Jaya and I decided to go on pilgrimage to Chhinnamasta temple at Rajrappa during this auspicious nine-day period of Navaratri. This is after many years that I am at home during the Vasanta Navratri period this year. Vasanta Navaratri started from March 31 this year. We therefore visited the temple today. It’s just a day trip from Ranchi.
Navaratri is a festival dedicated to the worship of the Hindu deity Durga. Vasanta Navaratri, is nine days dedicated to the nine forms of Shakti (Mother Goddess) in the month of Chaitra (March–April) and is observed during the Shukla Paksha (waxing phase of moon) of Chaitra. The beginning of this Navratri also marks the start of the new year as per the Hindu mythological lunar calendar (Vikrami Samvat).
The word Navaratri means ‘nine nights’ in Sanskrit – nava meaning nine and ratri meaning nights. During these nine nights and ten days, nine forms of Shakti/Devi are worshiped. The tenth day is commonly referred to as Vijayadashami or “Dussehra”. The beginning of spring and the beginning of autumn are considered to be important junctions of climatic and solar influences. These two periods are taken as sacred opportunities for the worship of the Divine Mother Durga. Navaratri or Navadurga Parva happens to be the most auspicious and unique period of devotional sadhanas and worship of Shakti (the sublime, ultimate, absolute creative energy) of the Divine conceptualized as the Mother Goddess Durga, whose worship dates back to pre-historic times before the dawn of the Vedic age.
It is said that the name Rajrappa draws from the Markandeya Purana legend of Raja Surath being advised by Medha Rishi to worship goddess Mahamaya on the bank of river Damodar, where it merged with river Bhairavi (Bhera). The place where Nadi falls from above with great speed on Nad. This place resembles Maa Kali, who stands on the body of Lord Shiva. The goddess was pleased and blessed him in person. Because of this, the site was referred as Rajtapah, but has since corrupted to Rajrappa.
Rajrappa is around 28 km away from Ramgarh Cantonment along NH-23 in the Ramgarh district of the Indian State of Jharkhand.
Chhinnamasta (ছিন্নমস্তা) temple, dedicated to Goddess Chinnamasta (छिन्नमस्ता), is a famous Hindu pilgrimage. The eight-century saint Adi Shankaracharya had worshipped at this place. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu had also worshipped at this site.
The temple is situated on a hillock at the confluence of rivers Damodar and Bhairavi popularly known as Bhera. The Bhera River joins the Damodar River from a height of 20 feet creating a waterfall. Despite being a hill river Bhairavi never dries up or become muddy during the monsoons.
The original temple was very old and the figure of Goddess is said to be natural over a stone. Some believe the temple is 6000 years old. Some believe it as old as the time of Samudragupta (Reigned: ca. 335-375 CE). The temple and the place Rajrappa finds mention in the Vedas, Puranas and Hindu scriptures as a “Shakti Peeth” which is flocked by devotees from Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal Assam and Nepal for worship of Goddess Chhinnamasta. This shakti peetha is very famous and is considered the second largest (largest being the Kamakhya temple in Assam).
The main attraction of the Chhinnamasta temple is the headless deity of Goddess Chinnamasta (She whose head is severed), which stands on the body of Kamdev and Rati in the lotus bed. The statue shows the goddess holding her own head in her left hand and her head drinking the blood oozing out of her neck. Chhinnamasta, a.k.a. Chhinnamastika and Prachanda Chandika, is one of the Dash-Mahavidya (ten Tantric goddesses) and a ferocious aspect of Devi, the Hindu Divine Mother.
As per the story from Shakta Maha-Bhagavata Purana, Sati, the daughter of Daksha and the first wife of the god Shiva, feels insulted that she and Shiva are not invited to Daksha’s yagna (“fire sacrifice”) and insists on going there, despite Shiva’s protests. After futile attempts to convince Shiva, the enraged Sati assumes a fierce form, transforming into the Mahavidyas, who surround Shiva from the ten cardinal directions. Chhinnamasta stands to the right of Shiva in the west.
There is another legend: once upon a time, Goddess Bhavani with her two friends Jaya and Vijaya went to take bath in the river Mandakini. After taking bath both Bhavani and her friends got hungry and hence their bodies turned black. When her friends asked for food, Bhavani asked to wait for a while. But when they repeatedly asked for the food, she beheaded herself by her own sword. The three string of blood started flowing. The two strings flown towards her friends and the third string that was flowing upward helped Bhavani to settle down her hunger. Since then she was began to be called as Chhinnmastika.
It is also mentioned in old texts and Puranas that Maa Chhinnmastika’s Dham or temple will be guarded by Lord Rudra Mahadev from all sides. It has Mahadeva’s temples on all four sides as
- East: Kaleshwar Mahadev Temple,
- West: Narahna Mahadev Temple,
- North: Muchhkund Mahadev Temple, and
- South: Shiv Bari Temple
Many smaller temples have been built around the main temple such as the temples of Ashtamatrika and Dakshina Kali. The temples of Mahavidyas built in a series nearby are Tara, Shodashi, Bhubneswari, Bhairavi, Bagla, Kamla, Matangi, Dhumavati. Surrounding the main temple, there are several smaller shrines dedicated deities like Lord Hanuman, Lord Shiva, Lord Surya, etc.
The art and architectural design resembles the design of temples of Tantric importance. The temple is considered as notable as the tantric site of Kamakhya Temple of Assam which has a similar architecture. The ancient temple of Goddess was destroyed and later a new temple was constructed and the original idol of Goddess was placed in it. Animal sacrifice is still practiced in the temple.
The place attracts devotees from all parts of Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. Pilgrims come here throughout the year.
The place also attracts many foreign tourists due to its natural and religious importance. We performed our puja, prayed and worshipped at the temple and sat there for some time. Then we left for our home in Ranchi in the afternoon after praying at other temples — Dakshina-Kali and Mahavidya temples.
Chhinnamasta is also popular in Tantric and Tibetan Buddhism. She is called Chinnamunda and worshipped as the severed-headed form of goddess Vajrayogini or Vajravarahi.
Jai Maa Chhinnamasta!