Maa Adishakti is the force from whom the Trimurtis draw their power. At the beginning of creation when Brahma Dev needed the energy to create the universe, Mahadev separated Devi Shakti from Himself thus helping Brahma to complete His creation.
The birth story of Maa Adishakti as Devi Sati
At that time, Maa had promised to be born in human form to unite with Mahadev. Prajapati Daksh, manasputra of Brahma Dev, then did penance to get Maa Adishakti as his daughter. His daughter Sati was Maa Adishakti Herself whose time to unite with Shiva had come. By that time, however, Daksh had become arrogant and blinded by hatred for Mahadev which was an outcome of his arrogance. Much against his wishes Sati and Shiva were married.
Once when Daksh organised a Yagna, he did not invite his son-in-law, Mahadev. However, taken in by paternal affection Devi Sati decided to attend the Yagna against the wishes of Mahadev. There, unable to bear the insult meted out to Her husband by Her father, Devi Sati gave up Her mortal body through Her Yoga-Agni.
The Shakti Peetha story
Extremely distressed and agitated by Her death, Mahadev ordered Veer Bhadra to destroy everything and kill Daksh. Bhagwan Shiva then visited Daksh’s home to carry away the body of His wife. He was so grief-stricken that he wandered around with Sati’s body.
Recognising that this wasn’t good for the universe, Sri Hari Vishnu used His Sudarshan chakra which cut the body of Sati into several pieces. The places where the parts of Her body fell were enshrined as Shakti Peethas by Bhagwan Mahadev and a Kala Bhairav was assigned the task of protecting each Mandir.
The Shakti Peethas
There are 51 Shakti Peethas besides the 4 Adi Shakti Peethas which are located all over Aryavarta (Bharatiya subcontinent). Each Peetha has a presiding deity and a corresponding Bhairav guarding the place. The 55 centres of Maa Adishakti’s divinity are listed below.
1) Amarnath and Shri Parvat in Ladakh: The Devi here is known as Mahamaya and is guarded by Trisandyeshwar. These are the places where the throat and anklets of Devi Sati fell
2) Attahas: This village in the Birbhum district of West Bengal is where the lips of the Goddess fell. Bhairav Vishvesh guards this Mandir where Devi is known as Phullara
3) Bahula near Katwar, West Bengal: is where the left arm fell. Here Devi Bahula is the presiding deity and Bhiruk is the guardian Bhairav
4) Bakreshwar, Birbhum: Vakranath guards the Mandir of Devi Mahishmardini here. The portion between Devi’s eyebrows fell at this place
5) Bhairavparvat, Ujjaini: Devi is worshipped as Avanti where Sati’s elbow fell. The guardian Bhairav is named Lambkarna
6) Bhabanipur: is located in Bangladesh where the left anklet fell. The Bhairav here is known as Vaman where the presiding deity is Devi Aparna
7) Chhinamastika: Devi Chhinamastika Mandir is the site where Sati’s feet fell and is located at Chintpurni in the Una district of Himachal Pradesh. Rudra Mahadev guards this site
8) Gandaki, Nepal: Chakrapani guards the Mandir of Devi Gandaki Chandi. This is the site where Her Mandir fell when Shri Hari Vishnu dismembered the body of Devi Sati
9) Nasik: Here her chin fell and the presiding deity was named Bhramari Devi where Bhagwan Bhairav is Vikritaksh
10) Hinglaj: It is located in Pakistan and houses the Mandir of Kottari Devi, also known as Hinglaj Mata (body-part- Bramharandhra meaning part of the head). The Bhairav here is Bhimochan
11) Jaintia Hills District, Meghalaya: is home to Adishakti in the form of Devi Jayanti. Here Maa Sati’s left thigh fell. Bhairav is known as Kramadishwar
12) Jessoreswari, Bangladesh: This Mandir lies in Ishwaripur which was the erstwhile capital of Maharaja Pratapaditya. Devi is Jashoreshwari guarded by Chanda Bhairav. The palms of hands and soles of feet fell here
13) Jwalaji, Kangra: is one of the most popular Shakti Peethas in Himachal Pradesh. Unmatta Bhairav is the guardian Bhairav where Devi is known as Ambika and Her tongue fell
14) Kalipeeth, Kalighat: in Kolkata is one among the several well-known Devi shrines. Devi is Kalika (body part- right toes) with Nakuleshwar being the corresponding Bhairav
15) Kalmadhav: This Mandir in Madhya Pradesh is home to Devi Kali (part-left buttock) and Bhairav Asitang
16) Kamgiri, Assam: Mandir of Kamakhya Devi where Umanand is the guardian Bhairav (part- genitals)
17) Kankalitala: Devi is Devgarbha (part- pelvis) and her consort Bhairav is Ruru
18) Kankyakumari: Sarvani Devi and Bhairav Nimish are the deities in the Bhagavathi Mandir in Kanyakumari where Devi Sati’s back fell
19) Karanat, Kangra: in Himachal Pradesh where both the ears of Maa Sati fell houses Devi Jayadurga guarded by Abhiru Bhairav
20) Kireet, Murshidabad: where Her crown fell is known as Devi Vimla guarded by Bhairav Sanwart
21) Ratnavali, Hooghly: where Her right shoulder fell is located the Mandir of Devi Kumari guarded by Bhairav Shiva
22) Jalpaiguri and Amta: where Her left leg and part of Her left knee fell is located the Mandir of Devi Bhraamari guarded by Bhairav Ambar
23) Manas, Tibet: where Her right hand fell is located the Mandir of Devi Dakshayani guarded by Bhairav Amar
24) Ajmer: where Her wrists fell is located the Mandir of Devi Gayatri (also known as Chamunda Mata Mandir) guarded by Bhairav Sarvanand
25) Mithila, Indo-Nepal border: on the Nepal side where Her left shoulder fell Devi Uma Mandir guarded by Bhairav Mahodar
26) Nainativu, Sri Lanka: where Her anklets fell is located the Mandir of Devi Indrakshi (Bhuvaneshwari) guarded by Bhairav Rakshaseshwar
27) Nepal: near the famous Pashupatinath Mandir, where Devi’s knees fell is located the Mandir of Devi Mahashira that Bhairav Kapali guards
28) Chandranath hill, Chittagong: in Bangladesh where Her right arm fell is Devi Bhawani Mandir guarded by Bhairav Chandrashekar
29) Lohaghat, Uttarakhand: where Her lower teeth fell is Devi Varahi Mandir guarded by Bhairav Maharudra
30) Prabhas, Gujarat: where Her stomach fell is located the Mandir of Devi Chandrabhaga guarded by Bhairav Vakratund
31) Devprayag, Uttar Pradesh: where Her finger fell is Devi Lalita Mandir and Bhairav Bhava
32) Kurukshetra, Haryana: where Her ankle fell is located the Mandir of Devi Savitri (Bhadrakali) guarded by Bhairav Sthanu
33) Maihar, Madhya Pradesh: Her right breast fell here. The Mandir is presided by Devi Shivani and guarded by Bhairav Chanda
34) Sainthia: where Her necklace fell is Devi Nandini Mandir guarded by Bhairav Nandikeshwar
35) Rajamundry, Andhra Pradesh: where Her cheeks fell is Devi Rakini/Vishweshwari’s Mandir. Bhairav Vatsnabh/Dandpani stands guard.
36) Naina Devi Mandir, Bilaspur, Himachal Pradesh: where Her eyes fell is Mahishmardini Mandir that Bhairav Krodhish guards
37) Shondesh, Madhya Pradesh: where Her right buttock fell is Devi Narmada Mandir with Bhadrasen guardian Bhairav
38) Srisailam, Andhra Pradesh: where Her right anklet fell is located the Devi Shrisundari Mandir guarded by Bhairav Sundaranand
39) Shri Shail, Sylhet, Bangladesh: here Her neck fell and the Mandir is known as Devi Mahalaxmi which Bhairav Sambaranand guards
40) Suchindram, Tamil Nadu: where Her upper teeth fell is Devi Narayani Mandir and Bhairav Sanhar is its guardian
41) Shikarpur, Bangladesh: where Her nose fell is Devi Sugandha Mandir guarded by Bhairav Tryambak
42) Udaipur, Tripura: Her right leg fell. The presiding deity is Devi Tripurasundari and guardian Bhairav is Tripuresh
43) Ujaani, West Bengal: where Her right wrist fell is Devi Mangal Chandika Mandir guarded by Bhairav Kapilambar
44) Manikarnika Ghat, Varanasi: where Her earring fell is Devi Manikarni/Vishalakshi Mandir guarded by Bhairav Kalbhairav
45) Vibhash, West Bengal: Here Her left ankle fell and the presiding deity is Devi Kapalini guarded by Bhairav Sarvanand
46) Viratnagar, Rajasthan: where Her left toes fell is Devi Ambika Mandir and Bhairav Amriteshwar is its guardian
47) Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh: Ringlets of hair fell at this place where Devi Uma’s Mandir guarded by Bhairav Bhutesh stands today
48) Jalandhar, Punjab: Devi Tripurmalini Mandir guarded by Bhairav Bhishan is where Her left breast fell
49) Baidyanath Dham, Jharkhand: where Her heart fell is located the Devi Jaya Durga Mandir that Bhairav Baidyanath guards
50) Jajpur, Odisha: Her navel fell here. The presiding deity Devi Biraja and guardian is Varaha Bhairav
51) Kshirgram, West Bengal: where Her great toe fell is Devi Jogadya Mandir which Bhairav Ksheer Kantak guards
52) Pithapuram, Andhra Pradesh: Here part of the hip fell. It is known as Devi Purohotika Mandir guarded by Bhairav
53) Ambaji, Gujarat: where Maa is worshipped as Devi Amba is guarded by Batuk Bhairav
54) Jwaladevi, Uttar Pradesh: where Her tongue fell is Jwala Devi Mandir guarded by Bhairav Anmata
55) Dantewada, Chhatisgarh: Here Her tooth fell. The presiding deity is Danteshwari Devi who is guarded by Kapalbhairav
The four Adi Shaktipeethas are Bimala Devi within Jagannath Mandir complex in Puri, Tara Tarini Devi Mandir in Behrampur, Kamakhya Devi Mandir in Guwahati and Dakshina Kalika Mandir in Kolkata. While the Brahmanda Purana mentions 64 Shaktipeethas of Devi Parvati, Adi Shankara’s composition lists 18 Maha Shaktipeethas.
There may be slight variations with regard to the modern locations of these Peethas and their number (as noticed in the above list). However, the most important thing to remember is whatever the number, these are not just pilgrimage centres but locales where humans are expected to gain spiritual ascendance in their ultimate goal of Mukti.
The aim of going on a pilgrimage shouldn’t just be restricted to seeking blessings and gaining materialistically. In fact, one should be able to transcend the materialistic world and take baby steps towards practising detached attachment. After all, the story of Devi Sati was also about transcending the human body and identifying the divinity within.
(Featured Image Source: Get Bengal Website)