After a long time, we all three of us are at home this time. We thought of visiting the ancient solahbhuji (sixteen-armed) Durga temple at village Deori, near Tamar, around 60 km from Ranchi, on the Jamshedpur-Ranchi Highway (NH-33) to pay our obeisance to Maa Deori – the sixteen-armed goddess Durga, an avatar of goddess Kali and the resident deity of Tamar’s Deori Mandir.
I have been visiting this temple from the time it was in its original shape – a small, ancient structure housing the stone idol of Goddess Durga inside a dark chamber with a big lamp providing light inside the sanctum sanctorum. I came to Ranchi for the first time from New Delhi on my promotion in the middle of 1997. My bank colleagues in Ranchi told me about this temple and we started visiting this temple often.
Durga is a warrior goddess, and she is depicted to express her martial skills. Her iconography typically resonates with these attributes, where she rides a lion or a tiger, has between eight and eighteen hands, each holding a weapon to destroy and create. The main attraction is that the idol is having sixteen hands, normally goddess Durga is seen with eight or ten hands.
There are many legends related to this temple. According to some local beliefs, this Solahbhuji Devi Prachin Durga Mandir is in existence since the Mahabharata times. The Pandavas are believed to have prayed here during their period of ‘Agyatvaas’ (secluded exile). It is also believed by many here that Emperor Ashoka (Reign: ca. 268 – ca. 232 BCE) and his army worshipped and invoked Maa Durga’s blessing for victory at Kalinga War (ca. 260 BCE) at this temple while marching enroute Kalinga region.
The original temple is made up of big stone placed one over another without using any cementing material in between, like many ancient constructions. Inside the sanctum sanctorum, an ancient idol of Goddess Durga with sixteen hands is consecrated along with Lord Shiva. In the Mundari language, the word deori means stone. The idol and the temple both are made of stone.
According to a folklore, a king of Tamar, believed to be in 18th century, once saw a dream. The goddess told him that there was a temple in Deori, where she must be worshipped. Villagers, as directed by the king, cleared a forested patch to find a small temple with a stone statue of Kali. Ever since, the deity is worshipped here.
Legend has it that whoever has tried to alter the structure of the temple has had to face the wrath of the gods and suffer consequences. Therefore, new construction is being done from outside keeping the original temple intact.
Alongside the Brahmin priests, there are six tribal priests known as Pahans who worship in this temple and take part in different rituals and prayers. It is, probably, the only temple where the tribal priests are allowed to worship the Goddess along with Brahmin priests. The best thing in this temple is that one can directly worship the Goddess. The priests only assist with ways and mantras and this attracts me to this temple more.
Even, the former captain of India’s cricket team, MS Dhoni comes to this temple regularly. Another previous captain Saurav Ganguly also came here for worship several times. Since the creation of the state of Jharkhand on November 15, 2000, the popularity of this temple has grown manifold and so is the number of pilgrims visiting the temple.
I still find peace in the temple and so I love visiting Deori Mandir. Whenever I am in Ranchi, I try to visit the temple once. Jai Maa Deori!