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I have stayed in several Indian cities. Anyway I did not have the scope to revisit most of those places. Well, there is couple of exceptions; and Gurgaon is one of those. Gurgaon is neither my workplace, nor a tourist spot that forced me to make a plan to come back time and again. What’s more, I was not much convinced with the name change of Gurgaon to Gurugram. I always associated the place with Gur, the good cane-juice jaggary I tasted here. In fact today’s glitzy city seemed an agricultural village during my first visit in 2000 – attending a library digitization workshop was my reason to come. My stay in a posh guest house did not give me chance to know anything about local history. Naturally I couldn’t associate Gurgaon with any Guru. It was only last year, when I had the scope to learn about the city during my long stay here, my idea about the city and its surroundings changed! I found the age-old mythological history of the area which I always considered a simple agrarian locality turned ultra-luxurious city.
What changed my belief?
A temple called Sheetla Mata Mandir in Sector six in Gurgaon. Sheetla or Shitala is a goddess who gained popularity in northern part of India from puranic era. Also in the eastern states of India, namely Assam, Odisha and West Bengal, Shitala is worshipped as the goddess who heals diseases. The story tells that the Goddess Durga, who took birth as Katyayani the daughter of sage Katyayan, took the form of Devi Shitala when Demon Jwarasur began spreading diseases like cholera, smallpox. measles etc. in her village. She cured not only her friends but also all village children taking a broom, a winnowing fan, a jar of cooling water and a drinking cup as tools in her four hands. Then she sent her friend Batuk to fight Jwarasur. Batuk turned Bhairav, the ferocious form of God Shiva and after a long struggle, defeated and killed the demon. Being a Bengali, I imagined Goddess Shitala would be same everywhere especially when she cures diseases.
Singing the song of the Goddess
I was wrong.
Shitala is a Goddess mostly worshipped by backward communities in Bengal. There are roadside shrines of the Goddess and couple of temples in the city, but nothing close to the grandeur of Sheetla Mata I visited in Gurgaon – oops! Gurugram. In fact, the presence of Seetla Mata justifies the place name Gurugram – the village of the Guru.
Guru Dronacharya was married to Kripi or Kirpai who used to live in Keshopur village. The Guru had Ashram in south of Gurugram but visited his wife regularly in Keshopur while the lady took care of sick children there. Grateful villagers called her Mata Sheetla out of sheer respect. She went on taking care of children till Guru Dronancharya died in the war of Kurukshetra. Folk belief says that she embraced death in her husband’s funeral pyre. A temple was built in her honour and people continued worshipping her in the name of Mata Masani. Around four hundred years back the goddess expressed her desire to come to Gurugram leaving Keshopur appearing in the dream of the local landholder Chaudhri Singh Ram. The Chaudhri established her in a temple making an idol as she had instructed. Villagers in Keshopur was not happy about her leaving them but could not stop her after she cured the child of the famous Begum Samru of Jharsa village. She gained immense popularity after this. Finally king Jawahar Singh of Bharatpur built a big temple dedicated to her commemorating his victory in a war over Mughals in 18th century.
And the temple was extended; the gateway and several new structures came up in recent years to support the overwhelming number of pilgrims. Women having kids do worship taking Vrat for the welfare of kids and women seeking a child also takes up the Vrat to pray to the Goddess. The worshipper needs to cook food cooked one day before the worship, which she and her family members should have on the day of Vrat. I spotted makeshift earthen stoves in a place which are used for cooking.
Women who pray to Goddess asking for a child often tie a piece of red cloth on a banyan tree beside the temple. I noticed some tied on the iron fence of the temple too. Belief controls our life. Believers come here to untie the cloth and perform a special Vrat once their wish is fulfilled. They take a dip in the pond beside the temple, water of which is believed to have some medicinal property to cure many diseases. The mother Goddess takes care of all her devotees.
The temple complex gave space to several other gods and goddesses, some of whom are over hundred years old. Two of them, Vishnu and Hanumanji caught my attention. However could not take their snaps while photography inside temple is strictly prohibited. Another interesting view was the handprints on a temple wall. Devotees making their presence visible like this on the temple wall is a new phenomena to me – did not notice this custom in any other temple before.
My visit to temple was over, but another wonder was waiting for me outside the temple. The sweetshop who sells Bengali Rasgulla! Does that mean good number of Bengali devotees too visit the temple? Or temple visitors in general prefer Bengali Rasgulla to break their fast. I was standing on the opposite side of the road and companions were in a hurry; hence were not ready to allow me to enter the sweet shop, try those sweets and have a chat with the seller. Now it’s your duty to find out the answer to the question.
How to reach the temple?
Gurugram Railway station is approximately 2.5 kilometer from temple. You may come to Gurugram by train and take an auto rickshaw straight to the temple. If you are coming from Delhi and like to take Metro route, you have to get down at Huda City Metro Station which is about 6.5 kilometer from and take a bus 212D to reach the temple. Coming from a faraway location? Then you should know that the nearest airport is Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGI) at New Delhi is about 17 km from the temple. You may take a take cab directly from the airport and reach within half an hour provided there is no traffic jam on the way. Well the nearest highway NH 8 is only 6 kilometer from here. You know cab is the most comfortable transport on the roads here. Where ever you come from, I would suggest you to take a cab to reach the shrine. Come with enough time in hand so that you can visit the temple premises peacefully and also take a walk in the adjacent road. You will find the true flavour of Gurugram here that still carries the memories of the ancient Guru.
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