Biraja or Viraja Temple is one of the important Maha Shakthi Peetas. Here the main idol Durga Devi is worshipped as Girija (Viraja) and Lord Shiva as Jagannath. Sati’s navel fell here. Adi Sankara describes the goddess as Girija in his Ashtadasha shakti peetha stuti. Here Maa Biraja devi is worshiped as Trishakti Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and Mahasaraswati.
Location and other places of interest
Biraja Temple is located in Jajpur district, of Odisha or Odra Desha. Jajpur is a historic place of pilgrimage which is about 125 KM north from Bhubaneswar Siddheshwar temple. It has a Shiva deity and is one of the oldest temples in Jajpur district.
Jajpur is an ancient temple which is 92 km from Cuttack. Jajpur is also known as Viraja Kshetra or Biraja Peetha or Baitarani Tirtha where many historic temples are seen. Jajpur is situated on the bank of River Vaitrani.
The nearest railway station is Jajpur-Keonjhar Road on the Howrah-Chennai main line of the S. E. Railway from where one can reach Jajpur by road. There is a bus stop which is just two kms from Jajpur. The nearest airport is Bhubanesvar, the state capital connected by National Highway No-5 to the site.
Other Places of interest
- Ashok jhara, Sukinda –This is a picnic spot which is 30 kms from Jajpur.
- Chhatia Bata- has a unique Jagannath Temple
- lChandikhol Mahavinayak:- Mahavinayak Mandir at Chandikhole, has excellent natural landscapes, deep jungles and flowing streams.
- Lalitgiri, Udayagiri: Udayagiri and Lalitgiri have Buddhist monuments and ancient sculptures. A number of artefacts including stone cultural pieces, monolithic votive stupas, terracotta seals, bronze objects, coins, glass bangle items are also found. These two Buddhist monasteries are believed to be built between 5th century AD and 13th century AD.
- Ratnagiri National Museum: Ratnagiri archaeological museum is considered as one of the unique and important site museums of archaeological survey of India. The museum is built on the northern crest of Ratnagiri hill at Ratnagiri village in Jajpur district. Having three terraced magnificent buildings, the complex was completed in 1990 and started functioning from 15th August 1998.
Museum has completed in the year 1990 and started functioning on 15th august in 1998.
Vyas Sarobar and Baruneswar Pitha are some of the other places that attract tourists to the district.
The goddess is having two hands (dwibhuja). Maa Durga is piercing the chest of Mahishasur (demon who could change between human and buffalo form at will) with a trident (Trishul) in one hand and with the other hand she pulls the tail of Mahishasur. The idol is standing on the Lion with left foot and right foot is on Mahishasur’s chest. Here Mahishasur is in the form of a Buffalo and is not a regular human demon. Maa Biraja image is unique i.e, the right hand of Maa Biraja that pierces with the trident is downwards unlike those images of Mother Durga where it points upwards.
The crown of Devi has images of Ganesha, Naga or Serpent, Yoni, Shiva Ling and a Crescent Moon. All these images have the following implications.
Ganapathi on the crown signifies that Maa Durga is the destroyer of impediments.
Naga/ Serpent signifies Her omnipotence
Yoni and Shiva Ling signifies Her Creation and Destruction aspects
Crescent Moon signifies that Maa Biraja is the remover of all mental ailments.
Maa Biraja is also worshipped as the “Adimata – The Ancient Mother” and was the most important deity of ancient Orissa. The temple is spread over a vast area and has several Shiva Lingas and other deities.
Four Vairavas, Five Nrusinghas, Seven Matrukas, Twelve Madhavas and a Hundred and Eight Rudras surround Maa Biraja in the centre. The temple boundary is in triangular shape which extends in the west, south-east and north-east directions. Bilweswar, Varuneswar and Khilateswar Lingas located in the west, south and north-east direction guard the areas as guardian deities.
Jajati Keshari, a ruler of Kesari dynasty built the Biraja temple in Jajati Nagar (now Jajpur) in 13th century during the Kalinga time. The deity, Maa Biraja which stands 70 ft from the floor is said to be worshipped from 5th Century. The temple is named after the King Jajati Keshari. According to the legend, the place is also known as ‘Gadakhestra’, as Bhima’s Gada (mace) was lying in this holy place. In front of the temple stand two lions above elephant. This is indicative of the greatness of Keshari dynasty (Symbol of Lion) than Gajapati dynasty (Symbol of elephant) in Orissa. Jajati Nagar was also the capital of his kingdom.
Several battles were fought here including the last battle in Orissa that established the Muslim rule. The last reigning king of Orissa, Mukundadev was killed in this battle in Gohira Tikiri, a place 5 kms away from Jajpur. After the death of the King, Muslim rulers plundered the temples of Orissa under the ferocious general “Kala Pahad”. There was mass destruction of sculptures and structures in Jajpur The temples which are present now bear a testimony to the glory of a place that was once an epicentre of religion and culture.
The temples at Jajpur signify the architectural splendour. Some of the temples known for archaeological wealth, located along the bank of the River Baitrani, include the famous shrines of the Goddess Biraja (Durga), Sveta Baraha (incarnation of Lord Vishnu as the white boar), Sapta Matruka, and various other gods.
According to Brahmanda Purana, once Brahma (the creator of the Universe) performed a Yajna (great sacrifice) on the river Baitrani. Parvati emerged from the Garhapatya fire as a result of Brahma’s invocation and advised Brahma to name her as Biraja. Brahma prayed to Parvati and asked her to stay at the Kshetra as the divine consort of Siva. Parvati agreed and created Nine Durgas, Sixty Four Yoginis, Eight Chandikas and asked them to remain in the Kshetra permanently. Due to the presence of these deities, this land was well known as Shakti Peetha.
At Biraja Temple, Lord Vishnu is in Varaha incarnation.
A great Yagna (sacrificial oblation) was performed over the body of Gayasur, (the great demon devotee of Lord Vishnu) by the Lords Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu to kill the demon. Gayasur’s feet were in Pada Gaya (a place in Pithapuram, Andhra Pradesh), nabhi(Navel) in Biraja Kshetra or today’s Jajpur, known as Nabhi Gaya and head at Shiro Gaya. The exact spot is in a well that lies inside the Biraja temple just close to Maa Biraja.
Biraja Devi is described as Pitrukanya. According to Brahmanda Purana, Biraja was the mind child of Ajyapa Pitruganas. Thus people from all over the country come and offer pindas at Nabhigaya in order to propitiate their ancestors and have a darshan of the Pitru Kanya, Biraja.
There is a puranic reference in Mahabharatha, wherein Pandavas, (as suggested by Sage Lomash) took a holy dip in Baitrani River to wash out all sorrows and sufferings during their Vanavasa.
Nabhi Kund is a pond where Lord Brahma is said to have performed a Yagna, which is also present near the temple.
According to Skanda Purana, Utkala khanda, a dip in the holy river Vaitrani washes all rajo guna of pilgrims.
Impact or importance of the place
Many pilgrims come here for Shraddha Karma during Mahalaya Amavasya (Offerings/oblations or pitrupinda are made to the ancestors) Thus the place is known as “Pitrtirtha” or the pilgrim place for departed souls.
Vaitrani River is also famous for the Varuni Snan Yog, when a large number of pilgrims throng Jajpur for the Holy Snan. Varuni Yog is an auspicious Muhurrat associated with God Varuna. The day commences with a Holy dip in Vaitrani River on the day of Chaitra Krishna Chaturdasi. The Muhurrat is associated with the star Shatabisha. If the star falls on a Saturday, it is considered even more auspicious.
At Jajpur there are “One less than One Crore” Siva lingas. There are several references from many old texts which say that “Dig anywhere in Birajakshetra and you will stumble upon a Shiva Linga”. There are several Shiva Temples in Jajpur. Lord Shiva in the form of Ishaneswar and Vaidyanath are found inside the Biraja temple. It is estimated that there are nearly 240 ancient Shiva temples in the Biraja Kshetra without taking into account the dilapidated structures.
It is considered auspicious to visit Goddess Biraja on Ashtami (eighth) and Chaturdashi (fourteenth) day of Shukla and Krishna Paksha other thanTuesdays and Thursdays. It is believed that, darshan of Devi Maa Biraja on the days mentioned above fulfils ones desires. The evening Arati especially on Thursdays is considered very auspicious as it is believed that Devi not only fulfils one’s desires but also helps her devotees attain salvation.
Jagannath Temple complex present on the other side of the river is an important temple for pilgrims to visit.
Rituals and Festivals
Jajpur is one of the oldest Centre of Hindu festivals. Festivals are celebrated throughout the year. Brahmins of Jajpur worship Biraja Devi as Mahishasurmardini.
From time immemorial, Goddess Biraja is considered as the presiding Deity of Odisha. There are various rituals conducted by three categories of Brahmins namely Kar, Pani, Panigrahi throughout the day at the temple. The daily worship of devi is done according to Tantra and Agama Shastras.
The morning seva starts at 4.00 am with Mukha Marjan(Face wash), followed by Danta Kastha. Here the deity’s teeth are brushed with Bilwa stick. Then the deity is readied for the royal bath by applying Gandhamala, turmeric and sandal paste, sarbaushadhi and other scented oils. The deity is given Panchamruta snan (liquid mixture of milk, curd, ghee, sugar and honey) followed by Shudodhaka snan using water from sacred Rivers like Ganga and the Baitrani. This is followed by Mantropachar wherein Purusasukta and Sri sukta are recited to the goddess. Mantropachar is followed by Dhoop, Deep and Naiveidya, after which the deity is open for dharshan to all her devotees. (Sahan Mela). The morning seva ends at 4.30 am.
The midday Seva consists of Dhoop (burning of incense sticks) and Deep,(lighting of lamps). Sweetened rice and other items are offered as Naivedya to the deity. This is followed by Arati (burning camphor), Puspanjali (offering flowers and Bilwa leaves to Maa Biraja), Arghya Samarpan(Offering of water) and Mantra pushpa(recital of sacred mantras). The midday rituals come to a close (Pahuda) at 1.00 pm
The afternoon seva starts at 3.00 pm with mukha soudha (cleaning of the mouth). This is followed by offering curd mixed with sugar and then the deity is opened for darshan to all her devotees. (Sahan Mela)
In the evening Arati is performed followed by Pushpanjali (offering flowers to goddess).Then sweets are offered as Samanya Naivedya.
The night seva starts at 10 pm with nitya(normal) upachar puja, and boiled rice, dal etc is offered as Naivedya . Arati, Pushpanjali and Arghya Samarpan is offered after which the day comes to an end. This is also called as night close (Ratri Pahuda).
Bana Durga mantra is recited to Goddess Biraja throughout the year except on Triveni Amavasya (New moon day of Magha masa). Goddess Biraja is worshipped with Gayatri Mantra on her Janmamohtsav.
Sharadiya Durga Puja is a culmination of festivals celebrated over 16 days which starts from Badrapada Krishna Paksha Ashtami night and ends on Ashwija/Ashwin Shukla Paksha Navami is the main ritual in this temple. The Pujas conducted for 16 days is called as Shodasha dinatatmika Puja. Festivals are held during Durga Puja and Kali Puja.
Rath Yatra* of Goddess Biraja Devi is held on Mahaashtami and Mahanavami. During the transition of lunar phase from Shukla Ashtami to Shukla Navami a special animal Sacrifice is performed which is called Bali Danam. Aparajita Puja is celebrated on the day of Dussehra or Vijayadashmi. Devi’s Janmahotsav, celebrated according to Devi’s Nakshatra “Shravana” on Triveni Amavasya of Maagha Masa, (last week of January to first week of February) is another significant festival. Prathamastami, (celebrated on the Ashtami of Marghashirsha Masa ) Pana Sankrati (Oriya new year day) Raja Parva (a festival celebrated to inaugurate and welcome the agricultural year all over Odisha) are other celebrations at the temple.
There is a huge sacred tree to which the devotees bind colourful threads to fulfill their wishes. The temple has beautiful images of many human and animal figures. Devotees offer their hair to holy goddess.
*Ratha Yatra (Chariot Festival): Goddess Biraja chariot is named as Simhadhwaja. The chariot has Simha (Lion), Gaja (Elephant), Aswa (Horses) in the front, and Chaturmukha Brahma is placed as the Sarathi (Driver). Chariot festival is held during all the nine days of Navaratri starting from Ashwija Shukla Padyami to Mahanavami. The annual festival celebration at Biraja temple starts from Bhadrapada Krishna Dashami which coincides with the beginning of the construction of Maa Biraja’s chariot. On this festive day, the Asha Pole of the deity is placed on the Balimandap by afternoon which is then followed by prayers to Lord Ganesh and Goddess Saraswati. The celebration includes the ceremony of cutting of gold. This parva heralds the commencement of the new Anka or regional year. The formal construction of Simhadhwaja chariot starts on the day when Bilwabaran or Banayaga Bidhi is observed and the temple authorities supply all the construction materials required for the chariot. The chariot is ready by Mahalaya (The new moon day of Aswina). The chariot has twelve wheels indicating the twelve months of the year.