By Dr. A Pranesh
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.
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:
– Maa Shakumbari devi temple at Sikar, Rajasthan
– Maa Shakumbari devi temple at Kedar, near Gowri kund, Uttaranchal
– Maa Shakumbari is also known as Banashankari at Badami, Bagalkot district, Karnataka
– Banashankari temple is also located at Bangalore, which was built in 1915