Umananda Temple - Peacock Island Guwahati Assam

Umananda is another name for lord
Shiva and the temple of Umananda is situated in the peacock island on river
Brahmaputra. The temple on the island is on a small hillock called Bhasmachala.
As per the Mythology, Shiva resided here as Bhayananda. After imparting
knowledge to his consort Parvathi, Shiva sat for Tapas, but was disturbed by
Kamadeva. Angered by interruption, Shiva burnt Kamadeva into ashes. Hence this
name Bhasmachala. The temple was built by the Ahom King Gadadhar Singha during
the period 1681-1696. The original temple was devastated by an earthquake in
1897. But the temple was rebuilt by a rich local merchant. The lingam is
slightly below and is known as Ardhinarishwara lingam as there is a figure of
Ardahnarishwara carved on the lingam. The island can be reached from Northern
bank by hiring a ferry independently or by steamers either from Sukreshwar ghat
or Fancy bazar ghat.


Uma Maheshwarar Temple – (for incurable diseases!) Konerirajapuram, District Nagapattinam , TN

Uma Maheshwarar Temple in
Konerirajapuram is about 21 kms from Kumbakonam. It is on Kuttalam road via
Thirunageshwaram where we have Rahu temple.

Uma Maheshwarar Temple is very old
and was built in 7th century A.D. initially by Cholas and later developed by
Vijayanagar rulers and Nayakas. The Linga of Lord Uma Maheshwarar is believed
to be swayambhu.

This temple is about 21 kms from
Kumbakonam. One has to take Karaikal road from Kumbakonam wherein we get Rahu
temple in Thirunageshwaram after 6 kms. From there one has to drive 21 kms to
reach Konerirajapuram.

The presiding deity is Shiva, known
as Uma Maheshwarar and his consort Angavala Nayaki (Deha Sundari).

The temple has a bronze statue of Nataraja which is about 8 feet in length, which is bigger than Chidambaram Statue.

The statue of Nataraja looks very
real. As per the story, the Chola King Kandarathitha Cholan and his wife
Sembian Mahadevi were great worshippers of Nataraja. So they asked the
Sthapathi to make a statue of Nataraja with an alloy of 5 metals (pancha loha).
Obediently he made a statue but king did not like it. So he was asked to do
another one. So did the Sthapathi and the King not only disliked but also
furious and ordered Sthapathi to make a very good statue for the third and the
last time, otherwise his head would be rolled.

Poor Sthapathi was worried. While melting the alloy to make the statue for the last time, an old couple came to him asked him for water repeatedly. Sthapathi was already depressed and upset and in his terrible state of mind shouted on the old couple and asked them to drink the molten alloy if he they are so thirsty. The old couple was none other than Ishwara and Parvathi in disguise and the old man without hesitation drank the molten alloy. Sthapathi was astonished and meanwhile he heard the King visiting his place. At that moment he saw the old man turning into a beautiful statue. King was amazed to see the beautiful statue. Sthapathi narrated the whole incident but king never believed. King took out his sword and hit it on the leg of Nataraja statue and immediately blood started pouring from the leg. Now the King was terrified and apologized to Sthapathi. Even to this day, there is mark on the statue of Lord Nataraja ‘s leg.

Later a King named Pururavas who
suffered from Leprosy came to this temple, worshipped Lord Ishwara and by the
grace of Lord his Leprosy was cured. From then onwards this place has a shrine
for Lord Ishwara which is called Vaidyanatha Swamy. Even to this day lot of
people with various health problems come here and offer worship to the Lord
Vaidyanatha Swamy and get their health problems resolved.

The in charge of the temple Sri Gnana
Skandan is very knowledgeable. Under his guidance specific Poojas are performed
for various diseases.

There is a separate shrine for
Angavala Nayaki, adjacent to Uma Maheshwarar Temple. Here Nandi is offered
Pradosha pooja, which is believed to be very auspicious. The walls of the
temple has Brahma, Vishnu, Durga, Dakashinamurty, sage Agastyar and many
ancient idols.

There is a shrine having Pancha
(five) Vinayakas in the temple complex. Lord Nataraja has a separate shrine and
it houses number of idols made of Panchalohas.

Konerirajapuram temple is a complex
of several shrines, which dates back to more than 1000 years and is worth
visiting.


Tripurantakam - Andhra Pradesh

Tripurantakam is situated about 93
kms from Srisailam, on Srisailam – Guntur road and about 150 kms from
Vijayawada.

Tripurantakam seems to have existed
since Tretayug as it is mentioned in Skanda Purana. There lived two demons
(Rakshas) named Tripura and Andhakasura, who were great devotees of Lord Shiva.
They were harassing ever one in all the three worlds. Then Indra and other gods
prayed Shiva to relieve them from distress. Lord Shiva destroyed the two demons
Tripura and Andhakasura and made Tripurantakam his abode. Hence he is called
Tripurantakeshwara and his consort Bala Tripurasundari.

Tripurantakeshwara temple is on a
hill, where as Devi temple is located downhill. There is no motor able road up
the hill but have to climb the steps to reach the Shiva temple

Tripurantakam is considered to be the
eastern gateway to Srisailam. This was developed by Chalukyan kings in 11th
century, and is evident in the inscriptions found at the temple.

On either sides of sanctum sanctorum we find the sculptures of Bhadra and Anubhadra carved on the wall. On the northern side of the temple, there is an opening, which is believed to be a tunnel to Srisailam. There is also a temple for Veerabhadreshwara but unfortunately the head of the idol was destroyed by religious fanatics long ago.

Bala Tripurasundari temple is located downhill about 2 kms away from Tripurantakeshwara temple. Devi temple is located amidst a tank and during rainy days, temple is surrounded by water. The sanctum sanctorum of Bala Tripurasundari is slightly under ground and the local priest says that on the back of devi’s idol, Beeja mantra (seed syllable) is engraved. Since public are not allowed in the sanctum, we will have to depend on the words of the priest. The temple also has a Sri Chakra in the Sanctum.

In the temple passage, there are
plenty of excavated statues of Goddess Chinnamasta and other yoginis. Local
priest and also people offer worship to these idols regularly.


Thyagaraja Swamy and Kamalambal Temple, Tiruvarur, Tamil Nadu

Thyagaraja swamy temple is located in
Thiruvarur, about 50 kms from Tanjavore, Tamilnadu. The consort of Thyagaraja
swamy is Niloptalambal. Behind Tyagaraja swamy temple is Kamalambal temple,
where she is in deep meditation.

The temple is ancient and very huge.
It is one of the holiest Shiva temples of south India. Evening Aarati to
Thyagaraja swamy is very popular.

According to the legend, Vishnu worshipped Shiva in the form of Somaskanda, associated with Ajapa dance. Shiva is said to have appeared in an anthill to Vishnu. The image of Tyagarajar is the foremost of seven forms, which lord Indra had asked Muchukunda cholan to pick up the original image of Somaskanda worshipped by Maha Vishnu. Muchukunda cholan had picked the right one the present idol at Thiruvarur). Indra was pleased and rewarded all the 7 idols to Muchukundan, which he placed in 7 different temples in his territory.
These seven temples constitute seven Vitankastalams. They are Thiruvarur, Tirukkuvalai, Tirukkaaraivaasal, Tirumaraikkadu, Tirunagai, Tirunallaaru and Tiruvaimur.

This temple is known for its architecture. The vast prakarams has several shrines of Shiva and his parivara devatas 
The idol of Tyagarajar is housed in a separate sanctum. A special feature of the idol is that most part is covered with cloth, flowers and jewelry, only face is visible. Their feet are kept open on the occasion of Paada Darshanam festival. 
This temple is renowned for music and dance traditions from ancient times. 
Thiruvarur was the cultural center for Cholas who extended great patronage here, especially Raja Raja Cholan I. Sundaramoorthy Nayanar is known for his close association with Thiruvarur. His shrine faces Tyagarajar shrine. 

The pillars and walls of the temple
are adorned with beautiful carvings. In fact we find an idol of Buddha which
was excavated in the vicinity of the temple. 
The vast Kamalalayam tank is situated to the west of the temple. A shrine of
Naganathar is located at the center of the pond. 
Achaleshwara is a temple built in the prakaram which is another Shiva stalam
sung by the Nayanmars. 
Great musicians like Shyama shastrigal, Tyagaraja and Muthuswamy Dikshitar- the
trinity of Karnatak music were born here. Dikshitar in particular composed
Kamalamba Navavarana, Thyagaraja vibhakti and Neelotpalamba kritis here. 


Temples of Bhubaneswar, Orissa

Lingaraj temple is the biggest and most popular temple of Bhubaneswar. It is a temple complex having Bhagavathi temple and other minor deities in it. The central shikar is 180 feet tall and represents Kalinga architecture. It was built in 11th century AD by Kings of Somavamshi dynasty and wasfollowed by Ganga rulers. Mukteshwar temple is considered as gem of Orissa architecture dating back to 10 century AD built by Somavamshi dynasty. Temple has a well known as Marichi Kund and believed to cure infertility.

Siddeswar temple is adjacent to
Mukteshwar temple. This was also built in 10th century AD. It is known for its
architectural marvel. This temple has a unique Ganesha idol in standing
posture.

Kedar Gowri temple is situated just
behind Mukteshwar temple. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva (Kedareshwara) and
Gowri ( Kedargauri). It is one among astasambhu (eight) temples of Bhubaneswar

Parashurameshvara Temple is one of
the oldest temples built around 650CE. It is considered as a Shakta temple as
it has deities of Sapta Matrikas.

Rameshwar temple is also an old temple and is called Mausi Maa temple meaning aunt. It is considered as aunt of Lingaraj.

The temples of Lakshmaneshwar,
Bharateshwar and Shatrugneshwar are right in front of Rameshwara temple. All
the three temples are in a row. They are also equally old and neatly
maintained.

Bhaskereshwar temple is also an old temple. Its lingam is very long. It originates from ground floor and extends up to first floor of the temple.

Brahmeshwar temple is also an old
temple dating back to 9th century AD. Temple is known for richly carved walls
and interiors.

Vital Deol temple is quite an old temple dating back to 8th century AD. Temple is dedicated to Chamunda. It is a shakta temple.

Raja Rani temple belongs to 11th
century AD. Originally it was known as Indreswara temple. Now there is no Idol
in the temple.

Mageshwar temple is also an old
temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. The walls of the temple is carved and temple is
neatly maintained.

Chowsat yogini temple is about 16 kms
from Bhubaneswar in a village called Hirapur. It is a tantric temple and has no
roof. It is believed that these yoginis fly out every night.


Tarapith- Rampur Hat, Birbhum, West Bengal

Tarapith is located near Rampur hat town of Birbhum district about 275 kms from Kolkata. It is a tantric temple, dedicated to Maa Tara, adjacent to cremation grounds. Legends narrate different stories. One says sage Vasishta, visualized Goddess Sati in the form of Tara here. 
A second legend says that after drinking poison during churning of ocean, Lord Shiva developed intense burning in throat. To relieve his burning Sati in the form of Maa Tara breast fed him.

In the sanctum, there are two idols of Tara. The stone idol depicts Tara breast feeding Shiva. But in front of that stone idol, there is a metal idol, with four arms, protruding tongue and a garland of skulls. She has a silver crown on a flowing hair and she is wrapped in a Sari. She is decked with a garland of Marigold and a silver umbrella over the head. Forehead is adorned with red vermilion. There is a pond adjacent to temple. People bathe the goats in this pond before sacrificing to Maa Tara. A Cremation ground is located adjacent to Tara temple, but there are shops which obscure its entry. Several saints live in this cremation ground in small tents under some huge trees.

Bamakhepa, a Tantric saint
(1837-1911), is held in high reverence in Tarapith. Khepa means mad and Bama
(vama) means Vamachar. So it meant mad tantric saint. He was a great devotee of
Maa Tara and never followed any rules of rituals. Once he was beaten up for
eating food before it was offered to goddess. Then the same night Tara appeared
in the dream of queen of Natore and told her to feed the saint first as he was
her son. After this episode Bamakhepa was fed first at the Tara temple before
offering to goddess. 

A small shrine for Bamakhepa has been built in front of Tara temple, adjacent
to Kal Bhairav temple. Tarapith is a busy temple town, has lot of hotels and
lodges. It is well connected by road from several parts of west Bengal.


Tara Temple- Guwahati, Assam

Ugra Tara temple is located in Uzan
bazaar of east Guwahati. The temple was built by Ahom king Siva Singha in 1725
AD. 
There is no idol in the sanctum. A small pit with water is considered as
goddess Tara. Sati devi’s navel is believed to have fallen here and hence this
temple is considered to be a Shakti peeta. There is a Shiva temple beside Ugra
Tara shrine.

Long ago Yama the lord of Death
complained to Lord Brahma that nobody is coming to hell from Kamarupa (present
Kamakhya) in spite of committing sins because of sacredness of this area.
Brahma told Vishnu, who in turn told Shiva about this. Then Shiva ordered
goddess Ugra Tara to drive away all the people from Kamarupa. When Ugra Taara
started driving away people, they laid their hands on Rishi Vashista, who was
meditating there. He got disturbed and became furious. So he cursed Ugra Tara
and Shiva that they should not get Vedic worship. Hence they are worshipped in
Tantric or Vamachara way in this temple.


Sukreshwar Temple - Guwahati, Assam

Sukreshwar temple is located in the
Pan bazaar locality of Guwahati on the southern bank of river Brahmaputra. The
temple was built by Ahom King Pramatta Singha ( 1744-1751).

From behind the compound of
Sukreshwar temple, there are flight of steps leading to river Brahmaputra. One
can get boats or ferries from this place to cross over to opposite bank or to
visit Umananda temple at Peacock Island.


Someshwar Temple - Kausani, Bageshwar District, Uttarkhand

Someshwar temple is a very old Shiva temple. Someshwar is about 12 kms from Kausani and 35 kms from Dwarahat. Its main entrance is very inconspicuous and one is liable to miss it easily. So after crossing mall area of Someshwar town, one has to start looking for a small board amidst old shops. From a old board depicting the entry to the temple, one has to walk about 100 meters on a narrow path to reach the temple. 

The main temple has a Shiva Linga and has idols of Brahma, Ganesha and Lakulesha placed at the back of Shiva Linga. This Temple was built by ruler Lakshmi Chand in 1602 but the idols which are kept in the temple belongs to 7th – 16th century.

Besides these idols, there are
several sculptures of deities placed outside open to sky without any
shelter. 

The authorities have to open their eyes towards the maintenance of this ancient
temple.


Shakumbari Temple- Jasmour Village, Shivalik Hills, Uttar Pradesh

Shakumbari devi temple is situated in
Jasmour village, on the Shivalik hill ranges which is about 40 kms from
Saharanpur town in Uttar Pradesh. The temple is very ancient and is considered
as one of the 51 Shakti peethas with Sati’s head fallen here.

In Sanskrit, Shaka means vegetarian
food and Ambari means one who bears to the hungry. So Shakumbari means bearer
of Vegetarian food.

As per Vedas, there is only one principal power called Brahman, who creates the whole universe with the help of Maya. Hence Maya and Brahman are inseparable. Maya or Mula Prakruti is the highest divine primordial force which is called Adi Parashakti. So various forms or names of devi are the attributes of Maya alone, which has a specific name and a designated virtue. Most common name of Adi Parashakti known for worship is Durga, one of the form or attribute of Maha Maya – Adi Para Shakti is Maa Shakumbari. There was a demon (rakshas) named Durgama, who worshipped Brahma for several years. As a result he acquired all the four Vedas from chaturmukha Brahma and also got a boon from him that- all the benefits of Pujas, Homas and Yajnas to reach him instead of other gods and goddesses. So as a result devatas became weak and Durgama became stronger. Obviously he became arrogant and started tormenting every one

As the devatas became weak, they
could not perform their duties resulting in lack of rains followed by famine.
Then the rishis and munis worshipped Adi Parashakti, who appeared before them
and was deeply moved by their plight. Tears started flowing from her countless
number of eyes, which gave her the name – Shatakshi. The tears of Devi took
form of rivers.

Devi found rishis and munis had
nothing to eat. So she appeared in a form bearing grains, cereals, fruits and
vegetables- hence she is called Maa Shakumbari. Then rushis and munis requested
Devi to get the Vedas from Durgama and also kill him so that the havis of homa,
yaga and yajna would go back to devatas.

Durgama came to know that people were
happy with Devi’s blessings. He attacked Devi and rishis with a huge army. Devi
protected everyone by creating a huge wall of fire around them, fought with
Durgama fiercely and killed him with her trident. She recovered Vedas from him
and handed over to the Saints.

When Durgama died, all the powers of Homa and yajnas which was possessed by him transformed into a bright light emitted by thousands of sun and entered Devi. From her body, Maa Shakumbari manifested the ten most powerful Devi’s known as Dasha maha vidyas and 64,000 other goddesses. Hence Adi Parashakti came to be known as Durga after killing the demon Durgama.

Maa Shakumbari devi is mentioned in
Skanda Purana. Her splendid form is described in Durga Saptashati, in the last
chapter named murthy rahasya. According to this, goddess is of blue color and
her eyes like lotus. A lotus is carried in her one hand, which is thronged by
bees, the other carries arrow, another bow representing devi’s fierceness.
Another hand carries fruits and vegetables, symbolizing goddess of vegetation.
People who worship this goddess would be bestowed with plenty of food, water
and infinite bliss.

Maa Shakumbari is worshipped in Pindi
form here. Shankaracharya also might have worshipped here. Shankar mutt can be
seen in front of Devi’s temple.

Shakumbari Temple, Jasmour Village, Uttar Pradesh Shakumbari Temple, Jasmour Village, Uttar Pradesh There is also a temple of Chinnamasta before Shakumbari temple in an elevated place. One has to climb about 50 steps to reach the temple. Here also Chinnamasta is worshipped in Pindi form.

There is a temple of Bhura Dev or
Bhairav about a km away from Shakumbari temple. The temple of Bagalamukhi is
also present at the beginning, before the river. It appears to have been quite
new. Maa Shakumbari devi temple is also located in several other places
like: 

1. Maa Shakumbari devi temple at Sikar, Rajasthan
2. Maa Shakumbari devi temple at Kedar, near Gowri kund, Uttaranchal
3. Maa Shakumbari is also known as Banashankari at Badami, Bagalkot district,
Karnataka
4. Banashankari temple is also located at Bangalore, which was built in 1915