Maa Khambeswari Thakurani is a highly revered deity worshipped in the town of Aska, which is in the Indian state of Odisha's Ganjam district. Aska is situated approximately twenty miles away from Berhampur, and the town's reputation for its religious significance draws a large number of devotees and tourists annually.

The current temple dedicated to Maa Khambeswari Thakurani was built much later than the original worship site. The temple houses a unique stone pole that has been transformed into an anthropomorphized deity with the addition of a metal disc and head. Although the body and limbs of the deity are mostly hidden by heavy garments and ornaments, the nose, mouth, three eyes, and protruding tongue of the deity are carved and made of gold. The image of Maa Khambeswari confers the impression of a real Hindu image, and the shape of her head closely resembles that of Maa Subhadra, a deity worshipped in the Jagannatha temple of Puri.

The history of the worship of Maa Khambeswari Thakurani is rooted in legend. According to popular belief, a hermit named Khambamuni used to live in the forest where Maa Khambeswari Thakurani is currently worshipped. One day, Maa Khambeswari appeared to Khambamuni in a dream and expressed her desire to be worshipped. Khambamuni agreed to this on the condition that she would live with him as his daughter, to which Maa Khambeswari complied.

However, people passing through the forest became suspicious of the old man living alone with a beautiful girl. Initially, Khambamuni refused to reveal the secret of Maa Khambeswari's true nature, but eventually, he disclosed it to convince the people of the truth. Despite this, Maa Khambeswari played several mischievous pranks on Khambamuni, including making him pay for bangles and frightening him by holding a baby cut into pieces in her arms.

This eventually angered Khambamuni, who slapped her, causing her face to turn to one side. In response, Maa Khambeswari announced that her childhood pranks were over, that Khambamuni would die, and that she would be worshipped on that spot by one of his sons. The legend of Maa Khambeswari thus recounts the story of how the deity came to be worshipped in Aska and the circumstances that led to her establishment as a beloved and revered goddess.

Today, Maa Khambeswari continues to be worshipped in Aska according to a mantra adopted for Maa Bana Durga, and she is offered vegetarian dishes daily. On Dussehra, goats are sacrificed, and the Bhoga or Prasada offering cooked by low-caste priests is taken by all caste Hindus without any reservation. This practice reflects the egalitarian spirit of Hinduism, which seeks to overcome social barriers and promote harmony and unity among all its followers.

The worship of Maa Khambeswari Thakurani is an integral part of the religious and cultural landscape of Aska and the surrounding region. The legend of Maa Khambeswari and the history of her worship attest to the enduring power of myth and ritual in shaping the beliefs and practices of people over time. The town of Aska, with its unique temple and rich cultural heritage, serves as a testament to the enduring vitality of the Indian religious tradition and the continuing importance of spirituality in the lives of people around the world.

The Maa Khambeswari Baisakhi Jatra is a popular festival celebrated annually in the town of Aska in the Ganjam district of Odisha. The festival is dedicated to the goddess Maa Khambeswari Thakurani, who is considered to be a powerful deity and is worshipped by thousands of devotees across the region.

The Baisakhi Jatra, which is also known as the Baisakhi Mela, is held during the month of April, which coincides with the Hindu calendar month of Baisakha. The festival is marked by various rituals, cultural events, and a grand procession.

The Maa Khambeswari Baisakhi Jatra is a major event in the cultural calendar of Aska and attracts thousands of devotees and visitors from across the state. The festival is a celebration of the power and divinity of Maa Khambeswari and is a testament to the rich cultural heritage of Odisha.

If traveling from Bhubaneswar, one can choose a bus or taxi service. The distance between Bhubaneswar and Aska is approximately 176 kilometers, and the journey can take about 4-5 hours by road. Many private and state-run buses travel this route, with the starting point being Bhubaneswar bus stand and ending at the Aska bus stand. Another option is to hire a private car or taxi for direct travel to Aska.

For those traveling by train, the closest railway station to Aska is Berhampur. Berhampur railway station is well-connected to various cities and towns in Odisha and other regions of India. From Berhampur, one can opt for a taxi or bus to reach Aska. The distance between Berhampur and Aska is about 22 kilometers, and the journey takes around 30-40 minutes by road.

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