Innumerable temples dedicated to Goddess Durga are scattered across India. We bring to you some of the famous temples as part of the Navratri celebrations. These temples with Ma Durga as the prime deity are unique in their own respects.
1.Vaishno Devi Temple, Jammu & Kashmir
Vaishno Devi temple is renowned as one of the most sacred Hindu pilgrimage sites. The shrine is located inside a cave on the Trikuta Hills, at an altitude of 5,200 feet. The temple is distinct for natural rock formations inside a cave. As per the legend, a girl named Vaishnvi was born to a couple in South India. The girl was none other than the manifestation of Mother Goddess. She was born with the mission of upholding righteousness in the world, and to merge into Vishnu in the end. Vaishnavi set up her ashram at the foot of the Trikuta Hills and began to meditate. But in order to escape the continuous pestering of Bhairon Nath, she had to kill him on the mountain top. Then she discarded her human form and immersed herself into a rock for eternal meditation. The five and a half feet tall rock with three heads (or the Pindies) is the Sanctum Sanctorum of the holy cave. The shrine attracts millions of devotees every year.
2. Karni Mata Temple, Rajasthan
Karni Mata Temple in Deshnoke, near Bikaner, Rajasthan is popularly known as Temple of Rats. The 600-year old shrine is dedicated to Karni Mata, the incarnation of the goddess Durga. Karni Mata is believed to be a female Hindu sage born in the Charan caste. The temple is famous for the approximately 20,000 black rats that live and revered in the temple. These rats are treated as sacred beings and are given protection here. These rats are believed to be an army of soldiers who were cursed by Karni Mata. She offered the temple as a shelter for the rats to stay. The army of soldiers expressed their gratitude and promised to serve Karni Mata forever.
3. Dakshineswar Kali Temple
Dakshineswar Kali Temple is in Dakshineswar near Kolkata, India. The temple is dedicated to Bhavatarini, an aspect of Kali (Durga). Built in 1855 by Rani Rashmoni, a philanthropist and a devotee of Kali, the temple is distinct for its traditional ‘Nava-ratna’ or nine spires style of Bengal architecture. The temple is famous for its association with Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa, a mystic of 19th Century Bengal. He was the priest of the temple for a long period. The temple complex also houses six identical Shiva temples and a Vishnu temple.
4. Banashankari Temple, Karnataka
Banashankari temple in Karnataka, India is dedicated to Shakambhari or Banashankari – the sixth incarnation of Durga. Situated in the Tilakaaranya forest, the original temple was built by the Chalukyas of Kalyan Banashankari, probably in the 7th century. The existing structure displaying a distinct Dravidian style of architecture is believed to have been built in the 17th century. The temple spot is believed to be the place where the goddess killed a demon called Durgamasura. The main sanctum of the temple holds a black stone sculpture of goddess Banashankari depicted as seated on a lioness crushing a demon under her foot. Dussehra Festival and Banashankari Jatre are the important religious and cultural festivals here.
5. Durga Temple, Varanasi
Durga Temple is a famous temple dedicated to Mother Durga in the holy city of Varanasi. The 18th century temple built by a queen of Bengal displays multi-tiered shikhara. The right side of the temple has a beautiful pond named Durga Kund. The idol of Durga here is believed to be a self-manifested one, meaning it is not human made. The temple is made of red colored stone to symbolize the colour of Durga.
6. Chakkulathukavu Temple, Kerala
Chakkulathu Kavu is a renowned Durga temple located in Neerattupuram, Alappuzha District, Kerala. The temple which remained as a family temple rose to fame after its renovation a few decades ago. The temple located on the banks of Pampa River is believed to be one of the 108 Durga temples created by Lord Parasurama. The temple attracts many pilgrims especially during the major festival named Pongala here. The deity here is known locally as “Chakkulathamma”. The Pongala festival in the temple is a symbolic reminder of an ancient incident in which the goddess herself prepared food for a devout hunter and his family. Devotees prepare the food as humble offering to the Mother Goddess. Naree Pooja is another important festival that celebrates womanhood.
7. Naina Devi Temple in Himachal Pradesh
Naina Devi Temple is one of the 51 Shaktipeeths – a place of worship where the ashes of the goddess Shakti or Sati (an aspect of the mother of the holy trinity) is believed to be sprinkled. Located on a hilltop, the shrine can be reached via curvy road and then by concrete steps. Pilgrims can also reach the top by a cable car facility.
According to a legend, Goddess Sati, the first consort of Shiva, burnt herself alive in a Yagna conducted by her father Daksha. This incident shattered Lord Shiva. He picked the corpse of Sati on his shoulder and started his Tandava dance (a vigorous and divine dance form). The shocked deities in the heaven urged Lord Vishnu to stop the destructive dance. He released his weapon ‘Chakra’ and cut the Sati’s body into 51 pieces. Shri Naina Devi Temple is believed to be the place where eyes of Sati fell down; hence; the name “Naina” meaning “eye”.