Durga Puja: Here’s A Glimpse At 10 Popular Durga Temples in India

Bhubaneswar: The number 10 holds a great significance during the Durga Puja, the annual Hindu festival that marks the victory of Goddess Durga over demon Mahishasur.

Durga Puja is a ten-day festival. Dussehra or Vijayadashami, which is observed on the tenth day of the festival marks the victory of Goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasur.

According to James Lochtefeld, who specializes in Hindu pilgrimage, the word Dussehra is a variant of Dashahara which is a compound Sanskrit word composed of “dasham”(दशम) and “ahar” (अहर), respectively meaning “10” and “day”.

Vijayadashami is a composite of two words “Vijaya” (विजय) and “Dashami” (दशमी), which respectively mean “victory” and “tenth,” connoting the festival on the tenth day celebrating the victory of good over evil.

The ten arms of Lord Durga symbolize that she protects her devotees from all directions namely the eight corners and from the sky and the earth.

Goddess Durga is worshipped in her different forms across the country. Across the country, several temples of the Goddess can be seen and amongst them are some that have more value than the others.

In line with the spirit of the festival, here is a curated list of top 10 Durga Temples in India.

Vaishno Devi Temple, Jammu and Kashmir

Vaishno Devi is the most popular Durga temple in India. It is nestled amidst the Trikuta Mountain, which is 61 kilometers north of Jammu at an altitude of 1584m above the sea level. As far as the legend goes Vaishno Devi was a devotee of Lord Vishnu, thus she practiced celibacy.

However, Bhairo Nath- who was a tantric, chased the Goddess and to the Trikuta Mountain. In order to save herself from Bhairo Nath, the Goddess took refuge in the cave and the Demon God could not find her for nearly 9 months.

Vaishno Devi then taking the form of Kali cut off the head of Bhairo Nath. The cave where the Goddess hid is now a popular pilgrimage and is called Garbh Joon. Vaishno Devi is accessible all through the year; however, winter months are comparatively difficult for the visit.

Mansa Devi Temple, Uttarakhand

Mansa Devi temple is situated in Badi Lambore (Lambore Dham) village on Sadulpur-Malsisar-Jhunjhunu Road near Haridwar. The Mansa Devi temple got its name from the belief that the Goddess fulfils all the wishes of her devotees.

The legend behind the temple is that the Goddess appeared in the dream of Seth Surajmalji, the head of Hamirwasiya family and asked him to build a temple. Surajmalji did as he was directed and gave the responsibility of the construction of the temple to his son. The temple was completed by 1975.

Chamunda Devi Temple, Himachal Pradesh

Situated on the banks of the River Baner, Chamunda Devi Temple is yet another important Durga temple in India. The sacred shrine is located a few kilometers from Palampur and has the deity in the wrathful form. Devotees who have faith in the Goddess offer prayers here for their ancestors.

It is said that in the olden days, people sacrificed themselves to the Goddess as well. One can also find a beautiful pond inside the temple, which is believed to have sacred water.

Kamakhya Temple, Assam

One of the best-known temples of Guwahati is Kamakhya, situated on Nilachal Hill at a distance of about 8kms west of the city. This temple honors Goddess Kamakhya, who is believed to be the essence of female energy.

Kamakhya Temple is one of the 108 Shakti Peethas of Goddess Durga. As far as the legend goes, Kamakhya came into existence when Lord Shiva was carrying the corpse of his wife Sati, and her Yoni (female genitalia) fell to the ground at the spot where the temple now stands.

The temple is in the natural cave that houses a spring. Down the flight of stairs to the bowel of earth, a dark chamber is located in the temple. Here is where the Yoni or the part of Sati that is believed to be draped in a silk sari and covered with flowers is kept. Kamakhya is known as an important temple for the Tantric sect, the shrine comes to life during the Ambubachi Fair and the Durga Puja.

Amba Mata Temple, Gujarat

A highly revered pilgrimage that attracts pilgrims from all over the country, Amba Mata Temple is situated in Junagadh, Gujarat. It is one of the most picturesque towns in India and is dotted with monuments and religious places. The town is situated at the base of the holy Girnar mountain making it an interesting place to visit in Gujarat.

Dakshineswar Kali Mandir, Kolkata

Situated along the Vivekananda Bridge north of Kolkata, Dakshineswar Kali Temple is famous for its association with Ramkrishna who is believed to have achieved spiritual vision here. This temple is said to be built by Rani Rashmoni in the year 1847.

Ramakrishna once served as the temple’s head priest here. It is believed that while worshiping in front of the statue of Kali, Ramakrishna would fall to the ground and, immersed in spiritual trance, lose all consciousness of the external world. It is how he achieved the spiritual vision here. The 12- spired temple has an enormous courtyard and is surrounded by 12 other temples that are dedicated to Lord Shiva.

Maa Jwala Ji Temple, Himachal Pradesh

Jwalaji temple is amongst the most popular Durga Temples in India. Situated 30 km south of Kangra valley, it is dedicated to Goddess Jwalamukhi who is a form of the mother Goddess. There are natural flames in the Jwalaji temple that are worshipped as a manifestation of the nine Goddesses – Mahakali, Unpurna, Chandi, Hinglaj, Bindhya Basni, Maha Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ambika and Anji Devi.

These flames burn continuously naturally, no fuel or assistance is required for it as it is seen erupting from a rock-side. According to a legend, when demons ruled over the Himalaya Mountains and harassed the gods, Lord Vishnu along with other gods decided to destroy them. They focused their strengths and huge flames rose from the ground and from that fire, a young girl took birth and she is regarded as Adishakti-the ‘First Power’, Jwalaji is said to be the same power and that is why is highly revered amongst the believers.

Karni Mata Temple, Rajasthan

Dating back to 600 year, Karni Mata temple is dedicated to Goddess Durga in the form of Karni Mata. Legend has it that she prophesied the victory of Rao Bika. The unique feature of Karni Mata Temple is the population of rats that inhabit the shrine. Owing to the belief that the souls of the devotees of the Goddess have transformed into rats and consequently, they must be looked after.

The rats are also offered Prasadam and killing even one of them (even accidently) would make one eligible to repentance. Another highlight of the temple is its huge silver gates and the marble carvings that were donated by Maharaja Ganga Singh. The temple sees a massive crowd around the Navratri festival.

Chamundeshwari Temple, Karnataka

The highly famed Sri Chamundeshwari Temple in Mysore is located atop scenic Chamundi Hills. The temple is dedicated to Goddess Chamundi, who is another incarnation of Goddess Durga. The shrine is believed to be built in the 12th century while its tower is relatively new and dates around 300 years old. Pilgrims come with a strong faith that the Goddess can help them to fulfill their needs.

Naina Devi Temple, Uttarakhand

Naina Devi Temple in Nainital is situated on the lakeside. Overlooking the lake, Naina Devi is a popular spot in Nainital. The legend has it that when Lord Shiva was carrying the burnt body of Sati, her eyes fell at the place where this temple is situated. Therefore, this temple got its name as Naina (eyes) Devi.