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Motherlodes of Power: The story of India's 'Shakti Peethas'

As Navaratri and Dussehra approach, the significance of the 51 Shakti Peethas once again resonates in the pilgrim’s prayers. 

Published: 26th September 2021 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 03rd October 2021 06:00 PM   |  A+A-

A view of Kalighat Kali temple that reopened after authorities eased some Covid lockdown restrictions in Kolkata. (Photo |PTI)

A view of Kalighat Kali temple that reopened after authorities eased some Covid lockdown restrictions in Kolkata. (Photo |PTI)

Goddess Sati and Lord Shiva are two sides of the same cosmic coin—the Brahman and Pradhana. Their story, which begins with a mighty yagna and ends with the slighting of Shiva by his royal father-in-law and wife Sati’s subsequent self-immolation, lays the foundation of Shakti. Alarmed that the vengeful Shiva’s tandav would destroy the world, Mahavishnu cut Sati’s body into 51 pieces with his Sudarshan Chakra. (Some legends claim there are 108 pieces.) Her body parts, and ornaments fell to the earth at various places in the subcontinent. These sacred spots are the 51 Shakti Peethas, with each one linked to the 51 letters of the Sanskrit alphabet. Shakti and Kala Bhairava are the main deities at all the peethas. 
West Bengal has the majority, among all other Indian states.

The singularity of the Shakti Peethas is that they represent India in its Akhand form for existing and thriving in Pakistan, Nepal, Tibet, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. They also represent the amalgamation of Hinduism since many Devi forms of the 51 Shakti Peethas have local relevance. A family deity who crossed geographic boundaries with conquerors now has a Shakti Peetha. A tribal goddess in a primaeval forest joins the Shakti pantheon. Faith is a mystical binding of divinity and man, which is the power of these sanctified sites. From Kashmir to Tamil Nadu, Gujarat to Bengal, the goddess is venerated as the embodiment of sacrifice and love, of loyalty and revival.

The Shiva Purana and the Kalika Purana recognise only four major Shakti Peethas—Vimala (Puri, Odisha), Tara Tarini (Ganjam, Odisha), Kamakhya (Guwahati), and Dakshina Kalika (Kalighat, Kolkata). 
The Kalika Purana sings:
“Vimala Pada khandancha,
Stana khandancha Tarini (Tara Tarini),
Kamakhya Yoni khandancha,
Mukha khandancha Kalika (Kali)
Anga pratyanga sangena
Vishnu Chakra Kshate nacha...”

Some peethas are hundreds of centuries old, and have kept their local lore alive till date. For example, a shepherd named Buta Malik in the 15th century was gifted a bag of coal by a sadhu, presumably Lord Shiva, which turned into gold. Looking for the mendicant to express his gratitude, Malik found the holy cave at Amarnath and its Shivalinga made of ice. 

Sati evokes the paradox of power—the omnipresent Mother Goddess who is both the greatest creative and destructive force in the Universe. Devi Parvati is believed to be Sati’s reincarnation representing creativity, fertility and change, free of the male. The importance of Shakti is evident in the timing of Shivaratri—Sati was reborn as Parvati (daughter of mountains) on the 14th day of the bright half of Mrigashirsha month, which marks the festival.

The 51 peethas featured here cannot be an exhaustive representation of the Devi’s grace, since she is all-pervading and omnipresent. But often her incandescent glory is manifested in different forms in one peetha itself—love, ferocity, vengeance and devotion—with the uniform purpose of saving man from evil, both outside and within. Kali is not understood by many who see her purely as a dark and destructive force. But her destruction is aimed only at demons. The demons in the spiritual sense represent the human ego that causes greed, negativity and other evils. In each of the 51 peethas, Shiva dwells as Bhairava, the corresponding energy but with different bhavas. Shaktas worship Shakti as his female manifestation. The humanisation of the divine couple exemplifies the metaphor of motherhood since Parvati succeeds in humanising Shiva who becomes a grihastashrami and fathers Ganesha and Kartikeya (Subrahmanya). Shaktism has increasingly become an independent sect alongside Shaivism and Vaishnavism.

Sacred places for tantriks, most Shakti Peethas have Shiva in his Bhairava form which changes in nature from place to place. Local Nature worship traditions incorporated in early Hinduism show the Devi as the goddess of forests, mountains, rivers and lakes. Not surprisingly. A large number of Shakti Peethas are situated on hill tops, caves and by water bodies where the mysteries of Nature represent the divine. In the arcane world of maya and karma, there are different stories about Bhairava’s origins; Kala Bhairava was born from Shiva’s hair to cut off Brahma’s head; the Ashtanga Bhairavas rose from Shiva himself after he merged Kali and her child inside him; the demon-destroying Kala Bhairava was the father of the terrible Ashtanga Bhairavas. In fact, there are 64 Bhairavas who protect many Shakti Peethas, appointed by Shiva or as Shiva himself. The occult and the spiritual have the same purpose in all the 51 Shakti Peethas—destroy the ego, purify yourself with pure bhakti and rejoice in the blessings of divine knowledge.

As Navaratri and Dussehra approach, the significance of the 51 Shakti Peethas once again resonates in the pilgrim’s prayers By Sangram Parhi

NORTH
Mahamaya Shakti Peetha
Amarnath, Jammu and Kashmir
Throat
Bhairava: Trisandhyeshwar
Located in the Amarnath cave high in the Himalayas (12,756 ft), Shakti here is worshipped as Mahamaya or the Great Illusion. After Sati was dismembered, Lord Shiva appointed Trisandhyeshwar to guard her throat from being taken by evil forces or destroyed by Nature. Devotees believe that an annual pilgrimage to Amarnath will bestow on them the power of attraction, remove their karma doshas, and transform their consciousness. It was here that Shiva initiated Parvati into the secret of immortality—the Kriya Kundalini Pranayam. In tantra, it is known as Kriya Tantra Yoga, where duality becomes one. Mahamaya is to be the creator and destroyer of illusion, a metaphor for the cyclical play of divinity.
Legend: Shiva was drawn to Amarnath Cave by the love of Parvati who did tapas, wishing to be united with her lord. Propitiated, he initiated her into Tantra, Yoga and Brahman, and told her the Amar Katha (the secret of immortality.) Anxious to avoid being overheard, Shiva created the Rudra Kalagni and commanded him to burn everything in sight in and around the cave. However, an egg concealed under Shiva’s deerskin mat survived. A pair of pigeons born from the egg overheard his secret and became immortal. It’s a miracle that many pilgrims come across pigeons living in the freezing cold.

When to go: July-August
Nearest airport: Srinagar (72 km)
Nearest railway station: Jammu Tawi (176 km)
Nearest bus stand: Pahalgam and Baital (starting points), buses ply from Jammu

WATCH |


Gandaki Devi Shakti Peetha
Muktinath, Nepal
Right cheek
Bhairava: Chakrapani
Considered Muktadayini—she who liberates—Sati presides over this shrine which is located at the origin of the Gandaki River in Nepal, at an altitude of 3,800 metres. But she is worshipped as Gandaki Chandi, the remover of obstacles. The Gandaki Devi shrine is situated close to Muktinath Temple and is built in the Himalayan pagoda style. Vaishnavites regard the multicoloured shaligrams in the riverbed the embodiments of Lord Vishnu—white for Vasudeva, black for Vishnu, green for Narayana, blue for Krishna, golden and reddish yellow for Narasimha and yellow for Vamana. A hymn in the Nalayira Divya Prabandham by Kulasekhara Alvar celebrates Gandaki Devi temple as a divyadesam, one of the 108 Vishnu temples. Chakrapani is Lord Shiva holding a chakra. He grants moksha to devotees and solves their difficulties.

Legend: Padmasambhava meditated here on his way to Tibet where he founded Tibetan Buddhism. The river has 108 water springs—a mystic number in Hindu astrology since the 12 Rashis and nine Grahas have 108 combinations. 
Best time to visit: March-May & Sept-Dec
By air: Kathmandu to Pokhara to Jomson. From there, drive to the temple. Or take a Mountain Flight from Kathmandu to Muktinath. 
The temple is a 30-minute walk from there.

Jwalaji Shakti Peetha
Kangra, Himachal Pradesh
Tongue
Bhairava: Unmatta Bhairava
There is no idol in the flaming Jwalaji Temple. A priest lights the natural gas that emanates from a copper pipe, creating a blue flame which is worshiped as the manifestation of Jwalamukhi. Nine flames here are named after nine goddesses—Mahakali, Annapurna, Chandi, Hinglaj, Vidhya, Basni, Maha Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ambika and Anji Devi, all of which burn continuously. As per the scriptures, the original temple to the ‘Flaming Goddess’ was built by the Pandavas. Her form is Ambika or Siddhida. The equestrian Unmatta Bhairava carries a bludgeon and javelin. He is worshipped by star crossed lovers, people with graham dosha in their horoscopes and barren women.
Legend: Emperor Akbar tried to douse Jwalaji’s flames with water, but they could not be put out. He became her devotee and the water he poured continues to drip into a tank on the temple grounds.

Mahamaya Shakti Peetha, Amarnath, Jammu and Kashmir.
Lord Shiva was drawn to Amarnath Cave by the love of Parvati who did tapas, wishing to be united with her lord. Propitiated, he initiated her into Tantra, Yoga and Brahman, and told her the Amar Katha (the secret of immortality) 

Festivals: Navaratri fairs
Best time to visit: March-April & Sept-Oct
Nearest airport: Dharamsala (40 km)
Nearest railway station: Una (60 km)

Dakshayani Devi Shakti Peetha
Mansa, Tibet
Right hand
Bhairava: Amar
Located on the banks of Lake Manosarovar, this peetha is the gateway to Mount Kailash, the abode of Shiva and Parvati. Its deity is Shakti Dakshayani. The shrine pays tribute to Maya and the impermanence of the material world since no physical temple stands on the spot. Instead, devotees offer their prayers at a giant boulder. 
Festivals: In Badrapada Masa fair (August-September), on the eighth day of the Shukla Paksha Ashtami.
Best time to visit: Mid-May to October
Nearest airport: Jammu
By road: Public/private vehicles available to reach the temple via Lipulekh Pass and Nathu La Pass

Mithila Shakti Peetha
Mithila, Bihar
Left shoulder
Bhairava: Mahodara or Maheshwara
The temple is dedicated to Goddess Uma, a benevolent form of Parvati. The union of Devi Uma and Lord Shiva is described as Ardhanarishwara, the synthesis of the masculine and feminine energies of the Universe. However, this Shakti Peetha covers three temples—Vanadurgo Temple in Madhubani district, Jeyamangala Devi Temple in Samastipur and Ugratara Temple near Saharsa. Uchchaith Bhagwati is the devi consecrated in Vanadurgo Temple whose shoulder is the idol. She is worshipped as Siddhidatri, the ninth form of Durga Mata. Maa Mangala rules the Jeyamangala Devi Temple and the third temple 
is a powerful centre of Shakti tantrism. The main goddess is Bhagwati Tara wearing a silver crown has idols of Ekjata and Nil Saraswati on either side. Blessings from Uma and Shiva are believed to bring marital bliss and a peaceful domestic life. Festivals: Ram Navami, Shivaratri, Durga Puja, Kali Puja and Navaratri Best time to visit: Year round
Nearest railway station: Janakpur
Nearest airport: Patna (four hours) 

Guhyeshwari Shakti Peetha
Kathmandu, Nepal
Both knees
Bhairava: Kapali
In the arcana of Devi worship, the unmanifested is reality. Guhyeshwari Shakti Peetha is where Guhyakali or the hidden Kali holds court. The Mother Goddess’s shrine depicting the cycles of birth and death is a touchstone for the Bagmati Ghats where last rites are performed. Since Kali is the goddess of cremation grounds, a skeletal image confronts devotees at the temple’s entrance. The metallic doorframe at the garbhagriha flaunts intricately carved images of the Devi’s various forms. Kali is worshipped in her Vajrayogini form in the traditions of Mahayana Buddhism and tantra sadhana. She is often associated with the bloodthirsty self-decapitated Chhinnamasta Devi, the warrior goddess who symbolises the life-giver and life-taker. She is one of the 10 Mahavidyas, or knowledge streams. Though Pashupatinath Temple is practically next door, pilgrims visit Guhyeshwari first. Shiva as Kapali wanders the Universe holding Brahma’s skull as a begging bowl. 

The skull represents the inflated ego.
Legend: It is believed that the priests of the Pashupatinath Temple can accurately predict a person’s time of death.
Festivals: Guhyeshwari Yatra, Navratras (Dashain in Nepal) and Newark Bhog
Best time to visit: Oct-March
Nearest airport: Kathmandu
By road: 20 hours from Delhi

Devi Varahi Shakti Peetha
Panchasagar, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
Lower jaw
Bhairava: Samhara/Maha Rudra
On Manmandir Ghat, not too far from the well-known Dashashwamedh Ghat, is the Panchasagar Shakti Peetha dedicated to Goddess Varahi. Varahi, literally meaning ‘with the face of a boar’, is depicted with the head of a female boar. The bejewelled idol wears a red sari. In most representations, she carries a disc similar to Vishnu’s Sudarshan Chakra. This peetha is unique since the Devi is worshipped in tandem with Lord Vishnu. She is called Narayani, ‘the power of Narayana’. Pilgrims believe that Varahi will destroy opponents. Tantric worshippers seek her blessings for a long and flourishing life. Samhara Murti is one of Shiva’s savage forms.

Legend: Durga contains the multiplicity of divinity by housing Matrikas (Mother Goddesses) in her body which emerge to kill the demon Raktabija. When the demon Shumbha challenges Durga to single combat, the Matrikas merge with her to destroy him with combined power.
Best time to visit: Sept-Feb
Nearest airport/railway station: Varanasi

Lalita Devi Shakti Peetha
Sitapur, Uttar Pradesh
Fingers
Bhairava: Bhavah

Lalita Devi is the epitome of ultimate beauty. There are differences among devotees whether it was Sati’s heart or fingers that landed here. The deity’s other names are Madhaveshwari and Rajarajeshwari. Devotees and sadhus visit here to gain knowledge and enlightenment and believe that it can wash away all sins and grant divine power. In sacred forest Naimisharanya near Allahabad, it is believed that 88,000 sages did tapas to create the Vedas, Puranas and other scriptures. According to the Kaushitaki Brahmana of Rig Veda, Bhavah, one of Ashtamurtis signifying water, is a mellow form of Shiva’s energy.
Legend: Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwar appeared together at Sitapur to energise the spot with their spiritual powers.
Festival: Navaratri
Best time to visit: Oct-Feb
Nearest airport: Lucknow (107 km) 
Nearest railway station: Sitapur

Savitri Devi Shakti Peetha
Thanesar, Kurukshetra, Haryana
Ankle
Bhairava: Sthanu
The shrine is located at a short distance from Kurukshetra near the Brahma Sarovar and is also known as Devikoop Bhadrakali Temple or Kalika Peetha. Devi Bhadrakali’s protruding tongue is a signature of Kali. She holds a khadaga and sometimes a trident. Locals say that the Pandavas and Sri Krishna worshipped her before heading for battle. An object of worship is a marble sculpture of a bejewelled ankle placed on a lotus. Babies are taken here for their first mundan (ritual shaving of the head).

Legend: Krishna and Balaram got their first haircut here.
Festivals: Every Saturday, a bhandara is organised for pilgrims which lasts for 15 days  during the Chaitra Navratras. A Shobhayatra takes place in the temple.
Best time to visit: Sept-March; avoid visiting in summers.
Nearest airport: Chandigarh (98 km) 
Nearest railway station: Kurukshetra

Vishalakshi Shakti Peetha
Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh 
Ear ring
Bhairava: Kala Bhairava
Beyond the Meer Ghat in Varanasi stands the shrine to Vishalakshi—‘the one with large eyes’. She is also worshipped as Manikarni after whom the famous eponymous ghat is named. Her black stone idol was consecrated around 1970 after Shaktas from Tamil Nadu renovated the temple. But right beside the new idol stands the original depiction of the Devi. South Indians consider the female trinity of Visalakshi, Kamakshi (love-eyed) of Kanchipuram and Minakshi (fish-eyed) of Madurai having the three most important temples of the goddess in the country. 
Festivals: Navaratris in October and March.
The yearly temple festival is celebrated on Kajali Tij, in the last month of the monsoon season, Bhadrapada. Women sing amorous monsoon songs called kajali and pray for the welfare of their brothers.
Best time to visit: Aug-March
Nearest airport/railway station: Varanasi

Devi Katyayani Shakti Peetha
Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh 
Hair
Bhairava: Bhutesha
This venerated peetha in the middle of Vrindavan town is presided over by Uma, a benevolent form of Parvati. Hindu mythology describes her support for Krishna’s fight against Kansa. Radha prayed to the devi for a perfect partner, who in her case was Krishna. Radha’s puja is observed here as the Katyayani Vrata. Significantly, the temple houses five separate deities of all the five sampradayas worshipped according to their methodology—Katyayani (Shakta), Shiva (Shaiva), Laxmi Narayan (Vaishnava), Ganesha (Ganpataya) and Surya (Surya) along with Jagatdhatri Devi. The 16th century Bhakti saint Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is considered responsible for reviving the temple that had fallen into neglect. The current structure was constructed in 1923 by Yogiraj Swami KeshvanandBramachari. Bhutesha is the God of Spirits who has been charged with guarding Sati’s ringlets.
Festivals: Vijayadashami, Durga Puja and Navaratris
Best time to visit: Oct-March; monsoons are also a good time
Nearest airport: Agra (53 km) Nearest railway station: Vrindavan

Tripurmalini Devi Shakti Peetha
Jalandhar, Punjab
Left breast
Bhairava: Bhishan
Known as Sthanpeetha, the idol in this peetha has the combined power of the Tridevi, namely Mahasaraswati, Mahalakshmi and Mahakali. The sages Vashishtha, Vyasa, Manu, Jamdagni and Parshuram are believed to have worshipped Adi Shakti here in the form of Tripurmalini. Pilgrims believe that anyone who dies accidentally at this place—including even birds and animals—goes straight to heaven like at Narmada Shakti Peetha. All Hindu gods are deemed present to meet Matarani. Devotees believe the Devi is easily propitiated for which she is called Maa Turatpurni (Turant means fast.) Popular visiting days are Sundays and Tuesdays.  
Festivals: Navaratras, Jagratas (night-long prayer rituals), Mass jhankis (dioramic representation 
of Puranic tales) 
Best time to visit: Oct-March
Nearest airport: Amritsar (94 km) 
Nearest railway station: Jalandhar

Tripurmalini Devi Shakti Peetha, Jalandhar,
Punjab

Mangala Gauri Shakti Peetha
Gaya, Bihar
Breast
Bhairava: Uma Maheshwara
Adi Shankar classifies this 15th century temple as one of the 18 Ashtadasashakti Peethas. Perched on the Mangalagauri Hills, the shrine is a site of ancestor worship for centuries because the Pandavas performed shraadh during their exile. The Goddess Sarvamangala brings overall prosperity to her worshippers. They pay obeisance to two round stones that signify Sati’s breasts. The peetha has an image of the Buddha, who said to have attained enlightenment here. Uma Maheshwara is the combined form of Shiva and Parvati signifying the divine union of love.

Legend: The Falgu River, which passes through the city, was cursed by Sita for becoming a hostile witness, denying that she had done pind daan for Ram’s ancestors. The Bhimavedi Temple marks the spot where Bhim kneeled during rituals. Every Tuesday, women fast and perform a small ceremony for the longevity of their married lives.
Festivals: Navaratri, especially the Maha Ashtami (the eighth day)
Best time to visit: Sept-Feb
Nearest airport: Bodhgaya (10 km)
Nearest railway station/bus stand: Gaya (5 km)

NORTHWEST

Kottari Devi Shakti Peetha
Hinglaj, Lasbela district, Balochistan, Pakistan
Head
Bhairava: Bhimalochan
The Hinglaj Mata embraces all her devotees irrespective of religion or sect as she did before Partition. The locals know her as Bibi Nani (maternal grandmother), whose cave residence is the Nani temple. Inside the sanctum, the idol is a small shapeless stone smeared with vermilion. Bhimalochan stands for Shiva’s third eye.

Legend: In the Treta Yuga, the people of the region prayed to god to deliver them from tyrant princes Hingol and Sundar. Lord Ganesha killed Sundar which made Hingol even more cruel. Heeding the pleas of the people, the Devi trapped Hingol in a cave and ended first his ego and then his life. While dying, Hingol requested her to name the cave after him, so that he may eternally be associated with her. 
Festivals: Sharadiya Navaratri; three-day Hinglaj Mata festival in April
Best time to visit: Winter months
Nearest airport: Karachi (250 km, four-hour drive)

Devi Gayatri Shakti Peetha
Manibandh, Pushkar, Rajasthan
Both Wrists
Bhairava: Sarvananda
This peetha represents Sati’s manivedikas (wrists). The deity is Gayatri—Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge. Hence, this shrine is considered an ideal place for Gayatri Mantra sadhana. Located atop the Gayatri Hills, the temple’s huge pillars are a testament to the architectural glory of divinity.
Festivals: Pushkar Mela, Navaratri (March-April and Sept-Oct), Shivaratri and Gayatri Jayanti
Best time to visit: Nov-Feb
Nearest airport: Jaipur (150 km)
Nearest railway station: Ajmer (11 km)

Shivaharkaray Shakti Peetha
Karavipur, Karachi, Pakistan
Eyes
Bhairava: Krodhisha
As in many other peethas, it is Mahishamardini who holds sway here. Shiva embodies anger as Krodhisha. The Puranas say that the goddess’s three eyes, including the third eye, 
fell here.
Festivals: Durga Puja. Annual four-day teertha yatra
Best time to visit: April, Oct-Nov
Nearest airport: Karachi (263 km) 
Nearest railway station: Parkai

NORTHEAST

Kamakhya Devi Shakti Peetha
Kamgiri, Guwahati, Assam
Sexual organs
Bhairava: Bhayananda/Umananda
One of the most powerful of the 51 Shakti Peethas, Kamakya stands on the Nilachal Hill or Kamgiri near Guwahati. Its garbhagriha houses no idol. Instead, there is a cleft in the rock representing the goddess’s yoni which is perpetually wetted by a natural spring. The water is believed to have miraculous properties. Kamakhya Devi is revered as the ‘Bleeding Goddess’. 
Legend: A mutilated Kamadeva, the God of Desire, and Vishwakarma, the Architect of the Universe, built this temple in the Devi’s honour. Kamadeva regained his beauty, which had been destroyed by Bhayananda for breaking Shiva’s meditation, says Kalika Purana. Childless women tie bronze bells to the trees on the premises for progeny. Buffaloes, goats, monkeys, tortoises or pigeons—all male and preferably black—are sacrificed here.

Festivals: The three-day Ambuvachi Mela in Ashadha is the most important festival, when the goddess is believed to be menstruating. Every year, the waters of the Brahmaputra turn red during these three days. Afterwards, the prasad is served as a cloth wet with the goddess’s menstrual fluid. The temple is shut on those days. However, the fourth day is celebrated. The other notable festivals are Navaratri and Dev Dhvani or Debaddhani, conducted for Manasa Devi.
Best time to visit: Nov-March
Nearest airport/railway station/bus stand: Guwahati

Jayanti Devi Shakti Peetha
Jaintia Hills, Meghalaya
Left Thigh
Bhairava: Kramaadishwar
The Nartiang Devi Shakti Peetha is famous as Maa Jainteshwari, where Sati embodies the ferocious and animistic aspect of Mahakali and Kramaadishwar is the force that propels the world. As the goddess of both destruction and liberation, she cannot be propitiated without sacrifice. The local chief, or the syiem, is its principal patron. During Durga Puja, he sacrifices goats now, instead of humans as a centuries-old tradition. 

Legend: About 6,000 years ago, the goddess came to King Dhan Manik in a dream and ordered him to build a temple for her at the spot her thigh fell.
Festivals: A banana plant is dressed up and worshipped as the goddess during Durga Puja. At the end of the four-day festivities, the plant is ceremonially immersed in the Myntdu River. The rituals in this 500-year-old temple are a blend of Hindu and Khasi traditions.
Best time to visit: March-June
Nearest airport: Shillong (65 km) 
Nearest railway station: Guwahati (105 km)

Devi Tripura Sundari Shakti Peetha
Udaipur, Tripura
Right foot
Bhairava: Tripuresh
On a hill that resembles the hump of a tortoise overlooking the Kalyansagar lake in Udaipur is the Tripura Sundari Temple. Here Kali becomes Sodashi (Tripura Sundari). Matabari is another name, and is closely associated with Kamakhya Devi in the Tantric tradition. Inside Tripura Sundari temple’s sanctum sanctorum stand two identical idols of the goddess made of reddish black kasti stone, which are called Tripura Sundari and Chhotima. Because of the hill’s auspicious tortoise shape, the temple is also called Kurma Pitha—the holiest spot to set up a Shakti Temple. Animal sacrifice was the custom until October 2019. Muslims in Udaipur customarily offer their first crop and milk to the Devi. She is also worshipped by tribal communities of Tripura.
Legend: The Tripura kings would carry Chhotima into battle
Festival: Diwali
Best time to visit: Dec-March
Nearest airport: Agartala (65 km)
Nearest railway station: Udaipur (3 km)
Nearest bus stand: Nagerjala (55 km)


CENTRAL

Devi Avanti Shakti Peetha
Bhairava Parvat, Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh
Elbow
Bhairava: Lambakarna
This 5,000-year-old temple on the River Shipra’s bank is one of the 18 primary Ashtadasha Peethas venerated in the Shakta tradition as mentioned in Adi Sankaracharya’s Ashtadasha Shakti Peetha Strotam. Avanti Maa is worshipped as Mahakalika—goddess of destruction—whose idol is kept covered in a red garment, with her tongue lolling out. Kalidasa is believed to owe his knowledge to Avanti Maa’s grace when she wrote the Kumarasambhava on the poet’s tongue. Interestingly, Ganesha is also called Lambakarna for his long elephant ears.
Legend: The demon Andhakasura received a boon from Brahma that wherever his blood falls more demons will be born. To protect all the lokas from them, the goddess killed Andhakasura and caught all his blood on her tongue. Maa Avanti is worshipped as the fierce protector of Ujjain and her people.
Festivals: Avanti Devi Temple is part of the Kumbh Mela celebrations; Shivaratri and Navaratri
Best time to visit: Oct-March
Nearest airport: Indore (65 km) Nearest railway station: Ujjain

Kalmadhav Devi Shakti Peetha
Amarkantak, Shahdol district, Madhya Pradesh
Left buttock
Bhairava: Ashitanda
The deity of Amarkantak is the three-eyed, dark skinned Shakti Kali, a fearful figure ever-ready for battle. Her stone idol is always draped in bright red cloth. She is also called ‘Kalmadhava’. Asitanga Bhairava is the god of poets, writers and painters. He increases the creative powers of the faithful and grants them fame and success. He also removes their curses and ailments.  The construction of this 100-step temple is attributed to Samrat Mandhata, a Suryavanshi king of Bundelkhand who lived 6,000 years ago. Significantly, the Satpura and Vindhya mountain ranges merge here.
Festivals: Navaratri, Makar Sankranti, Sharad Purnima, Deepawali, Somvati Amavasya, and Ram Navami
Best time to visit: Oct-March
Nearest airport, railway station, bus stand: Jabalpur (4-hr drive)

Sharada Devi  Shakti Peetha
Maihar, Satna, Madhya Pradesh
Necklace
Bhairava: Kala Bhairava
Devotees either trek up the 1,063 steps or use the ropeway to reach the shrine that sits atop the Trikuta Hill. Maihar is an amalgam of Mai (mother) and Haar (necklace). Sharada Maa is closely associated with Saraswati and is mostly dressed in white and yellow. Adi Sankaracharya has a shrine dedicated to him here. Ustad Allauddin Khan, the eminent maestro of the Maihar Gharana, lived here. Kala Bhairava is the annihilator, here of ignorance.

Legend: After warrior brothers Alha and Udal discovered the Sharada Devi Temple in the forest, Alha did tapas for 12 years for which the goddess made him immortal. Even today, it is believed that Alha and Udal appear here for darshan every day. A mountain tarn behind the temple is called Alha Talab by locals.
Festivals: Ram Navami, Navaratri
Best time to visit: Oct-March
Nearest airports: Jabalpur (150 km), Khajuraho (130 km) and Allahabad (200 km) 
Nearest railway station: Maihar

Devi Narmada Shakti Peetha
Shondesh, Amarkantak, Anuppur district, Madhya Pradesh
Right buttock
Bhairava: Bhadrasen
This shrine nestles exactly between the Satpura and Vidhya mountain ranges. The white stone temple with 100 steps, believed to be 6,000 years old, is surrounded by ponds. In the garbhagriha, the idol is surrounded by the golden mukuts (crown) while the platform is silver. Amarkantak is believed to be the place of immortality where the gods live and whoever dies here is assured of a place in heaven. The Skanda Purana mentions King Bhadrasen as the builder of the Kala Bhairava temple in Ujjain.
Legend: When Lord Shiva burned Tripura (three cities), some ash fell at Amarkantak, which transformed into crores of Shivalingas. However, only one linga is seen at nearby Jwaleshwar.
Festivals: Narmada Parikrama, Somvati Amavasya, Navaratri, Sharad Purnima and Deepawali
Best time to visit: Oct-Feb
Nearest airport: Jabalpur (231 km)
Nearest railway station: Pendra, Chhattisgarh (17 km) 
Nearest bus stand: Pendra Road

Bhadra Kali Shakti Peetha, Kurukshetra, Haryana

Devi Mangal Chandika Shakti Peetha
Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh
Elbow
Bhairava: Kapilambara
The Harsiddhi Mata temple can be easily identified by its distinct red roof and spire. The patron god of the city is Mahakaleshwar, one of the 12 jyotirlingas, Shiva is believed to appear as a column of light at these sites. Sati is worshipped as Annapurna, the Mother Goddess, who nourishes all creation. The idol here is dark and vermilion-tinged, and is flanked by Mahalakshmi and Mahasaraswati. The ceiling of the temple hall that leads into the garbhagriha has images of 50 Matrikas. Inside, the idols of Annapurna, Harasiddhi and Kali are placed vertically one over the other. The temple has a Sri Yantra. As Kapilambara, Shiva is always dressed in brown garments.

Festivals: Navaratri and Maha Shivaratri. Special yagnas and pujas are conducted on Durga Puja and Kali puja. SimhasthaKumbh Mela is held on the banks of Shipra River every 12 years.
Best time to visit: Oct-March
Nearest airport: Indore (65 km) Nearest railway station: Ujjain

Devi Danteshwari Shakti Peetha
Bastar, Chhattisgarh
Teeth
Bhairava: Kapal Bhairava
In the thickly forested Maoist tribal belt of Dantewada and guarded by a Garuda pillar at the entrance stands the 600-year-old Shakti Peetha of Maa Danteshwari. She is Bastar’s principal deity. Her presence and worship are attributed to the Kakatiyas, who ruled the region between the 12th and 14th centuries. They brought their kuldevi from Warangal in Andhra Pradesh after conquering Chakrakot. It is in Bastar that the differently coloured river waters of the Shankini and Dankini converge. Lighting jyoti kalashas is a tradition here.

Festivals: Thousands of tribals of Bastar arrive at the temple to worship the idol when it is taken out of the temple for an elaborate procession through the city as part of the yearly 75-day-long Bastar Dussehra festival that begins in the monsoon and ends with Vijayadashami.
Best time to visit: Winters and late monsoons; Sept-Oct
Nearest airport: Jagdalpur mini airport (80 km)
Nearest railway station: Jagdalpur

WEST 

Bhramari Devi Shakti Peetha
Triambakeshwar, Panchavati, Nasik, Maharashtra
Chin
Bhairava: Vikritaksh
The 10-foot tall, sindoor-coated idol of the goddess which has 18 hands holding weapons of war is believed to have self-manifested on the mountain face. Bhramari governs many Shakti Peethas, but with slight variations in the story. Devi Bhagavatam describes the dark-skinned Bhramari Devi (bee goddess) ‘as brilliant as a million dark suns’, surrounded by a swarm of black bees, which produce the sound ‘hring’—her Beejakshar Mantra—when she kills demons. Bhramari is also Saptashrungi (the goddess with seven arms)—whose fingers show different occult mudras. Another name is Saptashrungi Nivasini (mother of seven peaks) because her abode is the seven mountain peaks located in Vani village near Nashik. Bhramari is also Chibuka (the one with the chin) and Shiva is Sarvasiddhish (one who fulfills all desires) which is the same as the Bhairava.

Legend: Bhramari killed the Brahma-worshipping demon Aruna with her bee hordes.
Best time to visit: Oct-March; Kumbh Mela is organised every 12 years
Nearest airport: Nashik (24 km) Nearest railway station: Nashik

Chandrabhaga Shakti Peetha
Prabhas, Girna Hills, Gujarat Stomach
Bhairava: Vakratunda
The Devi is Chandrabhaga, the moon goddess. There is no specific temple here—where the three holy rivers Hiran, Kapila and Saraswati merge is considered the peeth. But others believe that the temple is located near the Somnath Temple is the real one. Some other devotees believe it is the sandalwood step Amba Mata Temple on top of the Girnar mountain in Veraval town of Junagadh. 

Legend: Chandra Dev wished to marry princess Rohini, daughter of Daksha Prajapati, but married all his 27 daughters. Enraged, Daksha cursed the moon to vanish into darkness. Chandra prayed to Lord Shiva for help. The Devi intervened and showed him the path to return to the sky. Belief is that he built the Somnath Temple in gratitude. Couples pray here for a happy married life.
Festivals: Navaratris, Shivaratri, and the Kartik Purnima fair
Best time to visit: Oct-March
Nearest railway station: Veraval (8 km) 
Nearest airport: Kashod (57)  

Devi Ambaji Shakti Peetha
Banaskantha, Gujarat Part of her heart
Bhairava: Batuk Bhairava
Ambaji Mata dwells on the Gabbar hills located in Dantataluka where she is adored as Arasuri Ambaji. There is no idol in the temple. An invisible Sri Visa Yantra is adored in its place. Curiously, pilgrims are blindfolded before they can begin their worship. A gold-plated Shakti Visa Shree Yantra is affixed to the convex inner wall of a window. The wall is inscribed with 51 Beej letters that relate to the original Yantras of Nepal and Ujjain Shakti Peethas. It is the only temple in the world where a different vahan is used every day for the goddess—tiger on Sunday, Nandi on Monday, lion on Tuesday, Aairavat on Wednesday, Garuda on Thursday, swan on Friday and the elephant of Saturday. Akhand Jyots (holy lamps) can be seen in line from Chanchar Chowk to Gabbar Hill.

Kamakhya Shakti Peetha, Guwahati

Festivals: A fair is organised on the full moon in July. During the Navaratri of the Ashwin month, the Garba is celebrated in Chanchar Chowk. The temple becomes crowded on Chaitra Navaratri and Ashwini Navaratri. Many devotees come on foot from across India. Over 800 Sanghas also visit here during this period. The full moon of Kartik, Chaitra, Asho and Bhadrapad are special. The Nav Chandi Yagya here is famous.

Best time to visit: Sept-Oct, winters
Nearest airport: Ahmedabad (180 km)
Nearest railway station: Mount Abu (45 km)

SOUTH

Kanyashram Shakti Peetha
Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu
Spine
Bhairava: Nimisha
On the southern tip of India, atop a small hill encircled by the sea stands the temple of Devi Kanyashram—Kalikashram, or the Kanyakumari Shakti Peetha. The deity is Sarvani (Shiva’s wife). The famous Swami Vivekananda Rock was originally called (and still is) Sripadaparai (the rock of scared feet) on which are enshrined the sacred feet of the goddess. The most auspicious spot to take a ritual dip is at the ghats, where the three seas—Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean—mingle. There are 25 teerthams on the shore. 

Legend: Demon king Banasura obtained a boon from Lord Shiva by which he could only be eliminated by a virgin. His rampages forced Goddess Parashakti to take the form of a virgin girl doing penance on the sea shore. Banasura proposed to her, which was refused. He then attempted to abduct. This led to a fierce battle and the end of the demon. About 3,000 years ago, the original temple was destroyed by 
the oceanic activity.
Best time to visit: Oct-March
Nearest airport: Thiruvananthapuram (67 km) Nearest railway station: Kanyakumari

Chamundeshwari Devi Shakti Peetha
Mysuru, Karnataka  
Both ears and locks from hair
Bhairava: Kal Bhairava
On the outskirts of Mysuru are the scenic Chamundi Hills, which house the prominent Chamundeshwari Shakti Peetha. The temple is one among the Mahapeethas of the Devi, the slayer of Mahishasur, as collated by Adi Sankaracharya in the 9th century. Goddess Chamunda received her name for defeating demons Chanda and Munda, generals of the mighty asuras, Shumbha and Nishumbha. Devi Chamunda is a warrior goddess, seen with Yama the god of death. The temple was built and consecrated under the patronage of the royal family of Mysuru. Devi Chamunda is one of the Saptamatrikas, a group of seven Mother Goddesses who are worshipped for good health and birth of progeny. Animal sacrifices were conducted here by tribals till the 16th century. Shiva became Kal Bhairava when he was enraged at the egotistic Brahma whose fifth head he cut off. He represents the destruction of the ego.
Legend: The three Champak trees in the temple courtyard are said to bloom throughout the year.
Festival: Dasara
Best time to visit: Year round, especially in October
Nearest airport: Bengaluru (160 km) 
Nearest railway station: 
Mysuru (13 km)

Indrakshi Shakti Peetha
Nainativu, Manipallavam, Sri Lanka
Anklets
Bhairava: Rakshaseshwara/Nayinar
The Devi here is worshipped as Parvati. Her local name is Nagapooshani or Bhuvaneshwari. Since Nainativu was where her anklets fell, the ornaments hold great significance in the Shakti tradition and period Southern literature. As per legend, the temple was consecrated by Indra and worshipped by both Rama and Ravan. Besotted by Gautama Maharishi’s wife Ahalya, Indra took the sage’s form and seduced her. The enraged sage cursed Indra that his body would be marked with a thousand yonis. The king of gods went into exile to Manidweepa island (present-day Nainativu), where he built a temple to the goddess and worshipped her to atone for his sin. Satisfied by his penance, Devi transformed the yonis into 1,000 eyes, for which she was bestowed the name Indrakshi. The Nayanars were a group of 63 Shaivite sages of Tamil Nadu who lived from the 6th to 8th centuries.
Legend: Nagapooshani in whom the power of the Trimurti is alive can grant any wish.
Festival: The annual 16-day Mahotsavam (Thiruvizha) celebrated during the Tamil month of Aani (June-July)
Best time to visit: Year round
Nearest airport: Jaffna (30-minute boat ride) 

Kamakshi Amman Shakti Peetha
Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu
Navel
Bhairava: Vishvesh
The Pallava dynasty built this shrine by the Polar River in Kanchipuram. Because Sati’s nabhi fell here, the shrine is also called Nabisthana Ottiyana Peetam. The goddess is worshipped in the form of a yantra. One of the 18 Mahapeethas listed by Adi Sankaracharya, Kanchipuram is honoured as a Mokshapuri—the city of salvation. In Puranic texts, Kanchipuram, along with Kashi are the eyes of Lord Shiva. The Kamakshi Amman temple is the only shrine where the Devi is worshipped independently of her consort.
Legend: Markandeya Purana says that Raja Dashratha visited the temple to pray to the goddess for a child which was granted. Childless couple have been doing so till today.
Best time to visit: Sept-Feb
Nearest airport: Chennai (75 km)Nearest railway station: Kanchipuram

Rakini Devi Shakti Peetha
Rajahmundry, East Godavari district, Andhra Pradesh
Cheeks
Bhairava: Dandapani
Sri Umakotilingeshwara Temple sits on the bank of River Godavari, the Ganga of the south. The Devi’s forms worshipped here are Rakini, Vishwesi (Ruler of the World) and Vishwamatrika (Mother of the World). Here the Godavari herself is the embodiment of the goddess. Puranic literature, which describes Rishi Gautama’s crusade to bring the Godavari to Bharata, claims that the seer consecrated the Shivalinga. Dandapani is Shiva enraged, ready to batter evil doers with his stick (danda).
Festivals: Shivaratri, Durga Puja and Navaratri. Every 12 years, Pushkaram Mela is organised by the Godavari.
Best time to visit: Aug-March
Nearest railway station: Rajahmundry (2 km); nearest airport: Rajahmundry (12 km)

Bhramarambika Devi Shakti Peetha
Srisailam, Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh  
Neck
Bhairava: Sambarananda
The third bee incarnation among Shakti Peethas, Bhramarambika is also Mahalakshmi, the goddess of wealth. The temple complex, famous as Sri Bhramaramba Mallikarjuna Swamy Varla Devasthanam, is not very far from the Srisailam reservoir, on the river Krishna. Pilgrims pray for riches here. Sambarananda is a form of Kala Bhairava.
Legend: Apart from vanquishing Arunasura, the Durga Saptasati describes the Devi as the supreme power behind all time, wealth and wisdom of existence.
Festivals: Navaratri 
and Kumbham
Best time to visit: Sept-Feb
Nearest railway station: Markapur (91 km)
Nearest airport: Hyderabad 
(230 km) 

EAST

Attahas Phullara Shakti Peeth
Labpur, Birbhum district, West Bengal Lower lip
Bhairava: Vishvesh
Located by the River Ishani, the Devi is worshipped in the form of a gigantic 15 by 18 feet stone that symbolises her lower lip. Maa Phullara—the blooming one—represents life and revival. Here, Shiva sits on a stone lotus adjacent to the main temple. There are two Attahasa (meaning: loud laughter) temples in Burdwan and Birbhum. 

Legend: According to Krittibas Ramayana, Vibhishan urged Ram to offer 108 blue lotuses growing in the temple pond to the Devi for her blessings to win the war. Hanuman collected the lotuses but Ram found one lotus short at the puja. When he began to carve out his eye to replace the flower, the pleased goddess appeared to grant him a boon to defeat Ravan.
Festivals: Annual Phullara Mela during Magh Purnima and Navaratri.  
Best time to visit: Aug-March
Nearest railway station: Labpur (30 km)
Nearest airport: Kolkata 
(160 km)
 
Bahula Shakti Peetha
Ketugram, Katwa, West Bengal
Left arm
Bhairava: Bhiruk
‘Bahu’ in Sanskrit means ‘arm’. ‘Bahula’ means lavish, referring to the prosperity devotees hope to get by visiting here. It is said that no true worshipper returns empty-handed. Bahula Devi is also a human form of Parvati since she is accompanied by sons Kartikeya and Ganesha. Kartikeya is the god of fertility and war whereas Ganesha brings auspicious elements into the world. Shakti Bahula is a gentler version of Shakti. ‘Bhiruk’ is a ‘sarvasiddhayak’—one who has reached the highest level of dhyaan.
Festivals: Durga Puja  and Maha Shivaratri
Best time to visit: Oct-March
Nearest railway station: 
Katwa (8 km) 
Nearest airport: Kolkata (190 km)

Mahishamardini Shakti Peetha
Bakreshwar, Birbhum, 
West Bengal
The portion between eyes
Bhairava: Vakranatha
Tantra believes that the third eye is situated between the eyes. But some devotees contest this claim, saying that it is a part of Sati’s brain that fell here. In Birbhum, Sati has assumed terrible form, slaying the buffalo demon Mahishasura. This is an allegory of the destruction of man’s bestial tendencies such as greed, ego and selfishness. The peetha is close to the Bakreshwar Temple, a renowned Shiva Bhakti site, where the lord is worshipped as Bakreshwar (meaning: bent or curved).
Legend: Shiva was so impressed by Rishi Ashtavakra’s (having eight curves) devotion that he deemed that all devotees must worship the sage first. The temple, located on the banks of the river Papahara (remover of sins), is renowned for the nearby natural hot springs.
Best time to visit: Sept-Feb

Nearest railway station: Siuri (20 km) 

Nearest airport: Kolkata 
(200 km from Siuri) 

Maa Bhabani Shakti Peetha
Karatoya, Bhabanipur, Bangladesh
Left anklet
Bhairava: Vaman
When Parvati was doing penance to be united with Shiva, she survived on a single leaf as Aparna, the Leafless One. She is the deity here, a ferocious manifestation of Durga. The shrine is sanctified by river Karatoya that flows around it, and is revered locally as the Ganga. While many people believe that Sati’s left anklet fell here, others assert that it was either her right eye or her left ribs. Now for the consort: in Kashmiri Shaivism, the letters of Bhairava are divided into three—Bha for bharana (maintenance), ra for ravana (withdrawal) and va is for vamana (creator of the universe.)

Legend: Once a bangle seller crossing a forest tarn near the temple sold bangles to a little girl who claimed to be a princess. She ordered him to collect the money from the palace. Since there was no such princess, the queen rushed to the spot. The panicked seller began to pray, and Bhabani Devi emerged with her arms full of conch bangles and blessed everyone. The pond is called Shaka Pur where devotees bathe first before entering the temple.
Festivals: Maghi Purnima, Ram Navami
Best time to visit: Year round
Nearest airport: Bogra (60 km)
Nearest railway station: Santahar (77 km)
Nearest bust stand: Sherpur (28 km)

Jashoreshwari Devi Shakti Peetha
Jessore, Bangladesh
Palms and soles
Bhairava: Chanda
The 15th century temple was built by Maharaja Pratapaditya of Jessore from which the temple takes its name. The significant parts of the 100-door structure designed and built by an architect, Anari, were destroyed after the 1971 war and civil unrest. Here, Kali is in her terrible form; her fire ready to burn the ego within and grant pilgrims salvation. It is from here that the soul’s journey to merge with the parmatman begins. Jashoreshwari Devi—the ‘all bearing’ and ‘all producing’—lays the foundation of enlightenment. Chanda is the third among the Ashta Bhairavas. Worshipping him is believed to enhance energy, and generate the confidence to defeat competition, destroy enemies and get success in all aspects. The Vaitheeswaran Koil in Tamil Nadu’s Nagapattinam is dedicated to Chanda Bhairava.
Legend: The maharaja while out riding saw a ray of light coming from a bush. Its source was a human palm carved from stone. His advisors interpreted the light as the goddess’s blessings and urged the king to build a temple in her name.

Festivals: Navaratri and Kali Puja in October
Best time to visit: Sept-Feb
Nearest airport: Jessore 
(126 km) 

Kanyashram Shakti Peetha, Kanyakumari,
Tamil Nadu

Kalighat Shakti Peetha
Kolkata
Head
Bhairava: Nakulish/Nakuleshwar
Dakshina Kali is the presiding deity of this temple situated on the Adi Ganga creek in south Kolkata. The present structure has been standing since 1809 on the sacred ground of a 16th century mud hut. Nakuleshwar Bhairava’s swayambhu linga was discovered by the Natha saint Chowranga Giri, founder of the ancient Kali Kshetra which pre-dates Kalighat in the 15th century. The much sought-after Kalighat paintings were originally souvenirs made by local artists for visitors. The Victoria and Albert Museum has an outstanding collection. The image of Goddess Kali has its roots in tantric worship as a ferocious force of Nature. Her black skin represents the primordial darkness of the Universe from which creation arises and the darkness into which everything dissolves. The fair skinned Shiva is Satchitananda, who revels in the bliss of pure consciousness.

Legend: When Vishnu shattered Sati’s body, her little toe fell on the Hooghly River after which the area came to be associated with Kali. Festivals: Durga Puja and a special Kali Puja. During the annual Snan Yatra, the priests bathe the idol with their eyes blindfolded.
Best time to visit: Oct-Feb
Nearest airport: Kolkata
Nearest railway station: Howrah

Kankalitala Devi Shakti Peetha
Bolpur, West Bengal 
Waist
Bhairava: Ruru
Located on the bank of Kopai River, this site is the abode of Devgarbha or Kankaleshwari. Colloquially the town is known as ‘Kankali’ (‘kankal’ in Bengali means skeleton). According to local lore, the Sati’s waist bone fell here with such great force that it created a depression on the earth which later welled up with water and formed the sacred kund (pond). The peetha lies in this pond. However, for the purpose of worship, a temple was built just opposite it. People from different walks of life visit the Devi for her blessings, and also to conduct various death ceremonies. The fair-complected Ruru is the divine teacher whose blessings can strengthen the standing and influence of people to overcome enemies and control others.

Legend: Locals believe that a stone resembling a human skeleton lies at the bottom of the temple pond. When the water dries up in summer, locals claim that a skeletal form is visible and its sharp edges cut the hand of anyone who tries to touch it.
Best time to visit: Oct-March
Nearest airport: Kolkata (135 km)
Nearest railway station: 
Bolpur (8 km away)

Kiriteshwari Devi Shakti Peetha
Murshidabad, West Bengal
Crown
Bhairava: Sangvarta
The temple is an Udapeetha, where an ornament (kirit or crown) of the goddess fell instead of an physical part. Hence, she is worshipped as Mukuteswari (the crowned goddess). Kiriteshwari, like in most Shakti Peethas, goes by many names—Devi Vimala (pure) and Kiritkana. Her idol is a red stone covered by a veil which is changed only during Durga Puja. Devotees believe that Mahamaya sleeps on the temple grounds by the Bhagirathi River. As per recorded accounts, the peetha is almost 1,000 
years old.

Legend: When the leprous Nawab Mir Jafar lay on his deathbed, he asked for water from Kiriteshwari Temple to erase his sin of betrayal.
Major festivals: Vijayadashami, Durga Puja and Navaratri. The Kiriteshwari Fair happens every Tuesday and Saturday in December or January.
Best time to visit: Oct-March
Nearest airport: Kolkata (239 km)
Nearest railway station: Dahapara (3 km)

Ratnavali Shakti Peetha
Hooghly, West Bengal
Right shoulder
Bhairava: Ghanteshwar
On the banks of the river Ratnakar in Khanakul-Krishna Nagar of Hooghly district is where the pious believe Sati’s right shoulder fell. The peetha is locally known as the Anandamayee temple (Anandamayee is one who gifts ecstasy). The miracle of the Devi is that she embodies the feminine in all stages, from child to girl to a woman in full bloom. At Ratnavali, she is 16-year-old Kumari, a pre-adolescent form of Parvati. Old traditions continue in many Shakti Peethas; goat sacrifice continues here.

Bahula Shakti Peetha, Ketugram, Katwa, West Bengal.
On the southern tip of India, atop a small hill encircled 
by the sea stands the temple of Devi Kanyashram. The most auspicious spots to take a ritual dip is at the ghats, where the three seas—Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean—mingle. 

Legend: The goddess created the Universe from her womb and resides in all female beings as their creator. During the Navaratras, nine pre-adolescent girls representing purity and chastity participate in a ritual where they are worshipped, fed and given gifts.
Festivals: Durga Puja and Navaratri
Best time to visit: Aug-March
Nearest airport: Kolkata (78 km)
Nearest railway station: Howrah (74 km)

Bhramari Devi Shakti Peetha
Trisrota, Jalpaiguri, West Bengal
Left leg
Bhairava: Ishwar
The Shakti Peethas never fail to emphasise the geographical continuity of Indian spirituality. Not just in Nashik, there is a Bhramari Devi Temple on the bank of the Teesta River in West Bengal. Tantra believes that the central heart ‘chakra’ of the goddess possesses 12 petals which build antibodies to protect humans from disease. An aside: The Devi also protects devotees from bee attacks. Shavaites 
as well as most Hindus see Ishwara as Shiva. Vaishnavites see him as Vishnu.

Legend: When the demon Arunasura fought to drive out the gods from heaven, the Devas pleaded with the goddess to save them. Sati became a giant bee and killed him with the help 
of her bee army.
Festivals: Kumbham and Navaratri
Best time to visit: May-July, Sept-Oct
Nearest airport: Bagdogra (47 km)
Nearest railway station/bus stand: Jalpaiguri (20 km)

Nandikeshwari Shakti Peetha
Sainithia, Birbhum, West Bengal
Necklace
Bhairava: Nandikeshwara
Like many riverine seats of power, Nandikeshwari temple lies close to a river, the Mayurakshi. There is no idol here except a boulder on a platform that has become red with to centuries-old application of vermilion, a colour that symbolises happy matrimony. The stone wears a silver crown. Shiva’s bull Nandi is worshipped here has a pivotal presence representing agriculture, fertility and sustenance. The resident goddess’s name means “one worshipped by Nandi.” Devotees tie wish-fulfilling threads on a holy tree on the compound.
Festivals: Autumn Navaratras that celebrate Nandikeshwari’s victory over demonic forces; 
Durga Puja.
Best time to visit: Aug-March
Nearest airport: Kolkata (190 km)
Nearest railway station: 
Birbhum (1.5 km) 

Taratarini Shakti Peetha
Ganjam district, Odisha
Breasts
Bhairava: Tumkeswar 
for Tara and Utkeswar for Tarini
On the banks of the River Rushikulya, 30 km north of the coastal town of Berhampur is the Tara Tarini Shakti Peetha. The temple on top of the Purnagiri Hills is an Adi Peetha, one of the four most important Shakti Peethas. A powerful occult and spiritual site, Tara worship is common among Buddhist tantriks and a small idol of Buddha resides inside the main sanctum sanctorum. The idols are two stones in the shape of female faces embellished with gold and silver ornaments with two brass heads representing their Chalanti Pratima (living image) in between. Sati’s breasts had fallen at Mangala Gauri, too.
Legend: The priest Basu Praharaja’s two adopted young daughters went missing. He was devastated because they couldn’t be found. At night they appeared in a dream to reveal themselves as the Adi Shaktis, Tara and Tarini, who are counted among the Dus Mahavidyas.

Festivals: Four fairs are held every Tuesday during Chaitra month (March-April). Mahavisubha Sankranti is observed in mid-April. On Chaitra Tuesdays, devotees bring their children for their first ritual haircut.
Best time to visit: Oct-Feb
Nearest airports: Bhubaneswar (174 km) and Vishakhapatnam (240 km) 
Nearest railway station: Brahmapur (32 km)

Sugandha Devi Shakti Peetha
Shikarpur, Bangladesh
Nose
Bhairava: Triambak
The temple of Maa Sunanda is situated on the banks of the river Sugandha. Agama Shastra stipulates that no shadow of the temple should ever fall on the river. However, at the site, the temple shadow does fall on the waters, which is famed for spiritual energy. Since the Devi is associated with Budha Navagraha, people believe that praying to her will remove their Navagraha-related doshas. She brings worshippers fame, honour, intellect, protections from bad intentions and destruction of enemies.
Festival: The annual Shiva Chaturdashi, which falls in March to worship Triambak. Devotees tie flags around their heads, carrying fruits and milk as offerings.
Best time to visit: Year round
Nearest airport: Barisal (21 km)
Nearest railway station: Jalkati (8 km)
Nearest bus stand: Esladi (1.5 km)

Bargabhima Devi Shakti Peetha
East Midnapore, West Bengal
Left Ankle
Bhairava: Sarvananda
Along the fertile banks of the Rupnarayan river  stands a 1,150 years old Bargabhima Temple alternately known as Vibhasha Shakti Peetha and Bhimakali Temple. Bargabhima, Bhimarupa or Bhimakali are different aspects of Kali or Kapalini, who was the family deity of the Mayur-Dhwaj kings who built the temple. The place is believed to have owned by Bhim in Mahabharata times, hence the name. The idol of Bargabhima holds aloft a trident and a human skull in its upper arms and the heads of slain demons in her two lower arms.

Legend: A fisherwoman who supplied King Tamradhwaj’s palace kitchen would immerse her dead fish in a wayside pond to keep them fresh. Miraculously they would revive. Impressed, Tamradhwaj built the Kali temple by the pool.
Festivals: Barunir Fair during Makara Sankranti, Bhima Fair on Magha Shuddha Ekadashi, Ratha Jatra in the Bengali month of Ashar, and Charak fair
Best time to visit: Oct-March
Nearest airport: Kolkata (88 km) Nearest railway station: Kharagpur (85 km)

Devi Biraja Shakti Peetha
Jajpur, Odisha
Navel
Bhairava: Varaha
This temple on the banks of the river Baitarani is ruled again by Mahishasuramardini who is worshipped here as Bijara. Girija is also a name given by Adi Shankara to her. Jajpur is hence called Biraja Kshetra and Biraja Peetha. According to the Tantra Chudamani, Sati’s navel fell in the Utkala Kingdom. Parvati emerged from the fire of Brahma’s yajna and advised the God of Creation to name her Biraja. The idol depicts the Durga piercing Mahishasura’s chest with a spear, one leg on a lion and the other stomping the demon’s chest. The Mahishasura is depicted as a buffalo, and not in human demonic form. The crown bears a Ganesha symbol, a crescent moon and a Shivalinga. Worship has been ongoing since the 5th century. Since the temple is regarded as Navigaya, pilgrims arrive here to perform pind daan. The Skanda Purana notes that a visit washes all rajo gunas away.

Legend: Bhima’s mace that was kept here.
Festivals: The 16-day Sharadiya Durga Puja, which begins on the night of Krishna Paksha Ashtami. Chariot festival ‘Simhadhwaja’ with its lion flag. Navaratri is celebrated as Aparajita Puja. Other festivals are Nakshatra, Shravana, Prathamastami, Pana Sankranti, Raja Parva and Navanna. Devi is worshiped daily in accordance with Tantra and Agama traditions.
Best time to visit: Sept-Oct
Nearest airport: Bhubaneswar (125 km) 
Nearest railway station: Jajpur Keonjhar Road (31 km)

Vimala Devi Shakti Peetha
Puri, Odisha
Feet
Bhairava: Samvarta or Jagannath
 The small but highly important Vimala Temple is located beside a sacred pond inside the famed Jagannath Temple complex in Puri where the Devi is worshipped alongside Lord Jagannath. Her idol holds a rosary in its upper right hand while blessing worshippers with the lower right hand. The goddess holds a vessel filled with amrit in her lower left hand. On both sides of her simhasana are images of Chaya and Maya. In the Puri complex, Vimala Devi comes first; her idol was installed even before Lord Jagannath’s here. Her significance is so high that this guardian of the temple complex is worshipped before Jagannath himself in the main temple and the prasad offered to him does not become Mahaprasad until it is offered to Vimala. In the 18th century, Adi Sankara established the Govardhana Math in Puri with Vimala as the presiding deity. She is adored by Shakta and Tantric practitioners, who place her above Jagannath whose tantric consort she is considered. She is Adi Shakti, since her temple is one of the four main Shakti Peethas. Vimala is considered the feminine energy behind all the male devas and devotees. Interestingly, she is the Shakti of both Vishnu and Shiva.

Festivals: Durga Puja, also known as Shodasha Puja, that is celebrated for 16 days from Badrapada Krishna Ashtami (Sept) to Ashwija Shukla Navami (Sept-Oct). The 10th day is celebrated as Vijayadashmi. During Navaratri, the goddess is worshipped in different forms on each day for nine days.
Best time to visit: June-March
Nearest airport: Bhubaneswar (60 km)
Nearest railway station/bus stand: Puri

Devi Jayadurga Shakti Peetha
Deoghar, Jharkhand
Heart
Bhairava: Baidyanath
Called Hriday Peetha, this shrine is also called Chitabhumi because Lord Shiva cremated Mata Sati’s heart where it fell. The Devi’s idol inside the 72-foot tall temple faces the Baba Baidyanath Dham Temple right opposite. Red silk threads connect the top ends of both temples. Couples believe that if they can bind these tops with their own silk threads, conjugal life will be blessed. Goddess Durga and Goddess Parvati are consecrated on two stone platforms here. Shiva is called Baidyanath, or the god of physicians because he cured Ravan of his injuries.
Festivals: Shravani Mela, Ashwayuja Navaratri and Maha Shivaratri
Best time to visit: Oct-March
Nearest airport: Simra, Deoghar (8 km) 
Nearest railway stations: Baidyanathdham and Deoghar Junction (3 km)

(Information and legends are compiled from various sources. Devotees are required to check details with the temple authorities before visiting.)

“Shakti Peethas have the energy of Mother Sati and Lord Shiva. Every sadhak and bhakt should visit these sacred sites. They should find some corner and meditate there. They would start feeling pious energy within themselves. Gradually their thought process would start changing. They would start feeling a divine presence in themselves. The moment a bhakt starts feeling this, his life changes and he develops a capability to fight against odd circumstances and win them.”

Guru Pawan Sinha 
Spiritual preceptor, motivator and Sadhak of the great Rishikul Parampara. He has been practicing Sadhana since he was eight years old.

“One visits a Shakti Peetha whenever there is a need of a new conscious pillar for enjoying the ‘being energy’ (Kali Shakti) gifted by Mother Nature, in her form as the Maternal Luminous, without the limitations of the consciousness we create by personifying the ‘Father Nature’ (Vyaktitva) as a person. It ignites the flame within us to discover our essence and be the para-conscious pillar to guide everyone’s self-discovery of the path to joyful living now and immortality here and ever after.”

Vipin Gupta Indian-American professor of management and author, most recently of What is Para Consciousness. He is known for his work towards exploring the vastly integrated processes inside nature.

“The Sacred Feminine is worshipped in India as Shakti or power, movement, energy, or nature. Each Shakti Peetha is a manifestation of that power on Earth, possibly as ancient sites of comets or meteors or volcanoes, and can be worshipped through mantra to awaken that quality in us. Shakti Peethas allow us to connect with that power and therefore represent the sacred feminine energy of Ichcha, Jnana, and Kriya in the world or desire for spiritual awakening, wisdom in the presence of truth, and divine inspired action in the world.”

Raja Choudhury Global consciousness teacher, National Film Award-winning documentary filmmaker, TED speaker and digital media producer. He lives between India and the USA.

“The Shakti Peethas are 51 pilgrimage destinations in goddess-focussed Hindu tradition of devotion. The deity in this tradition is described as the energy of Shiva, the purifier or destroyer of evil. Devotees believe that a visit to these Shakti Peethas enriches you with the creative divine energy that rids you of evil and misfortune. The mystic aura of these Peethas emanates from the primordial cosmic energy that is believed to reside in the consort of Lord Shiva.”

Atul Sehgal Proponent of Vedic ideology and author, most recently of Guide to Inner Wellness

Shakti Peethas depict the absolute power of feminine while other sacred sites might signify other worldly and cosmic powers. Also, you would find places of worship of Kala Bhairava at each of the Shakti Peethas. Many devotees as well as priests believe that no prayer at a Shakti Peetha would be heard unless Bhairava, who is considered free from all fears, is worshipped. Mostly, devotees associate Shakti Peethas with bringing sea changes in their lives or fulfilment of a wish.

Pandit Jagannath guruji Celebrity astrologer and prophesier 



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