Bhandara Festival of HULJANTI is the symbolic outburst with colour of life and dedication of faith to the almighty god. This is considered as one of the most colourful, sacred and religious festival among the members of DHANGAR community from Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh states of India. Dhangars are the shepherd community of this region who deals in mainly animal harvesting. The festival is marked as one of the top trio turmeric festivals that also include PATTANKODOLI BHANDARA and JEJURI BHANDARA. Devotees in millions from distant places gather to show their devotions during the holy day of new moon after Dussehra in this least known hamlet HULJANTI, which is situated in the border of Maharashtra and Karnataka. An interesting mythological story is earnestly believed by the DHANGAR deciples of the household god Lord KHANDOBA which revolves around the celebration.
The name of the village HULJANTI is constructed with two words…HUL, which means tiger and JANTI- means den. In a word, the place is famously known as “tiger’s den” to pay respect to the great Dhangar leader MAHALINGRAYA. People believe, once Lord KHANDOBA came to meet his dedicated deciple Malingraya here in a forest. The god was thirsty and asked for water. Malingraya went for water, but being unable to find any, he finally approached a tigress for her milk for the god. Tigress obliged him n sent her cub along with to let the god know his bravery. Lord Khandoba remained ultimate satisfied with his brave dedication and confered him with title HUL(tiger) n declare the place as HULJANTI(tiger’s den). The celebration is therefore to denote the god’s meet with his human representative on the auspicious day of Karthik Amavasyya in the village Huljanti. Devotees bring big chariot(Palkhi) with the idol of god and their pathfinder leader MAHALINGRAYA smeared with auspicious turmeric powder. One more Palkhi is brought in the same occasion to mark Malingraya’s meet up with his loving accepted sister Sivanti. Devotees run with the Palkhis n meet at a point. People from everywhere throw turmeric powder all around, the sky and the air get fully covered and drenched with the faith painted with golden yellow and holy chants. Palkhis are ushered by hosting red flags and blowing Tutari(teaditional bugle). Faith and religious feelings overpower the human behaviour all around.
The celebration starts at the previous night named BALI PRATIPADA, where a colourful head gear clothe of 365 HATH(length of a hand) long, believed to be of Lord KHANDOBA, is worshipped and then kept opened for the devotees to witness. Two prominent leaders, Adil Shah from Bijapur and Dafle Sarkar from HATH are believed to be the biggest follower of the lord. Adil Shah had offered the gold ornaments for the Lord KHANDOBA and king MAHALINGRAYA during his time long back. These ornaments are taken out this day every year for public display. To feed the millions of devotees, foods are served from Bijapur and Jath village every year.
Huljanti, despite being a very lesser known festival among the Indian people, touches the heart of the onlookers to the extreme core for its being soaked into the unfathomable vibration, devotion and dedication smeared with the golden midas touch of human behaviour and sensitivity with unimaginable faith.
Story Courtesy: Unmesh Chorage Patil.