Let us embark on a journey to one of the most sacred places in India, the Vimala Devi Temple. The temple lies within the celebrated Jagannath Temple complex in Puri, a picturesque city in Odisha. Vimala Devi Temple is one of the four Adi Shaktipeethas, the oldest and most important ones among the 51 Shaktipeethas. Traditional legends say that Sati's navel fell at this spot. Another popular tale claims it was Sati's left foot that fell here.
The Lord Jagannath Temple Complex, comprising more than a hundred temples, is situated at the heart of the vibrant and spiritual city of Puri. At the south-west corner of the Jagannath temple complex, we find the temple of Vimala Devi, also known here as Sri Bimala. The oldest and innermost part of the temple dates back to the 6th century, although the temple has been renovated and developed over the centuries. The magnificent architecture of the temple is a blend of Kalinga style, characterised by its curvilinear towers, and Rekha Deula style, which gives it an ancient, royal look. Intricate carvings on the temple's walls and the unique architecture give us a glimpse into the past.
The temple of Shakti is made of sandstone and laterite and located next to a sacred pond, Rohini Kunda. Devi Vimala resides in an inner chamber (garbhagriha) that has no wall carvings, in the main part of the temple. The four-armed statue of Vimala Devi holds a rosary (Akshyamala), a pitcher of amrita (Amritakalasa), and an object that is understood to be a nagini (Nagaphasa) by some. The fourth arm has the mudra of blessing. Thus, Maa Vimala Devi does not wield the traditional weapons of Durga.
An amazing aspect of this Shaktipeeth is that here, Lord Vishnu is the Bhairav, which is understood as the oneness of God. While Vimala Devi is considered as Shakti and Lord Jagannath as Shiva by the devotees of Shiva and Shakti, they are also considered as Laxmi and Vishnu by the devotees of Vishnu. Vimala is considered as the guardian of the Jagannath temple complex and devotees pay respect to Goddess Vimala before they worship Lord Jagannath in the main temple.
As one of the Shaktipeethas, the Vimala Devi Temple is very important to the residents of Puri and the countless visitors it attracts. During the famous Ratha Yatra festival, the deities of Jagannath Temple are offered food only after the goddess Vimala is served, showcasing the respect and significance she holds. The offerings to Lord Jagannath are called Mahaprasad only after they are offered to Vimala Devi. Another major festival held here is Durga Puja when the titular Gajapati King of Puri worships the Goddess on Vijayadashami (the last day of Dussehra).
The temple is also a centre for traditional Indian classical music and dance, including Odissi, one of the oldest dance forms in India. These performances often take place during festivals, adding to the vibrant cultural tapestry of the region. The temple is also a favourite spot for travellers from around the world. Recently, the temple underwent notable renovations to preserve its original grandeur while enhancing visitor accessibility. Despite modern upgrades like better lighting and signage, the temple maintains its authentic charm. When we visit the Vimala Devi Temple, we experience history, culture, and spirituality. Let's continue to discover, appreciate, and preserve these extraordinary facets of our shared human heritage.