In the heart of the Indian state of Odisha, atop the green Kumari hills and overlooking the scenic Rushikulya river, resides the Tara Tarini Temple, a sacred place of reverence and spirituality. This temple, home to the twin goddesses Tara and Tarini, is one of the 51 Shaktipeethas - centres of supreme feminine divine power in Hindu religion. Goddesses Tara and Tarini are regarded as the presiding deity (Ista Devi) in most households in Southern Odisha.
The roots of Tara Tarini Temple are deeply linked to the story of Sati and Lord Shiva. When Lord Vishnu cut off Sati's body, the place where her breasts had fallen became the sacred site of the Tara Tarini Temple. Hence, the site is also known as Stana (breast) Peetha. In many ancient texts, including the Kalika Purana, the Tara Tarini temple is considered as an 'Adi Shaktipeeth', one of the four major Shaktipeethas. The Bhairavs of this temple are Someshwar or Tumkeswar (bhairav of the elder sister Devi Tara) and Udayeshwar or Utkeswar (bhairav of younger sister Devi Tarini). Their temples are located on the path to the main Shakti temple.
The temple, whose present structure was built in the 17th century, stands majestically atop the Kumari hills, at an elevation of 708 feet. From the foot of the hill, 999 steps lead to the temple. The location of this Shaktipeeth has important historical significance. An important monument built by Emperor Ashoka over 2000 years ago, the Jaugada Rock Edict, is located nearby. It is said that in the ancient times, this place was a sacred Buddhist site. Kalika Purana, an ancient Hindu text written a thousand years ago, described the location of the Tara Tarini Shaktipeeth. Through the ages, the Tara Tarini temple has continued to be an important place of worship for both Buddhist and Hindu tantra worshippers.
The architecture of the temple is in the beautiful Kalinga style, with intricately carved walls of sandstone and laterite. The main temple houses the revered Swayambhu statues of the goddesses Tara and Tarini, believed to be manifested by divine will rather than human crafting. These two deities are made of stone and adorned with gold and silver. A large courtyard surrounds the main shrine, with smaller temples dedicated to other deities. There are many deities called the 'utsav murtis', which are used in the procession of Rath Yatra, the most important festival of Odisha.
The Tara Tarini Temple has undergone several renovations over the centuries. Most recently, renovations have been done aiming to introduce modern amenities and improve ease of access while maintaining the aesthetic authenticity and traditions of the temple.
The temple holds many festivals throughout the year. The 'Chaitra Parba' or 'Tara Tarini Mela', held every year during the months of March and April, is the most important festival held here. Devotees from across the country visit the temple during this time. Many people come to the temple for a ritual known as 'mundan', the first haircut of their children, as an offering to the goddesses for their protection. Apart from the Chaitra Mela, other important festivals celebrated at this temple are Sankranti Mela in January, Dol Purnima coinciding with Holi, Saradiya Parba during Durga Puja, and Shyamakali Parba during Diwali.
Surrounded by lush green hills and fields, and river Rushikulya, the scenic beauty of the Tara Tarini Temple is amplified by the fascinating architectural details of the temple. The temple's rich history and religious significance make it a priceless heritage site in India.