Spiritual Travel - Kashi for Devi devotees
by Rachna Singh Chopra
Mystery surrounded as I stepped into the land of Devalgarh in the Pauri district of Garhwal Himalayas. Literally meaning the Hub of Devatas, Devalgarh is replete with hidden caves meant for penance, six underground canals made for security reasons, and several ancient temples dating back to the 13th century. Established by the King of Kangra named Deval, and ruled lastly by Ajai Pal (1358 to 1370), the land is full of legend and unexplored adventure.
Mention surfaced about the most significant Siddha Peetha of Rajrajeshwari in this territory, where the Goddess of the Kings stays gloriously high atop a hill; led by several temples on the way. We did not have to
ask any directions on the dangerously curvaceous hill terrain to reach her abode. Only to halt at a dhaba for refreshment! With the warm tea glass warming my palms, I gazed in stupor at a pointer that said Rajrajeshwari Peetham. Parking the car at the dhaba itself, and with my shoes dangling behind my rucksack, I started my pilgrimage barefoot. A black doggie followed.
Day was fast receding into the lap of the night. Avoiding the 9 km road, we chose an offbeat short cut. At every path on the way, we were guided by our little black companion, whose presence no more seemed accidental. Whenever we rested, she waited. When we gathered strength, she leaped forth joyously and resumed her lead position. Who was she, I wonder now, as she left no trace of hers after she put us into the custody of our destination.
At the culmination of a most fulfilling trek passing through Laxminarayan temple, Bhairav Gufa, Murlimanohar and Gauri temples, as we finally reached the three-storey structure of the triple Goddess, we were in for interrogation.
‘Kunji-Ka-Prasad’ Uniyal, the priest, well-guarded by two of his dogs, asked lots of questions about our origin, surname and religious calling. I told him candidly that I was neither a Bhandari, nor a Thakur, nor a Rawat, but a Devi worshipper; and my guru too was a Sri Chakra Upasaka. This reply cleared his doubts and he not only lent us accommodation for the night but the most lovingly prepared meal of chulai and chapatis.
Frequent roars of an unseen tiger in the forest, Pandit Uniyal’s well-guarded tales about the powers of the Goddess, King Ajay Pal’s doting on the Goddess and a close scrutiny of wrinkling tantric scripts in torchlight, made the night truly intriguing.
The Akhand Havan Kund was clearly ensuring the living presence of the Goddess here, so much so that I felt my sleep was being cradled by her arms. And in the dream that followed, I was visited by a cow that looked at me long with her large loving eyes and communicated that she had come to check out the new visitor!
After a morning bath and a careful climb up a set of creaking wooden steps onto the third floor, I bent low before the image of Batuk Bhairavnath who sat atop a dog. His worship is customary before entering the dimly lit sacred chamber of the Goddess.
Amidst the various representations of several goddesses, icons of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Hanuman, Shiv, Shani, Ashtabhuji Durga and Chaturbhuji Durga, sat the golden glory of Her, who is called by 16 sweet names. Rajrajeshwari, as She is fondly revered, is the Goddess of Bhog, Yog and Moksha, and refutes the conception that where there is Bhog (indulgence) there cannot be Moksha. In Her territory, one can acquire all three. Right in the heart of the yantras shines Her image, decked with the colour red and washed with saffron milk on all festivals, every occasion, at all seasons of the heart, in all moods and ages.
This Shakti Peetha is called the Kashi for Shakti-Upasakas, and almost all Hindu kings have paid her a tribute! In the year 1512 when Ajay Pal took possession of the territory, he constructed the third floor of the temple, and used to worship the Goddess personally with family and fanfare.
Secrets welled up, asking to be unravelled, questions sprouted as Pandit Kunji-Ka-Prasad continued to speak lovingly about the Mother and Her many miracles, calling her Bhagwati all the while. Receiving the 16-syllable mantra from his lips and pondering on the enigma of the Sri Yantra, it seemed more and more clear that the only way to unravel its mystery, open its codes and reach uptill the centremost core, the nucleus or the kingdom of the Goddess, is to moisten your heart with yearning.
The only penance one need to do is to love Her, who heaves life into foetuses with her sighs, whose garment must touch the stem for the rose to open its helm, whose eyelash must tickle the feather of a million bird for them to take to the sky, and whose lap must get warm for the noon to dawn.
Ah! I now understood that the several angles in the Yantra were but Her many moods, the several intersections—the rules of Her play. Its image is the signature of the Goddess, her imprint. When you contract Her many aides to lines, Her many powers to angles, reduce her several forms to Bija mantras, you make a Sri Yantra, a fortress, where She chooses to remain hidden to the ignorant prying eye.
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