FOLK GOD OF THE SOUTH: KHANDOBA

Chapter 2

MHAALSA


Mhalsa is the wife of Mallari Martand Bhairav. The chapter, in its beginning narrates story of this form of goddess Mohini-which actually is incarnation of Lord Vishnu.

Thereafter the chapter discusses the ancient nature of Mhaalsa’s being around in the folklore. The author quotes here the research of Mr. Pandurang Desai, which introduces two stone inscriptions in Kannada. Both of them are situated in the temple of Banashankari – at Devi Housur (Haveri- Dharwad). Period of the first inscription is 1148, and it narrates in detail the occasion of setting up that stone inscription. Period of the other one is 13h February 1063, and it also describes in detail the occasion of its need. In both these inscriptions, the goddess mentioned as ‘Malajdevi; or ‘Malchidevi’ is none other than ‘Mhalsa’ in Marathi. A detailed study of these inscriptions shows that this ‘Malchidevi’ started gaining prestige, or power in the eleventh century. Higher state officials of the regime also seem to have elevating the status of her worship.

In fact, at ‘Srishail Mallikarjun’ there was a tremendous dominance of the ‘Tantrik’ cultists from 8th or 9th century, or even before. From here the ‘Shakta’ tantriks were spreading all over South India. Under this dominance, many of the folk or demi gods and goddesses gained prestige and were thereafter regarded as the form of ‘Shakti’- Shakambhari, Yallamma, - Jyestha, Chandala, to name a few. Likewise, ‘Mhaalsa’ is also seen to have elevated its status, as seen from the inscriptions at Devi Hosur.

But, the author points out that at this same time some streams and cults in the mainstream religions were also condemning it. Ancient ‘Veershaiva’ saint poets have condenned ‘Mhalsa’ alongwith Mailar. Marathi saint poets, although have sung praises for Khandoba and Mhalsa, have condenmned their aboriginal form, rather unknowingly,… in the sense, that they do not seem to be aware of the fact , that the very forms they condemned are the origins of Khandoba and Mhalsa.
Eknath, then ‘Krishnadayarnava’ from the same tradition. Namdev, all their verses are seen to condemn this form.

Mystery of the name Mhaalsa is discussed in the chapter. The author cites the opinion of renowned researcher G.H. Khare. The author, however propounds that both ‘ Mailar’ and ‘Mhalsa’ are the forms in the ‘Prkrit’ period, and hence their exaltation process can not extent beyond tenth century, and he further states that their elevation – exaltation started in the eleventh century. So, one can not agree that the name Mhalsa – as propounded by Mr. Khare, derived from Sanskrit.

Some more etymological possibilities of the origin of this name are also discussed.

Temples of Mhaalsa

As per the folklore, ‘Mhaalsa’ was independent goddess, even before she became a consort of Khandoba, so she retained her original abode. Her temples are found at many places even today. The chapter mentions few such places, mentioned in ‘Sthaan-pothi’ namely –Bhogavai (Paithan), Vaalseng (dist. Aurangabad), Nandura / Nandra (Dist. Beed.) etc. Neer Beed, a place called ‘Mhaalsapur Javle and also another place ‘Mhalapur’ still exist. In Beedar region, a ‘Mhaalsapur’ exists just 2 miles from Mailarpur of Khandoba. ‘Mahikaavati Bakhar’ mentions a goddesss at Mhaaljapur.

Places of abode, currently in light are Nevase, dist. Nagar and Mhardol Goa- a creation of 17th century.

At both these places, ‘Mhaalsa’ seems to be unified with the form ‘Mohini’ (ibid). The author here mentions a few more references of this goddess, including a quote by Dyaneshavar. This unification of Mhalsa – Mohini is found in the literature, even before Eknath’s time. As an examples, the author refers  to the verses of ‘Bahira Jaataved’ named as ‘Dashamteeka’. This poet must have been existent at 100 -125 years after Dyaneshwar. Thereafter literature of Eknath, in three of this flagship volumes mentions Mhaalsa and Mohini forms. In fact, in one of the verses, he has criticized Mohini- assuming her to be the one from Newase. Even ‘Bhavartha Ramayan’ mentions her.

The author also quotes lines of Gopal Kavi from Newase, the author of ‘Mahalaya-mahatyma’ and ‘Malhari – mahatmya’. ‘Yadumanik’ in his volume ‘Sanjeevini’, includes Mhaalsa in each of the chapters opening invocation.

At this point Dr. Dhere has discussed etymology of a particular word in Dyaneshawari and his guessed thoughts about its details.

The Khandeshwari form of Mhaalsa

In Beed, at a little more of an altitude, there are two separate temples – one of Khandoba, and the other of ‘Khadeshwari’. Nevase also hosts two temples in a similar manner. In fact the hamlet of Nevase, is accordingly divided as Mhaalsas (Mohiniraj’s) Nevase and Khandoba’s Nevase.

Here, the author provides further information about the temple of Beed, the form ‘Khandeshewari’ situated there, finds mention in Sreepati’s Jyotish-Ratna-Mala’, a volume composed in first half of the 11th century.

Mengai form

One of the synomyms of Khandoba is ‘Mengnath’. In this context, the author discusses  abit more in details about etymological linkages. ‘Mengai’ temple is situated at Velhe.

Idolic manifestation of Mhaalsa

As no idols of Mhaalsa from the historic times are available, nothing can be concluded about the original form of her appearance. Idols today available are divided theogonically into two subsections. ‘Mohini-Mhaalsa’ and Mailar - consort Mhaalsa. Both kind of idols, are naked and having two hands. On the contrary, idols at Nevas – and Mhardol possess four hands. Further description of the details is elaborated at this point. So, also, an anecdote in Chakradhar’s life is quoted. Chakradhar – anecdote avoids mentioning nudity of the goddess, but clearly says that the idol is made up of rock.

As a consort of Mailar, she is found as a self - venerated Lingam, or accompanying Khandoba on the horse – saddle etc. At Jejuri 3 idols of Mhaalsa posses two hands, but holding a lotus bud in her right hand, and left hand composed in the ‘Gajahastamudra’.

Bellari, Mangsul etc. are few other places mentioned.

 

 

 
 

 
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