A young researcher found what was being worshipped as a ‘Veergal’ with Lord Ganesh carved on it, at Erandwane, was actually a depiction of a punishment involving a donkey
For decades now residents of the erstwhile Erandwane gaothan (village) have been blissfully worshipping an ancient stone inscribed with what they imagined were images of the deity Ganesh and his vahan (mount) — the mouse. They assumed that the stone was a ‘Veergal’ (stones inscribed by 10th-century rulers in praise of heroes) or a ‘Satigal’ (from the same period dedicated to widows of such heroes). Only, a young researcher with the Bharat Itihas Sanshodhak Mandal (BISM) has now uncovered that the deified relic at Erandwane was actually a ‘Gadhhegal’ (a donkey stone inscribed with the punishment meted out to a law breaker).
The horrified researcher — Mangesh Navghane – has now urged people to not blindly worship such engraved stones without figuring their real purpose but to preserve them as they are living accounts of a bygone era. The ‘Gadhhegal’ he’s discovered actually depicts the punishment of forcing a female family member of the person found guilty, into a sexual intercourse with a donkey. The tenure of the punishment was depicted with images of sun and moon.
For decades the inscription of the abominable diktat has been preserved near Madhusanchay Ganesh temple opposite Major Tathawade Garden, with its real meaning obliterated by thick smearing of vermilion powder used for rituals. The donkey looked more like a mouse (locally called Mushak), while the woman was completely caked over by coloured powder and the man looked more like the elephant god.
“We are not against religious beliefs of people. The intention of our study is to create awareness about the real significance of the stone – in this case its bitter truth. Such stones are an integral part of our history and need to be protected in their original identity,” pointed out Navghane.
Contextualising the historical relevance of the stone, he added, “Erandwane was an ancient village on the banks of Mutha river that traces its history back to 10th Century. We cannot lose this heritage by changing the original identity of the stone. We’re also talking to BISM to see if they can help preserve it as its present location or elsewhere.”
Dattaji Nalawade, a city-based historian, whose research has centred around Maratha history, observed, “Such stones are rare. They were carved during the Shilahar dynasty and Yadav of Devgiri, who ruled major part of Maharashtra and Karnataka. In many of them, the inscriptions give a brief history on the stone and its purpose. The idea behind carving such stones was to create a fear in the minds of people about committing offences such as theft, corruption, spying, violating other rules.”
While the researchers’ interests have been perked by these relics of history, an officer with the Directorate of State Archaeology and Museums, who did not wish to be named, admitted that the state government has no policy in place to protect or preserve them. “We’re trying to create awareness among villagers to protect the ‘Veergals’ as they are not merely sculptures but a living account of their ancestral history. Recently we conducted a drive to collect such abandoned ‘Veergals’ and find them a place of safekeep, usually near temples,” he added.