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In Mumbai, worshipping ancient relics, defying archaeologists’ claims

The vermillion-smeared deities were recently identified as ‘Gadhegals’ or Ass Curse stones dating back to the 12th century by archaeologists Kurush Dalal and Harshada Wirkud.

Written by Priyanka Sahoo | Mumbai |
July 25, 2016 1:07:21 am
 mumbai, mumbai news, chirner village, worshipping god, bhairav temple, mumbai bhairav temple, goddess Parvati, goddess Parvati  incarnation, superstitions in mumbai, mumbai village superstitions, indian express news Kamla Mata temple in Vasai.

LOCALS IN Chirner village in Uran have been worshipping two ancient stones in the Bhairav temple for years. For the villagers, the deity inside the temple is an incarnation of goddess Parvati and the one outside is believed to be a protecting god.

The vermillion-smeared deities were recently identified as ‘Gadhegals’ or Ass Curse stones dating back to the 12th century by archaeologists Kurush Dalal and Harshada Wirkud.

“While the inscriptions on both the stones have been lost to years of vermillion, the motifs on the stones clearly suggest that they are land grant stones,” said Dalal.

Land grant stones are government notices with carved inscriptions, which say that a particular piece of land was being granted to an individual and trespassers would be punished. These stones would then be planted on the said land.

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“There is a sense of sanctity among villagers for the relics that surface during excavation work,” said Dalal. He said that these relics are then termed Devas and placed in temples. “The locals are afraid to invite the wrath of the God by disposing them, so they start worshipping them.”

Owing to their beliefs, the locals find it difficult to accept that the deity they have been worshipping for generations are actually artefacts. “When we tell the villagers that the deity they are worshipping is a land grant stone or a memorial stone, they treat us with skepticism,” said Dalal. Some, he said, deny the archaeologists’ claims outright.

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Dalal and Wirkud were part of an archaeological exploration project team that has found that several of the deities being worshipped in Gaondevi temples across the city are archaeological remains from the 12th century. The year-long study was conducted by the Centre for Extra-Mural Studies (CEMS) of the Centre for Archaeology, University of Mumbai.



Locals in Bhandup have worshipped a partly-buried ancient stone under a Peepal tree as Meldi Devi, a local goddess, for years. When archaeologist Vinayak Parab and his team dug up the stone, it turned out to be another Gadhegal, with a prominent motif. While villagers found the motif obscene and planned to immerse it in the Powai lake, the archaeologists have managed to preserve the stone. “While most of the inscriptions have been damaged by vermillion, we are trying to retrieve them through chemical processes,” said Parab.


In a gaondevi temple in Mulgaon Vasai, a pillar fragment of an ancient temple is being worshipped. While the motif on the fragment is that of a male deity, locals are worshipping it as Kamla Mata. “We could tell from the intricacy of the structure that it was a temple fragment. The locals, however, said the deity was an incarnation of Kamla Mata,” said Dalal, who is the deputy director of CEMS.


When archaeology students Rajesh Pujari and Anurag Shinde visited the Amba Mata temple in the Johnson Compound in Mahim, they found that residents were worshipping a structural remnant of a temple. They found that the deity was, in fact, a ‘Kichaka’ or a load-bearing bracket that holds the roof of a temple.



Inside the Gajalakshmi Temple near Mahakali Caves is a stupa fragment that the locals worship as a ‘yantra’ of the deity.

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First published on: 25-07-2016 at 01:07:21 am

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