– Dr A Pranesh
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.