Our temples and tourism (Part-I)

Ours is an ancient land of Sanatan Hindu religious tradition. For her geographical position Hinduism is always one of the ways of life here. So, hundreds of Sanatan holy places (Shakti peetha, temple, ashram or math, shmashan etc) concerned with this religion are seen throughout this country. Many of these are very old and famous. These sites are thronged by a huge number of devotees or tourists round the year.

Sanatan sacred places of our country can be classified into few categories I have mentioned already in the first paragraph. These are – Shakti peetha (a holy place of worship consecrated to Goddess Shakti), Sanatan Hindu temple (a structure reserved for Sanatan Hindu religious or spiritual rituals and activities), Sanatan math (monastery) or ashram (hermitage) and shmashan (crematorium or elevated place for burning dead bodies). Besides, some sacred places are seen to be important for a particular short period of time on the occasion of religious functions. In this part of my composition, I would like to highlight only the Shakti peethas of Bangladesh which are frequently visited by devotees or tourists from home and abroad.

Shakti Peethas are related to a well-known Sanatan mythology. There was a king named Daksha whose daughter was Goddess Sati. When Sati grew older, she performed intense penance to attain Lord Shiva as her husband. As Daksha was performing a Yagna, he invited all the gods and goddesses except Lord Shiva and Sati. Sati insisted on attending the function despite the disapproval of Lord Shiva.

When Sati entered Daksha’s palace, King Daksha insulted her. He said that his other daughters were more distinguished and worthy of honour than Shiva and Sati. Sati could not bear Daksha’s insulting words for her husband. She threw herself in glowing sacred fire and Daksha Yagna was deserted. When news reached Lord Shiva, he was enraged. He created a fierce giant named Veerbhadra from his hair and ordered him(Veerbhadra) to go and destroy the Yagna of Daksha. Veerbhadra rushed to the sacrificial area and severed the head of Daksha. However, it was proclaimed that the Yagna should not be left incomplete. So, a head of goat was placed to restore his life. Sad Lord began to wander carrying the dead body of Sati. He started dance of destruction of universe. In order to save universe and break this attachment of Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu with his Sudarshana Chakra (the whirling knife on his finger tip) cut Satis body into pieces. Sati’s body pieces fell at 51 different places of the world and these are called Shakti peethas. Among them five Shakti peethas are located at different areas of Bangladesh. These are Bhavanipur peetha, Chandranath peetha, Jeshoreshwari peetha, Shri Shail peetha and Sugandha peetha. These are discussed below.

*Bhavanipur Shaktipeetha
It is a sacred site located about 28 kilometres from Sherpur Upazila of Bogra District,Bangladesh. As per Hindu sacred texts, the part of Goddess Sati’s body fell at Bhavanipur could be left anklet (ornament), ribs of left chest, right eye or bedding (according to various sources). There are numerous temples at this Shakti peetha premises which are visited by pilgrims round the year. The Goddess is addressed here as ‘Aparna’ and Lord Shiva as ‘Vamana’.

*Chandranath peetha
Chandranath temple, located on the Chandranath hill is a famous Shakti peetha located near Sitakundu, Chittagong, Bangladesh. According to Sanatan Hindu sacred texts the right arm of Goddess Sati fell on this place. So, Chandranath temple is a holy place for the Shakta sect of Hinduism. Each year Shiva Chaturdashi festival is held here.

*Jeshoreswari peetha
It is a famous Shakti peetha. The temple of this holy place is dedicated to Goddess Kali. It is located in the village of Ishwaripuri under Shyamnagar Upazila of Satkhira district, Bangladesh. The name ‘Jeshoreshwari’ means ‘Goddess of Jessore’. According to Sanatan Hindu mythology, the palm of Goddess Sati fell here. Legend says that King Pratapaditya of Jessore discovered a luminant ray of light coming from the bushes and came upon a piece of stone carved in the form of a human palm. Later, he started worshiping Goddess Kali building the Jeshoreshwari Kali Temple. The Goddess is addressed here as ‘Jeshoreshwari’ and Lord Shiva as ‘Chanda’.

*Shri Shail peetha
Shri Shail Shakti peetha is located at Jainpur village, Dhakshin Surma near Gotatikar, 3 kilometers north-east of Sylhet town, Bangladesh. It is believed that the neck of Goddess Sati fell here. The Goddess is worshipped here as ‘Mahalakshmi’ and Lord Shiva as ‘Samvaranand’.

*Sugandha Shaktipeetha
This Shaktipeetha is located in Shikarpur, few kilometers north of Barisal in Bangladesh. It lies down on the bank of the river Sunanda. The Goddess is called here ‘Sunanda’ and Lord Shiva is worshipped as ‘Traimvak’.

Among the Sanatan Hindu sacred places of Bangladesh, Shakti peethas and the temples of Goddess are very important to the Shakta sect of Hindu devotees. As these sanctuaries have both mythological and archaeological importance, tourists from home and abroad feel a great attraction for them.
Talker: Swapna Das, Chittagong, Bangladesh

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