Tucked away in a remote corner of Etawah district, about 300 km from Lucknow, is a unique temple where, instead of the usual “prasad”, people offer stones to the deity.
The reigning deity in the temple is Bhujanga Devi, believed to be an incarnation of Goddess Durga.
“We do not worship with flowers, incense sticks or sweets. The deity only accepts stones which denote strength and longevity,” says Sirish Yadav, a local teacher.
No one in the village remembers how long this tradition of offering stones has been there, but everyone says that this is the only offering that the deity accepts.
The tiny temple houses a six feet tall black idol of Bhujanga Devi and thousands of stones are offered to her every day.
“Though a large number of devotees visit the temple daily, the numbers go up during Navratri (the nine-day festival dedicated to Goddess Durga) when around 300-500 people come daily,” said temple priest Jagram Das, adding legend has it that there once lived a woman named Bhanumati who became mentally challenged after being afflicted with multiple health problems. She was forced out of the house by her family members. Bhanumati then started living on the streets.
One day, she entered the temple carrying stones and started throwing them around. When passers-by noticed her, they tried to stop her but found to their astonishment that she had been cured. “It is said that when a group of men went inside the temple to bring her out, they found that Bhanumati was perfectly all right. They were taken by surprise and believed that the miracle was possible because of Bhujanga Devi. Since then, people have been offering stones at the temple to get their wishes fulfilled,” the priest said.
Makeshift stalls around the temple sell packaged stones for devotees who can select the colour and size of stones they want to offer. People believe if they offer black stones, their wishes are fulfilled.