The Gondhalis, a community in Maharashtra that are designated dancers for weddings and other big rituals that are a part of the practice of Hinduism, worship Renuka and Tulja Bhavani

According to The Tribes And Castes Of The Central Provinces Of India By R. V. Russell Of The Indian Civil Service, Superintendent Of Ethnography, Central Provinces, Assisted By Rai Bahadur Hira Lal, Extra Assistant Commissioner, Macmillan And Co., Limited, London, 1916 “the Gondhalis are mendicant musicians, and are engaged on the occasion of marriages among the higher castes to perform their gondhal or dance accompanied by music. Four men are needed for it, one being the dancer who is dressed in a long white robe with a necklace of cowries and bells on his ankles, while the other three stand behind him, two of them carrying drums and the third a sacred torch called dioti. The torch -bearer serves as a butt for the witticisms of the dancer. Their instruments are the chonka, an open drum carrying an iron string which is beaten with a small wooden pin, and two sambals or double drums of iron, wood or earth, one of which emits a dull and the other a sharp sound. The dance is performed in honour of the goddess Bhawani.”

The Renuka Mahatmya has this story about the origin of the community: After Parasuram had killed a demon named Betasur, he cut off his head and threaded the sinews of the head through the aperture in the crown. This was the instrument he used to play in front of his mother, Renuka.

There is another story about the origin of the community and the practice: There was a great Brahmin called Sahasrarjuna, he tormented his parents and wounded his mother 21 times. So 21 times did Parasurama rid the earth of ksatriyas. He killed Sahasrarjuna and made a stringed instrument from his corpse. Thus was the gondhal practice born.

Story collected by: Arundhuti Dasgupta

Location: Maharashtra

Source: The Gondhali: Singers for the Devi by R C Dhere (translated by Anne Feldhaus) from: The experience of Hinduism, Essays on religion in Maharashtra, Edited by Eleanor Zelliot and Maxine Bernstein