JEJURI, India — When the new moon coincides with a Monday, the small Indian town of Jejuri in western Maharashtra state sparkles with gold.
During the Bhandara Festival, or the Festival of Turmeric, which falls on Feb. 4, June 3 and Oct. 28 this year, devotees worship Lord Khandoba and celebrate his victory over the demons Mani and Malla.
There are more than 600 Khandoba temples across the states of Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and northern and central Karnataka. However, as many as 600,000 devotees come especially to Jejuri to cover the town — and each other — in golden swirls of turmeric, a mild, earthy spice that in its powdered form is a vital component of Indian cuisine.
There are several explanations for the choice of this spice to celebrate Khandoba. The most common is the belief that Khandoba is a descendant of the sun god Surya and is often depicted with four arms holding bowls of turmeric that symbolize sunlight. In other interpretations, turmeric represents the gold that worshippers pray to Khandoba to receive.
During the festival, people show their devotion with ritual songs to Khandoba.
Then men take the statue of Khandoba from the temple and carry it to the river for a traditional bath as crowds try to touch the idol for a blessing.