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Tara Tarini Shakti Peetha Through The Ages

Tara Tarini Shakti Peetha through the ages   

Ram Prasad Tripathy*


 The famous Hill Shrine of Adi Shakti Maa Tara Tarini is situated on the holy Tarini Parvat (Kumari Parvat/Ratnagiri/Purnagiri (Old names of the mountain), on the south bank of holy River Rushikulya at a distance of 30 kms from Berhampur city in South . Embedded in the hoary past, mentioned in the Puranas and the Tantras as the main seat of Sakti worship since time immemorial, the Tara Tarini Hill Shrine is an important pre-historic Sakti center. It is believed to be the Sthana Peetha or Breast shrine of Adi Sakti. This Hill Shrine is one of the oldest Shrines of Mother Goddess and is considered as one amongst the four major ancient Sakti centers of , which draw their origin from the limbs of the Corpse of “Mata Sati” in Satya Yuga. The popular belief is that Breasts of Goddess Sati fell here and hence it is revered as the Sthana Peetha of Adi Shakti.  

 

Shakti Peetha and Devi Peetha  

 

Scholars believe that all the Devi temples, Durga temples or Grama Devi temples are not Shakti Peethas. They generally divide the temples of mother goddesses into two broad categories namely, Shakti Peethas and Durga/Devi temples. Shakti temples are those which originated from the corpse of Mata Sati (the first spouse of Lord Shiva) and established by lord Shiva as Shakti Peethas in Satya Yuga. It is believed that the Shakti Peethas represent Goddess Sati or Adi Shakti, which originated thousands of years ago.

As per the Puranas and religious texts, there are 4 Adi Shakti Peethas, 18 Maha Shakti Peethas, 51 Shakti Peethas, 26 Upa-Peethas and some Tantric religious texts recognize 108 Shakti Peethas present in various parts of and even outside . Whereas, Durga temples/ Grama Devi temples are countless in number and representing Goddesses Parvati (the second spouse of Lord Siva) and her incarnations. Except these Adi Shakti, Maha Shakti, Shakti and Upa Shakti Peethas all other temples are or Devi temples.

 

Four Adi Shakti Peethas

 

The great mythological texts including the Shiva Purana and the Kalika Purana (the Asthashakti) recognize the four major Shakti Peethas. Like (Bimala, Pada Khanda) inside the Jagannath Temple, Puri, Odisha, (Tara Tarini) Sthana Khanda (Breasts), near Berhampur, Odisha, (Kamakshi, Yoni khanda) near Guwahati, Assam and (Dakhina Kalika, Mukha khanda) in Kolkata, West Bengal originated from the limbs of the Corpse of Mata Sati. In a hymn, the Kalika Purana (Asthashakti) clearly says:

 

“Vimala Pada khandancha,

Stana khandancha Tarini (Tara Tarini),

Kamakhya Yoni khandancha,

Mukha khandancha Kalika (Kali)

Anga pratyanga sangena

Vishnu Chakra Kshate nacha……..”

 

 

Further explaining the importance of these four Peethas the Brihat Samhita also gives the geographical location of these Peethas. For Example:

 

“Rushikulya Tate Devi,

Tarakashya Mahagiri,

Tashya Srunge Stitha Tara,

Vasishta Rajitapara"

 

 

Thus, there is absolutely no dispute regarding these four famous Adi Shakti Peethas and their locations. Apart from these four, religious texts recognize 51 other famous Shakti Peethas. The Peethanirnaya Tantra recognizes 52 Peethas and they are scattered all over , , , , and . Besides listing 52 Maha-Peethas, the Shivacharita speaks about 26 more Upa-Peethas. The Bengali almanac, the Vishuddha Siddhanta Panjika also describes about 52 Peethas.

 

The abode of Maa Tara Tarini

 

Adi Shakti Goddesses Tara Tarini have been regarded as the presiding deity (Ista-Devi) in many parts of and in most of the households in Odisha. This Holy Shrine is situated in the eastern coast of near the ; about 30 kilometers away from the commercial nerve centre of Orissa, Berhampur. The historically famous Jaugada rock edict of Emperor Asoka and the pious river Rishikulya, which has been described in Rig Veda as ‘Gangayah Jyestha Bhagini’ (i.e. the elder sister of the ), are also present near this holy shrine.

Since time immemorial, Adyashakti is being worshiped here as Devi Tara Tarini on the blue capped holy mountain of Tarini Parvat/Kumari hills/Ratnagiri/Purnagiri. At the hill top a beautiful stone temple is the abode of Maa. Two  stones anthropomorphized  by  the  addition  of  gold  and silver  ornaments and  shaped  to be seen  as human faces are the main Shrine   of  this  temple  which represents the Goddesses Tara and Tarini. In between them are placed two fully celebrated and beautiful brass heads as their Chalanti Pratima or their Living Image. Worship at this important centre of Shakta cult has been continuing since time immemorial.

 

Origin of Maa Tara Tarini

 

According to the Puranas, the origin of Maa Tara Tarini is related to the Jagna of Daksha Prajapati in Satya Yuga. Religious sacred texts like Shiva Purana, Kalika Purana, Devi Bhagawat (a contemporary text of the Mahabharata written by Vyasa Dev) attests to this fact.

According to these Puranas, Devi Sati, the daughter of Daksha Prajapati, married Kailashpati Yogiraj Shiva without the consent of his father. Since Lord Shiva has always been associated with cremation ground, Daksha Prajapati refused to recognize Shiva as Lord. Therefore, Sati’s unilateral decision severely hurt her father. After some time, Daksha organized a Jagna where all the Gods, saints and Gandharvas were invited. However, Daksha Prajapati did not invite Lord Shiva and his daughter Sati to the Jagna knowingly. Devarshi Narada informed this to Devi Sati. Sati requested Shiva to attend the Jagna. But Shiva politely turned down the request of Sati and advised her not to attend the function without prior invitation. Having failed to get the permission of Shiva, Sati became furious. However, lastly with annoyance and humiliation Sati decided to visit the Jagna alone to teach a lesson to Daksha Prajapati and to enquire why Daksha did not invite her husband Lord Siva to the Jagna. She argued fiercely with Daksha but her father misbehaved with Shiva in the presence of Sati and uttered insulting words to Her spouse Siva, which were not tolerable to Sati. Therefore, unable to bear this pain and insult She jumped into the Jagna kund. After entering into the fire the mortal body of Sati became half burnt. 

 

Learning of this, Lord Siva was overtaken by grief at the loss of His beloved and created Virabhadra and Bhadra-Kali who led the Nandi and Gana to wreck havoc on the sacrifice. Siva carried the body of Sati on his shoulders and then as he got angry, started the terrible dance of complete destruction – the Rudra Tandava (Nritya) as he moved around. This activity of Shiva spread horror and panic among the Gods. The existence of the universe came under threat and the whole universe was heading towards Mahapralaya (annihilation).

 

Kalika Purana says that to save the mundane creatures and the creation of Brahma from destruction the Devatas and Rishis surrendered themselves before the lotus feet of Lord Vishnu and requested him to save the creation of Brahma from Shiva’s fury and annihilation. Then Shri Hari Vishnu applied his Sudarshan Chakra to cut the half-burnt body of Sati. The Sudarshan Chakra did the same. The parts of Her body dropped in several places on the earth and the anger of Siva cooled down and He went for Samadhi (Deep Meditation).

The Kalika Purana states that Vishnu used the Sudarshan Chakra to cut the body into 51 pieces. Tradition believes that these are the 51 alphabets of the Sanskrit letter (50 alphabets + ).

In Devi Bhagawat (Saptasati Matruka), written by Vyasa Dev this episode is described in a different manner. On the request of the Brahma and especially Shri Hari Vishnu, Shani (symbolized by the Saturn Graha) entered the corpse of Sati and disposed it in 108 parts. Shakta Peethas sprang up in the places where the organs of Sati fell. Scholars believe both versions are correct and have separate spiritual meanings related to creation.

All those places where parts of the body of mother Sati fell later emerged as famous Shakti Peethas. It is said that the breasts  of Sati fell at the Tarini Parvata or Tarini Peetha on the  bank  of pious river  Rishikulya  and  thus   the famous  Tara Tarini  Shakta  Peetha  arose  at  this place.

Scholars also acknowledge a second mythological story relating to the origin of Tara Tarini Shrine in the Ramayana or specifically in the “Raghunatha Kirtana”. As per this text, once Maharshi Vasistha for the fulfillment of his desires invoked Goddesses Tara Tarini. To get the desired result he spent several years in deep meditation at the foothill of the Shrine. But after a long try he failed to please Goddesses Tara Tarini. And having failed to please the Goddess, he cursed that the Goddess will remain un-worshiped. When Goddess Tara Tarini knew about it, they requested Maharshi Vasistha to free them from the curse. After seeing the Goddesses, Maharshi cooled down and repented for the grave mistake he had committed. He said that Goddesses Tara Tarini would again resurface on the earth in the Tretaya Yuga, from the eyes of Goddess Laxmi. Until then they should remain in the eyes of Goddess Laxmi. Maharshi’s words proved true. With the dawn of Tretaya, Lord Vishnu incarnated as Lord Ram and his spouse Goddess Laxmi took birth as Devi Sita. When Tears came down from the eyes of Goddess Sita in Ashoka Vatikan two magnificent Devis Tara and Tarini resurfaced. After helping Sri Ram against Mahiravan and with the permission of Goddess Sita, they returned to their eternal abode Tarini Parvat for the wellbeing of the universe.

 

History of the Shrine

 

There is plethora of information available in the Hindu Religious texts, Bouddha Tantras and Hindu tantric texts regarding this shrine. Folklore, folk songs, folk stories, historical data, travel accounts and ancient literature also supply a lot of information about the origin and root of this ancient most Shrine. The following narrative based on these sources unveils the historicity and traces out the origin of this oldest destination of Shakti worship in .

 

Puranic Sources

 

According to the Mythological Puranas the origin of Maa Tara Tarini is directly attributed to Daksha Prajapati’s Jagna in Satya Yuga. The famous Shakti Peethas of Bimala, Tara-Tarini, Dakshina Kalika and Kamakshi originated from the limbs of the divine Corpse of Devi Sati. Mythological sacred texts such as the Shiva Purana, the Kalika Purana, and the Devi Bhagabat (a contemporary text of the Mahabharata written by Shri Vyasa Dev around 6000 years ago) attest to this fact.

 

It is known from the Mahabharata that before the commencement of the Mahabharata war, Lord Srikrishna advised Arjuna to offer prayer for victory at Shridevi kupa or Bhadrakali. Bhadrakali originated from the limbs of Sati like the other four major Shakti Peethas, which existed during the time of the Mahabharata or around 6000 years ago. This is the oldest data we have regarding the existence of the Shrines that originated from the limbs of the divine Corpse of Devi Sati.

 

Buddhist Sources

 

Post Kalinga war period: According to historical sources and Buddhist literature the fall of the Kalingan Empire and its capital Sampa (Samapa), caused by Mauryan Emperor Ashoka in the Kalinga war around 2300 years ago, strengthened the grip of Buddhists in this part of . Kalinga Capital Sampa (as it was known then) was hardly 5 km away from Tara Tarini Hill Shrine. Consequently, scholars believe that Maa Taratarini was worshiped as the principal deity (Ista-Devi) of the mighty Kalinga Empire. But instead of worshiping goddesses Tara and Tarini in a temple, the Kalingas worshipped the entire holy mountain as the Breast shrine or Sthana Peetha of Shakti. This form of mountain worship is still prevalent in some parts of Ganjam district. 

 

Scholars believe that after Ashoka conquered Kalinga, it became a famous centre of Buddhism. The region of Ganjam near the bank of river Rishikulya was an active Buddhist site. This was shown from the Special Rock Edicts of Ashoka found at Jaugada at a distance of 5 km from Tara-Tarini Hill Shrine.

 

Hindu Devi ‘’ in Buddhism: Some scholars believe that the name Tara (Buddhism), an important deity of Mahayana Buddhist Pantheon, is suggestive of Buddhist influence in Tara Tarini. An image of Buddha in meditation, present inside the sanctum sanctorum of the Taratarini shrine, lends credence to the claim that this site was an ancient centre of the Buddhist Shakta cult.

 

According to the texts of Mahayana Buddhists, in the initial days, the Buddhists didn’t believe in the worship of Goddesses or in Pratima puja (Idol Worship). But, the ecclesiastical texts of Mahayana’s reveal that from the 1st century AD, after the fall of Kalinga, for the first time, the Mahayana Buddhists accepted the worship of Mother Goddess "Tara" and the Tara worship is prevalent in many countries like Tibat, China, Japan, Myanmar, Thailand, Srilanka, Mangoliya and some parts of India etc. However, in countries like the same “” is also been worshiped as “Tarni” by Buddhists. So there is seldom any doubt that the Buddhists have learned the "Tara" Puja concept from this Shrine. The Bouddha Tantrik texts, texts of Vajrajani sect and Hindu Tantrik texts also substantiate these facts.

Scholars believe that in the primary days the Buddhists worshiped ‘Tara Tarini’, the principal seat of the Tantrik sect in Hinduism at that time, as “Bouddha Tara”, and later on included "Tara" as the Tantrik deity or spouse of Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara in their belief system. Gradually this "Tara" and ‘Tarini’ worship spread to different parts of the world.

 

Historical sources

 

‘Tara’ worship by Sadhavas: The "Maritime History" of Kalinga also attests the worship of the Devi “Tara” by the Hindu Sadhavas (seamen), and merchants before launching their sea voyage from the great seaports at Dantapura (Gopalpur), Pallur near at Rambha, kalingapatna and river Rishikulya. It is important to mention that all these major Sea ports of the ancient period of were very near to the Tara Tarini hill Shrine.

Historian Pratima Kamat supports the above theory in her ‘LADY OF THE RESTLESS WATERS’. Here she proves that the people involved in maritime activities in this part of Odisha were devotees of Goddesses Tara Tarini. The influence of Tara Tarini was such that people living in far off places like Goa have imitated the puja concept from the Shadhavas of Odisha coast. 

 

Folk lore & Folk stories

 

According to folk lore, it is around the 8th Century AD when Jagadguru Adi Sankaracharya toured the whole country, that he discovered this Shrine. However, the Tara Tarini Shrine did not exist in its present form at that time. After prolonged effort, Sankaracharya came to know that this ancient Shakti centre was under the control of Buddhist Tantrikas. He released this Peetha from the control of Bouddha tantrikas and handed it over to Hindus.

 

Tara Tarini as daughters of Basu Praharaj

 

It is known from available sources that until 17th century or till the time of Basu Praharaj, this place was out of the sight of the common men and people at that time generally preferred the worship of the entire as Sthana Peetha from a distance. According to a folk story once Maa Taratarini appeared as two sisters in the house of Shri Basu Praharaj. Basu Praharaj was a learned Brahmin of Kharida Vira Jagannathpur village near Purushottampur in Ganjam District, Odisha and one of the great devotees of the Mother Goddess, but he was childless. After staying for some years at the house of Basu Praharaj as his daughters once both the sisters disappeared suddenly from the house of Basu Praharaj. According to the account of the villagers, both the sisters travelled up to the Tarini Parvat/ Ratnagiri/Kumari Parvat and disappeared there.

 

Basu Praharaj searched for the two sisters for some time but did not find any trace of them. His heart broke down with grief and pain. One night, he saw a dream in which the Goddesses Tara and Tarini informed Basu Praharaj that they were actually not his daughters. Instead, they were the Adi Shakti, Goddesses Tara and Tarini. The Goddesses ordered Basu to come out of his grief. They said that, “The time had arrived, with full devotion; you renovate the Shakti Peetha on the Hill Top of Tarini Parvat and reestablish the deities Tara Tarini according to the Vedic tradition”.

 

After that divine direction, Basu climbed the inaccessible holy mountain and discovered the tracings of the ancient most presence of Goddesses Tara Tarini on the sacred Hill Top and immediately took steps to reconstruct the temple and the Shrine. Legend says during the time of Basu Praharaj he established the of on Tarini Parvat and also established the adjacent to Tara Tarini temple in the same mountain. 

 

Since that time, with its magnetism and sanctity, this Sthana Peetha (Breast Shrine) of Mata Sati became a centre of faith and reverence for countless numbers of people, who are in search of peace, tranquility, guidance and spiritual energy. The temple's fame spread like wild fire and it became one of the popular religious destinations for countless  devotees. Taratarini Hill Shrine or Kalyan Dham attracts the highest number of devotees and visitors after in Odisha. Devotees believe that one must have the darshan of this ancient most Shakti Dham at least once in their lifetime.

 

Chaitra Parba/ Chaitra Mela/ Chaitra Yatra at Taratarini Hill Shrine

 

The 'Taratarini Mela' or Chaitra Mela is one of 's biggest fairs, takes place on each Tuesday of the month of Chaitra i.e. during mid-March to mid-April (according to the English calendar) at the holy Tara Tarini Hill Shrine. Lakhs of devotees come from every corner of world in order to have darshan of the Goddess Tara Tarini and perform their Manasika after fulfillment of their desires. Grand congregations take place on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd & 4th Tuesdays of this month.

This Chaitra Parba/Chaitra Mela/ festival is the most important amongst the festivals, celebrated at the Tara Tarini Hill Shrine (Kalyan Dham).

Significant features of the Chaitra festival are as follows;

  • On Tuesday, the Shrine remains open for the Darshan of the deities from 1.00 AM (mid-night on Monday) till 11 PM (of Tuesday). During that period, Pahada (daytime rest) of the deities is confined to night-time only.
  • Devotees in large numbers congregate at the top of the hill and the foothill from Monday night itself.
  • 2nd & 3rd Tuesdays of the Chaitra are considered to be the most auspicious days to get Siddhi. Therefore large number of devotees (Around 5-7 lakhs) congregate during these days.
  • Puja and offering by the devotees are offered to the Chalanti Pratima of deities placed at the Bije Peetha for the Bije Pratima. However, Darshan of the deities in Garbha Griha (Sanctum of the main temple) is allowed.
  • Special Khechidi Bhoga (Fried Rice of around 1,000 K.g of rice, Ghee, Cashew, dry fruits and other items) is supplied to the devotees from Monday mid-night till 6 PM of Tuesday evening non-stop.
  • Thousands of devotees come to during the month of Chaitra and particularly on four Tuesdays to offer the first bunch of Hair of their newborn babies to the goddesses.
  • About 20-30 lakh devotees and tourists visiting this holy shrine during this month.

 

  Hair Offerings during Chaitra Mela

 

  • Devotees come to to offer the first bunch of Hair of the newborn babies with the believe that Goddesses Tara Tarini will protect the newborns from all evils and ensure their well-being. On normal days the temple barber conducts the tonsuring of the children. Special arrangements for hair offering are made during the Tuesday festivals. The temple administration arrainging all equipments necessary for tonsuring. Around 1000 barbers at the barber-shed on hill top and on the foot hill are engaged to help the hair offering of children and other devotees. Hair offering continues from the early morning till 6 PM of Chaitra Tuesdays.

 

The Tara Tarini Parvata is surrounded by natural beauty. The picturesque scenery of   the Shrine from the hilltop down to the bank of river Rishikulya gives a thrilling experience of nature and divinity to each visitor and often captivates its mind and soul. There are 999 holy steps on the front side of the hill leading to the hill top temple. A Pucca ghat road  is also leading to the hill top for vehicles on one side of the hill and the Arial Ropeway also facilitating devotees  to   reach  at the  Peetha. It is considered that one who takes the 999 holy steps to the Hill shrine to have a darshan of Goddess Tara Tarini earns equal Punya of a dip in the holy .



* Author is associated with the Tara Tarini Development Board (TTDB)

Posted Date: Nov 5 2012 10:07:38:897PM

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