Ahmedabad: You may have heard that diamond cuts diamond, but have you heard of alcohol beating alcohol? In Lord Panchia Dada temple in Ghaghretia village in Limdi taluka of Surendragar district, devotees come from afar to offer liquor – along with ‘bitings’ – to the deity, in hope to help their loved one overcome alcohol addiction!
Though Gujarat has been a dry state since its formation in 1960, the small temple located outside the temple of Goddess Moma Maa gets visitors almost every day. Many of them even come from states like Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, say locals.
While some offer country liquor, others bring India Made Foreign Liquor. “Recently, a person from Mumbai brought bottles of wine to offer to the deity,” said Manu Chauhan, chairman of the village’s Nyay Samiti.
Village sarpanch Shamat Bharwad says, “Our village is famous for the miracles worked by Panchia Dada. Visitors, not just from other district but also other states, who want their family members to quit liquor addiction come here.”
He adds, “People have been visiting this temple for more than a century. Even my grandfather does not remember when the tradition started. It all began with a myth that a saint helped people combat alcohol addiction through divine powers. Later, a temple was built in his honour. However, there’s no historical proof of this.”
This is not the only temple in the state where liquor is offered to deities. In Ahmedabad city, locals offered liquor to Lord Bhairavnath at a temple in Maninagar and Goddess Meldi in Naroda. People also flocked to Bhathiji Maharaj temple in Davda village in Kheda district and a Kaal-Bhairav temple in Bhuj town of Kutch. However, while the number of devotees have almost dwindled to nil in these places after strict liquor laws were put in place. The Panchia Dada temple continues to attract believers with people offering anything from a ‘quarteriya’ to a ‘khambha’ of liquor as per their capability.
Bottles of IMFL and polythene bags containing country liquor are found strewn around the temple premises but the village has reportedly never faced any police action. “We ensure that no liquor is sold or consumed in the village so no one faces any legal trouble,” explains Bharwad. Villagers ensure that the liquor offered at the temple is neither stolen nor given to anyone. “The stoppers on the bottles are removed and the spirit evaporates,” he says.
Asked whether they have had to face the police since ferrying or possession of liquor is also a crime in the state, Bharwad quips, “What can they do in the matter of god?”
Recollecting an incident, Chauhan says, “Around two years ago, a police team raided the temple and one of the cops broke a liquor bottle. This is a strict no-no, according to local beliefs. The very next day, he met with an accident in which he fractured his hand. Later, he came to the temple and offered a bottle of alcohol to the deity as a mark of apology.”
He adds that devotees also offer snacks like chavanu (local spicy snack mix) and nuts to go along with the alcohol.
A Mumbai resident who offered liquor at the temple, said on condition of anonymity, “I heard about the temple from a close relative after my elder son became an alcoholic. I offered an IMFL bottle last month and have been waiting to get some favourable results.”