The Shakti Peethas (holy places of cosmic power) are places of worship consecrated to the goddess Sati, the female principal of Hinduism and the main deity of the Shakta sect. They are sprinkled throughout the Indian subcontinent.
This goddess is often associated both with Gowri / Parvati, the benevolent goddess of harmony, marital felicity and longevity, with Durga, goddess of strength and valour, and with Mahakali, goddess of destruction of the evil.
According to legend, at some time in the Satya Yuga, Daksha performed a yagna (named Vrihaspati) with a desire to take revenge on Lord Shiva. Daksha was angry because his daughter Sati had married the 'yogi' God Shiva against his wish. Daksha invited all the deities to the yagna except for Shiva and Sati. The fact that she was not invited did not deter Sati from attending the yagna. She had expressed her desire to attend to Shiva who had tried his best to dissuade her from going. Shiva eventually allowed her to go escorted by his followers.
But Sati, being an uninvited guest, was not given any respect. Furthermore, Daksha insulted Shiva. Sati was unable to bear her father's insults toward her husband, so Dakshayani (the other name of Sati meaning the daughter of Daksha) invoked her yogic powers and immolated herself.
Enraged at the insult and the injury, Shiva destroyed Daksha's sacrifice, cut off Daksha's head, and replaced it with that of a goat as he restored him to life. Still crazed with grief, he picked up the remains of Sati's body, and danced the dance of destruction through the Universe. The other gods intervened to stop this dance, and the Vishnu 's disk, or Sudarshana Chakra, cut through the corpse of Sati. The various parts of the body fell at several spots all through the Indian subcontinent and formed sites which are known as Shakti Peethas today.
At all Shakti Peethas, the Goddess Shakti is accompanied by Lord Bhairava (a manifestation of Lord Shiva).
Some of the great religious texts like the Shiva Purana, the Devi Bhagavat the Kalika Purana and the AstaShakti recognize four major Shakti Peethas (centers), like Bimala (Pada Khanda) (inside the Jgannath temple of Puri, Orissa), Tara Tarini (Stana Khanda, Breasts) (Near Berhampur, Orissa), Kamakshi (Yoni khanda) (Near Guwahati, Assam) and Dakhina Kalika (Mukha khanda) ( Kolkata, West Bengal) originated from the limbs of the Corpse of Mata Sati in the Satya Yuga.
The Astashakti and Kalika Purana says (in Sanscrit):
"Bimala Pada khandancha,
Sthana khandancha Tarini (Tara Tarini),
Kamakshya Yoni khandancha,
Mukha khandancha Kalika (Dakshina Kalika)
Anga pratyanga sanghena
Vishnu Chakra Kshyta nacha"
Further explaining the importance of these four Peethas the Brihat Samhita also gives the location of these Peethas as Rushikulya Tatae Devi, Tarakashya Mahagiri, Tashya Srunga Stitha Tara and Vasishta Rajitapara (Rushikulya is a river flowing on the foot hill of the Tara Tarini Hill Shrine).
Apart from these four there are 52 other famous Peethas recognised by religious texts. According to the Pithanirnaya Tantra the 52 peethas are scattered all over India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Tibet and Pakistan. The Shivacharita besides listing 52 maha-peethas, speaks about 26 more upa-peethas. The Bengali almanac, Vishuddha Siddhanta Panjika too describes the 52 peethas including the present modified addresses. A few of the several accepted listings are given below. . One of the few in South India, Srisailam in Andhra Pradesh became the site for a 2nd century temple.
In the listings below:
|Sr. No.||Place||Body Part or Ornament||Shakti||Bhairava|
|1||Kanchipuram, Kamatchi temple, Kamakoti Peetam mentioned in Lalita Sahasram, Trishati, Astothram etc.||Ottiyana (Ornament covering stomach)||Kamakshi||Kala Bhairav|
|2||Sri Lanka, in Nainativu, Jaffna||Anklets||Indrakshi / Nagapooshani||Rakshaseshwar / Naayanar|
|3||Shivaharkaray, a little distance from Sukkur Station from Karachi, Pakistan||Eyes||Mahishmardini||Krodhish|
|4||Sugandha, situated in Shikarpur, Gournadi, about 20 km from Barisal town, Bangladesh, on the banks of Sonda river.||Nose||Sunanda||Trayambak|
|5||Amarnath in Kashmir, India from Srinagar through Pahalgam 94 km by Bus, Chandanwari 16 km by walk||Throat||Mahamaya||Trisandhyeshwar|
|6||Jwalamukhi, Kangra, India from Pathankot alight at Jwalamukhi Road Station from there 20 km||Tongue||Siddhida (Ambika)||Unmatta Bhairav|
|7||Ambaji, at Anart, Gujarat, India||Heart||Ambaji|
|8||Nepal, near Pashupatinath Temple at Gujyeshwari Temple||Both knees||Mahashira||Kapali|
|9||Manas, under Tibet at the foot of Mount Kailash in Lake Mansarovar, a piece of Stone||Right hand||Dakshayani||Amar|
|10||Biraja in Utkal present Orissa, India||Navel||Girija/Viraja/Biraja||Jagannath|
|11||Gandaki in Pokhara, Nepal about 125 km on the banks of Gandaki river where Muktinath temple is situated||Temple||Gandaki Chandi||Chakrapani|
|12||Bahula, on the banks of Ajay river at Ketugram, 8 km from Katwa, Burdwan, West Bengal, India||Left arm||Goddess Bahula||Bhiruk|
|13||Ujaani, 16 km from Guskara station under Burdwan district of West Bengal, India||Right wrist||Mangal Chandika||Kapilambar|
|14||Udaipur, Tripura, at the top of the hills known as Tripura Sundari temple near Radhakishorepur village, a little distance away from Udaipur town of Tripura, India||Right leg||Tripura Sundari||Tripuresh|
|15||On Chandranath hill near Sitakunda station of Chittagong District, Bangladesh. The famous Chandranath Temple on the top of the hill is the Bhairav temple of this Shakti Peetha, not the Shakti Peeth itself.||Right arm||Bhawani||Chandrashekhar|
|16||Locally known as Bhramari Devi. Behind a rice mill, near Jalpesh Temple in Jalpaiguri, West Bengal, India.||Left leg||Bhraamari||Ambar|
|17||Kamgiri, Kamakhya, in the Neelachal hills near Guwahati, capital of Assam, India||Genitals||Kamakhya||Umanand|
|18||yogaadya at Khirgram under Burdwan district, West Bengal, India||Big Toe (Right)||Jugaadya||Ksheer Khandak|
|19||Kalipeeth, (Kalighat, Kolkata), India||Right Toes||Kalika||Nakuleshwar|
|20||Prayag near Sangam at Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, India||Finger||Alopi Devi Mandir or Madhaveswari||Bhava|
|21||Jayanti at Kalajore Baurbhag village of Falzur Pargana under Jayantia Thana of Sylhet district, Bangladesh. This Shakti Peetha is locally known as Falizur Kalibari.||Left thigh||Jayanti||Kramadishwar|
|22||Kireet at Kireetkona village, 3 km from Lalbag Court Road station under district Murshidabad, West Bengal, India||Crown||Vimla||Sanwart|
|23||Varanasi at Manikarnika Ghat on banks of the Ganges at Kashi, Uttar Pradesh, India||Earring||Vishalakshi & Manikarni||Kalbhairav|
|24||Kanyashram, Kanyakumari the Bhadrakali temple within the precincts of Kumari temple, Tamil Nadu, India (also thought to be situated in Chittagong, Bangladesh)||Back||Sarvani||Nimish|
|25||Present day Kurukshetra town or Thanesar ancient Sthaneshwar, at Haryana, India||Ankle bone||Savitri||Sthanu|
|26||Manibandh, at Gayatri hills near Pushkar 11 km north-west of Ajmer, Rajasthan, India||Two Bracelets||Gayatri||Sarvanand|
|27||Shri Shail, at Jainpur village, near Gotatikar, 3 km north-east of Sylhet town, Bangladesh||Neck||Mahalaxmi||Sambaranand|
|28||Kankalitala, on the banks of Kopai River 10 km north-east of Bolpur station in Birbhum district, Devi locally known as Kankaleshwari West Bengal, India||Bone||Devgarbha||Ruru|
|29||Kalmadhav on the banks of Shon river in a cave over hills near to Amarkantak, Madhya Pradesh, India||Left buttock||Kali||Asitang|
|30||Shondesh, at the source point of Narmada River in Amarkantak, Madhya Pradesh, India||Right buttock||Narmada||Bhadrasen|
|31||Ramgiri, at Chitrakuta on the Jhansi Manikpur railway line in Uttar Pradesh, India||Right breast||Shivani||Chanda|
|32||Vrindavan, near new bus stand on Bhuteshwar road within Bhuteshwar Mahadev Temple, Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh, India||Ringlets of hair||Uma||Bhutesh|
|33||Shuchi, in a Shiva temple at Suchindrum 11 km on Kanyakumari Trivandrum road, Tamil Nadu, India||Upper teeth||Narayani||Sanhar|
|34||Panchsagar exact location not known (thought to be near Haridwar)||Bottom teeth||Varahi||Maharudra|
|35||Karatoyatat, at Bhabanipur village 28 km distance from interior Sherpur. Alight at Bogra station, Bangladesh||Left anklet (ornament)||Arpana||Vaman|
|36||Shri Parvat, near Ladak, Kashmir, India. Another belief: at Srisailam in Shriparvat hills under Karnool district, Andhra Pradesh, India||Right anklet (ornament)||Shrisundari||Sundaranand|
|37||Vibhash, at Tamluk under district Purba Medinipur, West Bengal, India||Left ankle||Kapalini (Bhimarupa)||Sarvanand|
|38||Prabhas, 4 km from Veraval station near Somnath temple in Junagadh district of Gujarat, India||Stomach||Chandrabhaga||Vakratund|
|39||Bhairavparvat, at Bhairav hills on the banks of Shipra river a little distance from Ujjaini town, Madhya Pradesh, India||Upper lips||Avanti||Lambkarna|
|40||Jansthan, at Godavari river valley near Nasik, Maharashtra, India||Chin (2 parts)||Bhramari||Vikritaksh|
|41||Sarvashail or Godavaritir, at Kotilingeswar temple on the banks of Godavari river near Rajamundry, Andhra Pradesh, India||Cheeks||Rakini or Vishweshwari||Vatsnabh or Dandpani|
|42||Birat, near Bharatpur, Rajasthan, India||Left toes||Ambika||Amriteshwar|
|43||Locally known as Anandamayee Temple. Ratnavali, on the banks of Ratnakar river at Khanakul-Krishnanagar, district Hooghly, West Bengal, India||Right Shoulder||Kumari||Shiva|
|44||Mithila, near Janakpur railway station on the border of India and Nepal||Left shoulder||Uma||Mahodar|
|45||Nalhati, known as "Nalateshwari Temple" near Nalhati station of Birbhum district, West Bengal, India||Tubular bones of the feet||Kalika Devi||Yogesh|
|46||Karnat, exact location not known||Both ears||Jayadurga||Abhiru|
|47||Bakreshwar, on the banks of Paaphara river, 24 km distance from Siuri Town, district Birbhum, 7 km from Dubrajpur Rly. Station West Bengal, India||Portion between the eyebrows||Mahishmardini||Vakranath|
|48||Jessoreswari, situated at Ishwaripur, Shyamnagar, district Satkhira, Bangladesh. The temple complex was built by Maharaja Pratapaditya, whose capital was Ishwaripur.||Palms of hands and soles of the feet||Jashoreshwari||Chanda|
|49||Attahas village of Dakshindihi in the district of Bardhaman, near the Katwa railway station, in West Bengal, India||Lips||Phullara||Vishvesh|
|50||Sainthia, locally Known as "Nandikeshwari" temple. Only 1.5 km from the railway station under a banyan tree within a boundary wall, Birbhum district, West Bengal, India||Necklace||Nandini||Nandikeshwar|
|51||Hinglaj (Or Hingula), southern Baluchistan a few hours North-east of Gawadar and about 125 km towards North-west from Karachi, Pakistan||Bramharandhra (Part of the head)||Kottari||Bhimlochan|
|52||Danestwari (Kuldevi Of Bastar state ), Dantewada 80 km from Jagdalpur Tehsil, Chhattisgarh||Daant (teeth)||Danteshwari||Kapalbhairv|
|53||[Padmavati Devi] (Padmavatipuri Dham), Panns 80 km from Satna Madhya Pradesh||Padm||Padmavati Devi||Kapalbhairv|
In the listings below:
|Sr. No.||Place||Body Part or Ornament||Shakti|
|2||Near Berhampur-Orissa||Sthana khanda||Tara Tarini|
|4||Kolkata- West Bengal||Mukha khanda||Dakshina Kalika|
First relating to Brahmanda Purana, one of the major eighteen Puranas, it mentions 64 Shakthi Peetha of Goddess Parvati in the Bharat or Greater India including present day India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Another text which gives a listing of these shrines, is the Shakthi Peetha Stotram, written by Adi Shankara, the 9th century Hindu philosopher.
According to the manuscript Mahapithapurana (circa 1690-1720 CE), there are 52 such places. Among them, 23 are located in the Bengal region, 14 of these are located in what is now West Bengal, India, 1 in Baster (Chattisgarh), while 7 are in what is now Bangladesh.
Preserving the mortal relics of famous and respected individuals was a common practice in ancient India - seen in the Buddhist stupas which preserve the relics of Gautama Buddha. It is believed by some that these 64 peethas preserve the remains of some ancient female sage from whom the legend of Kali could have emerged and then merged with the Purusha - Prakriti (Shiva Shakti) model of Hindu thought.
The modern cities or towns that correspond to these 64 locations can be a matter of dispute, but there are a few that are totally unambiguous, these are mentioned in the Ashta Dasa Shakthi Peetha Stotram by Adi Shankara. This list contains 18 such locations which are often referred to as Maha Shakthi Peeths.
|Sr. No.||Place||Part of the body fallen||Name of Shakti|
|1||Trincomalee (Sri Lanka)||Groin||Sankari devi|
|2||Kanchi (Tamil Nadu)||Back part||Kamakshi Devi|
|3||Praddyumnam (Gujarat)||Stomach part||Sri srunkala devi|
|4||Mysore (Karnataka)||Hair||Chamundeswari devi|
|5||Alampur (Andhra Pradesh)||Upper teeth||Jogulamba devi|
|6||Srisailam (Andhra Pradesh)||Neck part||Bhramramba devi|
|7||Kolhapur (Maharastra)||Eyes||[Mahalakshmi devi]|
|8||Nanded (Maharastra)||Right hand||Ekavenika devi|
|9||Ujjain (Madhya Pradesh)||Upper lip||Mahakali devi|
|10||Pithapuram (Andhra Pradesh)||Left hand||Puruhutika devi|
|11||Cuttack (Orissa)||Navel||Girija devi|
|12||Draksharamam (Andhra Pradesh)||Left cheek||Manikyamba devi|
|13||Gauhathi (Assam)||Vulva||Kamarupa devi|
|14||Prayaga (Uttar Pradesh)||Fingers||Madhaveswari devi|
|15||Jwala (Himachal Pradesh)||Head part||Vaishnavi devi|
|16||Gaya (Bihar)||Breast part||Sarvamangala devi|
|17||Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh)||Wrist||Visalaksi devi|
|18||Dantewada (Chattisgarh)||Tooth||Danteswari devi|
|19||Kashmir||Right hand||Saraswathi devi|
Among these, the Shakti Peethas at Kamakhya, Gaya and Ujjain are regarded as most sacred as they symbolise three most important aspects of mother Goddess viz. Creation (Kamarupa Devi), Nourishment (Sarvamangala Devi/Mangalagauri) and Annihilation (Mahakali Devi). When observed carefully one can see that they lie in a perfect straight line from Kamakhya to Ujjain via Gaya symbolizing that every creation in this universe will annihilate one day without fail. Together with Kanchi Kamaakshi, Madurai Meenakshi, and Kashi Visaalakshi we have the most potent Shat Sakthi Peethams