it the halo-effect and lends the much needed religious credence. But in this case, the credibility of this temple has some recent occurrences which overshadow the myths mentioned above.
Today, the temple has its religious status in the nearby areas, but seems to attract crowd more for the historic appendage which seems to be of more interest to one and all, especially in the much-polarised communal state and the relationship we share with Pakistan.
Next we will discuss another temple which was close by and its association with history, which is not very old and forgotten.
More pictures are available for those interested.