Jejuri is a city located around 50 km from Pune. It is famous for its huge Khandoba Temple, that stands on top of a hill. Large amounts of turmeric are thrown all around the temple all day long. Khandoba is considered as a manifestation of Lord Shiva. He is worshiped in the form of a Lingam, or an image of a Maratha warrior riding a white horse and brandishing a sword.
The festival of Somvati Amavasya is celebrated at the temple if a new moon day falls on a Monday. During this festival, a huge palkhi with Khandoba’s idols and images is carried from the temple to the Karha River, where they are washed.
I went to Jejuri for a 2-day travel photography tour with DCP Expeditions to witness the glorious festival of Somvati Amavasya. This would be my first temple photography trip with my new DSLR camera, the Nikon D5300. Plus, the itinerary also included an excursion to Mayureshwar Wildlife Sanctuary, which is home to so many deer, squirrels, birds, hares, hyenas, foxes, wolves, and so on. With my camera safely in my bag and excitement in my heart, let the trip begin!
If you don’t like reading lengthy blogs, you can check out the videos of my Jejuri trip.
HOW TO REACH
Train: There are 2 direct trains from Mumbai to Jejuri – Koyna Express and Sahyadri Expres. The rail distance between Mumbai and Jejuri is around 142 km and it takes around 4 hours to reach.
Road: You can also drive all the way to Jejuri like I did. Jejuri is around 200 km away from Mumbai by road.
Bus: There are no direct buses between Mumbai and Jejuri. You have to take a bus to Pune, then another bus from Pune to Jejuri.
Air: The nearest airport is Lohegaon Airport, Pune, which is around 45 km away from Jejuri.
Drive To Jejuri
The drive to Jejuri is very pleasant and the roads are in good condition. We took a short break in between for a scrumptious breakfast of some spicy misal-pav. Once we cross Pune and start ascending towards the Ghat, the scenery goes fantastic with distant views of the hills and trees. It took us almost 5 hours to reach Jejuri from Mumbai.
After a hearty lunch and much-needed rest, it was time to get ready for our first bout of photography at the Jejuri temple. Since turmeric is thrown all around the temple, it was necessary to protect our cameras from any damage. Plus, Somvati Amavasya attracts a lot of crowd to the temple. So my mentor Pankaj Sir helped me secure my camera in plastic covers and we set off towards the temple.
First Visit To The Temple
Our hotel was just a stone’s throw away from the temple. We could view it from our hotel room also. The Khandoba Temple resembles a fort and the capital of Khandoba’s kingdom is Jejuri. The path to the temple is littered with so many shops and you can see devotees covered in turmeric all around.
It is a real visual treat for street photographers. What really amazed me is that the people were very happy at getting their photograph clicked by us. I did not find a single shopkeeper or devotee who did not give us permission to let us click their picture.
The temple stands on top of a hill; this means we had to climb more than 400 steps to reach the top. But as I was clicking a lot of pictures and recording videos all the way, the 400-plus steps turned into a fun activity. Plus, the view of the lush green hills offers great company along the way.
Reached The Top! Jai Malhar!
I have never seen such a huge crowd at a temple before. There was a serpentine queue of people waiting to seek darshan, another huge crowd in front of the temple throwing bhandara (turmeric mixed with coconut) all around, people gearing up for the palkhi, devotees singing and dancing, and pujaris roaming all around. You can spend hours in the temple area. Photography is prohibited inside the main temple; but the temple grounds can give you great shots as they are flooded with activity. One can find many sculptures near and outside the Jejuri temple. The temple looks so extravagant and beautiful in the golden hues of turmeric. Thus, it is called ‘Sonyachi Jejuri’.
The best part about the temple is that people of all faiths are welcome here. Khandoba is also worshiped by Muslims. It is believed that Khandoba’s powers forced Aurangzeb to leave Jejuri during an invasion. Muslims refer to Khandoba as Ajmat Khan or Mallu Khan.
After sunset, devotees started playing drums and dancing to offer their love to Khandoba. A gigantic red flag was hoisted and carried all around the temple premises. When it started getting dark, we left the temple with our memory cards full, clothes covered in turmeric, and hearts full of wonder.
Palkhi At Somvati Amavasya
Now was the time for a wholesome meal. I could eat a mountain since I climbed a hill, literally! At dinner, Pankaj Sir started giving us instructions about the round of photography during the palkhi procession. The timing for the procession was 2 am. So we had to be ready with our cameras by 12.30 am in order to document it. Then, he asked us to be ready at 6 am to view the palkhi at the riverside.
I felt it would be very tiring to compromise on my sleep after a hard day of travel and photography. Besides, there would be a massive crowd of thousands of people at the temple. So I decided to skip the palkhi and directly catch it at the riverside at 6 am in the morning. I love photography and it would be great to witness the holy palkhi being carried from the temple. But health and safety matter the most!
I woke up 5 minutes before my alarm ringed at 4 am and started getting ready. At 6 am, we were driving towards the Karha river to witness the bathing of the palkhi at the riverside. We reached on time to witness a spectacular sunrise and were waiting for the palkhi to arrive. But it never did. We asked a few locals; some said the palkhi arrived before us, while some others said that we were standing at the wrong side of the river. But whatever the reason may be, we decided to go to the temple for another round of photography.
Back To The Temple
The temple was just as crowded as the previous day. Also just as beautiful! There were devotees hitting themselves with rope whips, playing drums, dancing, singing, and what not! I could see many young couples at the temple this time; it is considered auspicious for newly married couples to visit the temple. Also, Khandoba is known as a granter of fertility in marriages. I had to take special care of my camera and mobile in this crazy crowd.
We had a very special breakfast of kande pohe at the temple. There are many stalls selling bottled water to devotees too. I consider myself really lucky to have come to Jejuri for the festival. It is full of grandeur and the town looks so alive and energetic. At around 10 am we left the temple and headed back to the hotel for some rest.
At around 1 pm, we checked out of our hotel, proceeded towards lunch, and set off to visit the Mayureshwar Temple. This visit was not on our itinerary, but Sir suggested that we cover it as it is only around 30 mins away from Jejuri. Photography is not allowed in the temple at all. But I managed to take a few shots in the backyard. Compared to Jejuri temple, this temple was very quiet, serene, and less crowded. It is the starting point of the pilgrimage of eight revered temples of Ganesha, around Pune.
Mayureshwar Wildlife Sanctuary
Forward to the last session of photography of our trip – Wildlife Photography at the Mayureshwar Wildlife Sanctuary. So many chinkaras reside in the sanctuary. It is very unlikely that you don’t spot a chinkara there. If you are lucky, you may also lay eyes on hyenas, foxes, and wolves. Though we didn’t see any! Also, it is ideal for bird photography.
I am not very accustomed to using the 70-300mm lens. So my shots of the chinkara are a little blurry. But it was such a delight to see these cute little deer galloping all over the place. After sunset, we bid adieu to Jejuri and drove back home.
I gained so many insights about travel, street, and wildlife photography on this trip. It was a real pain to carry my heavy gear all the way up the temple twice, wake up at 4 am to witness the sunrise, and protect my gear from damage by the turmeric and crowd. But no pain, no gain. We learn new things only when we come out of our comfort zone and do something different.
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