Tulja Bhavani temple is located in Osmanabad district of Maharashtra at a distance of about 45 kilometres from Solapur. It is one of the 51 shaktipeetas. Earlier Tuljapur used to be known as Chinchpur. The idol of Tulja Bhavani is carved out of a special black stone called “Gandhakee” which is got from the Gandhakee river.
The temple tank or “Tirth” is the creation of Lord Brahma whose command forced Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswathi and all other holy tirths from Himalayas, Vindhyas, Sahayadri and other mountain ranges to come this place. According to Tulja Mahatmya , a dip in these holy waters is a giver of a great religious merit and is the panacea for all diseases , especially in the Magha month, when Sun is in Aquarius.
Afzal Khan was a medieval Indian Commander who served Adil Shahi dynasty of Bijapur. He was a leading court figure during the reign of Ali Adil Shah II of the Bijapur Sultanate.Before setting out on a military campaign he would seek the blessings of a Sufi Pir. Before his campaign against Shivaji Maharaj, when Afzal Khan sought the blessings of the Sufi Saint the latter prophesied that this would turn out be be his last campaign. Afzal Khan captured Tuljapur and the idol of Goddess Bhavani was desecrated.
An incorporeal voice was heard saying that Afzal Khan would die shortly. Chatrapathi Shivaji used to take the blessings of this goddess for his military campaigns .The story of the encounter between Shivaji and Afzal Khan is well known and as prophesied by both the Sufi Pir and the incorporeal voice at Tuljapur ,Afzal Khan met with his end. The belief is quite strong in this place, that whenever the Goddess or her devotees are troubled, they would face punishment sooner than later. Another important place of pilgrimage in this region is Gangapur. When a devotee came to Tuljapur seeking relief for a malady, the goddess directed the devotee to go to Gangapur.
It is the custom amongst devotees here to pay a visit to Tulja Bhavani after some auspicious occasion like childbirth or marriage. Unlike the other shrines in Maharashtra, the Goddess is supposed to be asleep for certain portions of the year. The first is for a period of seven days from the eight day of the second fortnight of the month Bhadrapad to the last day or on Monday of the same month. The recess is for a period of four days from the eleventh day of the first fortnight to the full moon day of the month of Aswina. The third recess is for a period of seven days from the first day of Pausha month to the eighth day.
The Goddess came to Tuljapur in response to an appeal from a devotee in distress. Hundreds of years ago, in the Krita yuga, there was a sage by name Kardama. This Kardama was a great pundit and was well versed in the Vedas and the scriptures. His wife, Anubhuti, was greatly attached to her husband. She was of a religious bent of mind and the two of them were a very happy couple. Years passed by and Kardama passed away plunging Anubhuti into a sea of grief. She decided to perform the rite of Sati, of sacrificing herself on the pyre of her husband. However, as she was preparing for that customary rite, a heavenly voice told her that although her decision to follow her husband to the other world was highly commendable, the rules of Dharma do not allow those women who were either carrying or who had young children to look after, to perform the rite.
Anubhuti had a young son entirely dependent on her and hence she should not immolate herself. Rather reluctantly Anubhuti, who had now realised the responsibility of raising her young one, gave up her wish to perform Sati. She bestowed great attention on the education of her son, discarding all the pleasures of the world. In due course he became a young man capable of looking after himself. Anubhuti took to the life of a Vanaprashtha or Forest-dweller from then onwards. Leaving behind her home and taking leave of her young son she went to the Meru mountain. Here she built for herself a small cottage and started practising Yoga. Years passed by and finally she brought under control ,her body and mind, and was fast approaching her ultimate aim of life viz.,Moksha. But destiny willed otherwise.
One day while Anubhuti was in yogic trance, there arrived a king by name Kukoor. This Kukoor was a powerful ruler of the danavas and had encamped near the Meru mountains while on one of his hunting expeditions. In the morning he sighted a deer, gave it a chase and while running behind the deer, his eyes fell on the charming lady. Rather curious to find a lady sitting all alone in the thick of the forest he approached her lustfully. This Anubhuti was an extremely fair looking woman and her charming look attracted the demon .
Anubhuti, in this moment of distress, prayed to the goddess to come to her rescue. The Goddess appeared before Anubhuti and thereafter a fight ensued between the Goddes and the demon .In this battle Kukoor was killed. Anubhuti was full of gratitude for the Goddess and started to say it in so many words,butthe Goddess stopped her and said that it was because of great punya (merits of past births) that the lady was protected by the Goddess.She was extremely pleased with Anubhuti and would confer whatever boon she might ask for. Anubhuti told the Goddess that the only boon she would ask for was that she should be able to see and worship the goddess whenever she desired. The Goddess selected the Yamunachala (the Yamuna hill of the Sahyadris) as the place where she would reside permanently.
The Goddess had another plan before her when she chose this particular spot. She had foreseen the whole life story of Lord Rama and had decided to help him in his worthy task. Yamunachala is on the way from Panchavati to Rameshwaram and she knew Rama would come there searching for his wife. Accordingly she waited there for the two brothers, encouraged them on their mission and advised them to establish and worship two Shiva-lingas near her abode. These lingas are today known as Rameshvar and Lakshmaneshvar. Then she told the duo that they would very soon be meeting a monkey chieftain and advised them to befriend him to ensure future success. Rama praised her, obtained her blessings and proceeded towards Lanka. The rest is history.Rama was triumphant in his battle against Ravana. This story does not find mention in the Ramayana but occupies a significant portion of the Tulja Mahatmya. This is a descriptive document of how and why this very spot became the habitat of Goddess Bhavani and the spiritual significance of this holy place.