Deep in India’s Maharashtra region lies a peculiar temple built upon the idea that human beings are prone to doing evil things, and a never-ending supply of shoes may be the only cure.
According to the Hindu faith, selfish thinking causes negative actions and increased bad karma, and there’s one god fit to rein in the evil: Vetal, the King of Ghosts. Tasked with restoring buddhi, or wisdom, in the world, Vetal is basically a cleaner for the evil within humans as they navigate the earthly sphere.
Aravali, a village in the region of Konkan, has taken Vetoba (the physical manifestation of Vetal) as its own god, and long ago erected the Vetoba Temple as more or less a place to pay homage to Ghost King himself in iconic form. Pilgrims from all over the world arrive at the Vetoba shrine in hopes of being guided back to the righteous path of enlightenment, or to seek blessings for the future.
At over nine feet tall and hewn from five kinds of metal, the magnificent Vetoba icon accepts gifts of bananas, sweets, pairs of dhoti (a long loincloth worn by men), and, most endearingly, a specific kind of leather footwear made locally known as “chappals” which it is believed Vetoba wears during his constant patrols in warding off evil.
A heap of these sandals, left by devotees and supposedly worn by the Vetoba himself, can be found within the shrine. Locals effervesce with enchanting tales of how the soles of these sandals are worn out after only a few days thanks to the vigorousness of Vetoba’s patrols protecting their village.
Visit India withAtlas Obscura Trips
Northern India's Colorful Cities, Villages, and Celebrations
Visit towering forts and palaces, wander centuries-old ruins, see Agra aglow with lamplight on the first night of Diwali, celebrate Bhai Dooj with a local family, and watch the sun rise over the Taj Mahal and the River Ganges on this immersive journey through Delhi, Rajasthan, and Varanasi.