Tara Tarini Shakti Peetha
By Ram Prasad Tripathy
Tara Tarini Shakti Peetha on the Purnagiri Hills (other names of the hill; Kumari hills, Ratnagiri, Tarini Parva, or Parvata) at the bank of the holy River Rushikulya near Brahmapur city in Ganjam District of Odisha, India is worshiped as the Breast Shrine (Sthana Peetha) and manifestations of Adi Shakti. The Tara Tarini Shakti Peetha is one of the oldest pilgrimage centers of the Mother Goddess and is one of four major ancient Tantra Peetha and Shakti Peethas in India. This Shakti peetha is home to many miracles and devotees realize these miracles during their course of Sadhana.
It is an important pilgrimage destination for general Hindus and especially for Shakti & Tantric worshipers.
Maa Tara Tarini Temple is the second highest visited Religious destination in Odisha after Shree Jagannath Temple in Puri. Like the Ambubachi Mela in Kamakhya Temple, Assam, Chaitra Mela or Chaitra Yatra is famous at Tara Tarini. During the Hindu month of Chaitra, Lakhs of devotees visit this hill shrine to fulfill their worldly desires. Especially, Tuesdays of this Chaitra month are very famous among its devotees. During these TUESDAYS of Chaitra Yatra at least 3 to 5 lakh devotees visit this shrine to take a glimpse of Maa Tara Tarini.
As per historical records, Tara-Tarini was the patron deity for sailors and merchants in the Ancient time and worshiped for safety and success during Sea voyage at the sea. Only for that mega Sea Ports like MANIKPATNA, PALUR, DANTAPURA, Sonpur, KALINGA NAGAR and PITHUNDA flourished in Kalinga Kingdom (or modern day Ganjam region in Odisha) which were very near to this Tara Tarini Shakti peetha. Even the earliest reference of Palur port appears in the work of the Greek sailor Ptolemy during the 2nd century BC who had named it as Paloura.
The mythological texts recognize 4 major Shakti Peethas: Tara Tarini (Stana Khanda), near Brahmapur; Bimala (Pada Khanda) inside the Jagannath Temple, Puri; Kamakhya Temple Kamakhya (Yoni khanda), near Guwahati; and Kalighat|Dakshina Kalika (Mukha khanda) in Kolkata. Alongwith these FOUR there are total 52 sacred Shakti Peethas, which originated from the limbs of Mata Sati‘s corpse in the Satya Yuga.
Tara Tarini Shakti Peetha & Tantra Peetha
The shrine is considered as one of the most revered Shakti Peethas & Tantra Peethas and major pilgrimage centres of Shakta(Shaktism)sect of Hinduism. It is believed that the shrine is a Shakti Peetha. Shakti Peethas are holy abodes of Shakti/Parashakti. This is believed to have originated from the falling of the body parts of the corpse of Sati Devi, when Shiva carried it and wandered. Some religious texts believe there are 51 Shakti Peethas and 26 Upa Peethas spread across the Indian sub-continent. 51 Shakti Peethas are believed to be representing the 51 letters in Sanskrit alphabet. Some texts believe it is 52.
Sati Devi’s breasts are believed to have fallen here in Tara Tarini. The Shakti of the shrine is addressed as Maa Tara & the peetha is known as Tarini Parva. It is believed that if someone asks something with devotion from the Mother, like DHARMA, ARTHA, KAMA & MOKSHYA or all worldly desires, wants or things to lead a comfortable life during his/her life time and beyond, SHE fulfills the desires. As per Puranas She is the Ista Devi of Deva Guru Brihaspati and She is the Goddesses of Destiny and Good Luck.
The origin of Shakti Peethas are related to the Daksha yagna and Sati’s self-immolation. The Shakti Peetha shrines lead to the development of Shaktism in India.
Four Adi Shakti Peethas
The great religious texts including the Shiva Purana, the Kalika Purana (the Asthashakti) and the Pitha Nirnaya Tantra recognize the four major Shakti Peethas. Like (Bimala, Pada Khanda) inside the Jagannath Temple, Puri, Odisha, (Tara Tarini) Sthana Khanda (Breasts), nearBrahmapur, Odisha, (Kamakshi, Yoni khanda) near Guwahati, Assam and (Dakhina Kalika, Mukha khanda) in Kolkata, West Bengaloriginated 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 gives the geographical location of these Peethas. For example:
“Rushikulya Tate Devi,
Tashya Srunge Stitha Tara,
Vasishta Pujita para”
Thus, there is no dispute regarding these four Adi Shakti Peethas and their locations. (Four Adi Shakti Peethas are also part of 52 Shakti Peethas but they are four major parts of Devi Sati’s body. So, they are important, powerful and believed as Adi Shakti peethas))
The temple is at 19°29′N 84°53′E. The location of this shrine along the river Rushikulya (also called the Rushikalyani Saraswati and known as the elder sister of the Ganges in the Vedas) enhanced its religious and cultural significance. The nearest airports are Bhubaneswar (174 km) and Vishakhapatnam (240 km) from the shrine. The nearest railway station is Brahmapur railway station, 32 km from the temple. Taxi services are available from Brahmapur, Bhubaneswar, Puri to Tara Tarini, and regular bus service is available from Brahmapur to the Tara Tarini Junction.
The goddesses Tara and Tarini are represented by two ancient stone statues with gold and silver ornaments. Two brass heads, known as their Chalanti Pratima, or Living Image, are placed between them.
The abode of Maa Tara Tarini
Adi Shakti goddesses Tara Tarini have been regarded as the presiding deity (Ista-Devi) in many parts of India and in most of the households in Odisha. This holy shrine is in the eastern coast, about 30 km from the commercial nerve centre of Odisha, Brahmapur. The historically famous Jaugada rock edict of Emperor Ashoka and the pious river Rushikulya, which has been described in Rig Veda as ‘Gangayah Jyestha Bhagini’(the elder sister of the Ganga), are also present near this 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 hilltop, 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 represent the goddesses Tara and Tarini. In between them are two fully celebrated and beautiful brass heads as their Chalanti Pratima or their Living Image.
According to the Puranas the origin of Maa Tara Tarini is directly attributed to Daksha Prajapati’s Jagna in Satya Yuga. The famous Shakta Peethas of Bimala, Tara-Tarini, Dakshina Kalika and Kamakshi originated from the limbs of the divine corpse of Devi Sati. Sacred texts like the Shiva Purana, the Kalika Purana, the Devi Bhagabat (a contemporary text of the Mahabharata written by Shri Vyasa Dev around 6000 years ago) attest this fact.
It is known from the Mahabharata that before the commencement of the Mahabharata war Lord Sri Krishna had advised Arjuna to offer prayer for victory at Shridevi Kupa or Bhadrakali. Bhadrakali originated from the limbs of Sati like the other four major Adi Shakti Peethas, which existed during the time of the Mahabharata or around 6000 years ago. This is the oldest data/information we get till date, regarding the existence of the shrines originated from the limbs of the divine corpse of Devi Sati.
According to available historical sources the fall of Kalingan Empire and its capital Sampa (Samapa) in the Kalinga war around 2300 years ago by Mauryan Emperor Ashoka, strengthened the grip of Buddhists in this part of India. The then Sampa was hardly 7 km from Tara Tarini Hill Shrine. So, scholars believe that Tara Tarini was worshiped as the principal deity (Ista-Devi) of the mighty Kalinga Empire. After Ashoka conquered Kalinga scholars found it a famous centre of Buddhism. The region of Ganjam near the bank of river Rushikulya was an active Buddhist site as shown from the Special Rock Edicts of Ashoka found at Jaugada at a distance of 4 km from Tara-Tarini Hill Shrine. The name Tara (Buddhism), an important deity of Mahayana Buddhist Pantheon, is suggestive of Buddhist influence. An image of Buddha in meditation, present inside the sanctum sanctorum of the temple lends credence to the claim of this site as 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 Pratimapuja (Idol Worship). But, the ecclesiastical texts of Mahayana’s reveal that from 1st century AD after the fall of Kalinga, for the first time the Mahayana Buddhists accepted the worship of Mother Goddess ‘Tara’. 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 attest these facts. Scholars believe that in the primary days the Buddhists worshiped Taratarini, the principal seat of 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’ worship spread to different parts of the world.
Besides the worship of Tara by the Buddhist Tantrikas, the maritime history of Kalinga suggests the worship of Tara by the Sadhavas, merchants and seamen before launching their sea voyage from the great sea ports like Dantapura (Gopalpur, Odisha|Gopalpur), Pallur near Chilika Lake, Kalingapatna and river Rushikulya. All these major sea ports of the ancient world were very near the Tara Tarini hill shrine.
It is known from the available sources that till 17th century this place was out of the sight of the common man. But, according to a folk story, once Maa Tara Tarini appeared as two sisters in the house of Shri Basu Praharaj. He was a learned Brahmin of Kharida Vira Jagannathpur village in Ganjam District and one of the great devotees of the Mother Goddess but child less. After staying for some years one day the sisters disappeared suddenly from the house of Basu Praharaj. According to the account of the villagers the sisters traveled up to the Tarini Parvat/Ratnagiri and disappeared there.
Basu Praharaj searched these girls but did not find their tracings. His heart broke down with grief and pain. On that night he saw a dream where the Tara and Tarini informed Basu Praharaj that they were not his daughters; they are the Adi Shakti, Tara and Tarini. The goddesses ordered Basu to come out of the grief and said that the time has arrived and with full devotion renovate the temple on the hilltop of Tarini Parvat and establish the deities according to the Vedic tradition.
After that divine direction Basu discovered the tracings of ancient most presence of Adi Shakti Tara Tarini on the sacred hilltop and immediately took steps to reconstruct the temple and the shrine. Since that time for its magnetism and sanctity this Sthana Peetha (Breast Shrine) of Mata Sati, became a centre of faith and reverence for countless people, in search of peace, tranquility, guidance and spiritual energy and its fame spread like wild fire to become one of the popular religious destinations for millions of devotees.
Now this famous shrine has also caught national attention when Government of India named a Ship of Indian Navy on the name of this famous Shakti Peetha recently and for the first time the Union Government led by PM Shri Narendra Modi and Indian Navy recognized it’s ancient presence as the famous goddesses of SEA TRADERS on the Kalinga coast.
This Chaitra Parba/Chaitra Mela/Chaitra Yatra is the most important among the festivals, celebrated at the Tara Tarini Hill Shrine.
It takes place on each Tuesday of the month of Chaitra, i.e., during mid-March to mid-April (according to the English calendar). Lakhs of devotees come from every corner of world to have darshan of the Tara Tarini and perform their Manasika after fulfillment of their desires. Grand congregations take place on the first, second, third and fourth Tuesdays. 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 come to offer the first bunch of hair of the newborn babies with the belief that goddesses Tara Tarini will protect the newborns from all evils and ensure their well-being.
(The writer is an Author, Columnist and Associate Editor of Kamal Sandesh, New Delhi)