Tuesday 12 October 2021

Maa Biraja, Jajpur, Odisha - Shakti Peetha

Devi puja i.e. Goddess worship is being done for many centuries in India. 

During Navaratri, Durga Puja, and Dussehra festivals, many Goddesses are worshipped, especially Devi Durga. 

There are Shakti Peethas, where it is believed that the different parts of Devi Sati had fallen. According to the Tantra Chudamani, Sati's navel fell in the Utkala Kingdom. 

Maa Biraja Peetha is the Shakti Peetha where the naabhi i.e. the navel portion had fallen. Some Shakti Peethas are present in Odisha.

In his Ashtadasha Shakti Peetha Stuti, AdiShankara describes the goddess as "Girija". 

In Tantra literature, the Oddiyana Peetha is located near the Baitarani river. Oddiyana is an ornament worn by a woman around her navel.

Devi Durga is worshipped as Maa Biraja in this Peetha. 

Image Courtesy- Jajpur District Administration

Maa Biraja Temple is an ancient temple with a unique Mahishasuramardini i.e. the killer of Mahishasura-  idol. The Durga idol has two hands, spearing the chest of Mahishasura with one hand and pulling his tail with the other. One of Her feet is on a lion, and the other is on Mahishasura's chest.

The Mahishasura is depicted as a Buffalo, and not as regular human demon. The crown of Maa Biraja has the symbols of Shree Ganesha, crescent moon, and a Shivalinga.

The Biraja Temple is located in Jajpur that is known as the "ancient capital of Orissa" (Odisha). It is about 125 kilometers north of Bhubaneswar, the capital city of Odisha.

Courtesy: Wikipedia

River Baitarani flows beside the Biraja temple. The temple covers a large area and has several shrines dedicated to Shiva and other deities. According to the Utkala Khanda of the Skanda Purana, as this area cleanses pilgrims, it is called the Biraja Kshetra.

The mention of Maa Biraja is also in Brahma Purana, Kapila Samhita and the Mahabharata.

It is said that when cursed Lord Brahma was worshipping, then pleased with his prayers, Maa Biraja appeared. The original temple was built by King Yayati Keshari. However, it was destroyed by invaders. Thereafter, the present temple was built.

Entrance- Image Courtesy- Jajpur District Administration

Maa Biraja is the only Goddess in the world who has Her own Ratha Jatra (Rath Yatra i.e. Chariot Festival) It lasts for 9 days during Durga Puja celebration.

Yes, there is a Ratha Jatra, just like in the ShreeMandira i.e. the Shree Jagannatha Temple, Puri. 

The Shree Jagannatha Ratha Jatra is well-known, but many are yet to know of the Ratha Jatra of Maa Biraja.


As per the tradition, the chalanti pratima (idol to represent Maa Biraja) is taken for the Ratha Jatra. Lord Brahma is the sarathi (charioteer) of Her Ratha. 

During Ratha Jatra, Maa Biraja is offered Rasagola (Rasgulla) as bhog.

The above image shows Maa Biraja being offered bhog- Rasagola. This proves that Rasagola is not just offered in the Puri Shree Jagannatha Temple on the last day of the Ratha Jatra i.e. on Niladri Bije;  Rasagola is also offered to Maa Biraja during Durga Puja.

This year, the bhog was offered on the Panchami day. Sometimes they offer Rasagola to Maa Biraja for 5 days from Panchami to Nabami, and sometimes for all 9 days.

Many are not aware of this. I got to learn thanks to Shri Biswanath Samantara, the President of Badasuar Nijog, ShreeMandira i.e. the Puri Shree Jagannatha Temple. Shri Samantara said that the Sebayat of Maa Biraja Temple, Shri Bikas Pani, shared the above image with him via WhatsApp.

When Shri Samantara enquired about the said bhog, Shri Pani said that it has been a ritual offering to Maa Biraja during Durga Puja.

Shri Samantara even shared the screenshot of his conversation with Shri Pani, and shared Shri Pani's contact details with me.

Courtesy- Shri Biswanath Samantara

Translation of the conversation that is in Odia in the messages above-

Shri Samantara (ShreeMandira Sebayat): Oh! Is this Panti* bhog or the bhog offered by devotees?

Shri Pani (Maa Biraja Mandira Sebayat): Today one devotee had got (referring to the image of bhog packed in palm-leaf box and seen in above conversation)

Shri Samantara (ShreeMandira Sebayat): No, I am asking about Rasagola (referring to image of Maa Biraja being offered Rasagola shared with him by Shri Pani- image as shared earlier, and not seen in this above message/conversation-image)

Shri Pani (Maa Biraja Mandira Sebayat): Panti Bhog Agyaan

Shri Samantara (ShreeMandira Sebayat)Is this Khanja**?

Shri Pani (Maa Biraja Mandira Sebayat): No, this (Rasagola) is prepared during During Puja

*Panti bhog means the bhog traditionally prepared as per the parampara in the home of devotees. It means they have been preparing and offering such bhog from generations.

Raja **Khanja means the traditional bhog offered from the King's side. This bhog too is linked with the customs from many centuries.

Thanks to Shri Samatara's reference, when I spoke to Shri Pani and enquired about the antiquity of such celebration and the ritual offering of Rasagola bhog , he said that Rasagola bhog has been a continuing tradition. When I asked him if he has told the media, and why they did not inform everyone about this, he said that all these are gupta jinisa (secrets).

There are many secrets in Odisha, especially in such ancient temples. As there are hardly any efforts for documentation or revealing customs and secrets and sharing such information, much remains hidden. While covering such events, media should also cover the lesser-known facts like bhog/food, clothes, crafts etc as all these are linked with the history and culture of the geographical area and can be considered as potential Geographical Indications (GIs).

Odisha Tourism's tagline is - "India's best kept secret". Thankfully, secrets are being unravelled.

Six years ago, many did not even know about celebration of Niladri Bije and offering of Rasagola, and Rasagola's link with Odisha. Staring 2015, following Odisha's first social media celebration of #RasagolaDibasa- a day for Rasagola, there was research about the history and now world knows that the earliest mention of the world Rasagola is in the Odia Ramayana composed in the 15th century.

More information about Maa Biraja is in this documentary film- Jay Maa Biraja- directed by Shri Priyaranjan Kar and produced by Dr. Manzoor Alli-

Here is a video by Nandighosha TV Channel about the Sodasa Upachara Puja of Maa Biraja on the occasion of Mahashtami (eighth day) being celebrated in the temples today-

Maa Biraja is much revered. Devotees visit from not only from Odisha, but from other states as well.

All the activities are conducted by following the Maa Biraja Panjika that is followed by the residents of many places like- Jajpur, Bhadrak, Balasore, Keonjhar, Mayurbhanj, Cuttack etc of Odisha, Singhbhum of Bihar and Midnapore of West Bengal.

Apart from Maa Biraja, many other Goddesses are worshipped in Odisha. 

This #9days9goddesses #9days9sarees Twitter thread has more-

Durga Puja is being celebrated with great pomp and show as per age-old customs and traditions in Odisha. This #DurgaPujaInOdisha Twitter thread has more information-

Did you know that Ratha Jatra is associated with Devi Durga i.e. Maa Biraja, and that Rasagola is offered as bhog?

Requesting all media houses to please cover Maa Biraja temple and other such temples. Kindly share all the details of bhog offered. 

We are not aware about the food culture. Documentation and sharing information is much needed.

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