Chinthapurni Devi Temple Una District, Himachal Pradesh

Chintapurni Devi temple is situated
in Una district of Himachal Pradesh. It has Himalayan Mountains to the North
and Shivalik ranges to the East, bordering the state of Punjab. Chinthapurna
Devi is also known as Chinnamasta Devi.

As per legends, goddess Sati, self
immolated in her father Daksha’s yajna. Then Shiva destroyed Daksha yajna and
carried Sati’s corpse in grief. Hence Lord Vishnu dismembered Sati’s body into
51 pieces. Where ever her body parts fell, those places have become Shakti
peethas. Since Sati’s feet fell here, this place is considered as shakti
peetha.

According to Markandeya Purana, goddess Chandi killed demons after a fierce battle. Even after battle, her two attributes Jaya and Vijaya were still thirsty for blood. So goddess Chandi cut her own head and quenched the thirst of Jaya and Vijaya by pouring her own blood into their mouth. Hence she is depicted as headless goddess holding her own severed head in one hand and drinking a stream of blood spurting out from the neck. Her aides, the two naked yoginis are on either side drinking blood sprouting out from Devi’ neck.

Chinnamasta is a great cosmic power,
who is one among Dasha Maha Vidyas. She helps the seeker to dissolve his/her
mind into pure consciousness. Severing off the head suggests separation of the
mind from body which means detachment from materialistic world. According to
puranic traditions, Chinnamasta Devi is guarded by Shiva/Rudra. Here also there
is Kaleshwar Mahadev temple at the east, Narayan Mahadev to the west,
Muchakunda Mahadev to the North and Shiva Bari to the south.

Pandit Mai Das, a Saraswat Brahmin,
is believed to have established this shrine in ancient times. Even to this day,
his descendants worship Chintapurni here. There is a belief that whom so ever
prays from bottom of their hearts, she is bound to grant their wish. Hence she
is called Maa Chintapurni. Devotees tie red crimson threads in the temple on
making a wish and untie them when their wish is fulfilled.

Hindu pilgrimage and marriage records
were kept in this holy place. The Genealogical Society of Utah, USA, has
microfilmed these records.


Chamunda Devi Temple- Kangra District, Himachal Pradesh

Chamunda Devi temple is located in
Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, about 10 kms west of Palampur. The goddess
is in the form of Pindi. The goddess is flanked by idols of Hanuman and
Bhairav.

Chamunda is also known as
Chamundeshwari and Chamundi. She is the fearsome aspect of Devi and one of the
seven Matrikas. The name of this Devi is a combination of Chanda and Munda, the
two demons whom she killed. She is closely associated with Kali and also
identified with Parvati and Durga.

The goddess Chamunda Devi is depicted as black or red colored, wearing garland of skulls. She is described as having 4, 8, 10 or 12 arms, holding Damaru, Trishula, sword, Snake, Khatvanga, Thunderbolt, a severed head and a skull cup- Kapala filled with blood. She is standing on a corpse or demon. Chamunda Devi is described as having three eyes, terrifying face, protruding tongue and long nails. She is adorned with ornaments of skulls, serpents and scorpions. She wears Yajnopavitha- the sacred thread and wears Jatamukuta with a crescent Moon. She has fearsome companions like Jackals, demons and goblins drinking blood from Kapala. This type of drinking blood of enemies is the typical quality of Matrikas, especially Chamunda.

In Devi Mahatmya, Chamunda emerged as
Chandika Jayasundara from an eyebrow of goddess Kabushiki, who was created from
the sheath of Devi Durga. They were assigned the task of killing demons Chanda
and Munda, who were generals of demon king Shumba and Nishumba. Chamunda fought
a fierce battle with these demons and killed them. Then she took the slain
heads of two demons to goddess Kabushiki, who was immensely pleased and blessed
Chandika Jayasundara and bestowed the title of Chamunda for killing Chanda and
Munda.

According to another episode of Devi
Mahatmya, Devi Durga created Matrikas and killed Shumba and Nishumba. Here Kali
is described as a Matrika, who sucked all the blood from demon Raktabijasura
and Kali was given the name Chamunda. Thus Devi Mahatmya identifies Chamunda
with Kali.

Chamunda is the only Matrika who is
worshipped independently on her own, where as all other Matrikas are always
worshipped together. Chamunda Devi is assigned the direction of south east.
Kshatriyas and Jains worship her as Kuladevi or family deity.

There is another temple of Goddess
Chamunda called Chamundeshwari on Chamundi hills in Mysore, Karnataka. Here the
goddess is identified with Durga, who killed the buffalo demon Mahishasura.
Devi Chamundeshwari is held with great reverence for centuries by Kings of
Mysore.


Bucheshwara Temple - Koravangala, Hassan District, Karnataka

Bucheshwara temple is located in the
village of Koravangala which is around 10 kms from Hassan. It is a beautiful
temple built in 12th century CE, of Hoysala Architecture. The temple was built
in Hoysala Architectural style by a rich officer called Buchiraja (Buci), in
the year 1173 CE, to celebrate the coronation of Hoysala king Veera Ballala II.

There are two shrines, connected by a closed Mantapa (verandah). The shrine of Shiva which is facing east is intact and worshiped regularly, while the shrine of Narayana facing west is damaged and hence there is no worship.

Northern side of the temple has a
shrine for Kaala Bhairava and an image of Bhairavi is sculpted on the wall in
front of Kaala Bhairava temple. 
Outer wall of the temple has delicately carved images of the deities Narasimha,
Kalinga Krishna, Vishnu, Brahma, Lakshmi, Saraswati and other demigods and
angels. The southern door has two elephants with intricately carved jewels on
its back. The door has a pair of Dwarapalakas. Northern door has no elephants
but only Dwarapalakas. 

The interior of hall has nicely finished pillars on a square stone pedestal.
The roof has intricate carvings of gods and goddesses. 
Bucheshwara temple is worth visiting to enjoy the beautiful Hoysala
architecture. 


Brahmapureshwar / Karaviranathar Temple, Tamilnadu

The three celebrated Shaivite saints-
Sambandar, Tirunavakkarasar and Sundarar have praised this temple in their
hymns.

Once the ladies of celestial world met Shiva and Parvathi at Mt.Kailash and sought a wedding boon. Lord Shiva himself made a Linga, installed at this place and advised the women to worship. They all worshipped accordingly and were rewarded with suitable match. Hence this Linga is said to be Swayambhu.

Shiva appointed Sage Gautham to take
care of the linga and the latter performed many penances. Pleased with the
sage, Shiva asked him about his wish. So Gauthama requested lord that after his
death also he should continue worshipping the lord here, but no one should see
his mortal body. His wish was granted. The sage became a Karaveera tree after
his demise. If unmarried women water the sacred tree (Karaveeram) on new moon
days and worship Lord Brahmapureshwarar, there is a belief that their marriage
would be materialized before the arrival of next new moon day.

A donkey, once did penance to have darshan of Shiva. Desperate for not getting darshan for a long time, the donkey decided to end its life by jumping into the sea at Nagore. But suddenly it heard a big sound behind, and turned back to see Lord Shiva. According to the legend, nothing was built from this temple up to Nagore, so that the donkey could have a clear sight of lord Shiva from Nagore.

The temple facing east is on about 5 acres of land and has an interesting tower. To the right of the Brahmapureshwarar, is the temple of Minnambikai. We don’t find any flag post in this temple.There are small shrines for Surya, Chandra and Shaneshwara in the front of main temple on the northeast corner. There are idols of Ganesha and Subramanya on either side of Brahmapureshwarar in the sanctorum.

In the temple of Minnambikai, there
are Saptamatrikas and Lingas on either side of the main deity. 

The southwest corner has a small shrine for Ganesha who is also called Raja
GanapathI.

The Northwest corner has a shrine for
Subramanya. 
On the southern wall of the temple has Dakshina Murty idol. Interestingly the
southern tower also has Dakshina murthy idols. 
Western wall has lord Narayana and the western tower also has Narayana with
Sridevi and Bhudevi. 
Northern wall has an Idol of Brahma and the tower also has Brahma with his
consorts. 
The eastern tower is adorned with Shiva and his consorts. The temple has many
deities like Durga, Subramanya,etc. around the circumbulate area. There is also
a pond in front of the temple known as Brahma theertham.


Bakreshwar Shakti Peeta- Siori, Birbhum, West Bengal

Bakreshwar is situated on
Siori-Dubrajpur road in Birbhum district in West Bengal. According to
mythology, during the wedding of Lakshmi and Narayana in Satya yuga, Indra
insulted Muni Subrata. The saint got so enraged by humiliation, that his body
got bent at eight places. Hence he was called Ashtavakra muni.

Later Ashtavakra muni went to
Varanasi to do Tapas but he was directed by a divine lord to go to a distant
place in Gaur (Bengal). So he came in search of a suitable location and found
this place convenient and started his penance here for several years. Pleased
by his devotion, Lord Shiva blessed him. Shiva also requested Vishwakarma to
build a temple for him. There is also an idol of Ashtavakra muni in the temple.
It is customary to have darshan of Ashtavakra muni first and then Lord Shiva.

There are many old temples around
main Bakreshwar temple but idols are missing in most of them.

Bakreshwar is also considered as one of the Shakti peetas, as Sati Devi’s forehead and eye brows had fallen here. A tablet record says a portion of the edifice was erected in 1761 A D by Darpanarayan.

There are eight hot springs of
varying temperatures. But they are not separated. Temple has built steps all
around and springs from all the eight pour out into one pond. There is also
piped spring water facility adjacent to pond for people to bathe.


Babaji Caves- Ranikhet, Uttarkhand

The original name of Mahavatar
Babaji, is not known even to this day. The name Mahavatar Babaji was given by
Lahiri Mahashaya and his disciples. They had met Babaji somewhere between 1861
and 1935. These meetings were described by Paramahamsa Yogananda, in his book
titled Autobiography of a Yogi. Yukteshwar Giri, the guru of Yogananda
Paramahamsa, also mentioned his meeting with Babaji, in his book- The Holy
Science or Kaivalya Darshanam.

Nobody knows about Babaji’s birth,
childhood, family and even his age. It is believed that he is more than 500
years old and some say more than 1000 years. Mahavatar Babaji had given darshan
to Lahiri Mahashaya, in a Cave near Ranikhet. This cave is now called Babaji
Caves.

Babaji Cave is located in a place
called Kukuchina, which is about 5 kms from Dunagiri. Dunagiri is about 60 kms
from Ranikhet and 19 kms from Dwarahat and Ranikhet is about 370 kms from New
Delhi. The drive from Ranikhet to Dunagir is Picturesque.

Drive 5 kms from Dunagiri to reach Kukuchina. The first building we see is Joshi’s tea shop. It is not only a tea shop but also a restaurant, where simple hot food is served. Recently he seems to have added couple of rooms on the first floor. 
Most of the time, the travelers are greeted by Sri. Joshi himself. Even otherwise it is better to enquire at Joshi’s tea shop, whether the Babaji Cave is open or locked.

From this point, the cave is about 3
kms. We can drive a kilometer on the mud road and reach a hut. The lady of the
hut sells tea and also accompanies us as a guide.

The 2 km. trek starts from behind the hut. The route is not steep. It is quite comfortable to walk at one’s own pace. One will be greeted by beautiful scenery on the way.

After trekking for a kilometer, we come across a small stream, in which Mahavatar Babaji is believed to have taken bath.

We were accompanied by the tea shop lady along with her dog Sheru to the Caves. Sheru is a very friendly dog and is good at driving away the monkeys, which are found near the Caves.

Further half a kilometer from the
stream, we come across a small building, which belongs to Yogoda Satsang
Society. It is open during programs. The trek continues further uphill adjacent
to this Yogoda society, for another 200 meters.

After trekking for 200 meters, we reach the most sought after Babaji Cave. There are about 10 steps to the cave, which is not steep. The steps lead to a small platform and also to the entrance of the Cave.

The cave is well ventilated. It is
quite roomier to accommodate about 6 to 8 people, who can sit comfortably and
meditate. 
There is nothing in the Cave. It is just empty. Yogoda society has put a mat on
the floor for the people to sit. The entrance of the Cave has the name plate of
Yogoda Satsang society.

The whole atmosphere around the cave
is serene and beautiful. It takes about 2 hours to go up and 1 1/2 hours to
come down. A visit to Mahavatar Babaji caves is a wonderful experience and is
worth visiting for those who adore Babaji.


Arunachala Girivalayam Parikrama Tiruvannamalai, Tamilnadu

Arunachaleshwar located in
Tiruvannamalai of Tamilnadu. It is about 185 kms from Chennai and 210 kms from
Bangalore. The town is located on the base of Annamalai hills which is to the
east of Eastern ghats.

Tiruvannamalai is named after
Annamalaiyar, the main deity of the temple. During November and December on
full moon days, Kartika Deepam festival is celebrated. On those days huge
quantity of camphor is lit on top of Annamalai hills and about three million
devotees from different parts of India gather.

Annamalai hills are also known as
Arunachala hills. Aruna means red and Achala means hills.

The Parikrama or Circumambulation of
Arunachala hills is a very popular ritual. It is known as Girivalyam, Giri
means Hill and Valam means Circumambulation. The trek is about 14 kms which
starts from east gopuram (gate) of Arunachaleshwara temple.

Usually Girivalam should be started either early in the morning or late evening. But circumambulating on full moon night is very popular.

Arunachala hill to a human eye is
3000 feet high but for Siddhas, it is an infinite hill with no ends on either
side. Siddhas say that even Sun and Moon circle Arunachala without going
directly over head.

So Girivalam is considered as the
most sacred of all rituals. It is advised to perform Girivalam with pure mind,
and also give alms liberally to Sadhus, needy people and animals who are found
on the way. At every step of Girivalam, one should look at the Arunachala hill.
Each of this vision is known as Arunachala Mukha Darshan.

At the beginning of the Girivalam one
should enter Arunachaleshwara temple from east gopuram and have darshan of
Brahma Lingam.

From there one has to go to South gopuram and have the darshan of lord Arunachaleshwara and then proceed to Indra Lingam shrine, which is about 50 meters from east gopuram.

Indra Lingam shrine is very inconspicuous as it is amidst shops. The entrance is very small and could be easily missed. It is first of the eight or ashta Dik Lingams on the Girivalm route.

After trekking for 1.5 kms there is the shrine for Agni Lingam the second of the Ashta Dik Lingam on Girivalam route.This is also in the midst of houses and quite inconspicuous. 
A kilometer away from Agni Lingam is the Sheshadri Ashram. There is also an old Devi temple opposite Sheshadri ashram. 
Further a kilometer away is the most popular Ramanashree Ashram. 
The glimpse of Arunachala hill from inside the ashram is called Eka Mukha Linga Darshan. 

Further a kilometer away from Ramana
ashram, there is a shrine for Parashakti.

Three kilometers away is the Yama
Lingam. It is the third of the Ashta Dik Lingams on Girivalam route. There is
Appu Nandi next to Yama Lingam. One has to look at the Arunachala hill between
the horns of the Nandi deity. This vision is supposed to reunite those who are separated
or estranged.

Six kilometers from the starting
point lies the shrine of Nirutthi Lingam and is the fourth of the Ashta Dik
Lingams on the Girivalam route.

There is a pond opposite to this shrine called Siva Raja Singa theertam and a Nandi being installed on the banks of the pond. A small temple for lord Vinayaka temple is at one corner of the pond.

One has to look at the peak of the
hill between the horns of the Nandi. This place is to give up bad habits and
make spiritual resolutions. It is believed that Siva Raja Singha, who resides
here, is the witness for your resolution. A small dense forest known as Kaama
kaadu is seen a meter further. Siddhas refer this as forest of desire. From
here Arunachala hill is not visible. Symbolically once we get lost in the
forest of desire, we lose sight of all spiritual journeys. Hence in this site,
one has to give up lustful or immoral desires.

A little further trek leads to a
shrine and an adjacent ashram of Nava Linga and Nava Shakti. There is an idol
of Durga in the middle of sanctum with nine Lingas and nine Shaktis on either
side.

Next important shrine on Girivalam route is Gayatri devi. One has to take the blessings from Gayatri devi and proceed.

Further away from this temple, the
Arunachala hill gives a darshan of Shakti Shiva. This vision was given to King
Nala and his wife Damayanti and it is believed that vision brings about unity
and harmony in life.

Next in the Girivalam route is Mother Unnamalai temple. She is the consort of Arunachaleshwara. Mother Parvathi devi performed penances here for a long time and finally got merged with Lord Shiva.

Adjacent to Unnamalai temple, there
is a pond known as Unnamalai theertham. Unfortunately it lacks maintaince. The
vision of Arunachala hill from Unnamulai temple is known as Somaskanda
darshanam. Proceeding further in Girivalam route, there is the ashram of
Goutama Maharishi and a temple for Maharishi Gauthama.

A little further away is the Surya
Lingam and then Varuna Lingam temple. It is about 8 kms. from the starting
point.

About half a kilometer from Varuna
lingam, is Vayu Lingam. It is about 9.5 kms. from the starting point. About 2
kms. from Varuna lingam is the Kubera Lingam temple. It is about 11.5 kms. from
the starting point.

Slightly further in Girivalayam route
is Chandra Lingam temple. The temple appears to have been built quite recently.


Ambalapadi Mahakali Temple- Udupi, Karnataka

Ambalapadi Mahakali temple is 3 kms
from Udupi and 65 kms from Mangalore, Karnataka. There is a Janardhana
(Krishna) temple in the same complex. It is an ancient temple dating back to
16th century AD.

The temple complex has two sections.
One is dedicated to Janardhana built in old Kerala style of temple
architecture. Whereas the section dedicated to Mahakali is based on modern
temple architecture. Idol of Janardhana is small but very beautiful

Kali idol is fierce and has a
protruding tongue. The devotees are advised to view the image of deity in the
mirror first and then see the original Maa kali. As per the legend Mahakali
came to this place to protect land and the people there, hence the name
Ambalapadi, which was originally called Ammana padi meaning woods of mother.
Initially Mother goddess was worshipped in the form of a stone, but later a wooden
idol was made and even now both stone and the wooden idols are
worshipped. 
The passage of circling has small idols of Saraswati Durga, Kumari Durga etc.

The pillars also have idols of
various goddesses. 
The presiding deity Janardhana is believed to have come in search of Maa Kali
and decided to stay here along with Kali. Both kali and Krishna presiding in a
same temple is rare and probably found only here.