Devnarayan ji was a folk deity, a ruler and a great warrior from Rajasthan. He is mainly worshipped by the Gurjar community in Rajasthan, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh. He is considered to be an incarnation of Vishnu and his birth anniversary is celebrated as Devnarayan Jayanti.
Devnarayan ji was born in the 10th century AD to Sri Savai Bhoj Gurjar and Sadu Mata Gurjari in Malaseri, near Ajmer. His father was a descendant of King Bisal Dev Gurjar (Vishal Dev Chauhan) of Ajmer, who resisted the Arab invasions and helped the Tomara rulers to gain control of Delhi. His Grandfather was Mandalji Gurjar, who established the famous Mandal lake near Bhilwara district in Mewar.
Devnarayan ji was a mighty warrior who fought many battles and wars against tyrannical rulers. He also performed many miracles and attained many achievements. He had three queens – Pipalde Parmar (daughter of the king of Dhara), Nagkanya and Daityakanya and two children- Bila(son) and Bili( daughter).
The oral epic of Devnarayan ji is one of the longest and most popular religious oral narratives of Rajasthan. It is sung by the Bhopas, the traditional priest-singers of Devnarayan ji during the nights of the months, November to July in the villages of Rajasthan and Malwa. The epic consists of two parts- Bagdawat Bharat and Devnarayan Bharat.
The Bagdawat Bharat is about the heroic deeds of 24 Gurjar brothers, who are born as the sons of the man-lion, Baghji Gurjar. The 24 brothers die after a preordained period of 12 years in a battle against King Durjansal of Ran city, who had abducted Queen Jayamati (Jaymati). The second part is about Devnarayan ji’s incarnation as the son of Savai Bhoj, the most courageous of the 24 Bagdawats. He avenges his father’s death by killing Durjansal and establishes his image among his followers.
Devnarayan ji is worshipped as a folk deity by the people of Rajasthan and his followers are spread across the country. He is revered especially for his work towards public service. His grand temple is in Asind, where his annual fair is held on Makar Sankranti. His other temples are in Nag Pahar near Ajmer, where he was born, and in Gogunda near Udaipur, where he died. His devotees also worship his phads, which are painted cloth scrolls depicting his life story and miracles.
On 27 January 2023, Ashok Gehlot, the Chief Minister of Rajasthan, declared Devnarayan Jayanti as a state holiday. He also announced that a museum dedicated to Devnarayan ji will be set up in Asind. He said that Devnarayan ji’s teachings are relevant for today’s society and his legacy should be preserved for future generations.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also addressed a ceremony commemorating the 1111th ‘Avataran Mahotsav’ of Devnarayan ji in Bhilwara on 28 January 2023. He praised Devnarayan ji for his bravery, compassion and devotion. He said that Devnarayan ji’s life is an inspiration for all Indians and his message of unity and harmony should be followed by everyone. He also inaugurated various development projects related to water supply, health care and education in Bhilwara district.