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Shakti Peethas

The Shakti Pithas (, , , , seat of Shakti[1]) are places of worship consecrated to the goddess Shakti or Sati, the female principal of Hinduism and the main deity of the Shakta sect. They are sprinkled throughout the Indian subcontinent.[2]

This goddess Shakti, the goddess of power is the complete incarnation of Adi Shakti, has three chief manifestations, as Durga, goddess of strength and valour, as Mahakali, goddess of destruction of evil and as Goddess Gowri, the goddess of benevolence.



Shiva carrying the corpse of Dakshayani

When Lord Bhrahma was tired creating the universe, he performed a yagya to make Lord Shiva happy and then Lord Shiva appeared and sacrificed Shakti which helped Bhrahma in the creation of the universe.

Then Bhrahma decided that one day Shakti would be given back to Lord Shiva. Therefore, Daksh (son of Bhrahma) performed several yagya's to obtain Shakti as her daughter in the form of Sati. It was then decided that Sati was brought into this world with the motive of getting married to Shiva.

However, due to Lord Shiva's curse to Bhrahma that he would not be worshiped and also his fifth head was cut off due to his lie in front of Lord Shiva..... Daksha started hating Lord Shiva and changed his will that at any cost he will not let Lord Shiva and Sati married.

But Destiny has its on fate, series of incidents happenned due to which Sati got attracted to Lord Shiva and finally one day Lord Shiva and Sati got married. This however not reduced Daksh's hatred towards Lord Shiva, on the contrary it started increasing.

Hence one day, in Satya Yuga, Daksha performed a yagna with a desire to take revenge on Lord Shiva. Daksha was angry because his daughter Dakshayani also known as Sati had married the 'yogi' God Shiva against his wish. Daksha invited all the deities to the yagna except for Shiva and Shakti. The fact that she was not invited did not deter Shakti from attending the yagna. She had expressed her desire to attend to Shiva who had tried his best to dissuade her from going. Shiva eventually allowed her to go escorted by his followers.

But Sati, being an uninvited guest, was not given any respect. Furthermore, Daksha insulted Shiva. Sati was unable to bear her father's insults toward her husband, so Dakshayani (the other name of Sati meaning the daughter of Daksha) invoked her yogic powers and immolated herself.

Enraged at the insult and the injury, Shiva destroyed Daksha's sacrifice, cut off Daksha's head, and later replaced it with that of a male goat as he restored him to life due to the prayers of all demi gods and Brahma. Still immersed in grief, Shiva picked up the remains of Sati's body, and performed the Tandava,the celestial dance of destruction, across all creation. The other gods requested Vishnu to intervene to stop this destruction, towards which Vishnu used the Sudarshana Chakra, which cut through the corpse of Sati. The various parts of the body fell at several spots all through the Indian subcontinent and formed sites which are known as Shakti Peethas today.

At all the Shakti Peethas, the Goddess Shakti is accompanied by Lord Bhairava (a manifestation of Lord Shiva).

Four Adi Shakti Pithas

Some of the great religious texts like the Shiva Purana, the Devi Bhagavata, the Kalika Purana and the AstaShakti recognize four major Shakti Pithas (centers), like Bimala (Pada Khanda) (inside the Jagannath temple of Puri, Orissa), Tara Tarini (Sthana Khanda,Purnagiri ,Breasts) (Near Berhampur, Orissa), Kamakhya (Yoni khanda) (Near Guwahati, Assam) and Dakhina Kalika (Mukha khanda) (Kolkata, West Bengal) originated from the limbs of the Corpse of Mata Sati in the Satya Yuga.

The Astashakti and Kalika Purana says (in Sanscrit):

"Bimala Pada khandancha,
Sthana khandancha Tarini (Tara Tarini),
Kamakshya Yoni khandancha,
Mukha khandancha Kalika (Dakshina Kalika)
Anga pratyanga sanghena
Vishnu Chakra Kshyta nacha"

Further explaining the importance of these four Pithas, the "Brihat Samhita" also gives the location of these Pithas as
Rushikulya* Tatae Devi,
Tarakashya Mahagiri,
Tashya Srunga Stitha Tara
Vasishta Rajitapara
*(Rushikulya is a holy river flowing on the foot hill of the Tara Tarini Hill Shrine).

List of 4 Adi Shakti Pithas

In the listings below:

  • "Shakti" refers to the Goddess worshipped at each location, all being manifestations of Dakshayani, Parvati or Durga;
  • "Body Part or Ornament" refers to the body part or piece of jewellery that fell to earth, at the location on which the respective temple is built.
Sr. No. Place Body Part or Ornament Shakti
1 In Puri, Orissa (inside Jagannath Temple complex) Pada Bimala
2 Near Berhampur-Orissa Sthana khanda Tara Tarini
3 Guwahati-Assam Yoni khanda Kamakshya
4 Kolkata- West Bengal Mukha khanda Dakshina Kalika

Apart from these four there are 52 other famous Peethas recognised by religious texts. According to the Pithanirnaya Tantra the 52 peethas are scattered all over India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Tibet and Pakistan. The Shivacharita besides listing 52 maha-peethas, speaks about 26 more upa-peethas. The Bengali almanac, Vishuddha Siddhanta Panjika too describes the 52 peethas including the present modified addresses. A few of the several accepted listings are given below.[3] One of the few in South India, Srisailam in Andhra Pradesh became the site for a 2nd century temple.[4]

The 52 Shakti Pithas

In the listings below:

  • "Shakti" refers to the Goddess worshipped at each location, all being manifestations of Dakshayani, Parvati or Durga;
  • "Bhairava" refers to the corresponding consort, each a manifestation of Shiva;
  • "Body Part or Ornament" refers to the body part or piece of jewellery that fell to earth, at the location on which the respective temple is built.
Sr. No. Place Body Part or Ornament Shakti Bhairava
1 Kanchipuram, Kamakshi temple, Kamakoti Peetam mentioned in Lalita Sahasram, Trishati, Astothram etc. Ottiyana (Ornament covering stomach) Kamakshi Kaal Bhairav
2 Nainativu (Manipallavam), Northern Province, Sri Lanka. Located 36 km from the ancient capital of the Jaffna kingdom, Nallur. The murti of the Goddess is believed to have been consecrated and worshipped by Lord Indra. The protagonist, Lord Rama and antagonist, Ravana of the Sanskrit epic Ramayana have offered obeisances to the Goddess. N ga and Garuda of the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata; resolved their longstanding feuds after worshipping this Goddess. Silambu (Anklets) Indrakshi (Nagapooshani / Bhuvaneswari) Rakshaseshwar (Nayanair)
3 Shivaharkaray, a little distance from Sukkur Station from Karachi, Pakistan Eyes Mahishmardini Krodhish
4 Sugandha, situated in Shikarpur, Gournadi, about 20 km from Barisal town, Bangladesh, on the banks of Sonda river. Nose Sugandha Trayambak
5 Amarnath in Kashmir, India from Srinagar through Pahalgam 94 km by Bus, Chandanwari 16 km by walk Throat Mahamaya Trisandhyeshwar
6 Jwalamukhi, Kangra, India from Pathankot alight at Jwalamukhi Road Station from there 20 km Tongue Siddhida (Ambika) Unmatta Bhairav
7 Ambaji, at Anart, Gujarat, India Heart Ambaji
8 Nepal, near Pashupatinath Temple at Guhyeshwari Temple Both knees Mahashira Kapali
9 Manas, under Tibet at the foot of Mount Kailash in Lake Mansarovar, a piece of Stone Right hand Dakshayani Amar
10 Bardhaman in West Bengal, India Navel Mata Sarbamangala Devi Bhagwan Shiv/Mahadev
11 Gandaki in Pokhara, Nepal about 125 km on the banks of Gandaki river where Muktinath temple is situated Temple Gandaki Chandi Chakrapani
12 Bahula, on the banks of Ajay river at Ketugram, 8 km from Katwa, Burdwan, West Bengal, India Left arm Goddess Bahula Bhiruk
13 Ujaani, 16 km from Guskara station under Burdwan district of West Bengal, India Right wrist Mangal Chandika Kapilambar
14 Udaipur, Tripura, at the top of the hills known as Tripura Sundari temple near Radhakishorepur village, a little distance away from Udaipur town of Tripura, India Right leg Tripura Sundari Tripuresh
15 On Chandranath hill near Sitakunda station of Chittagong District, Bangladesh. The famous Chandranath Temple on the top of the hill is the Bhairav temple of this Shakti Peetha, not the Shakti Peeth itself. Right arm Bhawani Chandrashekhar
16 Locally known as Bhramari Devi. Behind a rice mill, near Jalpesh Temple in Jalpaiguri, West Bengal, India. Left leg Bhraamari Ambar
17 Kamgiri, Kamakhya, in the Neelachal hills near Guwahati, capital of Assam, India Genitals Kamakhya Umanand
18 yoga adya at Khirgram under Burdwan district, West Bengal, India Big Toe (Right) Jugaadya Ksheer Khandak
19 Kalipeeth, (Kalighat, Kolkata), India Right Toes Kalika Nakuleshwar
20 Prayag near Sangam at Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, India Finger Alopi Devi Mandir or Madhaveswari Bhava
21 Jayanti at Nartiang village in the Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya state, India. This Shakti Peetha is locally known as the Nartiang Durga Temple. Left thigh Jayanti Kramadishwar
22 Kireet at Kireetkona village, 3 km from Lalbag Court Road station under district Murshidabad, West Bengal, India Crown Vimla Sanwart
23 Varanasi at Manikarnika Ghat on banks of the Ganges at Kashi, Uttar Pradesh, India Earring Vishalakshi & Manikarni Kalbhairav
24 Kanyashram, Kanyakumari the Bhadrakali temple within the precincts of Kumari temple, Tamil Nadu, India (also thought to be situated in Chittagong, Bangladesh) Back Sarvani Nimish
25 Present day Kurukshetra town or Thanesar ancient Sthaneshwar, at Haryana, India Ankle bone Savitri/BhadraKali Sthanu
26 Manibandh, at Gayatri hills near Pushkar 11 km north-west of Ajmer, Rajasthan, India Two Bracelets Gayatri Sarvanand
27 Shri Shail, at Joinpur village, Dakshin Surma, near Gotatikar, 3 km north-east of Sylhet town, Bangladesh Neck Mahalaxmi Sambaranand
28 Kankalitala, on the banks of Kopai River 10 km north-east of Bolpur station in Birbhum district, Devi locally known as Kankaleshwari West Bengal, India Bone Devgarbha Ruru
29 Kalmadhav on the banks of Shon river in a cave over hills near to Amarkantak, Madhya Pradesh, India Left buttock Kali Asitang
30 Shondesh, at the source point of Narmada River in Amarkantak, Madhya Pradesh, India Right buttock Narmada Bhadrasen
31 Ramgiri, at Chitrakuta on the Jhansi Manikpur railway line in Uttar Pradesh, India Right breast Shivani Chanda
32 Vrindavan, near new bus stand on Bhuteshwar road within Bhuteshwar Mahadev Temple, Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh, India Ringlets of hair Uma Bhutesh
33 Shuchi, in a Shiva temple at Suchindrum 11 km on Kanyakumari Trivandrum road, Tamil Nadu, India Upper teeth Narayani Sanhar
34 Panchsagar exact location not known (thought to be near Haridwar) Bottom teeth Varahi Maharudra
35 Bhavanipur union, at Karatoyatat, 28 km distance from interior Sherpur upazila, Bogra District, Bangladesh Left anklet (ornament) Arpana Vaman
36 Shri Parvat, near Ladak, Kashmir, India. Another belief: at Srisailam in Shriparvat hills under Kurnool district, Andhra Pradesh, India Right anklet (ornament) Shrisundari Sundaranand
37 Vibhash, at Tamluk under district Purba Medinipur, West Bengal, India Left ankle Kapalini (Bhimarupa) Sarvanand
38 Prabhas, 4 km from Veraval station near Somnath temple in Junagadh district of Gujarat, India Stomach Chandrabhaga Vakratund
39 Bhairavparvat, at Bhairav hills on the banks of Shipra river a little distance from Ujjaini town, Madhya Pradesh, India Upper lips Avanti Lambkarna
40 Goddess Saptashrungi (Goddess with 18 arms)]], at Vani in Nasik, Maharashtra, India Chin (2 parts) Bhramari Vikritaksh
41 Sarvashail or Godavaritir, at Kotilingeswar temple on the banks of Godavari river near Rajamundry, Andhra Pradesh, India Cheeks Rakini or Vishweshwari Vatsnabh or Dandpani
42 Virat, near Bharatpur, Rajasthan, India Left toes Ambika Amriteshwar
43 Locally known as Anandamayee Temple. Ratnavali, on the banks of Ratnakar river at Khanakul-Krishnanagar, district Hooghly, West Bengal, India Right Shoulder Kumari Shiva
44 Mithila, near Janakpur railway station on the border of India and Nepal Left shoulder Uma Mahodar
45 Nalhati, known as "Nalateshwari Temple" near Nalhati station of Birbhum district, West Bengal, India Vocal chord with part of the tracheae Kalika Devi Yogesh
46 Karnat, Kangra, himachalpradesh. Both ears Jayadurga Abhiru
47 Bakreshwar, on the banks of Paaphara river, 24 km distance from Siuri Town, district Birbhum, 7 km from Dubrajpur Rly. Station West Bengal, India Portion between the eyebrows Mahishmardini Vakranath
48 Jessoreswari, situated at Ishwaripur, Shyamnagar, district Satkhira, Bangladesh. The temple complex was built by Maharaja Pratapaditya, whose capital was Ishwaripur. Palms of hands and soles of the feet Jashoreshwari Chanda
49 Attahas village of Dakshindihi in the district of Bardhaman, near the Katwa railway station, in West Bengal, India Lips Phullara Vishvesh
50 Sainthia, locally Known as "Nandikeshwari" temple. Only 1.5 km from the railway station under a banyan tree within a boundary wall, Birbhum district, West Bengal, India Necklace Nandini Nandikeshwar
51 Hinglaj (Or Hingula), southern Baluchistan a few hours North-east of Gawadar and about 125 km towards North-west from Karachi, Pakistan Bramharandhra (Part of the head) Kottari Bhimlochan
52 Danestwari (Kuldevi Of Bastar state ), Dantewada 80 km from Jagdalpur Tehsil, Chhattisgarh Daant (teeth) Danteshwari Kapalbhairv
53 Vajreshwari , Kangra 18 km from Dharamshala Tehsil, Kangra left Breast (teeth) Vajreshwari Kalbhairv
53 [Padmavati Devi] (Padmavatipuri Dham), Panns 80 km from Satna Madhya Pradesh Padm Padmavati Devi Kapalbhairav
54 Tarapith, on the banks of Dwarka river, about 6 km from Rampurhat sub-division, Birbhum district, West Bengal, India Third eye or spiritual eye (Tara)
55 Chandika Sthan or chandisthan, at Munger temple on the banks of Ganges near Ganga Darshan, Bihar, India Left eye Chandika or Chandi devi Bholeshankar
56 Patan Devi , at Patna near Magadh, Bihar, India right thigh Badi Patan Devi/chhoti Patan Devi Bhairav
  • Chandi Mandir in (near Memari Rail station) Memari, Bardhaman, Westbengal, Fullara in Birbhum district are also considered to be a shakti peetha.[5]
  • Naina Devi Temple. Nainadevi in Himachal Pradesh (Bilaspur) is also considered a shakti peetha, where Sati's eyes fell.
  • Sharda Devi Temple at Maihar near Satna Dist.Satna is also considered a shakti peeth where the necklace of Sati fell.
  • Bhadrakali Temple in holy city Kurukshetra(Haryana)is also considered as one of the 51 holy Shakti peethas.The temple is dedicated to Bhadrakali a form of shakti. This is considered to be one of the fifty one Shakti pithas of India. It is believed that the right ankle of Sati fell here in the well. The "consort of Savtri is called Sthanu". Hence, the city is called "Staneshwar" meaning abode of Shiva. It is believed that the mundun (hair removing) ceremony of Srikrishna and Balarama was also performed in this temple.[6]
  • Mahakali temple at Pavagadh near Vadodara in Gujarat is also consdiered shakti peeth where a part of Sati's breast is said to be fallen.[7]

Historical notes

First relating to Brahmanda Purana, one of the major eighteen Puranas, it mentions 64 Shakthi Peetha of Goddess Parvati in the Bharat or Greater India including present day India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Another text which gives a listing of these shrines, is the Shakthi Peetha Stotram, written by Adi Shankara, the 9th century Hindu philosopher.[8]

According to the manuscript Mahapithapurana (circa 1690-1720 CE), there are 52 such places. Among them, 23 are located in the Bengal region, 14 of these are located in what is now West Bengal, India, 1 in Baster (Chattisgarh), while 7 are in what is now Bangladesh.

Rishi Markandeya composed the 'Devi Saptashati' or the seven hundred hymns extolling the virtues of the Divine Goddess at the shaktipeetha in Nashik. The idol is also leaning a little to the left to listen to the sages composition. The Saptashati or the "Durga Stuti" forms an integral part in the vedic form of Shakti worship.

Preserving the mortal relics of famous and respected individuals was a common practice in ancient India - seen in the Buddhist stupas which preserve the relics of Gautama Buddha. It is believed by some that these 64 peethas preserve the remains of some ancient female sage from whom the legend of Kali could have emerged and then merged with the Purusha - Prakriti (Shiva Shakti) model of Hindu thought.

18 Maha Shakti Pithas

The modern cities or towns that correspond to these 64 locations can be a matter of dispute, but there are a few that are totally unambiguous, these are mentioned in the Ashta Dasa Shakthi Peetha Stotram by Adi Shankara.[9] This list contains 18 such locations which are often referred to as Maha Shakthi Peeths.[10]

Sr. No. Place Part of the body fallen Name of Shakti
1 Trincomalee (Sri Lanka) Groin Shankari devi
2 Kanchi (Tamil Nadu) Back part Kamakshi Devi
3 Pradyumna* (West Bengal) Stomach part Srunkhala devi
4 Mysore (Karnataka) Hair Chamundeshwari devi
5 Alampur (Andhra Pradesh) Upper teeth Jogulamba devi
6 Srisailam (Andhra Pradesh) Neck part Bhramaramba devi
7 Kolhapur (Maharastra) Eyes Mahalakshmi devi[11]
8 Nanded (Maharastra) Right hand Ekaveerika devi
9 Ujjain (Madhya Pradesh) Upper lip Mahakali devi
10 Pithapuram (Andhra Pradesh) Left hand Puruhutika devi
11 Purnagiri Temple,Tanakpur State Uttrakhand India]) Navel Purnagiri temple Tanakpur ,Uttrakhand India
12 Draksharamam (Andhra Pradesh) Left cheek Manikyamba devi
13 Guwahati (Assam) Vulva Kamarupa devi
14 Prayaga (Uttar Pradesh) Fingers Lalita devi
15 Katra, Jammu and Kashmir Head part Vaishnavi devi
16 Gaya (Bihar) Breast part Sarvamangala devi
17 Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh) Wrist Vishalakshi devi
18 Kashmir* Right hand Saraswathi devi

[*]This temple is currently non-existent. Only ruins are found in these places. Instead, Sringeri in Karnataka is believed to be the Shakti Peeth of this aspect of the goddess.

Among these, the Shakti Peethas at Kamakhya, Gaya and Ujjain are regarded as most sacred as they symbolise three most important aspects of mother Goddess viz. Creation (Kamarupa Devi), Nourishment (Sarvamangala Devi/Mangalagauri) and Annihilation (Mahakali Devi).

When observed carefully one can see that they lie in a perfect straight line from Kamakhya to Ujjain via Gaya symbolizing that every creation in this universe will annihilate one day without fail.



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