By S. Rupsha Mitra: South Asia Correspondent
It is a temple nestled in the mounts of Uttarakhand, serving as an epitome of the power of the Goddess Kali, the Goddess of time and creation, destruction and death. Dhari Devi is a deity reverted and worshipped by locals as well as pilgrims travelling from across India, and from around the globe.
The Dhari Devi temple is indeed a place for thousands of pilgrims every year who seek solace, blessings and spiritual awakening.
Deciphering the meaning of the word “Dhari” means ‘one who holds’ or ‘the bearer’, while “Devi” denotes ‘goddess’. The devotees consider her as the protector of the region from natural disasters like floods and landslides.
According to popular folklore, when attempts were made by authorities to shift the original location of this temple during road construction work on Char Dham Yatra route in 2013-14; it caused devastating floods engendering massive loss of life. Is it merely a co-incidence, or divine intervention?
It was established by the locals since then that shifting Dhari Devi’s shrine from its original place would lead to more catastrophic events, as it is now a heritage site with stunning scenery and religious significance combining the religious spirit of the place with natural beauty.
The idol of the Devi has three different forms – head and arms representing Maa Kali, torso representing Maa Shakti, and feet symbolizing Maa Lakshmi.
Hence, Dhari Devi is the symbol of the immense Shakti of Maa Shakti, Maa Kali, and Maa Lakshmi. In Western terms we know these terms as the mother of creation.
An enduring legend associated with Dhari Devi, tells a story Adi Shankaracharya’s travels through the part of Uttarakhand region, during which he had a vision about Goddess Kali. He immediately established an idol at this place where a temple stands today.
It is believed that all previous attempts have been made to move or shift the idol from its original position since then have resulted in natural calamities, floods and landslides, occurring in the region causing widespread destruction.
This has led many people to believe that she is indeed guarding them against any harm. The belief in her protective powers is so strong among locals that even today, during times of natural calamities or impending doom, prayers are offered seeking her grace and blessings for protection against all evils.
The belief in the power of Dhari Devi extends beyond natural calamity however. It is said that those who pray to her with pure intentions are blessed with protection, security and prosperity. The temple dedicated to Dhari Devi also holds great significance for devotees. It is considered auspicious to visit this temple before beginning the Char Dham Yatra pilgrimage which consists of places like Gangotri, Yamunotri.
Another well-known legend of the Dhari Devi is deeply rooted in Hindu mythology. According to the legend, centuries ago, a devastating flood swept across the valley where the temple of Dhari Devi now stands. The villagers prayed fervently for protection from the raging waters and sought refuge atop a hill.
As they were praying to Goddess Kali, an idol of her emerged out of the water on a nearby rock. The villagers then constructed a small makeshift temple around it, and in penance, began worshipping her as their guardian deity. Over time, it became known as Dhari Devi – “the bearer goddess.”
The belief in the power of Dhari Devi extends beyond natural calamity. It is said that those who pray to her with pure intentions are blessed with protection, security and prosperity
Dhari Devi temple is frequently visited by pilgrims during the season of Navratri. The location of the temple is beautiful, standing upright on the banks of river Alaknanda. It is surrounded by picturesque mountain ranges and river systems. The temple is built in a traditional Kumaoni style, using stone and wood as their main construction materials. The idol inside the sanctum sanctorum depicts her with eight arms holding weapons like a sword and trident.
According to local legend, the idol of God changes Rups or forms throughout the day: a girl in the morning, a young woman in the afternoon, and an old woman in the evening.
These are the three rups of the Goddess during the day. Each of the rups representing different stages of life. There’s another legend focusing on Dhari Devi which mentions Ma Dhari Devi, the only sister of her seven brothers and their parents died when they were very young.
Ma Dhari Devi loved her brothers as they brought her up after their parents died. However one the brothers suspected the stars of her sister were negative for them and they started loathing her.
Later on, her five brothers died and the remaining two thought it was because of the negative impact of her sister’s presence and they planned to kill her so that they could save their lives.
She was thirteen when they made up a plan involving their wives and killed her, and chopped her head off from the remaining body and flushed it away in a river and the head came across Kalyasaur in Dhari Village where a washerman noticed a girl floating and thought to help her yet, he was afraid to get into the river as it was very deep then suddenly he heard a moan and a divine voice ordering him to save her and assuring him his safety.
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The washerman saved her according to the divine voice, exclaiming that he saw no girl but just a head, upon which a divine figure ordered that the head be placed on a stone in that very spot. And so a legend was born, explaining how the idol of Dhari Devi was trapped in the rocks near Dhari village. The remaining lower half figure of the Goddess eventually reached Kalimath and is now famous as Ma Methna Temple, becoming prevalent among the locals as one of the 108 Shakti Sthals of Ma Kali.
For the laymen, these are significant holy places in Indian culture, and for astute pilgrims a veritable holy grail to visit all 108 Shakti Peethas, or Shrines and Temples. Indeed, paying a vist to the Dhari Devi temple can be an important aspect for those undertaking the Char Dham Yatra tour or pilgrimage, as people believe that paying homage here ensures the safe passage throughout their journey of the char Dham pilgrimage, while seeking blessings for divine protection from any possible perils along their way.
Cover Photo: Yogendra Singh