Sarala Temple in Orissa
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 Pessenger Halt at Sarala Road, near Tentulipada. The temple can be reached via Jagatsinghpur, or Tarapur by road, from Cuttack.
Maa Sarala - a Hindu goddess patronizes the cultures of Vaishnav and Saiva. Rarely one finds the use of Bella Patra and Tulasi patra in any temple, as they are symbols of two distinct 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 the Vajrayana, or Tantric form.
Goddess Sarala, is known as Vak Devi goddess of Knowledge and Wisdom. It is well documented that [Sarala Das] - 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 Oriya Mahabharata.
Folklore goes back to thousands of years, to the age of Parshurama. 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 Odia temples) (Nanda Deula, now renovated) stands as witness, where the old temple once stood.
There are so many festivals that are celebrated in the temple. However, the major ones are: Parbana,Sharadiya Utsav, Pana Sankaranti, Dolo Purnima, Chandan Jatra. The people of Kendrapara district, Jagatsinghpur and Cuttack district are so attached to the goddess that every year they make it a point to visit the temple - 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 Sarola (Kanakapur) of Jagatsinghpur district, located in the eastern coast of India. It is believed that, the Goddess Sarala is a synthesis of divine figure of Durga and Saraswati. 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. The second idol of Maa is four armed holding Shankha ,Chakra,Varada and abhaya mudra and the third idol is of 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 Basini Sharada or ‘Maa Sarola’ is worshipped 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 the historical evidences it is believed that this famous temple of Sarala Chandiwas 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 bhrata 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) Jaganath Ballva 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.