Tara Tarini Temple, Purushottampur, Orissa
Blog By Pramod Kumar
It is situated on Tara Tarini hill near Purushottampur, which is at a distance of 40 km. from Berhampur. Twin Goddess Tara and Tarini are worshiped in the temple atop a hill. River Rushikulya flows at the foot of the hill.
Goddesses Taratarini have been regarded as the presiding deity (Ista-Devi) in almost every house in Southern Orissa. This significant and famous Shakta Pitha is situated on a hilltop at a distance of 30 Kms towards north of Brahmapur on the south bank of river Rushikulya. The height of the hill is approximately 708ft. and the total area spreading over 180 Acres of land. The hill is popularly known as Taratarini Hill (Parvata) and is surrounded by natural beauty. The picturesque scenery of the temple, from the hilltop down to the bank of river Rushikulya provides immense pleasure and a thrilling experience of nature and divinity to each pilgrim and often captivates the heart and soul. There are 999 steps on the front side of the hill leading to the temple and also a pucca road for vehicles behind the hill facilitating devotees to reach the Pitha.
At the hill top in a small fine-looking temple appears the famous Shrine of Taratarini. Worship at this important centre of Shakta cult has continued since time immeonial. 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, representing the Goddesses Tara, and Tarini. In between them are placed two fully celebrated and beautiful brass heads as their Chalanti Pratima. It has been said that from a tribal cult Taratarini have been transformed into Shakti cult through the process of aryanisation. The name Tara, the Primordial deity of the Mahayana Budhist Pantheon, indicates Budhist influence of element in the Tara – Tarini worship that suggests the incorporation of a tribal cult and Buddhist influence before its Hinduisation.
There are no historical and other records to exactly show when Tantrika practices entered into the Buddhist faith before 1st Century B.C. Some correct inferences, however, can be made with available literature found in China, Tibet, Sinhala (Srilanka) Nepal and India. The existing historical records do not go beyond the great Buddhist Councils successively convened upto the reign of Kaniska. These great Councils discussed the rise of the new unorthodox canon, as upheld by Maha Sangikas.The Mahavastu composed during this period show how Mahayanism emerged in the scene during the 1st Century B.C. and accepted into its fold all the prevalent religious doctrine, practices and belief of Buddhism and Hinduism as well. Thus, Buddhism in its historical philosophical and social aspects, in its thought and resultant practices accepted and incorporated Hindu Tantra relating to Shakti worship.
It is believed that by the time Ashoka conquered the Kalinga Empire he discovered as a famous centre of Buddhism. Undoubtedly this part of Orissa, particularly Ganjam region on the bank of river Rushikulya was very active in Buddhist pursuits. It is evident from the Special Rock Edit of Ashoka found at Samapa (modern Jaugada), the capital of Southern Kalinga of Ashokan Empire, at a mere distance of 4 Kms. From Tara-Tarini Hill. Though the Special Rock Edit of Ashoka at Jaugada has nothing to do with Buddhism as it especially addressed his officials, the propagation of Buddhism in and around this capital city of Ashoka cannot be ruled out. Hence, the probability of worship of Tara, the primordial deity of the Mahayana Buddhist sect at Tara-Tarini Hill and Tara-Tarini as a famous Buddhist Tantra Pitha since this time, can be established on the basis of this hypothesis. Moreover till date it has been considered as one of the most important Tantra Pitha. A small image of Buddha in its meditating sitting posture, present inside the sanctum sanctorum of the main temple corborates the claim of this site to the ancient centre of Shakta cult.
Besides the worship of Tara by the Buddhist Tantrikas the maritime history of Kalinga also suggest the worship of Tara by the Sadhavas, merchants and seamen before launching their sea voyage. Once upon a time river Rushikulya was conducive to navigation and probably the worship of Tara has been a practice among the people of this region involved in mari-time activities. Even some ruins of a brick foundation at village Mukundapur on the south bank of river Rushiklya at the bottom of Taratarini Hill and the so called Ganda ( deep river ) adjacent to this points to some flourishing maritime activities in this region through river Rushikulya. Hence, on the basis of these evidences the worship of Shakti at Taratarini can be traced back to a very old age.
There are many interesting stories, myths legends and folklore relating to the origin of the Taratarini Shrine at the hilltop in Purushottampur. One of the legends of the puranic tradition connects the Shrine to the Daksha Yagyan from which the famous Shakta Pitha of Taratarini originated from the limbs of the Corpse of Devi or Sati. According to this legend once Daksha Prajapati the father of Goddess Devi or Sati performed a Yagyan to which he deliberately did not invite his daughter and her husband Lord Siva . When Devi knew this from Narada she took the permission of her husband and came to the Yangyan site to enquire why her father did not invite her husband Lord Siva to the Yogyan. Daksha spoke insulting words to Lord Shiva, which were intolerable to Sati. As a result of this she jumped into the Yagyan Kunda and sacrificed her life. When Lord Shiva discerned this, outraged, taking the dead body of Sati he, started tandaba nrutya which could have caused Mahapralaya (vast destruction). On the request of the Devatas, Lord Brahma, Vishnu and Sani entered the corpse of Sati and disposed it part by part. Consequently Shakta Pithas originated on the places where the organs of Sati had fallen and hence the famous Tara Tarini Shakta Pitha arose at this place.
Some other legends also associate Taratarini to their human forms as two beautiful girls who used to live some times with their devotees (who later became their priests) they created miracles to make the devotees feel their presence and take steps for their worship. One of such legend reveals that Vasu Praharaja, a learned Brahmin of Kharida Vira Jagannathpur Sasan near Purshottampur had the opportunity to be the foster father of the two sisters TaraTarini who in due course of time by the divine order of TaraTarini did the needful to perform Ygyan and established the Shrine at the hill top in a temple for daily worship.
From all these historical evidences and fragment of various legends it can be concluded that Taratarini is one of the most ancient Shakta Pitha of Orissa.
Festivals: – The following festivals are observed in Taratarini Temple , Purshottampur as per the calendar given below.
1. The Sankranti Mela: Every month on Sankranti day. This festival is observed on each Sankranti day of the Hindu month. This day is considered to be very auspicious for Tantra Sadhakas. The important features of the festival are as follows:
(a) The temple opens for Darshan of the deities from 5.30 AM till 10.00 PM without Pahada during the day.
(b) Baja Pratima (Chalnti Pratima) of the deities are put on the Bije Pithastal located near the temple gate.
(c) Puja and offerings to the deities are offered to the Bije Pratima as no offerings are allowed within the Garbha Griha during this occasion. However the devotes can contain the darshan of the deties in the Garbha Griha.
(d) Megha Snana, Chandipatha and Homa are the special activities conducted in the Grabha Griha and the side pedestal of the Garbha Griha by the temple Purohit.
(e) Special Khechudi Bhoga is supplied to the devotees on receipt per packet. This Bhoga is prepared and sold by the Temple Trust.
2. Dola Purnima (Phalguna Purnima) during February / March.
3. Chaitra Parba: One each Tuesday on the month of chaitra i.e.during March/April as per Calendar.
This festival is the most significant amongst all, celebrated at the Tara Tarini Pitha. It is observed during each Tuesday of the month of Chaitra. Significant features of the festival are as follows;
(a) The temple remains open for the Darshan of the deities from 5 AM till 11 PM. Pahada of the deities is confined to night time only.
(b) Devotees in large numbers congregate at the up-hill and downhill temple complex from Monday night.
(c) 2nd & 3rd Tuesday of the Chaitra is considered to be most auspicious days. Therefore large numbers of devotees congregate during these days.
(d) Puja and offering by the devotees are offered to the Chalanti Pratima of deities placed at the Bije Pitha for the Bije Pratima. However Darshan of the deities in Garbha Griha is allowed.
(e) Special arrangements for hair offering are made. 250 barbers at the top hill and 500 barbers at the down hill at the barber shed are engaged to help their hair offering of their children and other devotees. Hair offering continues from mid-night on Monday till 6 PM of Tuesday.
(f) Special Khechudi Bhoga is supplied to the devotees from Monday mid-night till 6 PM of Tuesday evening.
4. Basantika Parba: During the month chaitra i.e. March / April.
5. Chitalagi Amabasya i.e. Srabana Amabasya during July / August.
6. Gamha Purnima (Shrabana Purnima ) during July /August.
7. Saptapuri Amabasya during the month of Bhadraba during August.
8. Saradiya Parba on the month of Ashwina Mulastami to Dushara during September / October .
9. Dipabali or Shyamakali Puja: on Kartika Amabasya during Sept /Nov.