Mhalasa / Mahalasa Narayani is the Mohini avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu. She is also known as Mhalshi and Mahalasa. In Newasa, Goa and elsewhere, Mahalasa is considered as the Mohini form of Lord Vishnu and hence she is referred to as "Mahalasa Narayani". The deity, it may particularly be noted, also wears the holy thread, which is its unique feature. This holy thread is only worn by men and also the male gods. No other goddess in the Hindu Pantheon wears this kind of thread except goddess Mahalasa and goddess Parvati. Mahalasa is the Kuldevi (family goddess) of some 96K Khatriyas(Dessai's) and many Konkani Saraswat Brahmins, Karhade Brahmins, Daivajna Brahmins, (Arya Vaishyas-also known as Shetti) Bhandaris, Shimpi caste. Many families of different caste or communities.
According another tradition, Mhalasa / Mahalsa Narayani is believed to be a combined avatara of Mohini and Parvati and the first wife of Khandoba(A warrior god in Maharashtra and believed to be an Avatar of Shiva). She is worshipped with Khandoba in all centres of his worship, including Jejuri.
The temple of Mhalasa / Mahalasa Narayani lies in Mardol, Ponda, Goa, India. It was shifted here from the Velha conquistas (Saxty/salcette), Goa to avoid destruction during the forcible Christianization of Salcette, Goa, India.
When the Amrut was obtained by churning of the ocean by the Devas and Danavas, a fight broke between them to claim it. In order to help the gods, Lord Vishnu took the form of Mohini Avatar (form of an enchantress). As a beautiful Damsel, Lord Vishnu took hold of the Jar of Amrut and served it to the devas and by changing the jar at the right time she gave normal water to the Danavas. This Mohini form of Lord Vishnu is worshipped by the Hindus as the Goddess Mahalasa Narayani.
In the basic Hindu Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, the Hindu god Vishnu is the preserver and protector of creation . Vishnu is the embodiment of mercy and goodness, the self - existent, all-pervading power that preserves the universe and maintains the cosmic order. The elegantly designed Mohiniraj Temple in Newasa Ahmednagar Maharastra is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The new structure of this temple was constructed in 1773 at a cost of about Rs. 5 Lakes by Gangadhar Yashwant Chandrachud. The 75 feet tall temple is decorated all over with ornamental work. The shrine houses an image of Mohiniraj better known as Lord Vishnu . Also, in the Sabhamandan (Meeting Room) several images of other gods and goddesses such as Ganesh, Shiv – Parvati, Shani and Hanuman Ji . According to a legend associated to this place, the time when sea was churned to get nectar, Lord Vishnu appeared in the form of Mohini to distract the demons and deprive them of nectar. The demons stared at Mohini while Vishnu distributed nectar to gods and water to demons. Hence the effigy of the temple is also known as Ardhnari Nateshwar, i.e. ., Lord Vishnu’ s damsel form. Throughout the year three fairs are held in the town in honour of Mohiniraj. About fifty thousand people attend these fairs.An annual festival marking this event is celebrated for 5 days from every Magha Pournima.
According to another legend linking her to Khandoba, Mahalasa is believed to be a combined avatara of Mohini and Parvati. Mahalasa was born as the daughter of a rich merchant in Newasa called Timshet. On the divine orders of Khandoba in a dream to Timshet, she was married to Khandoba on Pausha Pournima (the full moon day of Hindu calendar month of Paush) in Pali (Pembar). Two shivlingas appeared on this occasion. An annual festival marking this event is celebrated in Pali every Paush Pournima.
Mhalasa / Mahalasa Narayani Temple at Mardol
Some believe that the main temple of Goddess was originally located in Nepal during the Kaliyuga. She was moved to Aurangabad in Maharashtra. During the Mughal domination, Aurangabad fell under the Muslim rule and the idol was moved to a secret location in Goa. Later, a small temple was built at Verna. Roughly, a few hundred years later, the Portuguese conquered Goa, and the temple was moved to Mardol.
The Mardol temple complex also has smaller temples of Santeri and Laxmi-Narayan who are worshipped daily with Mahalasa. The five main ganas of the Goddess namely Grampurush, Bhagwati, Dadh, Simha Purush and Mhal Purush are also located within the same temple premises and daily worship of all these deities is carried out before worshipping the main goddess.
The temple has cantten which is run by the workers.After the morning and evening aarti the Prasad- the holy meal is served here.
The temple is famous in Goa for its huge brass bell. The bell does not have a ringer. The ringer was attached only when somebody wanted to testify. It was believed that the goddess will punish the person by killing the person in three days who lied while ringing the bell. The belief was so strong that during the Portuguese rule the testimony in the temple was considered acceptable in the court of law. It is also famous for its Brass Divli/Samai (oil lamp).
The temple has recently banned entry of foreigners into the temple citing objectionable dressing and conduct as the reason.
Rituals and festivals
Sunday holds a special significance for the temple and the goddess. On this day Palakhi Seva is performed in addition to other rituals. The goddess is taken out for a ride around the temple in a palenquin. The palenquin is decked up with flowers and traditional colourful decorations. A large crowd gathers to participate in the event and the devotees sing her praises.
The Magha Jatra (festival) at the temple and Navaratri are the days of importance in the yearly calendar.
Other temples dedicated to Mhalasa / MahalasaNarayani
Main temple of mahalsa at Newasa Ahmednagar district in Maharastra In recent years, due to the increased popularity of the goddess, new temples have been established in Verna, Kumta, Mudgeri, Kundapura, Basruru, Shirva, Mangalore, Kasargod, harikhandige, [binaga] and other areas mostly along coastal Karnataka. The temple is also located in Madangeri a small place near to Gokarna.
- Baroque India : the neo-Roman religious architecture of South Asia : a global stylistic survey, by Jose Pereira