Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Khandoba, (Marathi: खंडोबा Khaṇḍobā

Khandoba, (Marathi: खंडोबा Khaṇḍobā) also known as Khanderao, Khanderaya, Malhari Martand,Malanna, Mailar Malanna, Mailara Linga, and Mallu Khan is a regional Hindu deity, worshipped as Mārtanda Bhairava, a form of Shiva, mainly in the Deccan plateau of India, especially in the states of Maharashtra and Karnataka. He is the most popular family deity in Maharashtra. He is also the patron deity of warrior, farming, herding as well as some Brahmin (priest) castes, the hunters and gatherers of the hills and forests. The cult of Khandoba has linkages with Vaishnava and Jain traditions, and also assimilates all communities irrespective of caste, including Muslims. Khandoba is sometimes identified with Mallanna of Andhra Pradesh and Mailara of Karnataka. The worship of Khandoba developed during the 9th and 10th centuries from a folk deity into a composite god possessing the attributes of Shiva, Bhairava, Surya and Karttikeya (Skanda). He is depicted either in the form of a Lingam, or as an image riding on a bull or a horse. The foremost centre of Khandoba worship is Jejuri in Maharashtra. The legends of Khandoba, found in the text Malhari Mahatmya and also narrated in folk songs, revolve around his victory over demons Mani-malla and his marriages.

The name "Khandoba" comes from the words "khadga" (sword), the weapon used by Khandoba to kill the demons, and "ba" (father). "Khanderaya" means "king Khandoba". The name "Mallari" or "Malhari" is split as "Malla" and "ari" (enemy), thus meaning "enemy of the demon Malla". Malhatri Mahatmya records Martanda Bhairava, pleased with the bravery of Malla, takes the name "Mallari" (the enemy of Malla). Other names include Khandu Gavda, Mhalsa-kant ("husband of Mhalsa") and Jejurica Vani.

Muslim veneration

Khandoba is also a figure of respect and worship to Muslims, and this affiliation is visible in the style of his temples. He is called Mallu or Ajmat Khan (Rautray) by Muslim devotees, and many times portrayed as being a Muslim himself in this context. The latter is believed to conferred upon by the Mughal invader king Aurangzeb, who was forced to flee from Jejuri by Khandoba's power. Some of these distinguishing Muslim features include his usual appearance as that of a Paṭhān on horseback, one of his wives being a Muslim, and that his horse-keeper is a Muslim in Jejuri. The Mārtaṇḍa Vijaya expressly states that his devotees mainly comprise of Muslims. The worship of Khandoba had received royal patronage by Ibrahim II, which consisted of the reinstatement of the annual jatra and the right of pilgrims to perform rituals at the Naldurg temple. Malhari Mahatmya even records Muslims (mleccha) as the god's bhaktas (devotees), who call him as Malluka Pathan or Mallu Khan. In Jejuri, a Muslim family traditionally looks after the horses of the god.

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