Every devout Hindu knows that Puri Jagannath Temple is one of the four Vishnu Dhams in Hinduism. However, many Hindus don’t know that the Jagannath Temple Complex houses one of the four Adi Shakti Piths- the Bimala Mata Temple. The other Adi Shakti Piths are:-
• Maa Tara Tarini Temple in Behrampur, Odisha.
• Maa Kamakhya Temple in Guwahati, Assam.
• Maa Dakhina Kalika in Kalighat, Kolkata, West Bengal.
Devi Bimala is a form of Maa Durga/Parvati. As we know, Maa Durga/Parvati is consort of Shiva. However inside Sri Mandira, Lord Jagannath is the Bhairava of Devi Bimala- here Vishnu is equated with Shiva, thus conveying the one-ness of God. Devi Bimala is the guardian Goddess of the temple complex. In Jagannath tradition, Maa Lakshmi is the consort of Jagannath. As per Tantra, Devi Bimala is the consort of Jagannath.
Sacred texts of Tantrachudamani mentions that Devi Sati’s navel fell here, while Devi Purana claims that Sati’s feet fell at this site.
No separate Bhog or food offering is prepared for Devi Bimala. Though Uchchista (ie. leftover food) is a taboo in Hinduism & never offered to any deity, the Uchchista of Lord Jagannath is offered to Devi Bimala first. Bhog offerings are first offered to Lord Jagannath, and Jagannath’s Uchchistas are then offered to Maa Bimala, after which the food offerings are sanctified as Mahaprasad. It is believed that until the Uchchistas of Jagannath are offered to Maa Bimala, the bhoga doesn’t become Mahaprasad.
There is a Pouranik philosophy regarding the offering of uchchista to Maa Bimala. Once Shiva visited Vishnu’s celestial abode Baikuntha. There, Shiva noticed a few food grains which had fallen on the ground after Vishnu had finished his meal. Shiva took one grain and swallowed it. Unbeknownst to him, half of that grain remained stuck on his beard. When he returned to Kailasha, Narada Muni saw the half grain on his beard and ate it. Parvati was furious seeing her rightful share being eaten by Narada. When Vishnu learned about the incident, he pacified Parvati by promising her something- that in Kaliyuga, she would live at Puri as Bimala and would daily have the remnants of his food.
Each year, Devi Bimala is worshipped with grandeur during the Durga Puja. Devi Bimala is considered the fiercest form of Shakti. Since Shakti is at the peak of her destructive form during Nabaratri, women devotees are prohibited from visiting the shrine during this period because they are considered “weak hearted” to witness the fierceness of the Devi.