|Devi Durga on Durgashthami, Taltala, Kolkata|
ॐ सर्व स्वरुपे सर्वेशे सर्वशक्ति समन्विते l
भयेभ्यस्त्राहिणो देवी दुर्गे देवी नमस्तु ते ll
"Om that Supreme Goddess, who pervades all gods as their innate energies in all forms,
may she protect us from fear. Salutations to Durga Devi, who is such."
Durga Devi is the Shakti of Supreme Lord Shiva, and the Supreme Goddess of Vedas who shares equal glory as Lord Shiva himself. Mother of Ganesha & Kartikeya, daughter of Mountains, Adishakti, vanquisher of demons Mahishasura, Chikshura, Chamara, Durdhara, Durmukha, Ruru, Durgamasura, Chanda, Munda, Dhumralochana, Raktabija, Shumbha, Nishumbha, Arunasura, Madhu and Kaitabha, may she vanquish the demons of ignorance that surround us. ॐ ऐं ह्रीं क्रीं चामुण्डाय विच्चैll
Dear reader(s), I know my recent posts "Is Lord Vishnu really a Vedic deity?" and "Shaivite commentary on Sri Rudram-Refuting Vaishnava commentary (Anuvaka-1)" had been quite a brain-teaser. So before we begin our discussion regarding Lord Ram, let's soothe our minds by making a pilgrimage to Shakti Pithas, the most important of all Shakta/Tantric places of pilgrimage.
What are Shakti Pithas?
Shakti Pithas (Literally seat of Shakti) are places of worship consecrated to Adishakti's second incarnation Lady Sati (first being Katyayni), the first wife of Lord Shiva. They are sprinkled throughout the Indian subcontinent.
History of Shakti Pithas
Prajapati Daksha, the mind-born son of Lord Brahma, had a beautiful daughter, Sati (8931 BC-8823 BC), who was incarnation of Adishakti and reincarnation of sage Kat's daughter, Katyayni.
|Sati with her father, Prajapati Daksha|
Prajapati Daksha saw an enemy in Lord Shiva for the punishment and humiliation his father Brahma had received from Lord Shiva (Brahma had lied and committed incest with his daughter). But to Daksha's annoyance, his favorite daughter Sati fell in love with Lord Shiva. After much coaxing, Lord Shiva confessed his love for Sati and they got married.
|Lord Shiva and Sati get married|
However, Prajapati Daksha disapproved of the match and disowned Sati for the "dishonor" that she had brought upon her father. Lord Shiva and his new wife Sati made Mount Kailasha their abode and led a happy life.
|Lord Shiva and Lady Sati in Kailasha|
But Daksha, who was hellbent to seek vengence from Lord Shiva, announced a Yagna ceremony at Kankhal, present day Uttarakhand. All deities had been invoked, except Lord Shiva and Sati. But Sati, through her spy network, learnt of the Yagna. Sati, who was pinning to visit her nuptial home and meet her parents, siblings and friends, insisted Lord Shiva to accompany her to Kankhal. But Lord Shiva refused, saying it would be unlawful and will annoy Daksha, as he and Sati were not invoked. But Sati holds her ground and argues threatening to leave alone. Finally, Lord Shiva gives in and sends Sati with his attendant Nandi as Sati's bodyguard.
|Sati argues with Lord Shiva|
Sati was disappointed when her family recieved her coldly. Everyone shared a cold shoulder with her and some guests mocked her. Daksha objected her arrival as Sati came uninvited. Sati requested Daksha to invoke Lord Shiva but he began to hurl abuses in the name of Lord Shiva in filthiest language. Sati protested and soon the conversation between father & daughter became a heated argument. The more Sati protested, the more Daksha verbally abused Lord Shiva.
|Sati argues with Daksha|
Sati, an honorable woman, couldn't tolerate the humiliation and dishonor of her husband, and thus, to sever all ties with Daksha, she plunged herself into the sacrificial fire pit and committed suicide by self-immolation.
As Sati fell dead, Nandi and other attendants of Lord Shiva informed him about this tragedy. Lord Shiva seethed in anger on knowing this. He plucked a strand of hair from his head and dashed it on the ground. From the impact, were born two fierce warriors, Virabhadra and Kalaratri.
Lord Shiva commanded them to destroy the Yagna ceremony, destroy Daksha's capital and finally, kill Daksha. Like tornadoes, Virabhadra and Kalaratri attacked the city of Kankhal, destroying everything in sight. Daksha sent his army but in vain.
|Kankhal under attack|
After creating much havoc, Virabhadra and Kalratri entered royal citadel and attacked all the guests and also the gods who were invoked, including Brahma, Vishnu, Indra, Agni and Vayu. After destroying everything, Virabhadra caught a fleeing Daksha, beheaded him and threw his head into the same fire pit, which claimed Sati's life.
|Virabhadra prepares to behead Daksha|
After the destruction, Lord Shiva came. The sight of destruction filled him with compassion and pity, because of which, he resurrected everything. Even Daksha was brought back to life by replacing his head with that of a goat.
|Goat-faced Daksha with his wife and Sati's mother, Prasuti|
Lord Shiva, who was grieving death of his beloved Sati, lost his mind and carried Sati's half-burned lifeless corpse and roamed throughout the universe.
All the dismembered body parts got scattered across Indian subcontinent and got fossilized. Some say that gods cremated Sati's dismembered body parts on those very spots where they fell while some others say the body parts got preserved as relics. But the spots where Sati's body parts fell, became holy and shrines dedicated to Lady Sati were built there. These Shrines are known as Shakti Pithas.
This is the history of Shakti Pithas.
Watch this video to know Sati's story.
|Lord Shiva grieving Sati's death|
|Lord Shiva carrying Sati's corpse|
Fearing that Lord Shiva will never come out of his grieving, Lord Vishnu dismembered Sati's corpse with his Sudarshana discus. Some other versions of the story suggest that Sati's body started decaying and her body parts came apart on their own.
|Vishnu and other gods following Lord Shiva|
|Vishnu hurls his discus|
|Vishnu's discus hits Sati's corpse|
|Sati's corpse gets dismembered|
|Sati's body parts get scattered|
Watch this video to know Sati's story.
Four Adi Shakti Pithas
The total number of Shakti Pithas is said to be 51, 52, 64 or 108. But among all, four major Shakti Pithas are considered most important of all. These four are known as Adi (original) Shakti Pithas. They have been listed in texts like Kalika Purana, Shiva Purana and Ashta Shakti. Kalika Purana says:
"विमला पादखण्डं च स्तनखण्डं च तारिनी कामाख्या योनिखण्डं च मुखख़ण्डं च कलिका l
अंग प्रत्यंग संघेणं विष्णु चक्र क्ष्यत न च ll"
The four Adi Shakti Pithas are as follows:
1) Vimala Devi, Puri, Odisha (Body Part: Feet).
2) Tara Tarini, Berhampur, Odisha / Tarapith, Birbhum, West Bengal (Body Part: Breasts).
3) Kamarup Kamakhya, Guwahati, Assam (Body Part: Vulva).
4) Kalighat, Kolkata, West Bengal (Body Part: Face).
List of 52 Shakti Pithas
Pithanirnaya Tantra lists 52 Shakti Pithas, while Shivacharitra also lists 26 Upa Pithas other than the first 52. The Bengali almanac, Vishuddha Siddhanta Panjika lists 52 Shakti Pithas including the present modified addresses. Brahmanda Purana mentions 64 Shakti Pithas while Mahapitha Purana lists 52 Shakti Pithas. However, all these texts agree upon one point that all Shakti Pithas are spread across the length and breadth of Indian subcontinent and are scattered in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan. Following are the 52 universally accepted Shakti Pithas:
|Place: Amarnath (base camp at Srinagar & Pahalgam), Jammu & Kashmir, India|
Body part: Throat
|Place: Attahas village (near Bardhaman), West Bengal, India|
Body part: Lips
|Place: Bahula village (near Katwa), West Bengal, India|
Body part: Left arm
|Place: Bakreshwar (near Birbhum), West Bengal, India|
Body part: Blindspot
|Place: Bhairav Parvat (near Ujjain), Madhya Pradesh, India|
Body part: Upper lips
|Place: Bhabanipur (Karatoyatat), Dhaka province, Bangladesh|
Body part: Left anklet
|Place: Chintapurni Shakti Pitha (Una district), Himachal Pradesh, India|
Body Part: Feet
Bhairava: Rudra Mahadeva
|Place: Saptashringi (near Nasik), Maharashtra, India|
Body part: Chin
|Place: Hinglaj Bhavani (near Gadwar), Baluchistan, Pakistan|
Body part: Brahmarandhra (part of skull)
|Place: Nartiang village (Jaintia hills), Meghalaya, India|
Body part: Left thigh
Shakti: Jayanti Durga
|Place: Ishwaripur, Khulna, Bangladesh|
Body parts: Palms and soles
|Place: Jwalaji (near Pathankot), Himachal Pradesh, India|
Body part: tongue
|Place: Kalighat (locality in Kolkata), West Bengal, India|
Body parts: Right toes
Shakti: Dakshina Kali
|Place: Amarkantak, Madhya Pradesh, India|
Body part: Left buttock
|Place: Kireetakona village (near Murshidabad), West Bengal, India|
Body part: Crown
|Place: Ratnavali (near Krishnanagar), West Bengal, India|
Body part: Right Shoulder
|Place: Jalpaiguri, West Bengal, India|
Body part: Left leg
|Place: Inside Mansarovar Lake (near Mt. Kailash), Tibet, China|
Body part: Right hand
|Place: Nainativu, Northern Province, Sri Lanka|
Body part: Anklets
|Place: Guhyeshwari (near Pashupatinath), Kathmandu, Nepal|
Body part: Both knees
|Place: Sitakunda, Chittagong, Bangladesh|
Body part: Right arm
Here I would like to specially mention Tarapith, which is considered to be a Siddha Shakti Pitha i.e., Tantric Sadhana performed here delivers quicker results. The temple's status as a Shakti Pitha is controversial as the relic preserved here isn't a body part of Lady Sati, but a naturally curved rock in the shape of a mother suckling an infant.
|Place: Panchasagar (near Haradwar), Uttarakhand, India|
Body part: Lower teeth
Bhairava: Maha Rudra
|Place: Junagarh, Gujarat, India|
Body part: Stomach
|Place: Prayag (Allahabad), Uttar Pradesh, India|
Body part: Finger
|Place: Kurukshetra, Haryana, India|
Body part: Ankle bone
|Place: Chitrakutdham (near Jhansi), Uttar Pradesh, India|
Body part: Right breast
|Place: Sainthia (near Birbhum), West Bengal, India|
Body part: Necklace
|Place: Kotilingeshwar (near Rajamundhry), Andhra Pradesh, India|
Body part: Cheeks
|Place: Shivaharkaray (near Karachi), Sind, Pakistan|
Body part: Eyes
|Place: Amarkantak, Madhya Pradesh, India|
Body part: Right buttock
|Place: Sri Shailam (near Kurnool), Andhra Pradesh, India|
Body part: Right anklet
|Place: Barisal, Khulna, Bangladesh|
Body part: Nose
|Place: Srishail (near Gotatikar), Sylhet, Bangladesh|
Body part: Neck
|Place: Shuchindram (near Kanyakumari), Tamil Nau, India|
Body part: Upper teeth
|Place: Udaipur (near Agartala), Tripura, India|
Body part: Right leg
|Place: Ujjaini (near Haorah), West Bengal, India|
Body part: Right wrist
Shakti: Mangal Chandika
|Place: Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India|
Body part: Ear rings
Shaktis: Manikarnika & Vishalakshi
|Place: Tamluk, West Bengal, India|
Body part: Left ankle
|Place: Virat (near Bharatpur), Rajasthan, India|
Body part: Left toes
Shakti: Amba Ji
|Place: Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh, India|
Body part: Ringlets of hair
|Place: Jalandhar, Pujab, India|
Body part: Left breast
|Place: Birajong, Paro, Bhutan|
Body part: Coccyx
|Place: Deoghar, Jharkhand, India|
Body part: Heart
|Place: Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir, India|
Body part: Left wrist
|Place: Sharada Pitha (LOC), Jammu & Kashmir, Indo-Pak border|
Body part: Right wrist
|Place: Tarapith (near Birbhum), West Bengal, India|
Shakti: Ugra Tara
|Shakti Pithas are strewn across the length & breadth of Indian subcontinent|
Ashta Dasa Shakthi Pitha Stotram by Adi Shankaracharya
|Sati in her cosmic form of Adi Shakti|
Lankayam Shankari devi, Kamakshi Kanchika pure Pradyumne Shrinkhala devi, Chamunda Krouncha pattane
"Goddess Shankari in Sri Lanka, Kamakshi in Kanchipuram Goddess Shrinkhala in Pradymna and Chamunda in Mysore"
Alampure jogulamba, Sri Shaile Bhramarambika Kolha Pure Maha Lakshmi, Mahurye Ekaveerika
"Goddess Jogulamba in Alampur, Goddess Brhamarambika in Sri Shailam Goddess Maha lakshmi in Kolhapur and Goddess Eka Veera in Mahur"
Ujjainyam Maha kali. Preethikayam Puruhutika Odhyane Girija devi, Manikya Daksha vatike
"Goddess Maha Kali in Ujjain, Purhuthika in Peethika Goddess Girija in Odhyana and Manikya in the house of Daksha"
Hari Kshetre kama rupi, Prayage Madhaveshwari Jwalayam Vishnavi Devi, Gaya Mangalya gourika
"Goddess kama rupi in the temple of Vishnu, Madhaveshwari in Allahabad Goddess giving flame in Jwala Mukhi and Mangala Gowri in Gaya"
Varanasyam Vishalakshi, Kashmire tu Saraswati Ashtadasha shakti Peethani, Yoginamapi durlabham
"Goddess Vishalakshi in Varanasi, Saraswati in Kashmir These are the 18 houses of Shakti, which are rare even to the Devas"
Sayamkale pathennityam Sarva Shatru vinashanam Sarva roga haram divyam, Sarva sampatkaram shubham
"When Chanted every evening, all the enemies would get destroyed all the diseases would vanish, and prosperity would be showered."