Legend has it that Kolkata derived its name from Ma Kali. Kalighat, with the venerated Kali Mandir, literally means the land of Kali, or Kalika; it was once a ghat on river Hooghly. This Kali temple is one of the main centres of tantric practices, not only in Bengal but also in the entire country. The Kalighat Kali temple is considered as one of the Sati Peethas in India and its neighbouring countries. Legend has it that when a Shiva, angered and saddened by Sati’s death, began the destructive dance of Tandava, Vishnu cut Sati’s body into pieces to stop Him. These pieces of Sati’s body scattered to different places – the Sati Peethas. Each of these Sati Peethas is a centre of tantric practices. Interestingly, there are 15 Sati Peethas in Bengal alone; this goes to prove that Bengal has been a centre of Tantra Sadhana for ages. No other state in India has so many Sati Peethas, also called the Shakti Peethas by the Sadhaks.
Sati Peethas in Bengal – Centres of Tantric Practices
The Tantric practitioners of Bengal, who belong to the Kali Kula sect, have a major part to play in compiling the texts on Tantra. Works of tantra Gurus like Gopinath Kabiraj, Sarbananda Thakur, Sadhak Ratnagarbha, Raghavram Thakur, Krishnananda Agamabagish, Brahmananda Giri, Jaganmohan Tarkalankar, Purnananda, and the like are some of the major contributors. Their works prove that Bengal has been a major hub of Tantra Sadhana. Here’s a look at the Sati Peethas in Bengal, noted as major Kshetras of Tantric practices:
1. Kalika Temple in Kalighat
The 200-year old temple in Kolkata on Hooghly is where the toes of Sati’s right foot fell. Shakti is in the form of Kali here, while Bhairava resides as Nakuleswar. The most noted Sadhak practising here was Ramakrishna. This temple is even mentioned in the 15th-century Mansar Bhashan.
2. Bargabhima Temple in Tamluk
This temple in Medinipur’s Vibhash is where the presiding goddess is worshipped as Kapalini or Bhimarupa, while Bhairav is worshipped as Sarvanand. Sati’s left ankle is said to have fallen here. The original temple is said to be 1150 years old, but it was rebuilt after Islamic occupation.
3. Melaichandi Temple in Amta
The Melaichandi Temple in Howrah’s Amta is said to be 200 years old. The left knee of Sati supposedly fell here. Shakti resides here in the form of Melaichandi, while Shiva is worshipped as Durgeswara. This temple is considered as the pride of Amta, rebuilt several times over the years.
4. Ratnavali Temple in Khanakul
The Ratnabali Temple in Hooghly is locally known as the Anandamayee Temple. It stands on the Ratnakar river. This is where Sati’s right shoulder is believed to have fallen. The presiding goddess of the temple is Shakti Kumari, and Shiva is also worshipped in this Sati Peetha in West Bengal.
5. Bahula Temple in Ketugram
Sitting on the banks of the Ajay river in Bardhaman is the temple of Bahula, where Shakti Bahula is the presiding Goddess, accompanied by Bhairav in the form of Bhiruk. It is said that the left arm of Sati fell here. For centuries, pilgrims have been coming here to pray and meditate.
6. Bahulakshi Temple in Ranakhanda
The Bahulakshi Mandir in Ranakhanda is an obscure Shakti Peetha, located in the Bardhaman of West Bengal. This is the place where a part of Sati’s left wrist is believed to have landed. Shakti, in the form of Bahulakshi, is accompanied by Lord Shiva who is worshipped here as Mahakala.
7. Mangalchandi Temple in Kogram
You will find the Mangalchandi temple at Kogram, a village in Bardhaman which was earlier known as Ujani. In this temple, the Mangal Chnadika form of Shakti is worshipped. It is said that the right arm of Sati landed in Kogram. Shiva is worshipped in this temple in the form of Kapilambar.
8. Jayadurga Temple in Juranpur
Presenting a picture different from the other Shakti Peethas, Juranpur’s Jayadurga temple, in Nadia, is a unique pilgrimage spot, with Sati’s head in it. The presiding Devi is in the form of a Shila stone, while Shiva is worshipped as Krodhisha. Many Sadhaks used to live in the surrounding forests.
9. Jogadya Temple in Kshirgram
Jogadya’s temple in Bardhaman is said to be born from Sati’s great toe. In this temple, where Bhairav is worshipped as Ksheer Kantak, Jogadya’s idol stays in Ksheer Dighi’s waters, and pulled out only on special occasions for the Pujo. Once upon a time, even humans were sacrificed here.
10. Devgarbha Temple in Kankalitala
A Shakti Peetha developed from the bones of Sati, Devgarbha’s temple in Birbhum is located near Bolpur, and is a place for worshipping the Devgarbha form of Durga, and is locally known by the name Kankaleshwari. Shiva, on the other hand, is worshipped here in the form of Ruru.
11. Phullara Temple in Attahash
In the village of Attahash Birbhum is the Shakti temple where Devi Phullara is worshipped, accompanied by Shiva in the form of Vishvesh. In the place, where Sati’s lips are believed to have landed, stands the temple with a regal look. Interestingly, sour eatables are a mandatory offering here.
12. Nalateshwari Temple in Nalhati
Legend says that Sati’s stomach fell in Nalhati in Tarapith, Birbhum. Thus, it has grown to become one of the Sati Peethas in Bengal, with Nalateshwari or Kalika as the Ek-chala temple’s presiding goddess. Bhairav, on the other hand, accompanies the Devi in the form of Jogesh.
13. Mahishmardini Temple in Bakreshwar
Birbhum’s Bakreshwar is said to have received a curious part of Sati’s body: the part of the forehead between the eyebrows. Shiva, as Vakranath, accompanies Shakti as Mahishmardini in this temple. Pilgrims come here to take a dip in the waters of the holy springs which have healing powers.
14. Bhramari Temple in Trisrota
The left leg of Sati is believed to have landed in Boda, a small village on river Tista, or Trisrota, in Jalpaiguri; this is the Trisrota Shakti Peetha, where Bhramari is the presiding Devi. Shiva resides here in the form of Ambar and accompanies the goddess in Shakti Peetha of Jalpaiguri.
15. Jayanti Temple in Alipurduar
The location of the Jayanti Temple is claimed to be in three different locations. But it is located in the Jayanti forest in Alipurduar. This is where the left thigh of Sati is believed to have fallen. Located on the banks of Jayanti river, Shakti is worshipped here as Jayanti, and Shiva as Kramdishwar.
Some say there are 51 Shakti Peethas, while other sources mention 52. Some also argue that there are 108 Shakti Peethas.
In any case, the 15 Sati Peethas in Bengal, along with six others in Bangladesh, have an important role to play in Tantric practices. Experts also say that the story of Sati’s body parts falling in different spots is a mythology, a sign for Sadhaks to pursue their practice. These Tantra Peethas were the centres Sadhana. People in Bengal, in general, have had an inclination towards Shakti Sadhana. They are big worshippers of Kalika Devi; and, Kali Puja is basically in the form of “Dakhshinachari Tantra Sadhana” or Shakti Sadhana.
Special thanks to Mr. Surojit Sen for his valuable inputs. Without his contributions, it would not have been possible to put this list together or establish the relationship between Bengal and Tantra Sadhana.
Mr. Surojit has recently penned Hoichoi’s new web series, Taranath Tantrik. Set in the 1930’s Bengal, this series is a mythical journey of a Tantrik, which you just cannot miss.