Sati Pithas of Bengal

Sati Pithas of Bengal is a significant topic to be discussed on the auspicious day of Kali Puja. Kali embodies and is the epitome of Shakti, feminine energy and strength: creativity, fertility, destruction and death. She is worshipped as the ultimate destroyer of evil. Kali or Shyama meaning ‘black’ is called so because she is presented as the dark coloured goddess, in a ruthless form, driving away all evil. She stands on her consort, Lord Shiva; with her tongue out as a gesture of consciousness. She is one of the major Tantric goddesses. 17 out of 52 Sati Pithas or Shakti Pithas are present in West Bengal itself. The shakti worshippers celebrate Kali Puja with great devotion. Some worship at their homes and there are numerous public pujas and celebrations too. Some people fast till the puja is over. All the Sati Pithas of Bengal and the important Kali temples ooze out with devotees from all over the nation.

Kali Pujo and Diwali

In Bengal, Kali Puja is the second largest festival after Durga Puja. Kali Puja is celebrated on the new moon night (Dipannita Amavasya) in the month of Kartika by the Hindu calendar (October/November). Generally, the day coincides with Diwali, the festival of lights. Diwali is celebrated to commemorate the victory of good over evil. It is believed that on this day Rama, the King of Ayodhya, returned to his kingdom after 14 years of exile after fighting and winning battles against demons and their king, Ravana. It is a festival of light. Lamps and candles are lit in the houses and the cities glisten with lighting. Fire crackers are burst. However, people are minimalizing and using almost no crackers at all, to reduce pollution. This year definitely, the scale of celebrations needs to be as low as it had been last year, due to covid. On Diwali Lakshmi Puja is done almost all over India, while Bengal celebrates Kali Puja.

Sati Pithas of Bengal Influencing Bengal’s Kali Puja

The presence of numerous Sati Pithas of Bengal definitely influences the spirit of Bengal’s Kali Puja. In the ancient times, Kali Puja was performed mainly by the tantric cult and the dacoits of Bengal. Today’s style and culture of celebrating Kali Puja is not age old. It was introduced in Bengal by Raja Krishnachandra, the king of Krishnanagar (presently a town of Nadia district in West Bengal) in the 18th century. Kali Puja gained popularity in the 19th century, with Krishanachandra’s grandson Ishwarchandra and other Bengali elite families. The zamindars began patronizing the festival on a grand scale. Saints like Sri Ramakrishna and Sadhak Bamakhepa and devotee poets like Ramprasad and Kamalakanta have also instilled the faith strongly amidst the common people. Besides Sati Pithas of Bengal Dakshineswar Kali Temple at Kolkata needs a special mention. Ramakrishna Paramhansha, Swami Vivekananda’s Guru/teacher was a devotee and worshipper of the goddess at the temple. People worship him as an incarnate.

The Mythology behind Sati Pithas

Sati Pithas are extremely significant temples devoted to Devi Sati. These shrines are of prime importance to both Shaktism and Shaivism. Devi Sati gives up her life as her father insults her husband, Shiva. After her death, out of grief and anger, Lord Shiva carries the dead body on his shoulder and danced around (tandava) fiercely. Lord Vishnu, in his attempt to calm Lord Shiva down, used his Sudarshan Chakra, to cut the body of Devi Sati in parts. Parts of the body and her jewellery fell on the earth and these places became sacred sites of the goddess. Thereby, significant Shiva shrines also appear as Devi’s Bhairav, in these places. The Sati pithas are present even outside India; in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Tibet (China) and Bhutan. Out of these 17 are in Indian state of West Bengal itself and some of them are enormously popular.

Sati Pithas in Bengal: Birbhum District

Major concentration of Sati Pithas in Bengal; 6 out of 17; are present in Birbhum district.
Attahas Temple in Labhpur, Birbhum District, is one of the 52 Sati Pithas. It is believed that Devi Sati’s lips had fallen.

Kankalitala at Prantik, 10 km from Shantiniketan, Bolpur, is a Sati Pitha as it is believed that Devi Sati’s ribs/pelvis had fallen here. The fall created a depression which got filled up by water after rains from the heavens and the pond is considered a sacred kund. The temple is on a sprawling ground. It is serene.

Nandikeshwari Temple in Sainthia is the site where Devi’s necklace seems to have fallen.

Nalhateshwari Temple is also in Birbhum district and is sacred as it is believed that Devi Sati’s throat (nali) fell here.

Mahishmardini Bakreshwar Temple in Dubrajpur, Saithia, is one of most visited Sati Pithas of Bengal. The Shakti pitha as well as the Shiva temple are extremely popular. It is said that Devi Sati’s eyebrows had fallen in this place. Bakreswar is also popular for its hot springs. They are very well maintained and are enjoyable to dip into, even for non-religious tourists.

The final Sati Pitha of Birbhum is the temple of Tarapith. It is one of the most popular temples of India. Sadhak (Sage) Bamakhepa worshiped here. Sage Basistha attained moksha under a simul tree in the samshan (crematorium) beside River Dwaraka. The Mahasamshan is also visited by devotees. This place is enormously vibrant, an energy field experienced by many in such manner that they keep returning. It is believed that the goddess’s third eye fell here.

Sati Pithas in Bengal: Bardhaman and Hooghly

Out of the 17 Sati Pithas of Bengal, Bardhaman and Hooghly districts have 3 and 2 Sathi Pithas respectively.

Bahula, on the bank of Ajay River, at Ketugram, 8 km from Katwa, Purba Bardhaman, is the temple which is believed to be the site where Devi’s left arm had fallen. As ‘bahu’ means ‘arm’, the shrine is called Bahula Devi.

It is believed that the right wrist of the Devi had fallen at the site of Ujani Mangal Chandi Shakti Pitha Temple at Mangalkote, Guskura, Bardhaman.

Jogadya at  Kshirgram, an ancient village under Mongalkote Police Station in Bardhaman District, is another Sati Peetha of Bengal which has its reference in Ramayana too. The right great toe of Devi Sati had fallen at this site.

Coming to the Sati Pithas in Hooghly District, the Shrinkala Temple at Pandua is almost in ruins and is maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. Part of Devi Sati’s stomach is believed to have fallen here. Next comes the Ratnavali Temple by the Ratnakar River at Ghanteshwar, near Khanakul, Krishna Nagar of Hooghly District. Devi Sati’s right shoulder is believed to have fallen here.

Sati Pithas in Bengal: Other Districts

Kiriteshwari Temple at Murshidabad District’s Kiritikona Village is a sacred shrine as it is believed that Devi’s crown had fallen here.

Jalpaiguri’s Gajoldoba is famous for Bhramari Devi Temple at Boda Village. Devi Sati’s left leg fell here during the tandava. Set amidst the forests of Dooars, at the foothills of Himalaya, the location is extremely serene. Gajoldoba is also famous for the scenic Teestha Barrage reservoir and Pakhibitan Sanctuary.

Kapalini (Bhimarupa) Shaktipeeth Maa Bargabhima Temple at Tamluk, Puba Medinipur, is an ancient temple, where Devi’s left ankle is said to have fallen.

Juranpur Temple in Nadia is a small but significant one. It is the site where Devi Sati’s forehead had fallen.

Ma Melai Chandi Temple at Amta, Uluberia in Howrah District is another of the Sati Pithas of Bengal. It is here that Devi’s left knee is said to have fallen.

Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal, is blessed to have the most prominent of the Sati Pithas of Bengal. In fact, the Kalighat Temple, is India’s one of the most popular temples. Devi Sati’s left little finger had fallen here. The temple stands beside Adi Ganga which meets the River Hooghly.

Why is Kali Puja so significant to me?

Kali Puja is symbolic or metaphoric in many ways. It is celebration of rustic womanhood to the core. Kali Puja is the festival of light. Hence it is a reminder that we can be each other’s light. This Kali Puja let’s promise to light up lives. Kali Puja happens on a new moon night implying infinity of the universe and beyond. It marks our journey from darkness of ignorance towards enlightenment and wisdom like the lunar cycle of new moon to full moon. Tamaso Ma jyotir gamaya….
Dipannita Bhattacherya

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