What can a mortal mind know of the glories of Goddess, when even saints and gods fail in their eloquence to compose hymns worthy of her? After all, Goddess is the energy that births, nurtures and destroys form and essence of everything, manifest and unmanifest. Devbhoomi is blessed to contain in her green mantle many sacred shrines dedicated to Shakti.
Legend Behind Shakti Peeths:
One keeps coming across the underlying legend of Shiva and Sati in the mythology associated with many temples. Instead of iterating the same under each temple, we will begin by dwelling our minds upon the very sacred tale. Goddess Sati, overcome by the humiliation she felt upon being dishonored at her father Daksha’s yagna, immolated herself in its sacred pyre. Lord Shiva went mad with grief hearing about his beloved wife’s untimely death. He killed Daksha only to restore him back to life later after having forgiven his audacious pride that lead to the event. But the Lord persisted on carrying Goddess Sati’s dead body and dancing his intense grief across the realms of the Universe. Lord Vishnu had to cut her body into pieces such that the universe is freed of the forces of destruction unleashed due to Shiva Tandava. Every place in which Maa Sati’s body organs fell was imbued with her Shakti, the sacrifice of the Divine Feminine to instill the earth with Her very essence was commemorated by building a temple in the very site. These sites reverberating with Shakti’s primordial vibrations are called as Shakti Peethas.
Let us provide a comprehensive list of the all the major Devi temples in Uttarakhand so that the next time your pilgrim self urges you to visit a Devi temple, you will know where to head.
01. Naina Devi Temple, Nainital
Being seen is one of human soul’s most primal needs. What better gift can it be given than the gift of being seen by Devi herself whose motherly vision embraces the whole of one’s self, everything that is dark and light and in-between? It is said Goddess Sati’s eyes fell over this site, and Devi is venerated here for the Shakti of her eyes.
Naina Devi temple is located adjacent to the beautiful Nainital Lake which adorns the popular tourist destination of Nainital. What can one say of the beauty of the eyes of Goddess, who is the embodiment of feminine beauty? And wouldn’t the land divinely selected to worship Her ‘Naina’ be equally blessed by the hues of natural beauty. In fact, the verdant mountains whose foothills contains the Shakti peeth along with the serene waters of Nainital lake prepares such a visually pleasing and spiritually conducive atmosphere that it is difficult to describe its effect upon one’s senses and heart.
The temple’s annual festival celebrated on Bhadrapada Shukla Ashtami attracts thousands of devout to assemble in the sacred premises of the city and pay homage to Mother.
02. Mansa Devi Temple, Haridwar
Mansa Devi is said to have emerged from Lord Shiva’s mind. Hundreds of pilgrims visit the holy temple everyday owing to it being a popular Siddha Peeth. It is believed that one’s sincere wishes are granted if offered fully to Mansa Devi. Thus, devotees practice a ritual of tying a sacred thread around one of the temples within the temple sacred ground.
Mansa Devi temple is perched upon the Bilwa Mountain in Haridwar city. In fact, this temple forms one of the Panch Teerths one is supposed to pay homage at while visiting Haridwar. Reaching the temple needed tremendous physical exertion in the past with one having to climb uphill to receive her Darshan. With the introduction of cable ropeway or udan khatola services, one can fly above Haridwar city and pay obeisance to her without much ado.
Once you are inside the temple premises, you will come across two idols worshipped prominently, one form of the Devi with eight arms while another is a three headed entity with five arms.
03. Chandi Devi Temple, Haridwar
It is said that the duo of Mansa Devi and Chandi Devi always occur together. Thus, quite next to the abode of Mansa Devi, one finds the sacred shrine of Chandi Devi at Neel Parvat in Haridwar. Chandi Devi temple forms another prominent shrine in the Panch teerth within Haridwar.
The enshrinement of the deity is credited to Adi Shankaracharya in the eighth century, but the construction of its present architectural template occurred in 1929 by the King of Kashmir Such at Singh.
The temple’s folklore cites it to be the site where Goddess rested after having killed the demons Shumbha and Nishumbha in a bloody war. In fact, Devi Parvati ventured into the battle as an answer to prayers for annihilation of the demons to save the cosmos from their brutality.
The temple is also accessible by cable ropeway service or udan khatola. The premises of this ancient temple gifts one the most enchanting views of Haridwar from the mountaintop.
04. Maya Devi Temple, Haridwar
Did you know that the city of Haridwar was previously named as Mayapuri after Maya Devi, its Adisthatri deity? With the visit of this temple, one culminates worshipping at all the three siddha peeth within Haridwar city. Also, it forms the third in the Panch Tirth in Haridwar. Khushawart and Har Ki Pauri are the other two in the conglomerate of five pilgrimage sites.
It is believed that the temple marks the site at which Goddess Sati’s heart and navel fell. Devi is worshipped here in a corporeal form with three heads and four arms. One can trace the historical dates of its construction to eleventh century. In fact, Maya Devi temple along with Bhairav Temple and Narayan Shila forms the trio of the oldest historical monuments in this sacred city. Along with Maya Devi, Goddess Kali and Kamakhya are worshipped in the inner shrine.
05. Yamunotri Temple, Uttarakhand
The acclaimed Char Dham Yatra begins with one visiting the shrine dedicated to Yamuna River at Yamunotri. In fact, the temple is built very close to the River’s actual geographical origin at the Champasar glacier. The adventurous lot among its visitors trek ahead of the temple to witness her marvelous source.
Yamunotri temple is one of the most difficult to complete in the entire char dham Yatra circuit with its perilous uphill trek of 6.5 km from Jankichatti. But the fatigue and exhaustion of the journey gets washed away as one sees the miraculously clear water of Yamuna at her origins.
06. Gangotri Temple, Uttarakhand
The second to be finished in the Char Dham Yatra shrines; Gangotri Temple is built to celebrate the sanctity of the River near the region of her actual physical origins at Gaumukh glacier. In fact, it is Bhagirathi, the river’s principal tributary that originates at Gangotri. As per myths, King Bhagirath engaged in rigorous penances to free his ancestors from the clutches of a certain curse that befell upon them that rendered their ascent to salvation impossible. As an answer to his prayers, the heavenly river Ganga agreed to descend upon earth, the purity of her waters an antidote for one’s karmic sins.
The Gangotri shrine is a mere 4 km drive from Uttarkashi. It falls second in the shrines to be visited as per char dham Yatra.
07. Dhari Devi Temple, Rudraprayag
Did you know that Dhari Devi is considered to be the guardian deity of the entire state of Uttarakhand? Also, she is evoked as the supreme protector of Char Dham pilgrimage trail. The temple here celebrates the fierce form of Shakti’s upper half as Dhari Devi, while her lower half is venerated as Kali at Kalimath. An interesting feature is that the temple’s deity undergoes transformation from a young girl to an old woman in the course of a single day, reflecting, perhaps, the impermanent nature of material reality.
This venerated Shakti peeth is located on the beautiful banks of River Alaknanda. The mighty flow of the river reflects the fiery Goddess’ Shakti too. Since it falls en route to Badrinath, on the Rudraprayag- Srinagar road, pilgrims of Char Dham offer their humblest obeisance before the Mother before they continue further.
08. Kalimath, Rudraprayag
The lower half of the Devi worshipped as Dhari Devi is said to be contained in the sacred shrine at Kalimath. In fact, Kali is worshipped as her Sri Yantra and not an idol in the temple. This is one of the rare, and probably the only shrine that worships Goddess Lakshmi and Goddess Saraswati together with Maa Kali. The village of Kalimath falls between Guptakashi and Ukhimath. In fact, the village is said to have been the birthplace of the famous Sanskrit poet Kalidas.
Kalimath temple is both a siddha peeth and a Shakti Peeth. This is a must-visit site for any pilgrim wishing to commune with Shakti.
09. Surkanda Devi Temple, Dhanaulti
One cannot afford to miss breathing in the sacred air of Surkanda Devi Temple if one is visiting Dhanaulti hill station. The temple can be reached only after walking for about 3 km from Kadukkai, the nearby village. The temple marks the place at which Goddess Sati’s head fell. The site reverberates with intense spiritual magnetism. Combine this with the aesthetic wonder the hills and the dense forests prepare in this sacred site and one finds the perfect indulgence for one’s senses and spiritual heart at Surkanda Temple. The stunning views of neighboring Himalayan vales and peaks the hilltop offers is such a delight.
10. Chandrabadani Devi Temple, Tehri Garhwal
The temple of Chandrabadani Devi is situated upon the majestic mountain Chandrabadani. Temple’s legend cites the shrine to have been where Goddess Sati’s torso fell. Even the many tridents scattered all over the place is attributed to them having been her weapons. The panoramic views of the nearby mountains of Badrinath, Kedarnath and Surkanda the mountaintop offers is so endearingly beautiful one would hardly want to leave the heavenly site. The temple is also noted for its not having an idol as the centre of worship, instead the revered Shri Yantra is worshipped. In order to reach the temple, one needs to travel till Jamnikhal which is a 31 km drive from Devprayag. An additional drive of 7 km plus an uphill 1 km trek and one enters the holy premises of Chandrabadani Temple.
11. Gaurikund Temple, Gaurikund
The trek towards Kedarnath during Char Dham pilgrimage begins from Gaurikund. This is the sacred soil that saw the transfiguration of Uma from a human maiden infatuated with her Beloved to Goddess Parvati, awakened embodiment of Shakti Herself. In fact, the rigorous ascetic penances the Goddess undertook to engender this metamorphosis is supposed to have taken place at its sacred pond Gaurikund after which the entire village is named. There is a cave temple dedicated to Devi nearby. Another legend associated with the sacred shrine is that this is where Devi Parvati created Lord Ganesha out of soap bubbles from her body. Can a place get any holier than this?
12. Kasar Devi Temple, Almora
A village near Almora has been a source of fascination for eclectic, spiritual and creative spirits for many decades. The village called as Kasar Devi has a temple dedicated to Devi whose historical dates go back to 2nd century CE. Swami Vivekananda, Walter Evans-Wentz (author of “The Tibetan Book of the Dead”), Beat Poets, Anandamayi Ma, Timothy Leary, D H Lawrence and multitude of Hippie artists are some of its highly acclaimed visitors who sought the place for its spiritual magnetic vibration. We are not even being metaphorical here; even NASA researches have concluded that the temple falling under the Van Allen Belt causes it to inspire an intense geomagnetic field. Meditators frequently report experiencing altered states of spiritual consciousness easily when they meditate at Kasar Devi. In fact, Kasar Devi temple even has a meditation room attached to it!
13. Anusuya Devi Temple, Chamoli
The beautiful Anasuya Devi Temple and Atri muni ashram is located at a distance of 12 km from the town of Gopeshwar. The Temple stands engulfed in dense verdant forests. A beautiful waterfall is located nearby too. This temple is devoted to Anasuya Devi, the tales of whose satitva and pativratya made even Goddesses envious. In fact, legend goes that they sent their respective husbands to lure her away from her devotion towards husband. Anusuya Devi on being requested by the trinity disguised as saints to being served food half-nude, converted the trio into small babies, using the supernatural powers earned of intense spiritual devotion, whom she could feed as a Mother. Well, the Goddesses had to request Anasuya Devi to help them regain their husbands as adult masculine figures to which she agreed after being given the boon to mother Dattatreya, the saint-avatar of Trimurti- Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesh.
14. Nanda Devi Temple, Munsiyari
Nature itself is Her grandest temple. One recognizes this while visiting the rather austere temple built in the enchanting hill station of Munsiyari. The breathtaking beauty of the Panchpaoli peaks, Gori Ganga etc. from the mountain top upon which the temple is built truly ascends one’s heart to heaven. Enjoy Her Darshan in the temple’s shrine, in every ‘thing of beauty’ she gifts for you to behold!
15. Jhula Devi Temple, Ranikhet
One will be mesmerized to see the thousands of bells adorning the small temple dedicated to Goddess Durga at Jhula Devi Temple. The bells have been tied by devotees whose wishes have been fulfilled after their being offered to Devi. It is said that the region in which it is built was once occupied by predator animals. An interesting legend surrounds its conception too. Devi Durga granted swapna Darshan to a villager and asked him to excavate Durga’s idol from a certain spot. A temple was thereby built to worship the excavated temple. Maa reigns as the Protector of everyone who seeks refuge in Her in Jhula Devi Temple.