Dr. A K Chatterjee is a seasoned writer with more than 330 blogs in English and Bengali and 10 books mostly on travel, trekking and temples.
The temple dedicated to Goddess Vajreshwari or Vajra Yogini Devi is a very important temple belonging to the Shakti (The Primal Feminine Power) cult. The temple is situated in the village of Vajreshwari in the Bhiwandi Taluka of Thane district of Maharashtra, India.
Situated about 80 kilometers from Mumbai, the state capital and the Economic Capital of India, the temple can be easily approached by road as well as by the railways. Thousands of devotees visit this temple, especially on special occasions like Navaratri festival.
The added attraction of Vajreshwari is the presence of about 21 hot water springs within 5-6 kilometers of the temple. Stated to possess medicinal properties, these hot water springs are very popular to the devotees as well as the general tourists.
The temple of Goddess Vajreshwari is located on a small hillock named Mandagiri in the village of Vajreshwari, previously known as Vadvali. The temple was established by the famous Marhatha general Chimaji Appa in 1739 AD after his victory over the Portuguese.
Its Geographical co-ordinates are 19 degrees 29' 12" North, 73 degrees 1' 33" degrees East.
The village of Vajreswari is about 27 kilometers from Virar, a suburban town situated in the Thane district of Maharashtra. The nearest rail station is also at Virar, on the Western line to and from Mumbai.
The National Highway number 48 (NH 48) passes close to Virar.
A small but beautiful river named Tansa flows by the village of Vajreshwari.
The legend of Vajreshwari
The Goddess Vajreshwari is associated with two mythological stories.
In one, She appeared to kill a wicked Asura (demon) named Kalikut or Kalikala when the Rishi-s (sages) did a big Yagna (Fire Sacrifice) to invoke Her. But somehow, the Rishis failed to pay homage to Lord Indra, the king of gods. Indra was very angry at this, and threw his great weapon Vajra (thunderbolt) to kill the Rishis. Rishis were panicked and prayed to the Goddess to save them from the Vajra. Goddess agreed and neutralized the Vajra. After this incidence She came to be known as Vajreshwari, the Goddess who tamed the Vajra.
In the second story, Indra himself came to kill Kalikuta, and threw his most potent weapon Vajra. But Kalikut was very powerful and he broke the Vajra into two. All panicked at this, but suddenly the Mother Goddess appeared from the broken Vajra and killed the demon. As the Goddess appeared from the Vajra, She came to be known as Vajreshwari (the Devi of Vajra).
This area has about 20 hot water springs, all relics of ancient volcanic activity. But people believe that this water is hot as this originated from the blood of the demons killed by the Goddess.
It is believed that the 6th and the 7th Avatar of Lord Vishnu Parashurama and Lord Rama visited this place. It is said that Parashurama had a big Yagna (fire sacrifice) here, and the volcanic ashes found in this area are the remnants of the ashes of that big Yagna.
Relation with "Natha"-s
It is said that Machchhindranath, the original Guru of the Natha sect, worshipped Goddess Vajreshwari here for one month and bathed Her idol with the water of the nearby hot springs. This place is also known as "Nathbhumi", meaning "the land of the Nathas".
History of Vajreshwari temple
The ancient temple dedicated to Goddess Vajreshwari was at Gunj, about 8 km away. The Portuguese destroyed that temple and the deity was moved at its present location, and a small temple was built for Her.
It is said that while marching to fight the Portuguese the famous Maratha General Chimaji Appa visited this shrine and begged for the blessings of the Goddess. He defeated the Portuguese and conquered the Vasai Fort from them. In gratitude, he built a big stone-temple in 1739 AD at the site where the old temple was located.
There are 5 metal bells hanging from the roof near the entrance of the main temple. These bells were placed there by Chimaji Appa.
There is a large oil painting showing Chimaji in the battlefield above the entrance to the temple.
The Temple of Goddess Vajreshwari
The temple of Goddess Vajreshwari is located on a small hillock which is approached by a flight of about 60 steps. There is a huge pillar-like structure in front of the staircase leading to the temple. On the way, there is the small idol of "Kurma", the Holy Tortoise, an Avatar of Lord Vishnu on a broad step of the staircase.
Then there is the main gate, with the inscription in vernacular stating "Shri Vajreshwari Yogini Devi Sansthan".
On entering the main gate, there is an open space at the centre of which is the huge temple of the Goddess. One can reach up to this place with shoes on, but must leave the shoes here to enter the temple proper.
There is a large painting at the temple entrance showing the chief three deities inside - Renuka Mata, Vajreshwari Devi and Kalika Devi.
The stone-built temple is costructed in the modified North Indian style, with a big hall or Mandapa in front, then an ante-chamber and finally the sanctum. There is a dome-like Shikhara (spire) on the ante-chamber and a tall Shikhara on the sanctum. The big stone buikt pillars are beautifully decorated.
The hall or Mandapa is quite large, with five big metallic bells hanging in front and a number of decorated pillars on either sides.
The ante-chamber has two groups of deities on two sides of the entrance to the sanctum. On left, there is an idol of Lord Ganesha flanked by two other minor deities. On the right, there is a central figure of a goddess called "Morwa Devi" riding a rooster flanked by Lord Ganesha and Lord Vishnu on her right and Lord Hanumana on her left.
The sanctum is a medium sized chamber with three idols of three goddesses on the podium - at the centre is Goddess Vajreshwari (in green dress) flanked by Renuka Mata (the mother of Lord Parashurama, the 6th Avatar of Lord Vishnu) in red dress on her right and Goddess Kalika (in dark blue dress) on her left.
All three have small umbrellas made of silver upon their heads, and the background is made of a huge silver plate highly decorated with figures of celestial nymphs and floral design.
The idol of Goddess Vajreshwari
Goddess Vajreshwari is also known as Vajra Yogini Devi or Vajreshwari Yogini. The name has a Buddhist tinge, though the idol of the Goddess here is purely a Hindu one.
The green dressed idol of the goddess has two arms, the right holding a sword and the left a small shield. She is sitting on a throne, and no animal "Vahana" (vehicle or mount) is visible near her.
Other temples and structures
The temple premises has some smaller temples and structures including a beautiful "Tulsi Mancha" (a small structure supporting a holy Basil plant), a temple tree where the devotees bind pieces of colored threads and cloths for a good fortune, a stage called "Yogini Ranga Mancha" for performing religious functions and a small Shiva temple with several Shive temple on the ground.
But the biggest of these secondary structures is a temple dedicated to Lord Dattatreya who is the combined Avatar of Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. This temple is on the left of the main temple, and requires special mention.
The Dattatreya temple
This is the second largest temple in the temple complex. It is a flat roofed structure and instead of a typical sharp tall conical Shikhara (spire) is has a truncated spire through which a Rudraksha tree grows up from inside the temple.
The sanctum contains a central podium with an idol of the three-headed Lord Dattatreya, and its walls are adorned with huge paintings of the three goddesses in the main temple and that of Sain Baba, the famous godman or saint who has a huge follower not only in India, but from all over the world.
From the centre of the floor, the aforesaid Rudraksha tree goes up straight through the roof.
The temple cum mausoleum of Dhodre Baba
Dhodre Baba was a holy man, one of the first priests who dwelt here at the temple of Goddess Vajreshwari. He is regarded highly till today for his high level of spirituality and devotion to the Goddess.
At the top of the hill on which the temple of Goddess Vajreshwari is located, is a small temple cum mausoleum dedicated to Dhodre Baba.
To reach this place one has to climb a flight of stairs which goes up the hill. At the base, there is a small temple dedicated to Lord Hanumana. On reaching the top, one can see the Temple. The structure is a simple one, thus representing the modesty of the man to whom it is dedicated.
Inside, there is a small polygonal hall-type area for gathering of the devotees, and a small room which is the sanctum. It contains pictures of the same three goddesses and a small tomb made of marble. There is the artificial footprint of the holy man on it.
From the top of the hill, the scenery on all sides is just breathtaking, with the small but beautiful Tansa river in the background.
The temple of Vajreshwari is a very important one and is visited by thousands of devotees. The added attraction is the presence of about 21 hot springs within 5-6 kilometers from the temple, the closest ones are located at Akloli, about 1.5 kilometer from the temple.
There is a local belief that the origin of the hot water of these springs was from the hot blood of the demons killed by Goddess Vajreshwari.
I'll write about the hot springs in a separate article.
References : Different internet sites including Wikipedia.
All photos are by the author.
Date of visit : 28 May 2022
© 2022 Dr A K Chatterjee