The Sarala Temple is a Hindu temple in the district of Jagatsinghpur, Orissa, India. The temple is accessible by road from Jagatsinghpur, Cuttack and Paradeep. The nearest airport is Bhubaneshwar, which is approximately 80 km, and is well connected by road. The nearest railway station is Cuttack; however, there is a small Passenger Halt at Sarala Road, near Tentulipada. The temple can be reached via Jagatsinghpur, or Tarapur by road, from Cuttack.
Maa Saarala is a Hindu goddess who patronizes the cultures of Vaishnav and Shakta. Rarely does one find the use of Vilva Patra and Tulasi patra in any temple, as they are symbols of two distinct divisions of Hindu culture.
There is also some controversy regarding the deity, where it is suspected that the deity may be a Buddhist tantric figure, as she holds a book, Veena and hand bell – known Mahayana symbols. It is said that Huen Tsang, the Chinese pilgrim, visited Orissa and he had taken a ship from Chilitolo Port to Sri lanka, which historians attribute to modern day Tirtol. This may be a possibility as geography shows that Paradip was an island and the land in and around Kujanga was under water - Sea/River. There is geographic evidence to support this. To be at a safer side, we may conclude that Sarala represents the Shiva-Shakti cult which evolved from an amalgamation of Shaivism (worship of Shiva), Shaktism (worship of the Mother Goddess) and/or Tantric form.
Goddess Sarala is known as Vak Devi, the Goddess of Knowledge and Wisdom. It is well documented that Sidheshwar Parida - a small time farmer and part-time Oriya Paika - was an ardent follower of the Goddess and it was after her blessings that Sidheshwar Parida became Sarala Das, the author of the Oriya Mahabharata.
Folklore goes back to thousands of years, to the age of Parashurama. It is said that it was God Parashurama who had carved the goddess with the tip of his arrow. Even this temple survived the ravages of Kala Chand (legendary Kala Pahada). The new temple- 500 years old - was built by the Raja of Manijanga. The remnants of the old temple is not visible, but folklore goes that it was at Badasarol, a place where the Ganesha Temple, (generally adorns the south gate of all Oriya temples) (Nanda Deula, now renovated) stands as witness, where the old temple once stood.
Although there are many festivals that are celebrated in the temple, the major ones are: Parbana, Sharadiya Utsav, Pana Sankranti, Dola Purnima, Chandan Jatra. The people of the Kendrapara, Jagatsinghpur and Cuttack districts are so attached to the goddess that they make it a point to visit the temple every year - at least once.
This shrine of Goddess Sarala of Jhankada is one of the most spiritually elevated expression of Shaktism from time immemorial. The heavenly abode of the Goddess is existent in the village of Sarala (Kanakapur) of the Jagatsinghpur district, located on the eastern coast of India. It is believed that Goddess Sarala is a synthesis of divine figure of Durga and Matangi. Three idols of Goddess are there in the sanctum sanctorum of the main temple. The main idol, carved out of stone is of eight-armed keeping right feet on the lion in Mahisha Mardini posture. As per the main priest (Puja Panda), the dhruva/main idol of Goddess is stationary (Achalanti Mula Vigraha) and she holds Sword (Khadga), Trident (Trishul), Manuscript (Pustak) and Lute or Veena in her right hands and Disk (pattisha), Bow (Karmuka), Bell (Ghanta) and the head of Buffalo Demon (Mahishasura) left hands. Some scholars associate Devi as Matangi mahavidya. The second idol of Maa is four-armed, holding Shankha, Chakra, Varada and abhaya mudra, and the third idol is two-armed, made out of eight precious metals (Ashtadhatu). These idols of Maa are taken out of temple in different ceremonial occasions and known as movable idols (Chalanti Bigraha).
The Goddess otherwise known as Jhankad Vaasini Sharada or ‘Maa Sarola’ is worshiped in most of the houses of the local districts as well as in the state.
The Culture of the deity result of the amalgamation of three principal Hindu cults Vedic, Tantrik and Vaishnavite. This place is one among the eight most famous Shakta shrines of Orissa.
As per historical evidences, it is believed that this famous temple of Sarala Chandi was constructed in Sarola Grama during the Bhauma Dynansty in 8th Century. The Goddess “Maa Sarala” was being worshiped in this temple till the end of Hindu rule in 1568 A.D. History, tradition, legend and literature remained as the silent witness to the existence of Sarola Chandi in the Sarola grama (village). In this context one among the great verses of Oriya Mahabharat may be quoted here.
"Nila sunder giri uttar diga kone. Saraswata bhumi bharata khanda aisanya, Chandra bhaga bolikari nadi eka goti, Brudha matanka paruse maho dadhi bheti, Se nadi titare parsuramje ghatoi, Kanaka bati patana nama prakasai. Ta utare anuja sarol boli grama Bijaya maheswari sarola chandi nama."
A ruined temple still in existence (renovated in the year of 1982) along with a large tank nearby and surrounded by residences of all categories priests ( Pujapanda, Niyogi, Roul Sevak, Mali). Also there was a huge banyan tree (described as Nilakalpabata in Oriya Mahabharat) on the spot and uprooted out in the Super Cyclone in the year of 1999). Being established in 8th century in the time of Bhauma dynasty, it was flourishing till the end of Independent Hindu rule 1568 AD. As legends, supported by historical evidences, in 1568 AD Supreme commander of the Muslim army Kalapahada of Benagli sultan Sulemankarani raided the original shrine of Sarola Chandi at Sarola grama and partly destroyed its far famed Shakti temple. Just after hundred years during the reign of Moghul emperor Aurangzeb the old temple of sarola grama was devastated and a mosque was built few metres away in the west of the temple.
At present Lord Ganesh is being worshiped in the ruined temple (Newly constructed in the year of 1982) by the head priest of the Goddess in the patronship of Sarala Trust. Some important ritualistic ceremonies are still observed in the old shrine thrice in a year. The processional idol “Chalanti Vigraha” of Sharala is brought in a gorgeous palanquin from the present temple to the Sarola grama seven times in a year to commemorate the ancient rituals. The idol of the deity ceremoniously installed on the old throne where she had been worshiped for centuries. A male goat was traditionally sacrificed through the pancha upachara puja at the place as the last ritual in the occasion of Dussehra. Mahabisuva Pana Sankranti noon is the great occasion (Jhamu Yatra) Roul sevaks dance on fire and green coconut offered to Devi by panda pujakas. In the dawn of Dola Purnima decorated vimans consisting of several deities from adjacent localities congregate along with the goddess. This interesting occasion is observed with pomp and ceremony. This particular occasion, when Goddess Sarala is worshipped along with other deities, signifies that Maa Sarala is an amalgamation of Vedic cult, tantrik rites and vaishnavik efflorescence. The present temple of Goddess was constructed during the period of Marahatta administration between 1753 and 1803. Marahatta Subedars took initiatives and helped the local kings (Gajapati) of Kujanga, Kanika, Benahar and Harishpur to construct the present temple. Present temple situated in the village of Kanakpur of Jhankada Pragana(Kanankbati patana). It is located in a specious compound consists of a Deula of Pidha order, a Jagamohan or Mukhasala with three Pidha-roofs aligned in a north south axis, and a flat roofed Manadap. The walls of Deula and Jagaamohan is divided into two stored by Madhya Bandhan. The projecting paga is designed as pidha-mundis on both stored though they are not niches. The Anuraha recess has two super–imposed figure motifs on each story. They are filled with erotic kanya motifs, lion motifs on Brahamanical deities. The raha is decorated with a large pidha-mundi that extends up to two storeys. Its niche is filled with various aspects of Devi. On north and south (Sandhi Sthal) bonding are two idols of Devi, one superimposed above the other. The sean on the south represent Parvati and Kali sturts that extend to the height of the barandha support the pidha-roof of both structures. The sturts are decorated with Mithunas or Alasa Kanyas. The Pidha-roofs consists of conventional pidha mouldings and crowning mastka. Exterior pilaster supports the roof of the mandap at the front of the east west axial alignment. The wall openings between the pilasters are designed as cusped arches. Images of the Dasamaha Vidya are carved at spaced intervals just below the ceiling within the Mandap. The flat roof has two tires. A large image of Mahisamardini is at the front edge of the roof. The Devi is eight armed and placed within a circular medallion decorated with lotus petals. If we go through the annals of history, we find that the Sarala temple was managed by a single man called “Parichha” and he was the sole authority (de facto ruler) of the temple till mid eighties. In the year of 1863 Endowment Act was promulgated by the British rulers and a no. of religious establishments came under the control of Endowment for the first time in the history of India.
As per the historical evidences, immediately after the promulgation of endowment act the administration of religious establishments like Kadam Rasul (Cuttack) Jagannath Vallbha Math (Puri), Sakhi Gopal (Puri District), Lingaraj Temple (Bhubaneswar), Baladev Jew Temple (Kendrapara), Govinda Jew Temple (Kendrapara), Bhagabati Temple (Banapur) and Sarala Temple of Jhankad (Cuttack district) came under endowment. According to this act, a three member trustee will be in charge of the administration of the religious establishments under the endowment and the District Judge of the concerned districts were empowered to select three members (normally eminent persons) as Trustees for the concerned religious establishments.
After the endowment took control over the temple administration some of the prominent personalities were nominated by District Judge of Cuttack for Sarala Temple and they are Dasa Rathi Dash, Gokulananda Choudhury, Giris Chandra Ray Chaudhuri, Raybahadur Nimain Charan Mitra, Babu Shyam Sundar Bose, Babu Kapileswar Das, Susil Raj Choudhury, Niranjan Parija.
Though the endowment act had many good provisions for the temple administration but it had a serious drawback. Once appointed, a member gets lifetime tenure as a trustee and can only be succeeded by other nominated members after his death. Because of this provision in the act, some ineffective members started continuing in different temple administrations for years together without significant or no contributions. The Sarala temple was not an exception. Most of the members nominated by District Judge, Cuttack were hesitant to visit the Sarala Temple as because it was little far away (fifty kilometers) from Cuttack and was not connected with good roads. So they used run the administration of the temple from Cuttack. Therefore after the appointment of trustees, there was no change in the administration scenario in Sarala Temple and it remained as before. After few years, for crisis management the then Trust Board appointed a local headman named Chintamani Parija of Tentulipada village as manager of the temple and this man brought some changes in the administration during his tenure as manager. But probably that was not enough and the villagers of nearby villages were highrunly dissatisfied the way the temple was administered.
In the year of 1928, the Cuttack District Judge received some complaints regarding mismanagement in the temple. To streamline the administration, the District Judge nominated Ray Bahadur Chintamani Acharya and Choudhury Brajanath Mishra of Veda village as members in the temple trust board and that heralded a new era in the administration of Sarala temple. Ray Bahadur Chintamani Acharya took very good initiative to make administration more efficient and effective. He also had brought some changes to the old rules and enforced new rules and regulations for the long term benefit of the temple. During his tenure, the development of the Sarala temple reached a new height.
In absence of proper rules and regulations for temple administration the donations of the pilgrims were taken away either by the Sevayats or by Parichhas (Hereditary administrator of the temple) and could not be used for the welfare of the temple. But for the first time in the history of the temple, Chintamani Acharya, had brought changes by making new laws through trust board to discontinue the above practice. Moreover under the new law, he ensured that donation of the pilgrims either in cash or kind is accepted by the temple administration. Also to properly account for the donations, he started the system of providing printed receipts to pilgrims against their donations. While implementing new rules for the betterment of the temple, there was growing dissatisfaction among Pujakas or Sevayats. Ray Bahadur Acharya immediately realized this and to address this issue he proposed a unique model of temple income sharing by the Sevayats. As per the model, on a particular day, those (the Sevayats) are on duty would get 14 of the temple income of that day. By enacting these new laws through the trust board and by creating public awareness, Ray Bahadur Acharya was able attract good amount of donations from the general public. Later on these public donation money was utilized for the improvement of the temple and brought a visible change in and around the temple area.
Ray Bahadur Chintamani Acharya will be always remembered for his contributions for the development of the Sarala temple. Besides development, he was responsible for preparing a by-law for temple administration, which laid the foundation stone for the proper administration of Sarala Temple and for which his name will be written in the golden letters in the history of the temple. As per the by-law an honorarium was fixed (Prapye pauna) for the Panda Sevak for the first time in the temple history and after the by-law came into force, the old hereditary Parichha administration was completely abolished.
“The Parichha administration was most corrupt and lethargic because of hereditary in nature. We don’t have any hesitation to abolish it by preparing a new by-law” said Ray Bahadur Chintamani Acharya, before discontinuing the Parichha administration in Sarla Temple. From that time onwards the ritualistic duty of Parichha was handed over to a representative selected from the panda pujaks. Narasingha Pand, was the first empowered Panda Pujak and performed the ritualistic duty of Parichha. He was successful to discontinue the age old animal sacrifice system by mobilizing public and Pujak Sevaks of the temple. In the year of 1946 entry of Harijan people (Harijan prabesh) into the temple was organised by P.S.P leader Nisamani Khuntia and it was another important event in the history of the temple. It was a great conflict between sevayat and administration in the history of temple.
In the year of 1939, Hindu Devotara Endowment act came into force and a commissioner became the head of the endowment. Trustee appointment power was transferred from District Judge to Endowment Commissioner. As per the new act, the trust board once constituted will have five years tenure and it has to be re-constituted after each five years. Under the Hindu Devotara Commissioner in the first trust board Ray Bahadur Chintamani Acharya was appointed as managing trustee, Baman Charana Mohanty and Giridhar Das were appointed as two members. After five years, in the year 1945, the trust board re-constituted and in the place of Giridhar Das, Sarat Chandra Parija appointed as the trustee.
At least three buses are plying everyday from Cuttack (Badambadi bus stand) to Sarala peetha (Kanankpur). One can avail bus facility from Cuttack or Paradeep in every fifteen minutes and can get down at Sarala Road stoppage to visit Sarala Temple. The Temple is only 10 minutes away from the bus stoppage by Auto rickshaw.
The temple is only 20 minutes away on road from Jagatsinghpur district headquarters by a cab. Moreover, one can take some alternative routes to reach the temple from nearby districts like Kendrapara, Puri, Khurda, Cuttack and Jajpur. The temple can also be reached via Jagatsinghpur, or Tarapur by road, from Cuttack.
One can also reach the Shrine from Konark via Kakatpur and Jagatsinghpur by travelling a distance of around 70 km.
By Railway: The nearest railway station is Cuttack, however there is a small Pessenger Halt at Sarala Road, near Tentulipada. Two trains are plying daily between Cuttack and Paradeep and one can avail this facility to visit Sarala Temple. One has to get down at Sarala Road railway station and can get auto rickshaws to reach the temple, which is 3 kilometers away from the station.
By Air: The nearest airport is Bhubaneshwar, which is approximately 80 km, and is well connected by road.
There is a Bungalow of Roads and Building (R&B) department, Govt. of Orissa where one can stay overnight. The bookings for this can be done at the office of the Asst. Engineer, R&B, Tirtol.
A Rest house of Water Resources dept., Govt. of Orissa is located near the temple. This can be used for overnight accommodation purpose and the bookings for this can be done at the office of Asst. Engineer, Drainage Division, Water Resources Department.
As per history, Tantrik Shakti worshiping was started from 7th. Century onwards in which it is believed that mother goddess is the source of power (Shakti) and highest spiritual bliss. Shaktism, in which power of mother goddess (Matrushakti) is depicted as the ultimate form of power, continued to dominate Buddhism, Shaivisim and Bramhinism after 7th. Century. During this period mother energy was conceived and expected in various ways and the image of Siva accompanied by his consort is conceived as Ardhanariswara (half male half female).
During the early Bhaumakar rule 736 A.D the eight armed Mahinsamardini Durga appeared in the sculptural masterpieces of Orissa. Some eight armed Mahinsamardini idol (Bigraha) seen in some other part of Orissa in the eighth century had resemblance with Goddess Sarala. As per the eminent archaeologists and scholars the period of origin of the Goddess Sarala in Jhankad was during 8th. Century A.D.
Tantrik culture of the place
Goddess Sarala was popularly known as ‘Sarola Chandi’ till fifteenth century as it is stated in Oriya Mahabharat.
Chandi or Sapta Sati interpolated in the Makandeya Purana known as one of the Shakta Tantrik text of brahimincal religion. The entity and culture of the goddess Sarala has been derived from the Sapta sati Chandi written by great sage Markandeya. As per the description in the text Goddess has retained Shiva’s trident, Vishnu’s Chakra, Vayu’s bow, Surya’s arrow, Vishwakarma’s Axe. Indra’s thunder, Ayiravata’s bell and Himavan’s Lion. It is considered as the main source of the idol Goddess Sarala. Chanting of sacred verses of Sri Chandi is one of the most learned practices inside the temple. Everyday chanting of the sacred text at the Shrine not only one of the important rituals but it is very protective for devotees.
Tantrik aspects of ritual are still in practice from time immemorial, which is the witness to the undeniable fact that is a great Shakta Tantrik peetha. The aspect of Pancha “MA” Kara puja by Panada Pujak is found in the daily rituals where the naivedyas are substituted by Coconut water, Cakes made up of Blackgram and Different kinds of Rice are offered. These rituals substitute the Pancha "MA" kar of Tantra .
Ghata Nrutya as it is being performed by the “Roul”, the Shudra Sevak of Goddess is another aspect of Tantrik worship. Roul is described as a Tantrik (Maha Gunia) in Oriya Mahabharat. A wooden stand carrying potful of water (Ghata) is decorated in flowers. Roul Sevak wearing Sarees, Bangles (Khadu), ankle (Pahuda), vermilion (Sindoor), Kajala different types of ornaments. Decorating himself in a mythological picturesque manner heading the Ghata without any support gives swinging dances. It is supposed that the will of the Goddess is acted in dance form of the Roul. The ritual seems to be one of the oldest customs of Shakta tantrism as has been adopted in different Shakti Peeths.
The practice of animal sacrifice (which has been discontinued since long) on the occasion of Mahashtami Sandhi Puja, Dussehra is another witness of Shakta tantrik peeths, though the ritual is not in vogue at present. The attributes which are there in the main Vigraha or Dhruva Vigraha clearly says that the image is a mixed amalgamation of Matangi and Mahishamardini.
Attribution of entity as Saraswati
The Goddess Sarala known as Vakdevi is conceived as the active and eternal source of all wisdom, intelligence and inspiration. The deity personifies “Bramha-Vidya” (the mystic knowledge of the absolute), that is the topmost religious concept in the perspective of dakshinachara Shakti Cult. She is also known as Utkal Bharati, where Utkal signifies the state of Orissa and Bharati is one of the epithets of Saraswati and Tantrik Matangi.
It is believed that the substance of life and the power of knowledge are given by the Goddess and therefore the other name of the Goddess is “Sharada” This belief was authenticated in the 15th. Century AD. Sidheswara Parida, a devotee belongs to a traditional farmer family adopted his name “Sarala Dasa”(servant of Maa Sarala) by the name of his beloved Goddess. Later on Sidheswara was designated as the foremost poet of Oriya literature by his composition of great epics Oriya Mohabharata, Bilanka Ramayan, Chandipuran and Laxminarayan bachanika. The great poet Sarala Dasa admitted time and again that he had been an illiterate man and composition of the great and epoch-making verses in Oriya Mahabharata was the result of the magic power transferred to him by his beloved Goddess Maa Sarala.
It might have influenced and touched the right chord in the hearts of Oriyas. Any Oriya-speaking person in the field of acting, drama, song, folk dance, literature and creative art pays his highest devotion and regards at the beginning of his performance in the respective field and respective form. The Sarala Thakurani has been the fondest introduction to the artistic excellence, learning and literary brilliance.
All over Orissa there has been spread Shakta culture and a number of temples have been raised in different names like Sarala (Jhankada), Vimala (Puri), Ramachandi (Konark), Bhagabati (Banapur), Kalijai (Chilika), Narayani (Balugaon), Taratarini (Ganjam), Tarini (Ghatagaon), Bhadrakali (Bhadrak), Viraja (Jajpur), Mangala(Kakatpur), Manikeswari (Kalahandi) and Samalei (Sambalpur). They are more or less similar invocation incantation and manner of worship but everywhere throughout the state and in the neighbouring states like Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Chhatisgarh and West Bengal (Medinipur). Folk song dances like Pala, Daskathia, Ghodanacha and Opera pay their obeisance to Goddess Sarala. Literary activity, commencement of learning “Vidyarambha”. Her very name invites devotion and protection.
Goddess in legend
In Tretaya Yuga, Parasurama the Brahmin warrior and sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu went round (Tritha Paryatana) sacred places with an aim to establish Goddess Sanctuary (Matru Tirtha) on his way. While moving from places to place, he came near river Chandrabhaga, took a dip in the river and took rest under a banyan tree. While meditating, he came to know about a power (Shakti) kept self-hidden and desired to have self-expression. After that Parasuram recovered a shining stone (Parasmanisila), a wonderful form of glittering Basalt-stone from underneath the earth and carved the divine image of goddess with his arrow. As per the legend the name of the Goddess became Sarada, as the figure of Goddess carved out by arrow (Sara) of Parasurama. The place still bears the legend as meeting banyan tree (Bheta Bara). The name “JHANKARA” or “JHANKADA” is lexically related in the magical reverberations of the sound of Parsurama’s arrow and divine stone.
Another legend relates to the place and the deity to Dakshya Yajna in Devi Puran and other Puranic text. It is said that Sati (Adimata or Adishakti), the original source of power, the wife of Lord Shiva, got herself sacrificed in the fireplace (Yajna Sthala) because She could not tolerate humiliation of Her husband by Her father, Dakshya. Out of grief and remorse, Lord Shiva, holding Her corpse on His shoulder started roaming relentlessly. Apprehending the anger of Shiva, which might be detrimental for mankind, Lord Vishnu, sliced Her body into pieces by His great weapon wheel (Sudarsan Chakra) and pieces of Her body scattered over fifty-one places, and around each there grew up a sacred place of worshipping mother goddess (Shakti Peetha). As per the legend, the Navy of Sati fell down in Jaipur, where Goddess Viraja is worshipped and it is known as “Navy Kshetra”, the foot of Sati fell down in Srikshetra, where Goddess Vimala is worshipped and it is known as Pada Peetha and the Tongue of Sati fell down in Jhankada and it is known as “Jiwha /Bani Peetha” (As Jiwha/Bani Peetha, Jhankad lacks puranic evidence).
Maha Visuba Sankranti: Some ritual performed at the place amalgamation of different influential cult adapted in the temple over a period of time. Various Tantrik rites are still being observed today at the place. Maha Visuba Pana Sankranti (Jhamu Yatra), otherwise known as “fire walking festival” is one of the important festivals of the Goddess. Sudra Sevaks belong to Roul caste on this occasion wear a picturesque custumes and dance bare footed over burning charcoals. Some ritual gestures are subsequently go round the nearby villages for nearly one month in order to campaign and spread magnanimity of Devi mahima. It appears that, this festival is a tantrik origin.
Durga Puja: In the Autumn season, the Durga Puja is observed from Mulastami to Mahastami and is considered as one of the greatest festival in the Devi Peetha. Mahinsa Mardini Besa, Suna Besa and Kalika Nrutya are the main attractions of the festival. Sodasa Upachara puja takes place twice daily during this period. Traditionally the animal sacrifice of a buffalo is done on the prescribed day Mahastami (Sandhipuja), a male goat sacrifice is done before the ceremonial idol of the Goddess on the day of Dussehra at the old shrine of the deity Sarola Grama.
Chandan Yatra: Chandan Yatra begins from Akshaya Tritiya and is observed for twenty-one days. It is a unique festival of Shakta Shrine as deity is worshiped here as Parama Vaishnavi. In the text of Oriya Mahabharata Sarala Thakurani is described as Parama Vaishnavi. It is an old traditional festival from time immemorial.
Nabanna Puja: The Nabanna in consonance with Orissa’s harvesting season is observed here in the first week of Margasirsha with a great devotion and is also considered as an important festival. Different types of foods are prepared for the deity, from the newly harvested crops and offered to the deity through Sodasa Upachara Puja and all the niyogies of the deity eat the Prasad in a group.
As Jhankad was under the direct administration of Gajapati, influence of Jagannath culture and Vasihnavism are seen in this Devi peetha. This is quite evident from some of the rituals like Gamha Avisek, Pausyabhiseka in the full moon day of the month Sraban, Pausa, on account of Nabanka Bedha, the processional idol of God taken nine times round the temple similar to Sri Jaganath Temple Puri. Rasa Utsav in the month Kartik, Dola Melana in the month of Phalgun. In accordance with Jagannath culture Suniya in the month of Bhadrav is observed as coronation ceremony of Gajapati kings the resembling the rites in the temple of lord, Sarala the consorts is ornated in gracious ornaments.