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Posted at: May 12, 2018, 12:03 AM; last updated: May 12, 2018, 12:03 AM (IST)

Powerful draw of Shaktipeeths

Kanshiram Bharti

Shaktipeeths are the abodes of the Goddess of power. The origin of Shaktipeeths dates back to Daksha’s ‘yajna’. Sati, the consort of Shiva, was the daughter of Daksha Prajapati, a descendant of Brhama. Sati had married Shiva against the wishes of her father. The vain Daksha performed a great ‘yajna’ with the sole aim of insulting Shiva. He invited all the gods and goddesses to the ‘yajna’ except Shiva. 

When Sati came to know of the ‘yajna’ being performed by his father, she insisted on attending it. Shiva counselled her that one should not go to any place uninvited, but Sati prevailed over Shiva that no invitation was required to visit her father’s house. At the ‘yajna’, Sati was an unwelcome guest. But it pained her the most when she noticed that no seat had been kept for Shiva. Anguished and angered she jumped into the ‘yajna’ fire and immolated herself.

Lord Shiva became extremely furious when he heard the news of Sati’s self-immolation. Carrying the charred body of Sati, Shiva began stalking the three worlds, performing Tandava- the dance of destruction. Gods rushed to Lord Vishnu to calm Shiva lest the whole universe was destroyed.  Vishnu then severed Sati’s body into pieces with his Sudarshan Chakra. Where the parts of Sati’s body fell, rose the 51 Shaktipeeths on the Indian subcontinent. 

Himachal Pradesh has a distinction of housing four Shaktipeeths.  

Jwalamukhi: The tongue of Sati is said to have fallen at Jwalamukhi. In the ancient past, it was believed that the tongue had fallen in the greater Kangra region and therefore a small temple dedicated to Sati had been built in Nagarkot, the principal fort and town of Kangra. Later, when a wandering cowherd noticed flames coming out from a rock in the forested area of what we call Jwalamukhi, it came to be believed that the tongue had fallen at this particular place. When Raja Bhumi Chand, the ruler of Katoch came to know of this, he built a temple of the deity there. Most of the people, however, believe that the original temple was built by the Pandavas. There are nine natural flames enclosed in the temple that are believed to represent Mahakali, Annapurna, Chandi, Hing Laj Bhavani, Vindhyavasani, Mahalakshmi, Sarswati, Ambika and Anjani.

Bajreshwari Devi: The bust of Sati is said to have fallen at a place where now stands the temple of Vajreshwari Devi of Kangra. The shrine in the good old days was known for its wealth and that is why it attracted the attention of invaders. The shrine was looted by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1009 and by the Sultan of Delhi in 1360. The original temple was destroyed in the notorious Kangra earthquake of 1905 and was rebuilt.  The peculiar event in the temple is of besmearing of Devi’s pindi with quintals of butter on the day of Makar Sakranti every year. It is said that the Devi was badly wounded in the battle with demons and the gods healed her wounds by applying butter on them. The ritual is symbolic of that. The butter for the purpose is prepared from ghee through its repeated washing with cold water — a unique phenomenon.

Naina Devi: Located on the Naina hill of Bilaspur, is the shrine of Naina Devi where the eyes of Sati are believed to have fallen. A legend has it that Naina Hill was once inhabited by herdsmen one of which was Naina. Naina noticed for days that a particular cow would release milk of her own accord on a particular spot atop the hill. It was here that Naina found the pindi of the goddess. The goddess appeared to him in a dream and asked him to build a temple for her. 

Chintpurni: The feet of Sati are said to have fallen in a place called Chapproh near Bharwain village of Una district. The deity is worshipped here as Chintpurni — the reliever of worries. The story of Chintpurni goes back to a devotee called Mai Dass. Mai Dass was born in Athar village near Patiala. He was the youngest of the three brothers and like his father was a strong devotee of the Devi Durga. He showed no interest in family business and his brothers distanced him. One day when Mai Dass was travelling to his father-in-law’s house, he stopped for rest under a banyan tree in Chhaproh. Tired, he had a nap in which a divine girl appeared asking him to build her a temple and remain in her service. On waking up, he resumed his journey but remained occupied with the dream. On his return, he stopped and prayed to the Devi to reveal herself. In answer to his prayers, Devi mounted on a lion appeared and said that for ages she had been under the banyan tree as a pindi. Mai Dass discovered the pindi and raised a temple to her.

(The writer is a retired IAS officer. He lives in Shimla)


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