The Shakti Peethas are places of worship consecrated to the goddess Shakti or Sati, the female principal of Hinduism and the main deity of the Shakta sect. They are sprinkled throughout the Indian subcontinent.

The Legend of Shakti Peetha

It is believed that Lord Brahma performed a yajna to please Shakti & Lord Shiva. Goddess Shakti emerged, separating from Shiva and helped Brahma in the creation of the universe. Brahma was extremely happy and decided to give Shakti back to Shiva. Therefore his son Daksha performed several yagna to obtain Shakti as his daughter in the form of Sati. His yagna paid off as Sati was brought to this universe with the intention of marrying her to Lord Shiva.

Lord Shiva’s curse on Brahma had Lord Brahma’s loose his fifth head due to his lie in front of Shiva. Daksha started hating Lord Shiva because of this and decided not to let Lord Shiva and Sati get married. However, Sati got attracted to Shiva and finally one day Shiva and Sati got married. This marriage only increased Daksha’s hatred towards Lord Shiva.

Daksha performed a yagna with a desire to take revenge on Lord Shiva. Daksha invited all the deities to the yajna except Lord Shiva and Sati. The fact that she was not invited did not deter Sati from attending the yagna. She expressed her desire to attend the yagna to Shiva, who tried his best to dissuade her from going. Shiva eventually relented and Sati went to the yagna. Sati, being an uninvited guest, was not given any respect at the yagna. Furthermore, Daksha insulted Shiva. Sati was unable to bear her father’s insults toward her husband, so she immolated herself.

Enraged at the insult and the injury, Shiva in Veerabhadra avatar destroyed Daksha’s yagna, cut off Daksha’s head, and later replaced it with that of a male goat as he restored him to life. Still immersed in grief, Shiva picked up the remains of Sati’s body, and performed the Tandava, the celestial dance of destruction, across all creation. The other Gods requested Vishnu to intervene to stop this destruction, towards which Vishnu used the Sudarshana Chakra, which cut through the Sati’s corpse. The various parts of the body fell at several spots all through the Indian subcontinent and formed sites which are known as Shakti Peethas today.

Four Adi Shakti Pithas

Note: Various sources have been used to conduct detailed research on the Shakti Peethas. The sources include: the Shiva Charitra, the Yogini Tantra, Tantra Chudamini, the Devi Bhagvad and the Ashta Shakti.

Several Hindu religious texts like the Shiva Purana and the Devi Bhagvad put four Shakti Peethas in the centre of the cosmic energy that governs Shaivite philosophy:

  • Bimala (Pada Khanda)
  • Tara Tarini
  • Kamakhya
  • Dakhina Kalika

The Ashtashakti Purana and the Kalika Purana (written in Sanskrit) talk at length about these Adi Shakti Peethas:

“Bimala Pada khandancha, Sthana khandancha Tarini (Tara Tarini), Kamakshya Yoni khandancha, Mukha khandancha Kalika (Dakshina Kalika) Anga pratyanga sanghena Vishnu Chakra Kshyta nacha”

Whereas the Brihat Samhita actually goes on to identify exactly where these places are.

  • Bimala: The idol of the goddess Bimala is located within the temple complex of the Jagannath Temple complex in Puri. Just beside it is the famous Rohini Kund. It is believed that the ‘pada’ or feet of Adi Shakti or Dakshayani fell there and a shrine was later erected for the worship of her feet. This temple is considered the first of the Shakti Peethas. Lord Jagannath is worshipped as the Bhairav protecting Parvati’s feet. This shows an interesting fusion of Vaishnavite and Shaivite philosophies.
  • Tara Tarini: The goddess Tara Tarini is representative of the ‘sthana’ or breasts of Mata Sati. Situated in Behrampur, Odisha, this shrine has been the most fortunate of all. Not only has it witnessed the presence of revered avatars of Vishnu like Shree Ram Chandra and Shri Krishna but also great masters of meditation and sages like Jagadguru Shankaracharya and Balayogi Neelkanthi. It has acted as a meeting ground for centuries for various religious traditions like the Vedic cult, the Brahmanical cult, Hinduism and Buddhism.
  • Kamakhya: Located on the Neelachal Hill in Guwahati, Assam, the Kamakhya temple stands for the Yoni Khanda of Mata Sati. It is the main temple that is situated amidst a number of temples dedicated to Sati. The Kamakhya Temple, alongwith the Kalighat Temple, has been covered in detail later on in the series.
  • Kalighat: Situated in Kolkata, West Bengal, the Kalighat Mandir enshrines the Mukha Khanda of Dakshina Kalika. The name Calcutta is rumoured to be derived from the word Kalighat. The temple is now on the banks of a small river called the Adi Ganga- the original course of the Hooghly river.These four peethas have been covered individually but it is important to get some sense of the importance of the Adi Peethas. They are central to the spiritual science associated with the Shakti Peethas and are regarded as centres of cosmic, spiritual power.

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51 Shakti Peeth Name and Location

 

Sr. No. Place Organ or Ornament Shakti Bhairava
1 Sri Lanka, in Nainativu, Jaffna Anklets Indrakshi / Nagapooshani / Bhuvaneswari Rakshaseshwar
2 Sharkrare, a little distance from Sukkur Station from Karachi, Pakistan Eyes Mahishmardini Krodhish
3 Sugandha, about 20 km from Barisal, Bangladesh at Shikarpur on banks of Sondh river Nose Sunanda Trayambak
4 Amarnath in Kashmir, India from Srinagar through Pahalgam 94 km by Bus, Chandanwari 16 km by walk Throat Mahamaya Trisandhyeshwar
5 Jwalamukhi, Kangra, India from Pathankot alight at Jwalamukhi Road Station from there 20 km Tongue Siddhida (Ambika) Unmatta Bhairav
6 Jalandhar, India from Jalandhar Cantonment Station to Devi Talab Left Breast Tripurmalini Bhishan
7 Ambaji, at Anart, Gujarat, India Heart Ambaji
8 Pashupatinath Temple at Gujyeshwari Temple Both Knees Mahashira Kapali
9 Manas, under Tibet at the feet of Mount Kailash in Lake Mansarovar, a piece of Stone Right Hand Dakshayani Amar
10 Biraja in Utkal present Orissa, India Navel Vimla Jagannath
11 Gandaki from Pokhara, Nepal about 125 km on the banks of Gandaki river where Muktinath temple is situated Temple Gandaki Chandi Chakrapani
12 Bahula, on the banks of Ajay river, at Ketugram 8 km from Katua, Burdwan, West Bengal, India Left Arm Goddess Bahula Bhiruk
13 Ujaani, 16 km from Guskura Station under Burdwan district of West Bengal, India Right Wrist Mangal Chandika Kapilambar
14 Udaipur, Tripura, at the top of the hills known as Tripura Sundari temple near Radhakishorepur village, a little distance away from Udaipur town of Tripura, India Right Leg Tripura Sundari Tripuresh
15 Chatral at the top of Chandranath hills near Sitakunda station of Chittagong district, Bangladesh Right Arm Bhawani Chandrashekhar
16 Trisrota, at Salbari village under Boda division of Jalpaiguri district, West Bengal, India Left Leg Bhraamari Ambar
17 Kamgiri, Kamakhya, at the Neelachal hills near Guwahati, capital of Assam, India Genital Organ Kamakhya Umanand
18 Jugaadya at Khirgram under Burdwan district, West Bengal, India Great Toe (Right) Jugaadya Ksheer Khandak
19 Kalipeeth, (Kalighat, Kolkata),West Bengal Right Toe Kalika Nakuleesh
20 Prayag near Sangam at Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, India Finger (Hand) Lalita Bhava
21 Jayanti at Kalajore Bourbhog village of Khasi hills under Jayantia Parganas of Sylhet district, Bangladesh Left Thigh Jayanti Kramadishwar
22 Kireet at Kireetkona village, 3 km from Lalbag Court Road station under district Murshidabad, West Bengal, India Crown Vimla Sanwart
23 Varanasi at Manikarnika Ghat on banks of Ganga at Kashi, Uttar Pradesh, India Earring Vishalakshi & Manikarni Kalbhairav
24 Kanyashram, Kanyakumari the Bhadrakali temple within the precincts of Kumari temple, Tamil Nadu, India Back Sarvani Nimish
25 Present day Kurukshetra town or Thanesar ancient Sthaneshwar, at Haryana, India Ankle Bone Savitri Sthanu
26 Manibandh, at Gayatri hills near Pushkar 11 km towards north-west from Ajmer, Rajasthan, India Two Bracelets Gayatri Sarvanand
27 Shri Shail, at Jainpur village towards north-east 3 km from Sylhet town, Bangladesh Neck Mahalaxmi Sambaranand
28 Kankalitala, on the banks of Kopai river 10 km towards north-east from Bolpur station of district Birbhum, Devi locally known as KankaleshwariWest Bengal, India Bone Devgarbha Ruru
29 Kalmadhav on the banks of Shon river in a cave over hills near to Amarkantak, Madhya Pradesh, India Buttock (Left) Kali Asitang
30 Shondesh, at the source point of Narmada river in Amarkantak, Madhya Pradesh, India Buttock (Right) Narmada Bhadrasen
31 Ramgiri, at Chitrakuta on the Jhansi Manikpur Railway line in Uttar Pradesh, India Right Breast Shivani Chanda
32 Vrindavan, near new bus stand on Bhuteshwar road within Bhuteshwar Mahadev Temple, Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh, India Ringlets of Hair Uma Bhutesh
33 Shuchi, in a Shiva temple at Shuchitirtham 11 km on Kanyakumari Trivandrum road, Tamil Nadu, India Teeth (Upper Jaw) Narayani Sanhar
34 Panchsagar place not known Teeth (Lower Jaw) Varahi Maharudra
35 Kartoyatat, at Bhawanipur village 28 km distance from interior Serpur. Alight at Bagura station under district Bagura, Bangladesh Left Anklet (Ornament) Arpana Vaman
36 Shri Parvat, near Ladak, Kashmir, India. Another belief: at Srisailam in Shriparvat hills under Karnool district, Andhra Pradesh, India Right Anklet (Ornament) Shrisundari Sundaranand
37 Vibhash, at Tamluk under district Purba Medinipur, West Bengal, India Left Ankle Kapalini (Bhimarupa) Sarvanand
38 Prabhas, 4 km distance from Veraval station near Somnath temple in Junagadh district of Gujarat, India Stomach Chandrabhaga Vakratund
39 Bhairavparvat, at Bhairav hills on the banks of Shipra river a little distance from Ujjaini town, Madhya Pradesh, India Upper Lips Avanti Lambkarna
40 Jansthan, at Godavari river valley near Nasik, Maharasthra, India Chin (Two Parts) Bhramari Vikritaksh
41 Sarvashail or Godavaritir, at Kotilingeswar temple on the banks of Godavari river near Rajamundry, Andhra Pradesh, India Cheeks Rakini or Vishweshwari Vatsnabh or Dandpani
42 Birat, near Bharatpur, Rajasthan, India Left Feet Fingers Ambika Amriteshwar
43 Ratnavali, on the banks of Ratnakar river at Khanakul-Krishnanagar, district Hooghly, West Bengal, India Right Shoulder Kumari Shiva
44 Mithila, near Janakpur Railway station on the boarder of India-Nepal Left Shoulder Uma Mahodar
45 Nalhati,Known as “Nalateshwari Temple” from Nalhati station of Birbhum district by Rickshaw, West Bengal, India Tubular Bones of the Feet Kalika Devi Yogesh
46 Karnat place not known Both Ears Jayadurga Abhiru
47 Vakreshwar, on the banks of Paaphara river, 24 km distance from Siuri Town, district Birbhum,7km from Dubrajpur Rly. Station West Bengal, India Portion between the eyebrows Mahishmardini Vakranath
48 Yashor, at Ishwaripur, district Khulna, Bangladesh Hands & Feet Yashoreshwari Chanda
49 Attahas [Village:Dakshindihi,Dt:Burdwan]].From Katwa Rly. Station by bus to “NIROL”(Approx 40Minutes).From there by Van rickshaw around 20 minutes to Attahas, West Bengal, India Lips Phullara Vishvesh
50 SAINTHIA. Locally Known as “Nandikeshwari” temple.Earlier Nandipur/Now in Sainthia Town. only 1.5 km from Railway Station under a Banyan tree within a boundary wall , district Birbhum, West Bengal, India Necklace Nandini Nandikeshwar
51 Hingula (Or Hinglaj), southern Baluchistan a few hours North-east of Gawadar and about 125 km towards North-west from Karachi, Pakistan Bramharandhra (Part of the head) Kottari Bhimlochan

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The Divinity of Science: Shakti Peethas

Shakti peethas are those pockets of divinity that govern Hindu spiritual life. Every devotee knows what his spirituality means to him. The reason why I use the word spirituality and not religion is because to every person, his religion appeals to him differently and individually but the one thing that connects all believers is their spirituality. India is a land of divinity; our myths, legends and even the stories we heard as children from our grandmothers acts as a force that strengthens our beliefs every step of the way. Spirituality connects you with The Supreme, and The Supreme manifests itself in every atom of a devotee’s spirit. Temples in India are perhaps manifestations of that divinity in spirituality. If you’re a true devotee, only you know that inexplicable pleasure of a ‘darshan’.

What is it that makes the Shakti Peethas such important spiritual symbols? Is it the centuries of myth and  legend associated with them? Is it the grand scale of architecture, art and culture that has gone into establishing them? Or is it simply the belief of those million devotees whose prayers to The Mother binds them together in universal harmony and fraternity?

These questions are difficult to answer. Religion is one of the most inexplicable emotions and the very spirit of devotion is unquestionable. One of the primary reasons why Shakti peethas are important symbols of spirituality is perhaps because in religious literature, they are regarded as important sources of Shaivite energy. A branch of spiritual theory focuses on the power and chemistry of energies. Shakti peethas are symbols of love and rage: the most powerful forces of energy that have existed till date, and it is these forces that combine with the believer’s devotion to give rise to a positive spectrum in the universe. But to a non-believer, what are these forces made up of? Where do they come from? A theory states that positive spectrums are created perhaps by devotion as much as by mythology. These positive energies govern celestial order and bring prosperity to the lives of all those it touches.

Even psychologically, these energies serve to strengthen us. You might have wondered why a visit to a temple relieves you to the extent it does. Scientifically speaking, your body sends signals to your brain reaffirming doubt and providing security. Your body, mind and soul are as affected by these energies as by physical elements in nature. Note, for instance, the study that shows that all the Shakti Peethas are located at points of extreme energy-detection. What is this energy that cannot be discussed? All these areas are pulsating with emotions and forces that have been hard to describe. Miracles have been witnessed in the areas surrounding Shakti Peethas…devotees have never been disappointed by what The Mother had to offer them. There is just something different about those who have visited all; devotees speak of a strange sense of fulfilment that envelopes them after they have sighted Sati Mata in her parts, only to find her in her entirety.

South East Asian tourism has often made use of these Shakti Peethas to develop their programmes. What is rather unfortunate is the fact that places of devotion are gradually being converted to tourist hubs. People from around the globe accumulate in these Shakti Peethas without really knowing their spiritual significance. The architecture is marvelled at, the historical aspects are discussed but seldom do non-believers find the inner tranquillity that believers do in such places. Over the next few articles, we will be looking at what constitutes the essence of each of the fifty two shakti peethas, when is the best time to visit, the daily schedules and how to get there. What is most important to carry with you, however, is not a garland of flowers or money as offering but devotion in your heart. If you’re still waiting for your spirituality to call out to you, this trip is worth your time.

|| Om Namah Shivaya ||

 

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Shakti Peethas – A Travel Guide

Spirituality is best enjoyed when nurtured. If you have recently felt Shaivite energies calling out to you, if you feel the restlessness of spirituality engulf you and if you’re planning to make a spiritual journey across the Shakti Peethas, now would be a good time to make the pilgrimage. Here are a couple of pointers you must keep in mind before venturing out on what will be the greatest journey of your life.

  • There are fifty-one Shakti Peethas in all, littering the Indian subcontinent. A good idea would be to start from your birthplace. In Hindu mythology, the birthplace is accorded special respect as the source of your life-force. When Sati Mata’s body fell in different parts of Asia, these shrines were converted into magnificent temples under the patronage of different kings. It is often rumoured that these holy places have more than just a temple that’s special to them. Miraculous healings and great tales of prosperity all around.
  • A good idea would be to travel east from your birthplace. If there are no Shakti Peethas east, travel south. There are places with more than one shakti peethas, and usually they are close by. You can get from one shakti peetha to its adjacent one in less than a day. Travelling east is considered auspicious and it would also be logical to follow one direction.
  • Until and unless bound by age and health issues, it is best to visit these places by train rather than by flight. Not only is it cost-effective, but the time lapses would also give you space to revel in the glory of what you have witnesses. Most peethas would be a bus ride or a train ride apart. Travelling the length and breadth of the subcontinent by land – only if time allows you to do so, of course- is a great idea.
  • You meet many of the same Mother’s creations whom you are worshipping and you also find out things about your country that you didn’t know. The sights you see will be worth it! The clouds are the abode of Gods, as many grandmothers would tell ever-so-believing little children- but the best way of finding God is perhaps by land.
  • Avoid travelling alone as much as you can. Unfortunate as it may be, due to various reasons, these places are bursting to the brim mostly throughout the year. Several kinds of people make visits to these pilgrimage spots and often, with motives that are far from holy. These “tourist spots” that are always crowded are a great place for pickpockets and kidnappers to earn their living.
  • Speaking of those who use the name of God to perpetrate evil in the world, also be wary of eve-teasers and ‘organisations’ that ask for donations. Do not trust these people with your money for you never know what happens to it later on. Your level of devotion is not dependent on money and God will love you no matter how much you put into the donation box. If you really do want to spread the love, a good idea would be to visit trusted NGOs in and around and speak to them regarding how you can be of use. Converting your spiritual journey into a social one is a beautiful idea…there are more than one ways of reaching out to your Creator!
  • Money is not the important factor. Your time is the most precious gift you can give away; once the prayers for the day are done, look around for orphanages and old age homes that need volunteers.
  • Avoid eating out too much during these spiritual tours, especially roadside food. Several places have had incidents when people have lost their lives due to severe food poisoning. Unfortunately, the goodness restricts itself within temple walls.
  • If you suffer from breathing problems, avoid the peak hours of the day for visiting temples. The temple tends to get very crowded and you may even feel claustrophobic. A very good idea for you is to visit at dawn. Not only is the temple relatively less crowded, you get to witness the holiness of morning prayers that will simply make the rest of your day. Honestly, there is no better way of starting your day!
  • It is better to plan ahead, but do not think about planning your entire trip from the very beginning. There are several organisations that have fully planned trips to the shakti peethas , but these tend to be either too expensive or have too jam-packed a schedule. In case you miss the arati at one place, you will have to skip that and move on to the next which will leave you with regret at the end of your journey. The best idea would be to plan the first ten in advance, and while you’re on the seventh, make calls and start the planning process.
  • It is better to make arrangements in local dharamshalas rather than expensive hotels, the simple reason being that you get a taste of the real spirituality you are in search of. Living simply for this while only serves to enhance your pilgrimage. You may also book guest houses that are available for rent in all these places.
  • Walk as much as you can. Again, if health and age allow you, I would really suggest you to conduct as many walking tours as possible. It is said that shakti peethas have divinity in the soil. Be as closely attached to the soil as possible. Meet new people, attend all the temple functions possible.

 

The most important tip to follow is simplicity but safety. It is rather sad that one has to talk about safety issues while discussing spirituality but so be it. The Shakti Peethas are worth the visit but you must be wary. There are people waiting to cheat you at every step of your spiritual awakening… perhaps part of the pilgrimage is learning to follow the path of spirituality fused with modern-day practicality!