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Tripura Sundari Temple is one of the most sacred temples of the north eastern state of Tripura. The word Tripura Sundari can be taken to mean as ‘an incomparable beauty in all the three worlds’. And this temple is dedicated to Goddess Tripura Sundari, a remarkably beautiful form of the universal mother Goddess. This is also considered as one of the 51 Shakthi Peeths, the extremely holy abodes of Goddess Shakthi.
Tripura Sundari Temple is located in the ancient town of Udaipur, which is about 55 kms from Agartala, the capital of Tripura. Known popularly as Matabari, ‘the abode of the mother’, the temple is situated on a small hillock. This ancient shrine is more than five centuries old, having been erected in 1501 AD by the king, Maharaja Dhanya Manikya.
The mythological stories and legends regarding this temple highlight the importance of the Goddess and also about the religious significance of this place.
One of the stories refers to the happenings during the sacrifice performed by Daksha Prajapathi, the father of Goddess Dakshayani Devi. In that Yagya attended by his daughter, Daksha insults Lord Shiva, his own son-in-law, and unable to bear this humiliation, the divine mother Goddess immolates her own self in the sacrificial fire. This infuriates Shiva, who destroys the sacrifice and starts on his tandava, the wild dance, holding aloft, the burnt body of his consort, Sati Devi and wandering all around. Portions of her body start falling at different places, and all those spots became extremely holy and are referred to, as Shakthi Peeths. There are 51 such sacred Shakthi Peeths, where the Goddess is considered to be present with all her power. Sati Devi’s right foot is believed to have fallen in this place and hence, Tripura Sundari Temple is regarded as a Shakthi Peeth and is worshipped with great veneration.
As per another legend, Maharaja Dhanya Manikya, who was the king of Tripura in the end of the 15th century, got a dream one night, in which he was told to install the image of Goddess Tripura Sundari in the already existing hilltop temple near Udaipur. However, that was the temple of Lord Vishnu and hence, the king hesitated to install there, the image of the Goddess, who is a consort of Lord Shiva. But, when the same command came again to him on the following night too, the king cast aside his doubts, went ahead and constructed a temple for Goddess Tripura Sundari at the indicated spot. Thus, this ancient temple stands as a symbol of unity between the various sects of Hinduism like Vaishnavism, Shaivism and Sakthism.
It is the universal mother Parvathi who is worshipped as Goddess Tripura Sundari here. This is a small temple with a square base of about 24 square feet and rising to a height of about 75 feet, and looks like a simple Bengali hut. With the roof resembling the humped back of a tortoise, the shine itself looks like a big tortoise. Tortoise is referred to as ‘Koorma’ in Sanskrit, and hence this temple itself is termed as ‘Koorma Peetha’. The temple has 2 images of the same Goddess, the bigger one being 5 feet tall and the smaller one, 2 feet, and these are otherwise identical. The larger deity is worshipped as Tripura Sundari, while the smaller one, as Chotima. The deities represent Goddess Kali and are also known as Tripureshwari and by a local name, ‘Soroshi’. Historians believe that the king used to carry the smaller idol of Chotima to the battlefield, in times of war.
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Devotees in large numbers, offer prayers in the temple with flowers, fruits and other offerings. Red hibiscus flowers and the brown cloured, sweet Pedas prepared of condensed milk are made as special offerings to the Goddess here and are accepted as holy Prasad.
People from the north-eastern states and other parts of the country, and even from abroad, visit this temple all- round the year. But it is the Diwali festival time which attracts lakhs of people here, when a highly popular Mela or fair is conducted. Sacrificing goats for the deity remains as a custom in this place.
A huge lake known as Kalyan Sagar, which is 224 yards in length, 160 in width and spreads over 6.4 acres, lies to the east of the temple, adding great serenity and beauty to the entire surroundings and to the temple atmosphere. Tortoises, big and small, live here in large numbers. These used to come near the shore, looking for food, and it is customary for the devotees to feed them with some special food items like ‘muri’ and biscuits, which are available in nearby shops.