Chandika Temple entrance
Chandika Temple entrance. Courtesy: Nip Jyoti Barman

Chandika Temple: Where Legends Reside

On Ashtami puja, Mahisashura is first worshipped and then other gods and goddesses. Apart from the oblation of ducks and pigeons, buffalos in large numbers are also sacrificed.

October 22, 2020

Chandika Temple at Chhayygaon in Assam's Kamrup district is one of the most important and popular Shaktipeeths in Assam.

The temple is full of legends and tales and carries a rich history and several myths- both from the pages of written history and also the oral pre-history.

The temple was constructed to worship Chandika- an incarnation of Parvati.

The temple is situated at a distance of about 37 kilometres to the west of Guwahati.

Pre-Historical Account

As per legends, the place where the present-day Chandika Temple is situated was originally known as Champak Nagar and it was named after Chandu Xodagor’s mother Champa alias Champawati.

Some say that to fulfil his mother’s desire to bring down Goddess Parvati from Mount Kailasha to earth so that a Gauri temple can be constructed, Chando Xodagor (Chand Sadagar) meditated near the mountain and when Parvati was pleased with his prayers and dedication, she turned herself into a rock statue and asked Chandu Xodagor to carry the same on his shoulders without stopping to the place where his mother had asked to construct the Gauri temple.

While he was about to reach his destination, he had the urge to attend the nature’s call and unwillingly he had to put the statue down. When he returned, he was unable to move the statue and thus constructed a temple there itself.

Another mythical tale says that Chando Xodagor, after ending his long dispute with Goddess Manasha, began offering prayers to her.

However, one day Goddess Bhawani appeared before him and told him that she would be leaving for Kailash as Devi Manasha and she can never be in good terms and both of them staying together at one place could lead to a dispute between the two and the merchant will have to bear the brunt of it.

Things, however, changed when Chando and his wife Soneka prayed to the Goddess and finally the Goddess was compelled to stop at Charakiarjhar.

She asked Chando to build a temple for her in that place. Taking the incarnation as Goddess Chandi, she established herself in the north-west direction turning into a rock statue.

As per the third myth, it is said that Goddess Mahamaya appeared in Chando Xodagor’s dream while he was in South India for 12 years doing business.

The Goddess asked him to visit Lanka and meet its king, Vivishana. She told Chando to request Vivishana to give him the rock statue of her that was lying there in total ignorance. And he accordingly he did the same.

A fleet of fourteen boats journeyed back from Lanka, but when boats arrived near a hill named Doodhnath, the Goddess made the thirteen boats sink in the river.

However, the fourteenth boat could not be sunk due to the presence of the Shiv linga and the statue of the Goddess Mahamaya.

Chando somehow reached the bank himself and moved to Champaknagar.

While heading towards Champaknagar, the boat suddenly came into a halt near the Charakiarjhar. Unable to move the boat, everyone decided to put the rock statue of the Goddess there itself.

As soon as they did so, the boat moved by itself and all the people present there reached the Balasiddhi Ghat.

Chando was informed about the incident and thereafter he built a very beautiful temple in the Charakiarjhar and established the Goddess there.

Construction of Present-day Chandika Temple

Shrouded by legends and myth, the glory of the temple spread all over and caught the eye of Swargadeo Shiva Singha, the then Ahom King of Assam.

In 1647 he ordered Anuj Duara, the Borphukan of the Guwahati to build the Chandika Temple.

In no time the temple was built and Doloi (chief officer of Hindu temple), Purohit (priest) and five Paikars (tenant) were appointed for the management of the temple.

Swargadeo Shiva Singha donated over 600 acres of land for the Chandika Dewalaya.

The temple was destroyed in the 1897 Assam Earthquake and has been reconstructed again.

Durga Puja at Chandika Temple

Altogether four Pujaris offer puja to Goddess Chandika at a time- inside the temple, in the Chandipath, in the Naba- Patrika (a mixture of the nine branches of nine trees ) and in the temple’s kitchen where the food is being cooked. Apart from it, the Deuris also deal in the Puja.

Saptami Puja starts according to the rituals. This puja actually defines a relation with the cultivators and so generally the people offer Sugarcane, Arum plant, gourd and also Ducks, Pigeons, Goats, tortoises etc, for the oblation

On Ashtami puja, Mahisashura is first worshipped and then other gods and goddesses. Apart from the oblation of ducks and pigeons, buffalos in large numbers are also sacrificed.

A special kind of puja is offered in the midnight on the day os Ashtami at Chandika Temple. The puja has its own legend.

Though Devi Durga came to earth with due permission of Shiva, however, he was worried about her- especially her absence from the Mount Kailasha for days worried him a lot.

So he sent Kali in search of her and when Kali found her in the beach of the sea at Lanka- where Ravana was offering her puja.

On being informed about Lord Shiva's worry, Goddess Durga replied Kali that she would return to Kailasha only after two days.

Ravana, who did not recognise Kali, asked her to reveal her identity and when Goddess Kali told Ravana who she was and that she was, Ravana invited her to be a part of the rituals as well.

Goddess Kali agreed to the proposal and she also joined the puja celebrations.

According to legends, due to this, on Ashtami, another form of puja- called Xondhi Puja began to be offered.

Xondhi Puja is derived from the word xondhikhyon- meaning a juncture of two moments Ashtami and Navami named as the Xondhi puja.

On Navami puja, sacrificing buffalos is more in comparison to other days.

The Deuris perform a certain kind of Parikrama taking the Goddess in a palanquin around the temple for seven times.

It is done taking red-blue flags, a royal umbrella, shield, horns, and ducks, pigeons with a conch shell, bells, and wagons ringing all around.

Oblation house of Chandika Temple

Oblation house of Chandika Temple. Courtesy: Nip Jyoti Barman

Actually, this ritual implies that Devi goes to her father’s house.

On Dashami, the Goddess finally sets back towards her own domicile.

Commemorating the mythical quarrel between Goddess Durga and Lord Shiva, certain rituals are performed before taking the mud-coated statues of the Goddess for immersion.

Unlike other places where the idols are generally carried in vehicles, at Chandika Temple, around 10-12 people take the Goddess on their shoulders with the help of a palanquin and take it to the bank of the Kukurmara river.

The idols are carried to the middle of the river on boats and are slowly immersed in water. Before the immersion, there is also a boat race- a tradition that began during the days of Chando Xodagor.

Last Words

Away from the modern-day splendour, the Durga Puja celebrations of Chandika Temple have a significance of its own.

In the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Durga Puja celebrations at Chandika Temple will be a silent affair with only a few devotees turning up to offer puja.

If things get back to normal in 2021, then do make it a point to visit Chandika Temple and witness the centuries-old grandeur unfold right before your eyes.

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