Places of Shakti Worship in Northeast India
Shakti worship is an important socio-cultural aspect of Northeast India particularly Assam and Tripura and has been in practice since hundreds of years. The tribal communities of the region have revered the female divinity in different forms mostly associated with fertility and prosperity since time immemorial.
The following are some of the most important Shakti worship centers of the region.
1. Kamakhya Temple and the ten Mahavidyas, Nilachal Hill, Guwahati
The Kamakhya temple also known as Yonipeeth is the most important Shakti temple of Northeast India and one of the most revered Shakti Peeths of India. The site has been worshipped by devotees since time immemorial in different forms of the mother goddess until the Kalika Purana established and popularized it as the site of Kamakhya in the 10th century.
Situated atop the Nilachal hill, the temple has been built and renovated several times in the past centuries. The current structure was developed under the supervision of the famous Koch general Bir Chilarai in the 16th century. The design thus developed incorporating indigenous and elements of other parts of India became famous as the Nilachal type of temple architecture. The Ahom kings further added to the magnificence of the temple and carefully renovated it preserving the earlier elements during the 17th century.
Even though Kamakhya is more famous, the site actually has temples of all 10 Mahavidyas of the Shakta parampara namely Kali, Tara, Tripura Sundari, Bhuvaneshwari, Bhairavi, Chinnamasta, Dhumavati, Bagalamukhi, Matangi and Kamalatmika..
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Assam Meghalaya Tour - https://www.kazirangatours.com/golden-triangle.html
2. Nartiang Durga Temple, Meghalaya
The Nartiang Durga temple in the Jaintia hills of Meghalaya is one of the 51 Shakti Peethas of India where Sati's left thigh is believed to have fallen. Here the goddess is worshipped as Jayanti or Jayanteshwari. The present temple is 600 years old and was built by the Jaintia kings. Jayanteshwari was the presiding deity of the Jaintia royalty. The Deshmukh Brahmins from western India were invited as priests for the temple and their descendants are still continuing the tradition. Now the local chieftain or Syiem is considered the chief patron of the temple.
The rituals and customs here are a combination of the old animistic faith and the Hindu Shakta tradition. Since the old faith did not have idol worship so the tradition continues and during Durga Puja, the trunk of a banana tree is adorned with clothes and jewels and worshipped as Ma Durga. In earlier days human sacrifice was practiced here. A tunnel from the sacrifice site would carry the severed head down to the river below. Now it has been replaced with animal sacrifice.
3. Tripura Sundari temple : Udaipur, Tripura
The state of Tripura is named after the Tripura Sundari temple dedicated to goddess 'Tripureshwari'. The temple is one of the 51 Shakti Peethas and it is believed that the little finger of the left leg of Sati had fallen at this site.
Tripura sundari temple is located about 50 kms from the capital Agartala in the old town of Udaipur. The shrine stands on a small hillock which is in the shape of a tortoise (Kurma) considered very auspicious for a Shakti temple. The Maharaja of Tripura had summoned construction of the present structure in the 16th century and had it built in the style of Bengali terracotta temples which was very popular in eastern India at that time.
Inside the shrine there is a 5ft stone idol of Goddess Tripureshwari and a small 2ft idol of goddess Chandi. Legend has it that the idol of Chandi was carried by the Maharaja to battlefield. It is a practice here to offer the goddess red hibiscus flowers and the sweet 'Peda' for prasad.
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4. Dirgheswari Devalay, North Guwahati
Isolated and amidst a canopy of old trees, the place feels like straight out of an Indiana Jones movie... The many rock cut sculptures of gods and goddesses from another era scattered throughout the hill adds to the mystifying feeling.. Welcome to Dirgheswari Devalaya atop the Sitachal hill on the North Bank of river Brahmaputra in Guwahati. This temple considered as a Shakti peeth is also known as gupta Kamakhya.
The main shrine is an underground cave with a natural water spring known as 'kunda'. Maharishi Markandeya is said to have done Tapasya at this place and received the grace of the goddess..
5. Ugratara Devalaya, Guwahati
Ugratara Devalaya is a temple in Guwahati dedicated to Goddess Ugratara, a form of 'Shakti' and is related to Tantric worship. The Shrine dates back to 1st century where the present temple structure was built by Ahom king Shiva Singha in the 18th century.
Two beautiful tanks known as Jorpukhuri are in the backside of the temple where people used to take bath before entering the temple to worship the goddess. In the main Garbhagriha there is a small water tank which is said to be connected to the tanks outside. A flock of swans keep swimming in the serene tanks increasing the beauty of the surrounding. The tank is also home to black Softshell Turtles.
The centuries old idol of the goddess was stolen by miscreants on the night of 15th November, 2018. The idol made of Ashtadhatu(eight metals) is antique and extremely valuable. The devotees, police and administration searched and searched but all in vain. When the idol could not be found after months of searching, the temple authorities decided to get a new idol of the goddess made similar to the old one. Then a date was fixed to do Sthapana or installation the new idol.
The temple priests started making all arrangements for the puja. And just two days before the installation the miracle happened. News about the old idol came dramatically from a small town Golaghat about 300 kms away from the temple in Guwahati. It so happened that the thieves had cut a small piece from the idol and took it to sell in a goldsmiths shop. The goldsmith on seeing the piece of Ashtadhatu could tell that it was cut from something bigger and very old. He informed the police secretly and they laid a trap which ended in the thieves being caught in another town Nalbari near Guwahati on 30th April, 2019. The idol was recovered barely 24 hrs before the installation of the new idol and restored back to its original glory. The priests and devotees were overjoyed and puja was done with an increased gusto and devotion.
Now both the idols are placed side by side and worshipped like sisters by the devotees of goddess Ugratara.. !!
6. Devi dol or Devi temples of Sivsagar, Gaurisagar and Joysagar, Assam
The Ahom kings who ruled Assam valley for almost 600 years were great worshippers of Shakti. They built numerous temples across Assam dedicated to the Goddess. In their capitals, situated in now Sivsagar district they built magnificent 3 temple complexes dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu and Durga. The temple complexes are located in Sivsagar, Gaurisagar and Joysagar and the temples dedicated to the goddess are known as Devi dol; dol being an old Assamese word for temple. These are designated archaeological sites with beautiful carvings of Hindu Gods and goddesses on the temple walls.
Durga Puja is celebrated annually in the Devi dol in Sivsagar which was built by Queen Ambika, 2nd wife of King Siba Singha who was an ardent worshipper of Shakti.. This temple's uniqueness is having 8 angashikharas i.e. 8 spires on the body of the main dome, 2 on each direction.
7. Mahamaya Dham, Bagribari, Western Assam
Mahamaya Dham is the largest Shakti worship centre of Western Assam. Here the goddess is worshipped as Ma Mahamaya. The temple is located 30 kms east of Dhubri town. Mahamaya was the presiding deity of the local Parvatjhora zamindars or landlords and was also worshipped by the local communities like Bodo Kacharis, Koches, Rajbangshis and Naths. Now it is one of the most visited temples of Assam.
Durga Puja has been celebrated here anually for more than 400 years. Animal sacrifices are also made during Puja.
8. Malini Than, Likabali, Arunachal Pradesh
Malini Than is a temple dedicated to Shakti in Eastern Arunachal Pradesh. Here the goddess is worshipped as Malini or 'Mistress of the Garden'. The previous temple believed to be destroyed in an earthquake was built by the Sutia Kings in the 13-14 century. The plinth and remains of the earlier temple made it an archaeological site. The uniqueness of the earlier temple is that it was built with granite stones unlike the other temples found the region.
A new magnificent temple has been built at the site which opened for devotees in November 2020. The old ruins have also been preserved nicely in the premises for visitors to admire the exquisite work done in the earlier temple.