Tradition plays out at Bakhrabad

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By LALMOHAN PATNAIK
  • Published 26.10.11
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An idol of Goddess Chinnamasta Kali at Bakhrabad in Cuttack. Picture by Badrika Nath Das

Cuttack, Oct. 25: The representation of goddess Kali at Bakhrabad has no similarity with the 60-odd idols that will be worshipped across the city tomorrow.

The goddess at Bakhrabad holds her severed head in one hand while three springs of blood spurt out of her neck. One streams into her mouth and the other two stream into the mouths of her two female aides. Her left leg is not over Lord Shiva, but a couple embracing each other on a lotus.

“We have been worshipping the goddess this form for more than five decades. Nothing has changed over the years,” said Jaydip Pal, secretary-in-charge of Bakhrabad Puja Committee.

At Bakhrabad, the goddess is worshipped not as Kali but as Chhinnamastika — the goddess who chopped off her own head.

Old timers of the area say Bharat Singh, Mukunda Behera and Rama Dalei introduced this form of worship in the 50s. But nobody knows for sure how and under what circumstances the Chhinnamastika form of worshipping the goddess began at Bakhrabad.

“The exact reason is not known to us. We have continued with the tradition without making any changes fearing that any deviation might bring us bad luck,” said Ramesh Chandra Das, who coordinates the puja every year.

What is striking about the Chhinnamastika goddess is the stark contrast in the iconographic setting — gruesome decapitation, copulating couple, drinking of fresh blood — all set in a harmonious mould.

“It’s a starkly portrayed cycle — life (couple making love), death (beheaded goddess), and sustenance (female consorts drinking her blood),” explained 63-year-old Chandra Sekhar, the pujaka.

“Chhinnamastika is a composite form conveying reality as an amalgamation of sex, death, creation, destruction and regeneration,” the pujaka added.

The most common interpretation is that Chhinnamastika signifies self-control, courage and discernment.

According to experts, Chhinnamastika is the sixth of the 10 mahavidyas or great wisdom goddesses.

According to tantric tradition, the 10 forms of the goddess are — Tara, Tripura, Sundari, Bhuvaneshvari, Chhinnamastika, Bhairavi, Dhumavati, Bagalamukhi, Matangi and Kamalatmika.