Tarapith - Temple town
The Seat of Tantra
Tarapith is one of the most important places of pilgrimage and is not only one of the 51 Shakti Pithas but also a Mahapitha. Today’s Tarapith is yesteryears Chandipur located on the eastern banks of Dwaraka river. Legend has it that sage Basistha Muni attained to Nirvana while meditating on the “Panchamundi Asana” in the cremation ground on the banks of the Dawaraka river.
However, as of today the shimmering Dwarka river has been reduced to a stream and the crematorium too isn’t what it used to be in its earlier times. But Tarapith continues to flourish as a Hindu pilgrimage centre where some of the great spiritual giants of erstwhile Bengal like – Kamalakanta, Raja Ramakrishna, Bishekshypa, Anandanath, Mokshadananda, Kailashpati Baba, Shankar Baba, Bamakhyapa and others of their elk, all attained spiritual fulfilment in this blessed “pitha”.
The presiding deity at Tarapith is “Tara Ma” revered by millions of Hindus worldwide. Legend has it that way back in 1225 BC, the present Aachtala temple was built by one Jagannath Ray of Mallarpur and the temple is replete with sculptures of Goddess Mahisa Mardini. The Battle of Kurukshetra and episodes from the Hindu epic Ramayana have been rather skillfully depicted.
The most intriguing feature of the sanctum sanctorum is that Tara Ma’s entire body is covered, except her face. It is only after the evening aarati that devotees get a glimpse of the original stone idol of Lord Shiva sucking nectar from the breast of Mahakali.
The legendary “Jibita Kunda” (Living Pond) and the temple of Biram too are worth visiting as is the Mahasamsan where Tara Ma is believed to have kept aside her necklace of skulls that she wore and went to bathe in the river Dawaraka. Don’t be taken aback by the sight of countless Sadhus, tantriks and fakirs absorbed in deep meditation especially in the early hours of the morning and at dusk.
Try to coincide your visit to Tarapith in time of 2nd of Shravan, which is the day of commemoration of the passing away of one of the greatest Tantrik sadhaka of India – His Holiness Bamakhyapa.
Apart from Ma Tara’s temple at Tarapith, a visit to the nearby “Gol Ghar” built by Hampton Sahib of the British East India Company can be a very rewarding experience.
There is Birchchandrapur located at a distance of 10 Kms. from Tarapith, which renowned for its “Garvabas” and all you have to do is hop into any Sainthia bound bus. Birchandrapur, by the way is the birth place of Nityananda Mahaprabhu and there is the temple of Aachtala at Bankarai, which was worshipped Nityananda on the riht side of the thoroughfare.
Most visitors and pilgrims to Tarapith also make it a point to visit Nalhati, which is a mere 15 Kms. from Tarapith and is renowned as a Shaktipitha just like Tarapith as Sati’s windpipe (throat) is believed to have fallen here. In the temple of Charchala, a piece of stone covered with cloth and smeared with vermilion, having eyes,nose and mouth made of silver is routinely worshipped. Every day, at early dawn when the goddess is bathed in the temple’s pulpit, the Sati’s windpipe can be seen.
Legend has it that the temple was built by Rani Bhawani of Natore. According to another school of thought, one Ramsharan Sharma was ordered by the goddess to build a temple and he in turn took the help of some local merchants who set out to trade.
In earlier time there used to be a spring at the back of the temple, which is non existent today. There is also the Udhuanala filed where the last Nawab of Bengal – Mir Quasim fought a hard pitched battle against the mighty British. Further uphill, there is a Neem tree and the speciality of this tree is that the leaves of the branch extending towards the temple is bitter as usual, while the branch extending towards the “Mazar” has leaves which isn’t sweet but definitely not bitter either.
For the archaeological buffs, there is a site on the hillock where countless weapons belonging to the Old, Middle and Stone Age have been excavated and are well preserved at the Kolkata Museum.
Pilgrimage aside, visitors to Tarapith also venture to Bhadrapur on National Highway – 2, which happens to be the birth place of freedom fighter Nandakumar, who was reportedly hanged by the British for protesting against the dishonest policies of Warren Hastings. Nandakumar was blessed by Goddess Kali who appeared in his dream and instructed him to build a temple – the temple of Devi Akali.
The characteristic feature of the Akali temple is that it is replete with an octagonal “Garbagriha”, an image of “Sharpasinha”, “Sharpabharana”, “Barabayadayini Dwibhuja” and “Smashanbasini Jaganmatha”. However, Nandakumar was unable to complete the construction of the temple as he was hanged by the British.
Where to Stay:
Tarapith has numerous hotels to suit every budget that are either in close proximity to the temple or within 5 minutes walking distance. Some of the best places to stay at Tarapith are the Bharat Shevashram Sangha, Hotel Suvam, New Binapani Lodge, Dawaraka Lodge, Mahadev Bhawan etc..
There are Dharamsalas galore like Joy Ma Kali Santan Sangha, Naya Niwas, Bamdev Sangha, Tarapith Sangha, Shivananda Ashram etc… that are ideal for lodging.
How to Reach:
From Kolkata the distance to Tarapith is 294 Kms. CSTC buses ply regular bus services from Sahid Minar (Esplanade). Trains from Howrah Railway Station can also be availed that connects to Bolpur and from Bolpur one can reach Tarapith by bus.
Local taxis too may be hired from airport, Sahid Minar (Esplanade), Sealdah Railway Station as well as Howrah Railway Station.