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Tarapeeth, Kolkata


Description

This Tantric temple is dedicated to the Goddess Tara a form of Mother Kali. There are several legends narrated on the origin and importance of this place. A well-known legend relates to Sati, the consort of Shiva, felt insulted when her father Daksha did not invite Shiva to the greatest "fire sacrifice" he organized. Unable to bear this humiliation, Sati gave up her life by jumping into the sacrificial fire. Infuriated by this horrific tragedy, Lord Shiva went wild. Lord Vishnu, in order to pacify Shiva, decimated the body of Sati with his chakra.  

The places where the body parts fell have become centres of worship of the Goddess in different manifestations. There are 51 such holy temples which are called Shakti Peeths. Among piths, Tarapith is a siddha pith, which grants enlightenment, wisdom, happiness and siddhis ("supernatural powers").

 The Temple:-

The Tara temple in Tarapith steeped is a medium-sized temple in the rural precincts of Bengal. Its fame as a pilgrimage hub with the deity of Ma Tara enshrined in it is due to the temple’s myths of its own type of worship (which includes blood offerings), the hymns sung there, the powers of cult worship, its inhabitants and rituals of the adjacent cremation ground.

The foundation of the temple is thickly walled, built of red brick.The structure has covered passages with many arches raising to the summit with a spire. The image of the deity is enshrined inside the sanctum.

There are two Tara images in the sanctum. Ma Tara is represented in her fiery form with four arms, wearing a garland of skulls and a protruding tongue. Crowned with a silver crown and with flowing hair, she is wrapped in a sari and decked in marigold garlands with a silver umbrella over its head. The forehead of the metal image is adorned with red kumkum (vermilion). Priests take a speck of this kumkum and apply it on the foreheads of the devotees as a mark of her blessings.

Devotees take a holy bath at the sacred tank adjacent to the temple before entering the temple premises to offer worship and even after the worship. The waters of the tank are said to have healing powers and even restore life to the dead. Blood sacrifice of goats is the daily norm in the temple. Devotees who offer such goat sacrifices seek blessings from the deity. They bathe the goats in the holy tank near the temple before the sacrifice.

They also purify themselves by taking bath in the holy tank before offering worship to the deity. The goat is then tethered to a stake, the designated post in a sand pit, and the neck of the goat severed with a single stroke by a special sword. A small quantity of the blood of the goat is then collected in a vessel and offered to the fearsome Ma Tara. The devotees also smear their forehead with blood from the pit, as a mark of reverence to the Goddess.

Cremation Grounds:-

The cremation ground (maha smasan), is located in a dark forest surrounding. In Bengal, the cremation ground of Tarapith is also considered integral to the Shakti Peeth. It is believed that Goddess Tara can be seen in shadows drinking blood of goats which are sacrificed every day at her altar, to satiate her fury.

Tantric practitioners believe that Tara is attracted to bones and skeletons and the cremation ground is her preferred residence.Her iconographic depictions show her amidst cremation grounds. Tantric practitioners have, therefore, been flocking to the cremation grounds for generations for performing their Tantric sadhana.

The cremation grounds are flowed by the "red eyed ash-smeared sadhus". Sadhus have built their hutments, amidst banyan trees and embellished their huts with red-painted skulls embedded into the mud walls. 

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My Tirth India Anup Jalota