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The abodes of Devi

 “I have created all worlds at my will without being urged by any higher being, and dwell within them. I permeate the earth and heaven, and all created entities with my greatness and dwell in them as eternal and infinite consciousness,” goes an excerpt from an ancient hymn called Devi Sukta in the Rigveda. According to Vedic texts, Devi is the personification of feminine primordial energy. It is also believed that it was Devi who manifested the physical universe. For this reason, she is also called Mulaprakriti (the root of nature).

Intelligent, resourceful and nurturing, Devi manifests herself in everything there is in the cosmos. She creates life forms, sustains and nourishes them. For this reason, she is like a mother. In this article, Soulveda explores some of the avatars of Devi, her legends and why she is worshipped.

Annapurna Devi Mandir

Located in the holy city of Varanasi in north India is the Annapurna Devi Mandir. The temple is dedicated to goddess Annapurna, the deity of food and nourishment. There is an interesting legend behind the temple. Lord Shiva once told his consort, goddess Parvati, that all things physical in the universe are an illusion (Maya). Naturally, Devi, who created all material things, got angry. To demonstrate the importance of her creations to Shiva, she vanished. Her disappearance caused severe repercussions on earth. Rivers dried up and lands became barren. As a result, life forms on earth starved. Upon seeing her creations suffer, Parvati was filled with compassion. She reappeared in Varanasi and set up a kitchen to feed them. When he heard of her return, Shiva went up to her and apologised. It is said that Parvati fed Shiva with her own hands. Since then, Parvati has been worshiped in this place as Annapurna, the goddess of food and nourishment.

Maha Saraswathi Temple

Koothanur, a quaint town in south India, is home to Maha Saraswathi temple. This temple is unique because it is dedicated exclusively to goddess Saraswathi, the embodiment of wisdom and knowledge. A legend has it that a young devotee, who was keen on acquiring knowledge, sought goddess Saraswathi’s blessings at the temple. Devi, moved by the devotee’s sincerity, came in front of him as a courtesan to bless him. The devotee, however, declined her offer, not seeing her for who she really was. Learning of the incident, a poet named Ottakkoothar rushed to the temple. He recognised the courtesan as goddess Saraswathi herself. The poet bowed before the goddess and sought her blessings. Soon after, Ottakkoothar’s name became well-known. In fact, it is said that the town came to be called Koothanur after this legendary poet rose to fame!

A tale goes that centuries later, Mughal emperor Akbar tried to douse the flames of Jwalamukhi with water. But they continued to blaze on brilliantly. Akbar then presented the goddess with a golden umbrella. 


Mahalakshmi Temple

The Mahalakshmi temple of Kohlapur in western India is dedicated to Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity and abundance. The story behind the temple starts with Lakshmi having a disagreement with her consort Lord Vishnu. Upset, she decides to leave Vaikunta (her celestial dwelling) and settle down in a town called Kohlapur to perform penance. However, when she arrives in Kohlapur, she finds that she has no place to stay. During this time, her devotees build a temple for the goddess, and take care of her. Impressed by their hospitality, goddess Lakshmi promises them land and prosperity.

Jwalamukhi Devi Temple

The temple of goddess Jwalamukhi (jwala means fire and mukha means face) is located in Himachal Pradesh. The goddess is believed to be an incarnation of goddess Shakti. According to a legend, when Lord Vishnu was battling demons in the Himalayas, his army of gods decided to combine their strengths to defeat the demon enemy. When they focused all their powers at one point on the ground, a blue eternal flame rose from the fissures. These flames, in turn, gave birth to a young girl called Adi Shakti, commonly known as Sati.

A tale goes that centuries later, Mughal emperor Akbar tried to douse the flames of Jwalamukhi with water. But they continued to blaze on brilliantly. Akbar then presented the goddess with a golden umbrella. However, it is said that the goddess degraded the gold and turned it into a metal completely unknown to man. This miracle is known to have strengthened Akbar’s faith in the power of the fiery goddess.

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