TANOT ( JAISALMER), RAJASTHAN
10 JULY 2022
This is the only hindu heritage temple in India, situated near the Indo- Pak border, where you will find men in uniform serving as priests, in fact all the 30 plus odd staff who are doing duty including the guarding job are from the country’s elite central para military forces.
At any time during the day visitors will find at least a couple of Border Security Force (BSF) constables chanting Sanskrit slokas and offering prayers and pujas and doing the job of the professional priests in this temple. Every evening the arti takes place between 7 PM to 7.30 PM.
Mateshwari Tanot Rai Temple, situated about 120 kilometres away from the Jaisalmer district headquarters , is a heritage site preserved and maintained by the Sector North division of the Border Security Force (BSF), since the Indo – Pak war of 1971.
It has also been an epitome of communal harmony in the country since decades. Tanot Mata temple is also unique in the sense that perhaps this is the only temple in the country where the devotees have to enter the main temple building passing through a Pir Baba Mazar, which is located inside the sprawling 10 acre temple complex. Folklore is that Pir Baba was one of the greatest devotees of the Goddess Tanot Rai Mata.
Tanot Mata is believed to be an apparition of the Hinglaj Mata Goddess. It is in close proximity with the battlefield in Longewala, a critical Indo – Pak border site where the famous war took place in 1971.
During the 1965, Indo – Pak war the enemies attacked the Tanot area from three different directions ( Kishangarh, Sadewala, Longewala) commander Major Jay Singh led the Indian counter attack with one company grenadier and two company BSF against over 3000 armed Pakistan soldiers. Over 3000 bombs and shells have been fired , almost completely annihilating the surrounding villages, but about 450 bombs and shells dropped inside the premises of the temple miraculously did not blasted and were unable to make an even scratch on the walls.
Again the Pak army entered about 4 kilometres inside Indian territory in Longewala, about 30 kilometres away from Tanot, but the handful of BSF jawans fought bravely the whole night, until the next morning IAF joined them with heavy bombardment from the sky. The famous Bollywood movie ,‘Border’, released in 1997, starring Sunny Deol, Jackie Shroff, Akshay Kumar, Sunil Shetty etc has been depicted from the war story of Longewala.
The folklore is that the credit for both the wins of Indian Army and BSF troops goes to the about 1200 year old Goddess Tanot Mata Temple.
After the 1971 war a Vijay Stambh (memorial) was erected outside the temple. Inside the temple is small war museum with the seized shells and bombs ( Mateswari Tanot Rai ki chamatkar). The entire history is scripted on the wall.
As per the oldest Charan literature Tanot Mata is the divine Goddess of Hinglaj Mata , and hails from shakti peeth in Balochistan of Pakistan. The Golden throne was presented by Raja Tanurao Bhatti, made his capital.
The temple is run by the Mateshwari Tanot Rai Trust, and the commandant of BSF is the secretary, DIG of Sector Headquarter, Jaisalmer North, BSF is the chairman and IG of BSF is the patron of
the trust. Mostly cash donations are accepted from the devotees and funds audited every three months besides BSF’s own contributions.
The Temple Trust provides scholarships of about Rs.15 lakhs to needy students of the surrounding villages every year. Besides doing other local social development works.
Local villagers are mostly cattle grazers and donate their cattle to the temple when their wishes are fulfilled. These cattle roam freely inside the temple.
These days locals have been engaged in cleaning job of the temple. Both civilians and men wearing camouflaged dresses come here to worship and tie hankies and return back after their wishes have been fulfilled, BSF sources said.
BSF is the sole first line of defence in the 471 kilometre stretch of the International Border in Rajasthan. A BSF chowki is also posted in front of the temple complex.
There is no entry fee in this temple. It takes about two hours by road from Jaisalmer. The best time to visit is between November to April.
The Jaisalmer Fort, sand dunes and camels of Thar Desert, Gadisar Lake and Kuldhara are the nearby tourism hot spots.