Tara-tarini The Ancient Votive Devi

Let us begin this article to know some of details of Tara-Tarini temple who is limitless with her blessing beyond imagination.

The Location:
The Tara-Tarini Goddess is in a beautiful Shrine of Odishan structural temple of art and architecture was renovated in 21st century at the longitude of 84.9 degree and latitude of 19.49 degree at a height of 708 ft. above the sea level approximately on the Kumari Hills, on the Southern bank of Rushikulya. It is around 130 km from Bhubaneswar at Purushottampur in the Ganjam district of Odisha in India. This is Devi’s ancient abode

The surrounding environment is full of natural greenery. The flowing reddish water of river Punya shloka Rushikulya gives immense pleasure of pure divinity and feels serene. On the front of the hill there are 999 steps through Singhadwar and a pucca road for vehicles through the backside of the hill to reach the Peetha.

It is a well-established fact that Devi Tara-Tarini is treated as the family deity in most of South Odisha as well as North Andhra households and it is considered as one of the most important Tantra Peetha of Adi-Shakti.

Pre-History & History
As Tara-Tarini temple is situated in Odisha, I append here the meanings in both English and Odia. TArA (ତାରା) – Durga. The 2nd of the 10 Mahabidyas or Female deities worshipped according to Tantras.
[ତନ୍ତ୍ରରେ ସେ ନୀଳବର୍ଣ୍ଣା, ଲୋଳଜିହ୍ୱା, କରାଳବଦନା, ସର୍ପାବଦ୍ଧା, ଏକଜଟା। ତ୍ରିନୟନା, ଲମ୍ବୋଦରା, ଚତୁର୍ହସ୍ତା, ବ୍ୟାଘ୍ରଚର୍ମାମ୍ବରା ବୋଲି ବର୍ଣ୍ଣିତ। ଚାରି ହାତରେ ଯଥାକ୍ରମେ ନୀଳପଦ୍ମ, ଖଡ୍ଗ, କାତି ଓ ସମୁଣ୍ଡଖର୍ପର ଧରି ଶିବା (ବିଲୁଆ) ଉପରେ ଆରୋହଣ କରିଥିବାର ବର୍ଣ୍ଣିତ ହୋଇ ଅଛନ୍ତି। Source: Purnachandra Bhashakosha, Odia]
[tantrare se neeLabarNNA, loLajihwA, karALabadanA, sarpAbaddhA, ekajaTTA, trinayanA, lambodarA, caturhastA, byAghracarmAmbarA boli barNNita. hAtare jathAkrame neeLapadma, khaDga, kAti o samuNDakharpara dhari shiva (bilua) upare ArohaNa karithibAra barNNita hoi achanti.]

Tarini (ତରଣି) – Name of a ship sailing on the sea in ancient times
TArinI (ତାରିଣୀ) – The Protector

Tara-Tarini is the Mother deity protector of the Boat.

The origin of the goddess Tara is documented in the tantric text “Adbhuta Ramayana” which was written in Sanskrit by Sage Valmiki only after Ram Charita Manasa.

Written in early 18th century in Odia, in Bichitra Ramayana the poet Bishwanatha Khuntia says,
ସଙ୍କଟ କାଳରେ ସାହା ହୋଇଲ ଯେ ମୋତେ।
ତାରା ଯେ ତାରିଣୀ ନାମ ବୋଲାଅ ଜଗତେ॥
[sankaTa kALare sAhA hoila Je mote. TarA Je TArinI nAma bolAo Jagate,]
which means, “we are blessed by you during danger. You are TArA, called as Tarini, The Protector in the World.

(Ms.) Supriya Mishra, @mishra_9 writes in twitter on 11th Nov 2019: “Tara came from t r (ତ୍ର) which means to cross. Hence the goddess as ‘she who ferries across’, ‘she who saves or a saviour’. She was worshipped by the sadhabas in order to save their ships (ବହି-ତ୍ର) from wreckage. Read about Astamahabhaya Tara.”

Tara is referred in Hindu literature as a sea goddess. Tara, the mother, who can control as chief of those saktis and guide the boats and has dark complexion whereas In Buddhist tantras Tara(s) are of green, white, yellow, blue and red colours and as per Om Tara Tuit Re Ture svaha mantra. ‘Om’ for the eastern one, ‘ta’ for the southern one, ‘ra’ for the western one, ‘tu’ for the Northern one, it for the south-eastern one, ‘re’ for the western one, ‘Tu’ for the north-western one and ‘re’ for the north-eastern one. (1)

The Astamahabhaya Tara of Ratnagiri indicates the acceptance of the worship of Mother Goddess Tara, the Primordial deity of the Mahayana Buddhist Pantheon from 1st century whereas in the Tara – Tarini, the worship was performed since ancient times as the Jaugada excavations indicating its existence was before Sarvastivada Buddhism towards a tribal cult.

The Taittiriya Aranyaka of around 2nd Millennium BC, describes Rudra (subsequently renamed as Maheshwara) as Ambikapati and Umapati. (2)

According to Hirananda Sastri the cult of Tara orginated in Tibet. She is the saviour goddess. She is the Sakti of Avolikitesvara as Uma is that of Mahesvara.

If She is the Sakti of Avolikitesvara as Uma is that of Mahesvara, then how come the cult originated in Tibet? She originated in India. Tara is SanAtana Goddess, before Buddha, the saviour of mankind. She is PrakRUti. She encodes the karmic cycle.

Maa Tariini was the real inspiration to be blessed on the adventure story of ‘Navika Sagar Parikrama’ expedition for circumnavigation the globe on ‘INSV Tarini‘ by Indian Navy’s group of six Women Officers led by Lieutenant Commander Vartika Joshi. The name Tarini befittingly given to the ship.

Of course, It is believed by Scholars that when Ashoka conquered the Kalinga Empire, he had discovered the kingdom as a famous centre of Buddhism, particularly the southern part of the kingdom through out on the bank of river Rushikulya, there was the region of religion of Sarvastivada Buddhism.

A small image of Buddha in meditating sitting posture also present inside the sanctum sanctorum of the main temple of Tara-Tarini confirms of having the ancient centre of Post-Buddha Shakta cult, the existing of Sarvastivada in the South Kalinga region.

Although the history of Tara-Tarini temple on the banks of Rushikulya is entirely in the dark part of ancient Ganjam, as a part under King Ashoka during 3rd century, but it is truth that in southern part of Kalinga huge number of black elephants tempted king Ashok to invade Kalinga and after his victory he had divided it into two parts as Uttara Kalinga and Dakshin Kalinga keeping their capital at Shishupalagada (near Bhubaneswar) and Samapa (near Tara-Tarini) respectively as per Historian K C Mishra.

By the copper inscription of Pre mediaeval Bhaumakars it is known that Samapa (South Kalinga) area was consisted of Khinjili and Kangoda Mandala Kingdoms. By the side of Jaugada, the silent witness to the rich heritage of Kalingan ancient maritime nearly 5 to 6 kms from Tara-Tarini, where Ashokan Rock edicts were found, the river Rushikulya was the main route of South and East for shipping. But it was remained in a dark oblivion till in 1761, till it was recognised as The French Bussy, except revelation of some inscriptions in the regime of Saildobhavas, Huensang’s visit and Harshvardhan’s attack on Kangoda mandala, the ancient Ganjam during 7th century.

When the French arrived, Ganjam District was sub divided into several parts. (Source: ganjam.nic.in) Finding of a shark tooth from Golbai described by B.K. Sinha in ‘Archaeology of Orissa’ makes Sila Tripathi, archeologist, Goa and her colleague believe that people had started venturing in to Chilika lake probably since the Neolithic and Chalcolithic period (2100 B.C. – 1100 B.C.) if not earlier.

Being closer to Paluru port, the mouth of Rushikulya, ruins of an ancient brick foundation at village Mukundapur on the south bank of river Rushikulya at the foot of Kumari Hill are found. Also, the deep-water level of the river Rushikulya there, points out towards flourishing maritime activities in this region through river Rushikulya. A definite affirmative attitude of Tara-Tarini as votive Devi forms for a regular practice among the people of this region involved in Maritime activities towards the worship of Tara as Tara-Tarini.

At a mere distance of 4 Kms from the place of Samapa (modern Jaugada), the capital of Southern Kalinga of Ashokan Empire, 267BC, where worship of Tara, the primordial deity of the Mahayana Buddhist sect, was performed at Purnagiri/ Ratnagiri/ Kumari (Today’s Tara-Tarini) Hill as Tara-Tarini there at might be as a Bramhana-Buddhist Shakti (Tantra) Peetha long before convention of the 4th Buddhist Councils under the presidentship of the emperor Kanishka at Kashmir where the great Councils discussed the rise of the new unorthodox canon as Mahayana.

The maritime history of Kalinga also suggests the worship of Tara by the Sadhavas, merchants and seamen before launching their sea voyage since from a very old age.

Late Chakradhar Mahapatra says in his book ‘The_real_Birth_place_of_Buddha’, mentions Upagupta, who was King Ashoka’s spiritual Guru and the person behind his conversion into a Buddhist thought in 3rd century BC, was a Buddhist monk hailed from Mathura, Ganjam, Odisha (The then South Kalinga), situated 22 Kms from Jaugada (ancient Samapa) where the 12th rock edicts of Ashoka inscripted AND disciple of Sanavasi who a disciple of Ānanda was, the Buddha’s attendant, the preceptor of Sarvastivada.

As per Pratima Kamat, the Goan History Professor, “The worship of Tara and Tarini is found in Orissa, Ganjam district (which has the famous Tara-Tarini temple), Ghatgaon and Ratnagiri (where the Astamahabhaya Tara is worshipped). These are the patron deities of sailors and merchants. Tara is worshipped by sailors for safety and success at sea along the Orissa coast. The Ratnagiri Tara is believed to save her devotees from eight great fears, one of which is of shipwreck. Yet another fear, jalarnavabhaya, is of drowning in a sinking vessel.”

The pious river Rushikulya, which has been described in Rig Veda as Gangayah Jyestha Bhagini (the elder sister of the Ganga) as mentioned in Wikipedia is also present near this shrine. ShrimadBhagabat mentions RuShikulyA – ‘महानदी वेदस्मृतिऋषिकुल्या त्रिसामाकौशिकी। (श्रीमद्भागवत 5, 19,18)
Vijayendra Kumar Mathur writes in p. 107 of his book “Aitihasik Sthanavali” that RuShikulyA, the river of South Odisha-Kalinga is emerging from eastern part of Bindhyanchala mountain range and ends in Bay of Bengal. However, Bishnu Puran writes – ‘ऋषिकुल्या कुमाराद्या: शुक्तिमत्पादसंभवा: ।’ Means, RuShikulyA Emerges from Shuktiman mountains.

It has been said that from a tribal cult Tara-Tarini have been transformed into Shakti cult through the process of aryanisation.
The Shakti cult with its multi-dimensional manifestations has a long history, traceable to Rig Veda. Among the hymns of Rig Vedic goddess, where Usha hold an important position, create herself in the consciousness of the individual soul in the maelstrom of time as result of individual deed-journey towards perfection.

In course of time the goddesses are identified to male consorts who represents Surya. The Taittiriya Aranyaka and Kenopanisad also describes Rudra as Ambikapati and Umapati. describing her as Uma, Haimavati. The Sakta Upanisad accepts Her as the creative power of Brahman. With legends, Tara- Tarini represents one limb of Sati in another rebirth of Parvati.

Further explaining the importance of Tara-Tarini Peetha among the four peethas, the Brihat Samhita
(By Varahmihira, 6th century) gives the geographical location of this Peetha:
Rushikulya Tate Devi, Tarakashya Mahagiri,
Tashya Srunge Stitha Tara, Vasishta Rajitapara”

In a hymn, the Kalika Purana (composed in the Assam region of India in 10th century) (Asthashakti) clearly says:
Vimala Pada khandancha,
Stana khandancha Tarini (Tara Tarini),
Kamakhya Yoni khandancha,
Mukha khandancha Kalika (Kali)
Anga pratyanga sangena
Vishnu Chakra Kshate nacha

After the formation of many regimes formed during 1st century AD in Kalinga, the ecclesiastical texts of Mahayana reveals that for the first time the Mahayana Buddhists accepted the worship of Mother Goddess Tara.

One of the legends of the puranic tradition connects the Shrine to be considered as the Sthana Peetha (Breast Shrine) of Adi Shakti out of the Daksha Yagyan from which the famous Shakta Peetha of Tara-Tarini originated.

According to this legend once Daksha Prajapati the father of Sati performed a Yagyan to which he deliberately did not invite his daughter and her husband Lord Siva. When Devi knew this from Narada she took the permission of her husband and came to the Yagyan site to enquire why her father did not invite her husband Lord Siva to the Yagyan. Daksha spoke insulting words to Lord Shiva, which were intolerable to Sati. As a result of this she jumped into the Yagyan Kunda and sacrificed her life. When Lord Shiva discerned this, outraged, taking the dead body of Sati he, started tandaba nritya which could have caused Mahapralaya (vast destruction).

On the request of the Devatas, Lord Brahma, Vishnu and Sani entered the corpse of Sati and disposed it part by part. Consequently, Shakta Peetha originated on the places where the organs of Sati had fallen. As the breast portion were fell on Purnagiri/ Kumari Hill, the famous Tara Tarini Shakta Peetha arose there.

Another legend, where Sati made her human form in her devotee’s house, reveals that Vasu Praharaja, a learned Brahmin of Kharida of Vira Jagannathpur Sasan near Purshottampur had the opportunity to be the foster father of the two sisters Tara and Tarini who in due course of time by the divine order of Tara-Tarini did the needful to perform Ygyan and established the Shrine at the hill top in a temple for daily worship.

Although so many festivals are performed at Tara-Tarini, celebration of monthly Sankranti as well as yearly Chaitra Tuesday head-hair sacrifice celebrations are primary.

In Chaitra the famous Danda Chadheiya Dance is also performed across the Khinjili Mandala as well as at Tara-Tarini also which is purely a Shakti cult performance. A regular yearly Danda Dance parties are performing at Tara-Tarini on Chaitra Sankranti.

As Chaitra month is the beginning of Hindu New year, these festivals are the denotations in sacrificial terms.

Maa Tara-Tarini is believed to be the Unique votive Devi of ancient Kalinga since the time of Ashoka regime and continue to be. People all over the world coming to Kumari Hill during Chaitra (Indian month) to save their children’s head as offering of sacrifice. There may be much more. The peripheral history, geography in time it needs proper documentation.

REFERENCES:Various Sources

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