PLACES

MOHOL

The head-quarters of the taluka bearing the same name situated in 1745' north latitude and 7535' east longitude is a railway station on the Pune-Sholapur broad gauge line of the South-Central Railway. The population, according to 1971 Census, was 12,248. Being the headquarters of a taluka, the offices of the Mamlatdar and the Block Development Officer are located in this village besides the Court of the Civil Judge, Junior Division. The jurisdiction of the police station at Mohol extends over 84 villages. The educational facilities to the village populace are provided by four primary schools conducted by the Zilla Parishad and a high school known as the Nagnath Vidya Mandir conducted by the Mohol Education Society. It has a Government rest-house too. The agricultural produce market committee was established at Mohol on January 1, 1958. A weekly market, which is a cattle market too, is held at Mohol on every Sunday.

According to the local story Mohol is a very old town. It is supposed to have suffered severely in the war between the Hindus and Musal-mans at the close of the thirteenth century and the old Gazetteer of Sholapur District published in 1884 mentions that the deshmukh and deshpande families of the Madha sub-division claimed descent from officers appointed by the victorious Musalmans. During the great Durga Devi famine (1396-1408), the town is said to have been abandoned and to have taken twenty-five years to recover from the famine. Another local story says that Mohol was the residence of the god Nagnath who afterwards proceeded to Vadval about five miles to the south-east. Nagnath's temple at Magh Mohol and Vadval were built in 1730 by one Ghongro, a rich merchant of Vairag.

Objects: The village has two temples, an old fort used under the Maratha rule for the offices of the old Mohol sub-division, and two ruined forts built about 300 years ago by the local deshmukhs of which only the walls could be seen in parts now. The two temples of Bhaneshwar and Nilakantheshwar or Chandramauli or Nagnath are said to have been built by Hemadpant, the minister of the Yadavas of Devagiri. A yearly fair is held at the Nagnath temple lasting from first of the bright half of Vaishakha (April-May) to seventh of the same fortnight. More than 30,000 pilgrims assemble at the time of the fair. Fairs and Festivals in Maharashtra, The Census of India, 1961, Volume X, Part VII-B, gives the following information about this fair:-

The fair is celebrated in honour of Lord Shiva personified as a saint at Mohol, an important town and taluka headquarters in Sholapur district. The period of the fair is of eleven days from Chaitra Vad. 30 (Amavasya) to Vaishakha Shud. 10.

The well-planned temple of Nagnath is situated to the north-west of the town. It is built on a south-north slope with polished stones, in the shape of a parallelogram. From the town-site a flight of steps leads down to the paved road which passes along the front wall of the temple. A stream flows at a short distance from the temple. A few steps lead to the main gate (mahadwar) with a roof made of brick and mortar. A figure of Shivalinga in bold relief is engraved on the front side of the stone lintel. The main temple is covered with an enclosure and breadth of the cloister is about 12 feet and it is 4 feet high from the ground. The front portion of the cloister contains rooms. The office of the Devasthan committee is situated on the eastern side of the front portion of the cloister, while on the western side, close to the main gate, in an open chamber, a stone platform is built to seat the Kharga (power of God). The upper storey on the main gate built in masonry is used as a nagarkhana. Besides the main gate, there are two small gates in the west and the south-west corner, respectively. Behind the main temple and in the cloister, a small door opens to a well. On the pavement, between the main temple and the cloister, leaving a paved alley for the holy circuit, two lamp pillars on both the sides of the main temple, are constructed in stone and lime on raised platforms with small projecting steps all around to enable a person to go to the top. At the west, near the main gate is a round low platform carved in stone used for bath of Shri Kharga. The east cloister is said to be built in 1917-18 A.D., while the other construction is said to have been completed 30 years prior to that.

A small attached temple is built in the front for nandi, the favourite conveyance of god Mahadeo.

In between the shrine of nandi and the main shrine, there is a sabha-griha or auditorium admeasuring 20' X 20' X 15'. In the middle of the hall, there are four stone pillars from the ground upto its flat stone roof. In the centre of the hall there is a figure of a tortoise engraved in bold relief and plated with brass. The flat roof of heavy stone slabs of this hall rests on sixteen pillars. The roof of the hall has on three sides a small wall with moulded figures in cement representing the ten incarnations of god Vishnu. One step from the hall leads to the gate of the shrine. The arch of the gate is extended with brass plating and the extended arch rests on two brass pillars. The door posts engraved with figures of Jay and Vijay in bold relief, the lintel and the threshold are plated with brass. The entire carved images are plated with brass. Besides a brass-plated door there is another door of wood with iron bars inside the shrine. People make their obeisance from this door only.

Two steps from the entrance lead down to the shrine measuring 10' X 10' X 10' which is a work of stone and lime. The spire in brick and mortar is built on the shrine. There are four minarets at the four corners of the spire. There is a dome and on it there is a lotus with a brass pinnacle plated with gold. On the pinnacle there is a brass trident. On all the four sides of the dome there are figures of Shankar-Parvati. Though there is neither an inscription nor any literature available to throw any light on the inception of the temple it is believed it might have been built by Hemadpant.

In the centre of the shrine, a shape of "Shivalinga" is carved in bold relief. The spot of the linga (salunka) faces the south. Within the salunka a three-tiered pedestal is carved in one stone in such a way that the upper tier is smaller than the lower one. On the surface of the upper tier foot-prints are carved in low relief. The surface of the upper tier is 1' X '. The spout, pedestal, etc., are carved in one stone. A brass mask of the deity is put on this pedestal facing the west. The neck of the mask is surrounded by coils of a five-headed cobra made of brass and the mask is shaded by its hood. A necklace of rudraksha beads is put around the neck of the mask and the holy sword made of wood is kept along with the mask. To the west of the mask and on the ground, a small platform of stone is carved in bold relief and it is plated with silver. The foot-prints of the deity are kept here.

The deity is worshipped twice a day in the morning and in the evening. The mask with the pedestal is unclothed, cleansed with water and mixture of five nectars is offered. They are then washed with water again and sandal-wood paste is applied to the forehead of the mask. A turban with a border of silver threads is then put on the mask. An upper garment is then put around the neck of the mask and the pedestal is covered with a cloth. Flowers and garlands are then offered and incense sticks are waved. Meals of cooked rice, sugar and ghee are offered to the deity and lighted lamp is waved before it. During these rituals holy songs are sung. On ceremonial days, i.e., during the fair, every Monday and on Hindu festivals, silk or kinkhab clothes are put on the deity. Ornaments including four gold ear-rings, two gold chains and a silver crown with a bunch of pearls adorn the deity. During the fair, however, the ornaments are not put on the deity. The meals (naivedya) are offered twice a day with the same clothes. On every Monday abhisheka-continuous pouring of water on the deity-is performed. For this worship the mask is removed from the pedestal and water is poured on it. On Mahashivaratri day special preparations for fast, viz., bhagar, etc., are offered to the deity.

The devotees have to perform the worship of the deity through the priests or through the local Brahmins. The Abhisheka is performed on the pedestal after removing the mask from it. The deity is supposed to be capable of showering blessings such as prosperity in trade, birth of a child, warding off evils, bodily and mental relief, etc. Promises or vows of offerings are made to the deity and after fulfilment, the devotees offer sweets, artificial limbs of silver or brass (ears and eyes), meals, etc., to the deity. Cocoanuts, flowers and garlands are also offered. During the fair cradles (wooden or silver), artificial limbs, etc., are offered to the deity. Cocoanuts in thousands are offered to the deity.

There are six households of priests with two divisions belonging to Veer Shaiv-Lingayat Jangam caste. The priests change their turn on every Monday morning.

God Mahadeo in the form of a saint is said to have promised to his devotee Shri Hegras of Mohol that he would meet him every year on the third day of Vaishakha. The fair is, therefore, held in this month. Though the period of the fair is eleven days starting from Chaitra Vad. 30 (last day of Chaitra) to 10th day in the bright half of Vaishakha, the important days are only two, viz., 3rd and 7th days of Vaishakha. On these days nearly 20 thousand pilgrims visit the temple. On other days during the fair nearly five to six thousand pilgrims attend the fair. Thus, the aggregate congregation is about 40 thousand. People from distant places like Bombay, Pune, Sangli, Miraj, Kolhapur, etc., attend the fair. A large number of pilgrims come from Sholapur district. Among the pilgrims, persons from Sali caste are more numerous. This fair is attended not only by the Hindus but by Muslims also.

The fair starts from Chaitra Vad. 30 and the rituals observed and programmes arranged during the fair are connected with the legend of the saint.

The mask and the samadhi are washed with water after which five nectars are offered to the deity. Sandal-wood paste and flowers, etc., are offered to the deity and the deity is then dressed in costly robes. The mask is decked with a paper crown coated with tinsel. The meals are then offered to the deity. Lights are waved at the face of the deity and the procession carrying deities is taken out to the accompaniment of music and devotional songs sung by the gathering. An umbrella and two silver maces are held in the procession. The procession ends at the Nagnath temple. After performance of arati (waving of light) in the temple, dry dates, wheat atta cooked with gur, etc., are distributed among the mankaris. The tithis (i.e., dates) for observing " Kharga" (power of god) and " Gan " (attendants of god Mahadeo or Shiva) are then declared by a mankari. This programme starts in the morning at about 8-00 a.m. and ends at 12 noon. The day is observed in the manner of a wedding day. Gifts are distributed. Oil is anointed to the bodies of the deities. The evening worship of the deity is performed by the usual priest before 5-00 p.m. Some quantity of the sandal-wood paste applied to the forehead of the deity is kept for the evening programme which is called "olaar iqtk". The remaining sandal-wood paste is applied to the bodies of the pilgrims who attend the programme. In the night holy songs are sung or discourses on pauranic legends are held accompanied by music and songs.

On the 3rd day of the bright half of Vaishakha, the pinnacle is taken in procession and mounted on the dome. At night, feast of puran poli is given to married women from reputable families. After this the holy umbrella from village Wadwal, another halting place of the saint, is brought in procession from the Khandoba temple. Fireworks are let off. In the dawn of 4th day of Vaishakha a reputable person, with his head shaven, bathed and dressed, is possessed by the supernatural power (lapkj gks.ks] vaxkr ;s.ks ). A crown made of flowers is placed on his head and he holds a holy sword decorated with flowers and garlands. He is then taken on shoulders by one person and held by other two. The holy umbrella from village Wadwal is held on him. The procession then starts. The mask of the deity and silver foot-prints are placed in a palanquin. A silver umbrella (N+=) is held on the brass mask. The procession starts at about 5-00 a.m. Three holy rounds are taken around the main temple within the enclosure. The procession reaches the main gate where future developments, six months thence, regarding the king, kingdom, etc., are forecast. Pilgrims throw copra, bananas, mangoes, sugarcandy, dry dates, sugarcanes, etc., on the palanquin according to their vows while the procession moves on. It reaches the Kharga tirth where forecast about rainy season is told. The procession then comes to a piece of farm land where crop position for the coming six months is predicted. It later goes to the altar known as Gawade Par where the prosperity of the town is forecast. The procession then reaches the Masjid where the pilgrims are blessed. The procession then arrives at the stone said to have been brought by an ant. The fodder production is forecast here. The procession then ends in the temple.

Vaishakha Shuddha 4 and 5: There is no programme on Vaishakha Shuddha 4 and 5.

Vaishakha Shuddha 6: On this day, besides the usual worship, a procession of the palanquin is taken out with great pomp and rejoicing m the evening. The palanquin carries the mask, etc., as on the 3rd day. The purpose of this procession is to meet the " Bhikling Badashah ", a pious devotee of the deity. The procession goes to the accompaniment of music and letting off of fireworks. It proceeds to the tomb of Bhikling Badashah from where it returns to the temple at about 12 or 12-30 in the night.

Vaishakha Shud. 7: In the evening five boys below ten years of age are called and their heads are clean shaven. These boys are supposed to be the ganas or the attendants of god Mahadeo or Shiva. All of them are carried on shoulders in procession which is taken out in the evening. The forecasts for six months following those for which the predictions are made on Vaishakha Shud. 3 and 4 are told.

Vaishakha Shud. 8: On this day a feast is given to all pilgrims by the devasthan committee in collaboration with other devotees. In the evening programmes of wrestling bouts are held. Nearly one to two thousand wrestlers participate.

Vaishakha Shud. 9: A programme of bull rights is arranged.

Vaishakha Shud. 10: Abhishek is offered to the deity and in the evening meals are offered to the visitors and pilgrims. The expenditure in this connection is met from the money contributed by the devotees.

Discourses on pauranic legends are held during the entire period of the fair besides the above programmes and the usual worship. A kathe-kari gives sermons on the lives of gods and goddesses. Kirtans and bhajans are also arranged.

A palanquin procession with the mask and the foot-prints in it is also taken out on every Monday, the favourite day of deity. On Ashwina Shud. 10 (Dasara day), the palanquin procession is taken out around the town. On Chaitra Vad. 3 the palanquin is carried in procession with a band of musicians. It reaches the boundary of the town. From there the procession goes to village Wadwal, the other halting place of the saint. The palanquin containing the brass mask with the cobra and the foot-prints remains at Wadwal for four days and returns to Mohol on Chaitra Vad. 7. It is brought in procession from the boundary of the town.

Shivaratri, Magha Vad. 14, the favourite day of Lord Shiva, is observed with a fast by all pilgrims. On this day the temple is decorated and the deity is worshipped with abhishek. During the period of the fair the pilgrims are accommodated in the houses of their relations. Accommodation is also made available in the cloister of the temple. Many of them take shelter in other temples and dharmashalas.

During the fair, on every day, except on Vaishakha Shud. 3 and 4, cultural and entertainment programmes are held. On the plains near the temple, dramas and tamashas are staged.

There are twenty wells in the town which provide drinking water. In the stream that flows nearby the temple, four temporary ponds are dug. The water of these ponds is also used for drinking.

A devotee has offered 34 acres of land to the deity in fulfilment of his vows. It is in the possession of the devasthan committee. The devasthan committee also collects the devasthan tax at the rate of five paise per hundred rupees of the purchase value of any commodity from the traders.

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