Shakti Peeths

51 Shakti Peeth at  Shakti Sthal   by   Jaipal Singh Datta

From the wide rivers of ancient Indian tradition, comes the story of the creation of the fifty-one sacred Shaktipeeths. There was a time in the distant past when demons lorded over the Himalaya mountains and harassed the Gods and all good people. After the long sequence of events, led by Lord Vishnu the gods prepared to destroy the demons. They breathed fire and poured their strengths to a focus. A huge flame rose from the ground and as the smoke clouds lifted, the gods saw that a young girl had taken birth. She was the adishakti – the first shakti, the primordial embodiment of female strength and power. The god, Hemkunt gave her a white tiger to ride on, Kuber gave her a crown, Varun gave her clothes and water, and the rest gave her the lotus, garlands, the conch, the chakra and a host of other powerful symbols.

She grew up on the house of Prajapati Daksha and was known as Sakti. In time she become the consort of Lord Shiva. Once Sati’s father organized a huge yagya, sacrifice, and all the gods and kings were invited, except Lord Shiva and Sati. When Sati came to hear of this she decided to put in an appearance anyway. At the yagya she found that no seat had been kept for her husband and the only welcome she received was from her mother. In angulish she cried, “I do not wish to keep the body to which my father has given birth”. She threw herself on the flames of the yagya and died. When Lord Shiva heard of this his rage knew no bounds, and holding the charred body of his wife, he began stalking the three worlds. The other gods trembled before his wrath and appealed to Lord Vishnu for help. Vishnu let fly a volley of arrows that struck Sati’s body and severed it to pieces. Across the country, where the pieces fell, have risen the fifty one shaktipeeths which are sites of pilgrimage sacred to all Hindus.Under the gaze of the Dhauladhar ranges and set amidst the undulating hills that characterise sub-Himalayan Himachal, her tongue is said to have fallen at Jwalamukhi, her eyes at Naina Devi, her breasts at Kangra and her feet at Chintpurni.

The Route to visit the shaktipeeths: Naina Devi-Chintpurni ji-Jwalamukhi ji-Bajreshwari Devi-Chamunda ji. Naina Devi is near to Anandpur Sahib, Chintpurni is 105 km from Naina Devi, Jwala Devi ji is 34 km from Chintpurni, Bajreshwari Devi is 35 km from Jwala ji and Chamunda ji is 24 km from Kangra. 


At Jwalamukhi, along the flimsy borderline where myth and history merge and geological inference becomes powerful belief, the goddess is manifest as tiny flames that burn a flawless blue through fissures in the age old rock. The origin of the temple is lost in the mists of antiquity. It is said that a cowherd, while grazing his flock saw the flames for the first time after which Raja Bhumi Chandra ruler of the area had the first temple built. The Pandavas are said to have visited it, though the first structure is surmised to have stood since 650 AD. Later centuries witnessed the addition of the gilded dome, while a parasol was installed by the Mugal emperor, Akbar. Just above the Devi’s temple is the shrine of Baba Gorakh Nath, and across is the Devi’s bedchamber. Here under a rich canopy of ornately carved sandalwood, rests the silver bed of the goddess. Every night while the chant of prayers merges with the incense in the air, the ornaments of the Devi are set on the bed. These are then covered with heavy silken sheets and the hall is sealed. Come morning the cover sheets are lifted the bed lies ruffled and the ornaments displaced. It seems like the bed has been slept in.

Jwalamukhi’s other shrines are the Ashtabhuja, the Shri Raghunathji Temple – popularly known as ‘Teda Mandir’, for it stands at a tilt after the earthquake of 1905 and the Nagni Mata Temple. Within short driving distance are Chaumukha, the temple complex at Panj-Teerthi and Mahakaleshwar (Kalesar), and the temple of Baglamata at Bankhandi. Through a country side of breathtaking beauty where countless slim streams water the fields on their way to the river Beas and where small hamlets dot the landscape with pastoral perfection, Chintpurni is an hour’s drive from Jwalamukhi.

Chintpurni: It is here that the devout come to leave their worries and pray for boons. As a mark of their devotion many people start prostrating themselves several kilometers short of the temple and labour ardently for days to reach the shrine. The original pindi of the Devi still exists within the shrine and her image depicts her without a head for it is said that she cut it off to assuage the blood thirst of her companions. And hence her name Chhinmastika Devi – ‘The Goddess Without a Head’. The legend goes that the temple came in to being after the Goddess revealed herself to Mayidass, a devotee. The domed and gilded sanctum is still firmly bound to its origins by the gnarled trunks of the ancient banyan tree where the Devi first revealed herself.

The shrine of Naina Devi rises over the plains and rests on a hill top. This is where the eyes of Sati are said to have fallen. The temple is now connected by a ropeway.

The shrine of Bajreshwari Devi at Kangra is one of the most famous shaktipeeth in the Kangra valley. It continues to be busy place of pilgrimage. Believers hold that this shaktipeeth sprung at the spot where the breast of Sati fell. For many centuries, the Kangra remained the seat of royal power in the region and the fame and wealth of the temple was legendary. It was subjected to successive invasions by Mahmood of Ghazni who departed with king's  ransom in gold, silver, and jewels along with temple's treasure. The earthquake of 1905 destroyed it completely. The present temple's shikhar and two domes were built in 1920 drawing inspirations from Hindu, Muslim and the Sikh architectural styles. Around the main shrines are the temples of Tara Devi and Bhairon. Old Jain temple at Old Kangra, Kangra Fort, Gupat Ganga and Jayanti Devi temple and Chamunda Devi ji are the other attractions in and around the town.