Friday, 2 May 2014

Shakti Pithas

Shakti Pithas

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.

Princess Sati
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.

Sati's 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.

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
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.

Sati's body parts get scattered
This is the history of Shakti Pithas.

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
Shakti: Mahamaya
Bhairava: Trisandhyeshvara
Place: Attahas village (near Bardhaman), West Bengal, India
Body part: Lips
Shakti: Fullara
Bhairava: Vishvesha
Place: Bahula village (near Katwa), West Bengal, India
Body part: Left arm
Shakti: Bahula
Bhairava: Bhiruka
Place: Bakreshwar (near Birbhum), West Bengal, India
Body part: Blindspot
Shakti: Mahishamardini
Bhairava: Vakreshvara
Place: Bhairav Parvat (near Ujjain), Madhya Pradesh, India
Body part: Upper lips
Shakti: Avanti
Bhairava: Lambakarna

Place: Bhabanipur (Karatoyatat), Dhaka province, Bangladesh
Body part: Left anklet
Shakti: Arpana
Bhairava: Vamana 
Place: Chintapurni Shakti Pitha (Una district), Himachal Pradesh, India
Body Part: Feet
Shakti: Chhinnamasta
Bhairava: Rudra Mahadeva
Place: Gandaki, Pokhra, Nepal
Body part: Temple
Shakti: Gandaki Chandi
Bhairava: Chakrapani

Place: Saptashringi (near Nasik), Maharashtra, India
Body part: Chin
Shakti: Bhramari
Bhairava: Vikritaksha
Place: Hinglaj Bhavani (near Gadwar), Baluchistan, Pakistan
Body part: Brahmarandhra (part of skull)
Shakti: Kottari
Bhairava: Bhimalochana
Place: Nartiang village (Jaintia hills), Meghalaya, India
Body part: Left thigh
Shakti: Jayanti Durga
Bhairava: Kramadeshvara
Place: Ishwaripur, Khulna, Bangladesh
Body parts: Palms and soles
Shakti: Jashoreshvari
Bhairava: Chanda
Place: Jwalaji (near Pathankot), Himachal Pradesh, India
Body part: tongue
Shakti: Ambika
Bhairava: Unmata
Place: Kalighat (locality in Kolkata), West Bengal, India
Body parts: Right toes
Shakti: Dakshina Kali
Bhairava: Nakuleshvara
Place: Amarkantak, Madhya Pradesh, India
Body part: Left buttock
Shakti: Kali
Bhairava: Asitanga
Place: Guwahati, Assam, India
Body part: Vulva
Shakti: Kamakhya
Bhairava: Umananda
Place: Bolpur, West Bengal, India
Body part: Bones
Shakti: Devagarbha
Bhairava: Ruru
Place: Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu, India
Body part: Back
Shakti: Sarvani
Bhairava: Nimisha
Place: Karnat (near Kangra)
Body part: Both ears
Shakti: Naina
Bhairava: Abhiru
Place: Kireetakona village (near Murshidabad), West Bengal, India
Body part: Crown
Shakti: Vimala
Bhairava: Sanvarta
Place: Ratnavali (near Krishnanagar), West Bengal, India
Body part: Right Shoulder
Shakti: Kaumari
Bhairava: Shiva
Place: Jalpaiguri, West Bengal, India
Body part: Left leg
Shakti: Bhramari
Bhairava: Ambara
Place: Inside Mansarovar Lake (near Mt. Kailash), Tibet, China
Body part: Right hand
Shakti: Sati
Bhairava: Amar
Place: Pushkar, Rajasthan, India
Body part: Bracelets
Shakti: Gayatri
Bhairava: Sarvananda
Place: Mithila, Indo-Nepal border
Body part: Left shoulder
Shakti: Uma
Bhairava: Mahodara
Place: Nainativu, Northern Province, Sri Lanka
Body part: Anklets
Shakti: Indrakshi
Bhairava: Rakshaseshvara
Place: Guhyeshwari (near Pashupatinath), Kathmandu, Nepal
Body part: Both knees
Shakti: Mahashira
Bhairava: Kapali
Place: Sitakunda, Chittagong, Bangladesh
Body part: Right arm
Shakti: Bhavani
Bhairava: Chandrashekhara
Place: Panchasagar (near Haradwar), Uttarakhand, India
Body part: Lower teeth
Shakti: Varahi
Bhairava: Maha Rudra
Place: Junagarh, Gujarat, India
Body part: Stomach
Shakti: Chandrabhaga
Bhairava: Vakratunda
Place: Prayag (Allahabad), Uttar Pradesh, India
Body part: Finger
Shakti: Lalita
Bhairava: Bhava
Place: Kurukshetra, Haryana, India
Body part: Ankle bone
Shakti: Bhadrakali
Bhairava: Sthanu
Place: Chitrakutdham (near Jhansi), Uttar Pradesh, India
Body part: Right breast
Shakti: Shivani
Bhairava: Chanda
Place: Sainthia (near Birbhum), West Bengal, India
Body part: Necklace
Shakti: Nandini
Bhairava: Nandikeshvara
Place: Kotilingeshwar (near Rajamundhry), Andhra Pradesh, India
Body part: Cheeks
Shakti: Rakini
Bhairava: Vatsanabha
Place: Shivaharkaray (near Karachi), Sind, Pakistan
Body part: Eyes
Shakti: Mahishasuramardini
Bhairava: Krodhish
Place: Amarkantak, Madhya Pradesh, India
Body part: Right buttock
Shakti: Narmada
Bhairava: Bhadrasen
Place: Sri Shailam (near Kurnool), Andhra Pradesh, India
Body part: Right anklet
Shakti: Srisundari
Bhairava: Sundarananda
Place: Barisal, Khulna, Bangladesh
Body part: Nose
Shakti: Sugandha
Bhairava: Trayambaka
Place: Srishail (near Gotatikar), Sylhet, Bangladesh
Body part: Neck
Shakti: Mahalakshmi
Bhairava: Sambarananda
Place: Shuchindram (near Kanyakumari), Tamil Nau, India
Body part: Upper teeth
Shakti: Narayani
Bhairava: Samhara

Place: Udaipur (near Agartala), Tripura, India
Body part: Right leg
 Shakti: Tripureshvari
Bhairava: Tripuresh
Place: Ujjaini (near Haorah), West Bengal, India
Body part: Right wrist
Shakti: Mangal Chandika
 Bhairava: Kapilambar
Place: Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India
Body part: Ear rings
Shaktis: Manikarnika & Vishalakshi
Bhairava: Kalbhairava
Place: Tamluk, West Bengal, India
Body part: Left ankle
Shakti: Kapali
Bhairava: Sarvananda

Place: Virat (near Bharatpur), Rajasthan, India
Body part: Left toes
Shakti: Amba Ji
Bhairava: Amriteshvara
Place: Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh, India
Body part: Ringlets of hair
Shakti: Katyayni
Bhairava: Bhutesh
Place: Jalandhar, Pujab, India
Body part: Left breast
Shakti: Tripurmalini
Bhairava: Bhutesh
Place: Birajong, Paro, Bhutan
Body part: Coccyx
Shakti: Paropit
Bhairava: Bamonbonsham
Place: Deoghar, Jharkhand, India
Body part: Heart
Shakti: Jaydurga
Bhairava: Baidyanath
Place: Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir, India
Body part: Left wrist
Shakti: Sharika
Bhairava: Ugra
Place: Sharada Pitha (LOC), Jammu & Kashmir, Indo-Pak border
Body part: Right wrist
Shakti: Sharada
Bhairava: Ishana
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: Tarapith (near Birbhum), West Bengal, India
Shakti: Ugra Tara
Bhairava: Mahadeva

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."