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Gondhal Ritual In Maharashtra

Gondhal is one of the Kulachara or Kula dharmas, that is, the family traditions of certain Brahmin and Maratha families in Maharashtra. After an auspicious event such as upanayana (initiation into studentship) or marriage, a gondhal needs to be performed to express gratitude to the kuladevata (patron deity of the family). The ritual is either dedicated to Khandoba or any of the Goddesses worshiped by Hindus in Maharashtra.

Certain families perform gondhal as their traditional occupation. The men who perform gondhala are called gondhalis.

History Of Gondhal

Scholars trace the origin of gondhal in the worship of Bhavani and Renuka. Some trace it to the gondhali nritya (dance with ghost like drapery), others to the Mahanubhava literature which mentions Chakragondhala, and others as bhutamata utsava (ghost mother festival) mentioned in 1240 AD. In short the historical origin of Gondhal is uncertain and vague. 

How Is Gondhal Performed?

 At the time of performance, a chauranga (short square wooden platform) is covered with rice or other grains; a kalasha (pot) with coconut on it is kept at the center.

A tripod of sugarcanes with a ghatmala (small wooden pots one above the other) suspended from its covers this platform for puja.

A torch called divati and budhi (a pot containing oil) is kept burning in front of this arrangement.

The puja is done by a minimum of four men; a leader, his assistant, and two musicians.

The ritual consists of salutation to Lord Ganesha, praise of Goddess Jagdamba, and an invocation to the other gods to join the performance and bless the occasion. In the end, a legend of the God Khandoba killing a demon and saving a devotee is narrated.

The narration is sung by the naik (leader) in a peculiar rhythm. The tradition is kept alive and is continued, owing to fear of the wrath of the kula devata.

BibliographyEncyclopedia of Hinduism Volume IV page 329 - IHRF