Kunjapuri Devi Temple, Rishikesh
April 17, 2008
Kunjapuri Devi temple is considered as one of the 52 Shaktipeeth / Shaktipeetha/ Shaktipeetham of our divine Mother. Shakti denotes power. To understand the meaning and significance of Shaktipeeth, let us go back to our Puranas (Hindu scriptures).
Goddess Parvati is the consort of Lord Shiva. In her previous birth, Goddess Parvati was known as Sati. She had married the Lord but her father King Daksha was not too pleased. He had organized a Yagna, a spiritual gathering where offerings are made to Agni Dev (Fire God). He had purposely not invited his daughter and her husband. When Sati came to know of this, she was furious and decided to go uninvited. Lord Shiva tried to persuade her to drop this idea but she was relentless.
King Daksha gave his reasons to Sati which was nothing but public humiliation of her husband. Angered by this, Sati jumped into the sacrificial fire and ended her life. Lord Shiva was torn apart. He destroyed and created havoc at the Yagna. Then carried the remains of Sati’s body on his shoulder and danced the dance of destruction-Tandav which would eventually destroy the Universe. While other versions state that in grief, the Lord carried her body on his shoulders and walked aimlessly in grief. He refused to complete the final rites.
Lord Brahma, the creator of the universe felt that if Sati’s body did not receive proper cremation according to the Hindu Shastra’s then she could not take rebirth as Goddess Parvati. While Lord Vishnu was concerned that Lord Shiva’s grief would slowly cause the destruction of the Universe. They could not control or face Lord Shiva’s anger so Lord Vishnu took his Sudarshan Chakra (Disc) and cut the body into pieces. As Lord Shiva traveled her body part fell and last rites were done by the gods. The places where divine Mother’s body parts fell is known as Shaktipeeth. Temples have been built around it and worshipped daily. People travel across continents to seek blessings of Shakti.We have been very fortunate to seek blessings from one such Shaktipeeth located in Rishikesh where divine Mother’s chest had fallen. This Kunjapuri temple is located on a hillock, 15 kms from the main city.
The temple was accessible by road. The drive was more of a rollercoaster ride as the roads are very steep and winding. The parking area was lined with shops selling offerings for worship, Puja Samagri. We bought our Puja thali and energetically headed to the temple.
A flight of around eighty steps took us to the main entrance. This was decorated with freshly painted lion and elephant busts on either side. The lion is the mount of the Goddess. At the centre of the courtyard was the main temple. A large idol of Lord Shiva was located next to this along with idols of other deities. Bordering the courtyard, there were small rooms where the temple priestess and caretaker lived.
We were first to arrive and waited patiently, taking in the pious ambience for the temple to open. The morning bells chimed and the doors finally opened and we were so close to divinity. Inside, there were idols of Lord Ganesh, Lord Shiva’s linga/lingam and a part of the Goddess. We handed our Puja thali to the priestess. The offerings consisted of incense sticks, red chunari (veil), coconut, rice puffs, Elachi dana, (sugar drops) and Kumkum (vermillion).
The best time to arrive at the temple is before sunrise. The location is extremely picturesque as it is situated on a mountain top surrounded by forests on all sides. The chirping birds, buzzing insects and the gentle rustle of trees were an indication that something was about to happen. And truly, within few seconds, the sky changed its hue. The bluish grey sky cleared its path so that we could get the first glimpse of Surya Dev, Sun God.
On our way back to the main city, we came across a palatial building. It was majestic with well maintained gardens and a touch of elegance. On enquiry we found out it was called Ananda, a spa retreat. It is renowned for its various Ayurvedic treatments and holistic approach in purifying the mind and body.
Journeys in life teach many lessons. It is therefore important to choose your destination wisely.
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