Shakti peeth

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The Shakti Peeth are significant pilgrimage sites in Shaktism, the goddess-focused Hindu tradition. They feature Shakti temples and attract Shakta devotees. There are 51 or 108 Shakti peethas by various accounts, of which between 4 to 18 are named as Maha (major) in medieval Hindu texts. Most of these historic places of goddess worship are in India, but some are in Nepal, Bangladesh, and one each in Tibet (Mansarovar), Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

Various legends explain how the Shakti peetha came into existence. The most popular are based on the story of the death of goddess Sati, the grief and crying by her husband god Shiva who held her dead body, then started his dance of destruction, causing Sati’s body to disintegrate and fall into pieces. The sites where these portions of Sati goddess fell are the Shakti peetha.

Legend

Lord Brahma performed a yajna (Vedic ritual of fire sacrifice) to please Shakti and Shiva. Goddess Shakti emerged, separating from Shiva and helped Brahma in the creation of the universe. Brahma decided to give Shakti back to Shiva. Therefore, his son Daksha performed several yagnas to obtain Shakti as his 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 Brahma that his fifth head was cut off due to his lie in front of Shiva, Daksha started hating Lord Shiva and decided not to let Lord Shiva and Sati get married. However, Sati got attracted to Shiva and finally one day Shiva and Sati got married. This marriage only increased Daksha’s hatred towards Lord Shiva.

Daksha performed a yagna with a desire to take revenge on Lord Shiva near Munimandala present Muramalla Andhra Pradesh. Daksha invited all the deities to the yajna except Lord Shiva and Sati. The fact that she was not invited did not deter Sati from attending the yagna. She expressed her desire to attend the yagna to Shiva, who tried his best to dissuade her from going. Shiva eventually relented and Sati went to the yagna. Sati, being an uninvited guest, was not given any respect at the yagna. Furthermore, Daksha insulted Shiva. Sati was unable to bear her father’s insults toward her husband, so she immolated herself.

Enraged at the insult and the injury, Shiva in Virabhadra avatar destroyed Daksha’s yagna, cut off Daksha’s head, and later replaced it with that of a male goat as he restored him to life.Virabhadra didn’t stop fighting he kept raging with anger. Gods prayed to lord Vishnu. He came there and started fighting him. 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 Sati’s corpse. 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 her consort, Lord Bhairava (a manifestation of Lord Shiva). Shakti is an aspect of the Supreme Being Adi parashakti, the mother of the Trimurti, the holy trinity in Hindu religion & scriptures.

Shakti’s self-immolation

The history of Daksha yagna and Shakti’s self-immolation had immense significance in shaping the ancient Sanskrit literature and even had an impact on the culture of India. It led to the development of the concept of Shakti Peethas and thereby strengthening Shaktism. Enormous stories in Puranas & other Hindu religious books took the Daksha yagna as the reason for its origin. It is an important incident in Shaivism resulting in the emergence of Shree Parvati in the place of Shakti Devi and making Shiva a grihastashrami (householder) leading to the origin of Ganapathy and Subrahmanya.

Shakti Peethas are shrines or divine places of the Mother Goddess. These are places that are believed to have enshrined with the presence of Shakti due to the falling of body parts of the corpse of Sati Devi when Lord Shiva carried it and wandered throughout Aryavartha in sorrow. There are 51 Shakti Peeth linking to the 51 alphabets in Sanskrit. Each temple has shrines for Shakti and Kalabhairava, and mostly Shakti and Kalabharava in different Shakti Peeth have different names.

Adi Shakti Peeth

“Shakti” refers to the Goddess worshiped at each location, all being manifestations of Dakshayani (Sati), Parvati or Durga

“Body Part or Ornament” refers to the body part or piece of jewelry that fell to earth, at the location on which the respective temple is built.

Apart from these 4 there are 51 other famous Peethas recognized by religious texts. According to the Pithanirnaya Tantra, the 51 peethas are scattered all over India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, and Pakistan. The Shivacharita besides listing 51 maha-peethas, speaks about 26 more upa-peethas. The Bengali almanac, Vishuddha Siddhanta Panjika too describes the 51 peethas including the present modified addresses. A few of the several accepted listings are given below. One of the few in South India, Srisailam in Andhra Pradesh became the site for a 2nd-century temple.

Shakti Peeth

“Shakti” refers to the Goddess worshiped at each location, all being manifestations of Dakshayani, Sati; later known as Parvati or Durga

Click here for the list of 55 Shakti Peeth

“Bhairava” refers to the corresponding consort, each a manifestation of Shiva

“Body Part or Ornament” refers to the body part or piece of jewelry that fell to earth, at the location on which the respective temple is built.

Maha Shakti Peeth

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. This list contains 18 such locations which are often referred to as Maha Shakthi Peeths.

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