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Mahisamardini cult in Prachi valley

The earliest civilization like Mesopotamia, Egyptian, Chinese, Harappan which were established on
the banks of rivers, Prachi Valley civilization, one of the glorious civilizations of Odisha flourished on
the bank of river Prachi. Though today small in size as compared with big rivers like Mahanadi,
Budhabalanga, Brahmani, Baitarani, it contains the hidden treasure of a magnificent past. Today
Prachi, a small river of over 60 Km1, a part of the Mahanadi delta system in Odisha along the eastern
coast of India is an important topographical as well as cultural landscape. Presently the parts of the
modern day districts of Puri, Khurda, Cuttack and Jagatsinghpur comprise the Prachi Valley region2.
Its origin and importance have been depicted in the Uttarakhanda of Padmapurana in the name of
Prachi Mahatmya3. Prachi Valley once cradled a civilization which is so rich and varied in character
that its glory can hardly be explained. It is considered rightly as the holiest river of Odisha and rightly
the Eastern Saraswati.

A survey in the Prachi Valley reveals an incredible and splendid existence of diverse monuments and
sculptures of different sects’ like- Buddhist, Jaina, Saivism, Vaishnavism and Sakta,. Saktism played
a predominant role in the Prachi Valley. The inhabitants of the Valley underwent different experiences
of the cult images dealing with various aspects of Gods and Goddess. The important such Sakta
manifestations dealt with here in a succession are Durga as Mahisamardini Durga, Chamunda, divine
mothers as seven mothers or Sapta Matrikas, the sow-goddess Varahi, serpent-goddesses as Astika
Jaratkaru, Parvati and lastly Lakhsmi. Among them one of the most impressive, formidable and most
popular goddesses of the Hindu Pantheon is the Goddess Durga. In fact, she became the nucleus of
Saktism and acquired the cosmic attributes like createress, protectress and destructress of the world.
She is the supreme force that can conquer all the distress in the human life and society. The term
“Duh” means woes and sufferings, evil and ignoble instincts. “Ga” means one who crosses and
marches forward. Hence, the meaning of the word “Durga” is the force that crosses the woes and
sufferings, evil and ignoble instincts and marches forward with the invincible will and unyielding
tenacity of purpose4. Her very birth and primary function is to combat the demons who threaten the
stability of the cosmos. So, she is depicted as the great battle queen with many arms having weapons.
She is described as irresistible in battle. She defeated and killed Demon Mahisa, the buffalo demon
and thus got the most popular epithet of Mahisasuramardini, the slayer of Mahisa. The form of the
Devi i.e. the Mahisasuramardini Durga is perhaps the most prevalent and widespread one through the
nook and corner of the country through the ages. The different forms of Durga beginning from two
hands to twelve hands were worshipped in the Prachi Valley through ages.

Chronologically and from iconographical point of view, the two handed image of Mahisamardini
Durga is older and can be assigned to the post-Gupta period or earlier. The findings of two handed
Mahisamardini Durga are very rare in comparison to other forms of Durga. Unlike Jajpur of the
Vaitarani Valley becoming predominant for the worship of two handed Mahisamardini Durga as
viraja5. Similarly two small Mahisamardini Durga images are noticed one at Bhagabati temple of
Jihola near Astaranga, here the lion is absent and another one kept at brick Siva temple of Khadisha
near charichhak. A baked clay image looking bluish in colour was excavated at Bharadapatana. But
the fatal stroke of the spade smashed the lower portion down to the waist of the deity and we found the
task of joining pieces extremely difficult. Nevertheless, the upper portion now preserved portrays
workmanship of high order.

Four armed Mahisamardini images are of two types. In one the demon has human feet, hand and body
but the tail and face look like buffalo. Her major right hands are engaged in upturning the demons
head by the dewlap and striking his cheast with her Javeline and other hands holding other weapon.
These types of images are noticed at several places like at Nijagarh Tailipur under a Banyan tree,
Trivenisvara temple of Tiruna in Bharadapatna, in Bhilgrama. The other type is marked by the
different in the attitude of hand. In this type Durga holds a trident in her main two hands that comes
perpendicular down to strike the chest of the human headed demon and in other two upper hands she
holds a conch and disc. The mount lion is present. Durga temple of Nuasatanga preserved a beautiful
image of four armed Durga dated 9th century A.D., in which she holds disc and conch in her upper two
hands while the remaining two lower hands are engaged in piercing the trident into the chest of the
human headed demon Mahisasura. Another four armed image found at Madhava, where she
worshipped along with Madhava is known Durga-Madhava. The other images of these types are
found at Bharadapatana and Amanakuda.

The Prachi Valley was also enriched with the worship of Six-armed or Sadabhuja Mahisamardini
Durga. Among them most important are six armed Mahisamardini image at Bhiligrama in Nimapara
block, here the image is consists of six armed but except right three hands and one left hands others
are broken. In the upper right hand Durga holds sword above her head, in the middle right she drives
the trident into the body of the demon and in lower right hand she holds a disc. In the remaining left
hand she holds a shield. Her one foot placed on the springing lion, which attacks the demon with teeth
and claws and the other leg treading on the shoulder of the demon, which emerges in human form
from a buffalo’s body. Another six armed Mahisamardini image notice at Astaranga worshipped as
Gramadevati. The image holds sword, arrow, bow, shield and pierces the trident by one of her right
hands and presses the mouth of demon by one hand.

The worship of Astabhuja Mahisamardini Durga become popular during the Bhauma rule in Odisha.
The distribution of eight armed Mahisamardini Durga image, both in stone and metals are so large and
vast in the valley that any attempt to enumerate them will prove abortive. These types of Astabhuja
Durga noticed at Durga temple of Nua Satanga, outer wall of the Ramesvara temple near Nayahat,
Durga Thakurani temple of Daru Thenga near Tamapala of Tulasipur. On the outer wall of Grameswar
Mahadev temple at Nivarana, a beautiful image of Mahisamardini Durga made of sand stone shows
remarkable workmanship, with ferocious countenance, she attacks the demon that as a man emerges
out of the decapitated body of a buffalo. In her eight hands she holds clockwise a mace, adisc, an
arrow, a trident, sword a shield, a battle axe. She is lavishly ornamented with broad decorated bangles,
round car rings. Her mound lion placed on her right side.

The worship of ten armed or Dasabhuja Mahisamardini Durga was very popular in Prachi Valley.
These types of Durga images are noticed at Nandakishori temple at Nuapalamhat, Grameswar
Mahadev temple at Nivarna, kanakdurga temple at Ambapara, Rameswar temple at Suagpur, Nayahat,
Somesvara temple at Somesvara, Ambika temple at Pitapara. Among them at Nuapalamhat, a
beautiful image of ten armed Durga enshrined in Morden shrine is made of chlorite stone shows
remarkable workmanship, with a furious countenance. She kills the demon that as a man emerges out
of the decapitated body of buffalo. In her ten arms she holds clock-wise a mace, a disc, an arrow, a
trident, a sword, a shield, a battle-axe, a bow, a goad and a snake that binds the demon. The trident
pierces the demons breast. She is lavishly decorated with round car-rings and other ornaments in her
legs and fingers. At Ambapara, the Durga image is made of chlorite is best specimen of Odishan
sculptural activity. She is worshipped in a modern pidha temple. Here Mahisamardini Durga holds in
her five right hands are sword, arrow from the quiver, trident pierced into the head of the demon, disc
and shakti strucks in his back while other left five hands holds bow, dagger, shield, pasa and snake. To
line of inscription, palaeographical assignable to circa 9th -10th century A.D. are engraved below the
pedestal, mentioned Yubarakin Anna Bhagarika Utakirnni indicating that this image of Bhattarika was
carved out by the sculpture Yubaraka6.
The image of twelve handed Mahisamardini is worshipped at Barabhuji Thakurani near Amanakuda
garh. She has her right foot on the shoulder of demon. With her right natural hand she pierces a spear
into the demon and with the left natural one-she presses the mouth of the buffalo-headed demon. In
her right hands she holds snake, a sword, vajra, dagger striking into the neck of the demon, two hands
are broken. In her left hands she holds shield, bow, severed human head, arrow and the other pressing
tightly the neck of the demon. Her vahana is placed on her right side other attacking the right leg of
the demon.

Conclusion

To conclude, the findings of so many Mahisamardini images in the Prachi Valley, clearly suggest the
prevalent of popular Mahisamardini cult. The carvings of the image are purely of Odishan art. There is
every possibilities that the Odishan sculpture might have concentrated whole heartedly to make these
images beginning from two hands to twelve hands were worshipped in the Prachi Valley through ages.

References

1. Pradhan, P.K. (ed.), 2006, Editorial-Marketing Prachi Valley in Globalised Tourism Industry,

³Incredible Prachi Valley: Its Monuments & Tourism Possibilities´, Proceedings of the UGC

sponsored National Conference, Department of History, UN College of Science and

Technology, Adaspur, Cuttack- Odisha, p.3

2. Sahoo, A. C., 2006, Jaina Sculptural Art in the Prachi Valley: A Study, in P.K. Pradhan (ed.),
op.cit, p.74.
3. Dash, J., 2006, Cultural Relics of a Lost River, in P.K. Pradhan (ed.), op.cit, p.34.

4. Brighenti, Francesco, 2001, Sakti Cult in Orissa, New Delhi, p. 73

5. Ray, P.K. (ed.), 1975, Archaeological Survey Report 1974-75, Prachi Valley, Odisha State

Archaeology, Bhubaneswar, p. 58.

6. ibid, p.59.

7. Rath, B.K. (ed.), 1996,The Forgotten Monuments of Orissa, Vol.3, New Delhi, p.162
Durga temple at Nuasatanga, Four armed Durga at Nuasatanga,
Niali Niali

Eight armed Durga in Dakshina temple Ten armed Durga at Nua palamhat, Niali
of Mangalpur, Kakatpur
Ambika temple, inside Angesvara temple Ten armed Durga as Ambika inside Ambika temple
Pitapada, Niali Pitapada, Niali

Ten armed Durga at Ambapara, Niali Barabhuji temple at Kudapatana, Balipatana