A weekend pilgrimage to Rayagada

While transiting through southern Odisha on our way to Chhattisgarh last year, my wife expressed a desire to visit the famous Maa Majhighariani (माँ मझिघरियानी) Mandir in Rayagada (रायगडा). I told her that it meant a detour of over 200 kms over bad roads and promised to take her there some other time. She wasn’t happy but had no choice in the matter. A few days later, there was a minor collision with a truck which my wife viewed as a divine warning. Recently, I changed my car and my wife was insistent that we go and seek the forgiveness and blessings of the Goddess.

So, off we went, on a cloudy Sunday morning in August from Vizag along with my nephew Suresh and his family. Suresh was familiar with the route and he led the way and we followed him. The highway was good and we made good progress till we crossed the state border and entered Odisha.

The road to Rayagada passes through breathtaking Tribal terrain

The character of the highway abruptly changed from smooth to bumpy, no thanks to the numerous potholes which cropped up with jarring regularity. The landscape, however, was breathtaking with green farmlands on both flanks and the rugged Eastern Ghats loomed over the horizon, their lofty peaks flirting with gently drifting fluffy white clouds. The traffic was sparse and there were hardly any signs of human habitation.

Rayagada, the headquarters of a district bearing the same name, is in southern Odisha. A majority of its residents are tribals belonging to the Kond and Savara tribes. It is part of a larger tribal domain stretching from the Vindhyas to the Eastern Ghats and is spread over the states of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Chhattisgarh. Its forest and mineral wealth has attracted the attention of industries who have set up mining and paper industries. Not surprisingly, it is also home to deadly Maoists insurgents.

The trilingual sign indicating the way to the Maa Majhighariani temple

On the outskirts of Rayagada, there was a trilingual sign in Odiya, Telugu and English indicating that the temple was to the right and a short winding road took us atop a mound dominated by the shrine surrounded by numerous thatched shacks housing vendors and pilgrim utilities. The rest of the space served as an open parking area for  hundreds of auto rickshaws, motorcycles, cars and vans, half of which bore license plates of Andhra Pradesh, a testimony to the fact that the Goddess is immensely popular not just in Odisha but also in its southern neighbour.

A view of Maa Majhighariani Temple

The presiding diety of Rayagada, Maa Majhghariani, is known as Majji Gowri in A.P. Originally a tribal diety, she is considered to be an incarnation of Goddess Durga. In the 4th century AD, when the Emperor Samudragupta invaded this area, the local ruler was able to successfully defend his kingdom with the blessings of this Goddess. In the 14th century, a temple was built at the exact centre of a fort (Majhi Ghariani literally means occupant of the central house) and that is how she acquired this name.

Tall concrete columns support the railway bridge over the River Nagavali

The temple building is just about five decades old. It is said that while a railway bridge was being constructed across River Nagavali (नागावली) in close proximity to the temple, the supporting pillars kept collapsing. The chief priest then dreamt that the Maa ordered him to first rebuild her temple. After the temple was built, the construction of the railway bridge proceeded without a hitch!

The main gateway of the Maa Majhighariani temple

In spite of the shabby, chaotic surroundings, the temple itself is surprisingly clean. The impressive entrance gateway is adorned with tribal motifs typical of the region. The temple itself is a squat, rectangular structure with a short flight of steps leading to the entrance hall.  In between the temple and the gateway is a hexagonal pavilion housing a highly polished metallic statue of a horse. There was some inscription a plaque which I could not decipher as the script was Odiya. I asked some devotees about this horse but nobody seemed to have a clue. My guess is that it is probably in honour of a legendary war horse which played a stellar role in some long forgotten battle.

A statue of a horse is located in a hexagonal pavilion in front of the temple

There is also a tree in the compound whose branches were festooned with bright red ribbons tied by devotees seeking fulfilment of some wish or the other. I wonder if this is another tribal custom adopted by mainstream Hinduism.

By tying ribbons to branches of this tree, devotees formally request a boon from the Goddess

It being a Sunday, the temple was crammed with devotees, many of them holding sacrificial chicken in their hands as they waited for darshan. It is a custom here (tribal origin, perhaps) that when a wish is fulfilled, the devotees make an animal sacrifice. After darshan, they slaughter the offering and cook it in one of the nearby shacks and eat it there.

Taken from a framed image of the Goddess since photography is not permitted inside the temple.

The idol of the Goddess is a lingam shaped stone deeply embedded into the ground. The visible part is coated with a bright vermillion pigment on which metallic eyes, eyebrows, nose, ears and lips have been affixed and adorned with a crown and other ornaments. A silver tongue protrudes out of the mouth. Flanking the idol are two silver lions. Reflections of the deity can also be seen on the glass ceiling of the temple as we approach the sanctum sanctorum.

Signboards at the place where Vahan poojas are performed. The board on the right seems to be drunk, just  like the the drunkards it seeks to ban. We come across such unintentionally funny signs wherever we go in India.

After darshan, we proceeded to the eastern side of the temple for the vahan pooja. A priest strung together some limes and tied them to the grille along with a bright red embroidered ribbon. He then applied a tilak on the logo and the steering wheel, sprinkled some flowers and then broke a coconut on the ground in front of the car. Finally, he placed a lime under each tyre and asked me to drive over them.

After lunch, we proceeded to the industrial township of Therubali (थेरुबाली), some 20 kilometres away. The road was surprisingly good and the view was awesome with verdant farmlands hemmed in by hills all around. A corporate house, Indian Metals and Ferro Alloys Limited (IMFA) have built a beautiful temple complex within their campus. The architecture is classically Odishi but instead of limestone, the structures are made of concrete. The main shrine is devoted to the deities Lakshmi and Narayan and hence is known as the Laxminarayan Temple.  In addition to idols of these deities, there are idols of Jagannath, Balabhadra, Subhadra and Hanuman inside this temple.

The Laxminarayan temple in Therubali

The ambience of the temples is enhanced by a spacious, well-maintained garden with meticulously manicured lawns, trees and shrubs. The interiors of the temples are spotlessly clean and covered with marble and granite.

A side view of the magnificent Laxminarayan Temple

To the right of the main temple is a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and to the left is the temple dedicated to his divine consort, Goddess Durga.  While the architecture is similiar in most respects, the spires of the Vaishnavite temples have chakras adorning the shikhars, the Shiva and Shakti temples have trishuls at the top.

The temple dedicated to Lord Shiva

Not far from Therubali railway station is the Padaleshwara temple, located in a place known as Paikapada (पैकपडा) The ethereal surroundings are stunningly beautiful. Situated on the banks of a placid lake and surround by craggy hills, the place seems to have changed little over the millennia, except for some electric poles striking a jarring note.

A stunningly beautiful vista as seen from the Paikapada temple

The extant temple seems to be a pale shadow of its glorious past. It surely must have been much larger and I suspect that most of the structures have collapsed either due to natural or historical calamities and that most of the artifacts were plundered. Legend has it that the total number of Shivalingas in this complex is exactly one less than a crore (99,99,999). The reality is that the compound wall encloses a very small area and the space within is not sufficient to house even a thousand lingas, let alone lakhs of them.

The Padaleshwara (Shiva) temple of Paikapada

The main temple looks like a comparatively recent addition because of its architecture, while all around it are ancient stone temples built in the early Kalingan style. Strewn about haphazardly inside the compound are hundreds of lingams and slabs of rock carved with exquisite images of assorted Gods, Goddesses and mythological creatures. The temple is in a bad shape probably due to financial constraints and other than the caretakers-cum-priests, there were no devotees.  During Shivaratri, however, it is thronged by hordes of devotees and a major attraction is the Rath Yatra. Unlike in other shrines, the priests here permitted us to take pictures of the idols too.

The main lingam in the temple complex

The consecrated idol of Maa Dakshineswar Kalika

There is a separate shrine dedicated for worshipping Maa Dakshineswar Kalika. In addition, there are images of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra crammed into a small corner outside the garbha griha.  It is highly probable that there was a separate shrine for these deities which must have collapsed and the idols have been shifted to this space till a new shrine is built.

Idols of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are stored in a cramped corner of the temple

It was getting dark and it was time to embark on our return journey. As we left this holy place, one felt ashamed of the sheer callousness of our attitude to our invaluable heritage. We are blessed with an abundance of cultural wealth and this probably makes us callous, insensitive and unaware of its splendour and value. I wonder how many museums and art galleries worldwide have benefitted from the plunder of our ancient temples.

Tailpiece: Petrol in Odisha costs just about Rs. 69 per litre, 10 % cheaper than what I pay in my home state of Andhra Pradesh. So I made it a point to top up my tank before leaving for Vizag. On the way back, my front tyre burst while navigating the terrible roads in Odisha. I might have saved a couple of hundreds on fuel but I had to cough up Rs.5,500 to replace the damaged tyre. I have stopped grumbling about having to pay more since I have realised that everything comes at a price.

38 Comments

  • Mahesh Semwal says:

    Thanks for introducing us the unexplored places.

    What could be better than your post to end the day.

  • jatdevta says:

    ?????? ?? ???? ?? ??????? ???? ???????

    the total number of Shivalingas in this complex is exactly one less than a crore (99,99,999). ??!

  • Tx DL,

    Your way of story telling is different and I admire you a lot.
    Thanks a lot for bringing up this place to us…we are planning to go to Araku Valley & Vizag next summer…if time permits, we will add this place in our list

    Take care of yourself,

  • SilentSoul says:

    After a long time DL !!!. The description is detailed well with matching fotos.

    While constructing the Kalka-shimla rail also they faced similar problems and then some English Engineer saw a dream about doing some worship to a local deity. Dont know how much these things are true, but they exist and baffle the scientific brains.

    I heard this area is very dangerous and maoist, if not kill, will loot the car owners in the name of some tax etc.. Is it true ? if yes why you took the risk ?

    Tks for sharing this unknown place

    • Giriraj Shekhawat says:

      Silent saab ….. if we get intimidated by such areas it surely will become a breeding ground for the anti social …….. and with fear only pessimism permeates …….. Those anti social outfits take advantage of isolation ……. boss agar ghumakarri karni hai to ye line yaad rakhe “Darr ke Aage Jeet Hai” Aur haan mein fir se Chambal ke ravines ka chakkar lagane ja raha hun ……… Kyunki mein chambal ki ghati ki sundarta kisi daaaku ki vajah se chod nahi sakta ……….. Chalo Ji ApniApni Soch

      PEACE

      • SilentSoul says:

        Giriraj 20 years before I also said like what you say….. I have done my share of ghumakkari also dangerous ghumakkari… it is time for you now

        waiting for yr next post on Chambal

        • D.L.Narayan says:

          Silent saab makes a valid point about safety because I was travelling with my wife, daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter. While it is okay for me to take some calculated risks, I have no right to expose them to any risk whatsoever. I took the decision to travel only after confirming with many people that it was safe to go there with my family.

          Having said that, I agree that an adventurous outlook is a common trait amongst ghumkkars. SS is an intrepid ghumakkar who has had more than his share of dangerous ghumakkari in distant far-off places. Giriraj too has traversed the ravines of Chambal and he has given us some racy stories. We at ghumakkar have gained a lot from both of them

          • SilentSoul says:

            Tks DL that exactly was my point. I can go to anypoint sans family. Even when we used to go to a new place in Himalayas, first we would go along (friends only) and if the place is safe, and beautiful we would take our families later.

            Ghumakkari does not mean taking known risks or risking ours or others life for sake of fun. It also does not mean what those “Nouveau riches” did in Jageshwar with us.

            In Himalayas alone specially in Kasol and Manikaran area dozens of foreign tourists , who lived in tents far away, were murdered apparently by nepalese, for their money and camera. 100s are missing till date.

            Ghumakkari is for enjoyment or for upliftment of soul, not for taking risks. Many a times we made programme for Kashmir but could not go just because we didnt want to be targetted by terrorists. (I am talking of 10-15 years back).

            Jawani ke josh mein jaan ko khatre mein dalna bewkoofi hai ghumakari nahin.. But I also learnt this lesson when my jawani left me LOL :)

  • D.L.Narayan says:

    @ Mahesh: Thank you for your lovely comment. What better way to start the comments section than a comment from the Featured Author of the month and one of the seniormost Ghumakkars?

    @ ??? ?????: ????? ???, ??????????? ???? ?? ???? ???? ???? ???????? ???, ???? ?? ????????? ?? ???? ?? ?? ?????? ????? ?? ?? ??? 99,99,999 ??????? ?? ?? ?? ????? ???? ??? ?????? ??? ???? ???? ?? ?? ?? ???? ????? ????….?? ???? ?? ?? ?? ?????? ??? ?? ??? ?? ??, ?? ?????

    @ Amitava: Thank you very much for your kind comments. If you plan to visit Vizag, then the best time to do so will be between October and February as the summers are hot and humid. I have already written about Araku valley and I am planning to write a series on Vizag soon.

    @ Silent Soul: Yes, there is a limit to what the human intellect can comprehend and the tools we use to understand the physical world are of no use to us when it comes to the metaphysical world. Regarding safety, there is a lot of traffic on the highways and plenty of commercial and industrial activities too. Unless one goes to remote places after dark, the area is quite safe.

  • Dear DL,

    As usual inside the pleasant envelope of wonderful description and ravishing pictures embedded in it, the post is treat to watch. One of most pleasant posts which makes mind and soul calm and soothing. The idol of Maa Majhghariani is just beauteaous and appealling. After seeing the face of the devi and the lions and reading description associated with it, my mind and senses feel calmness. The idol of Mahakali Dakshineshwar was absolutely alluring DL. The Lingam Shape is awesome and feels primeval and different.
    One more thing , on accounts of Shiva MahaPurana, One when does prayers at the more older and isolated shiva temple fetches more punya than in the temple where lot of devotees flocks in. In fact if one sees a very old and isolated shivalinga in a jungle or a secluded place, not been used by ages , it is a must worship even if you just have darshan or may pour water than doing rudra abhishekh in very famous temple .In many legends Lord Shiva emerges from these type of lingas.
    Just one more thing , you are once gain very well blessed that you have a wife which can see foresee divine warnings or intuitions. Finally a praise for having faith in Lord and Maa beacuse you were driving in a place 0f Maoists insurgents.
    Thanks for sharing information on a very secluded and new place . It was very beautiful.

    • D.L.Narayan says:

      Thank you, Vishal, for your valuable feedback. You are absolutely right when you observe that ancient shrines have more spiritual power than recent ones. The pancha bhutas or the five elements must be in the right proportions for a place to emanate spiritual vibrations to attract devotees again and again. In fact, just yesterday I visited an ancient shrine to Lord Someshwara which is in a very poor shape. A new temple has been built on an adjacent plot but the original Shivalingam in the old temple continues to be worshipped.

  • Harish Bhatt says:

    D.L Ji, Thank you for introducing us to this hidden gem. You style of writing is unbeatable and keeps the reader glued till the end. The pictures too are very nice.

    Thanks again for sharing.

  • BISHNU says:

    HI NARAYAN JI

    THANKS FOR THIS WONDERFUL POST …. THIS MAA MAJHIGHARIANI ONLY MOTIVATE YOU TO PUBLISH THE ARTICLE.

    AS WE ARE BUILDING A WEBSITE http://WWW.MAATARINI.IN WHERE WE NEED PHOTOGRPHS OF MAA TEMPLE AND WE ARE GOING TO USE YOURS. THANKS FOR THE SAME

    YOU CAN SEE YOUR PHOTOGRAPHS THERE

    MAA BLESS US ALL
    THANKS AGAIN

    • D.L.Narayan says:

      Dear Bishnuji, I am glad that you liked the post. You are absolutely right, it is Maa Majhighariani who motivated me to travel to Rayagada and to write about this holy shrine. It is wonderful that you wish to use these pictures for your temple. I can send you more images if you so desire and you may select from them for use on your website. You may also provide a link to this blog on your website.

  • AUROJIT says:

    Hi DL,

    Thanks for letting us know about Maa Majhghariyani, in your typical lucid and elaborate style.
    Temples in Therubali and Paikpara seem to be equally interesting.

    Pics are mesmerising, both those of deities/temple and the verdant scenes.

    Temples surely are an integral part of our heritage and collective consciousness. Lack of their upkeep/maintenance shows our irresponsible attitude towards our heritage.

    Nice post,

    Thanks,

    Auro.

    • D.L.Narayan says:

      Thanks, Auro, for your kind words. Yes, we must learn to cheirsh and value our pricelss heritage. Hopefully, with increase in awareness and exposure to other countries, we will learn to take proper care of it and pass it on to future generations in a better shape than it is at present.

  • Surinder Sharma says:

    D.L.,
    Very good description and fotos so shining. Architecture of Temples so wonderful. Flat Tire cost so much, may be nice idea to Hire a vehicle. Thanks a lot for share your journey.

    • D.L.Narayan says:

      Thank you very much, Surinder, for liking this post. Yes, it would be great to hire a vehicle but the problem is that most drivers drive in such a reckless manner that I prefer to sit at the steering wheel :-).

      However, the point I am trying to make is that the state, which imposes such high taxation on road users (vehicle tax, petrol cess, tolls etc) does little to maintain roads properly and ensure our safety. Thousands of crores are collected but diverted elsewhere. If the money is properly spent, we can have world class highways.

  • Ritesh Gupta says:

    Hi D.L. Ji…..
    ???? ??? ?? ???? ??? ?????? ?? ??? ?????????? ?? ???????? ?? ????????????? ????? ?? ???? ??? ???? ??? ?????? ????? ??? | ?????? ??????? ?? ??? ?? ?? ?? ?????? ??? ???? ??? …..|
    Thanks of Nice Post…
    Ritesh…..

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Long time DL. First 2 pics and the railways bridge pics are stunning. I have never been to ‘Eastern Ghats’, except the drive on ECR (Chennai – Pondi) which I did few years back. Thank you sharing the littles gems of this area.

    @ Sharmajee – I am guessing that DL had to change the whole tyre, a flat tyre fix costs much much less.

  • D.L.Narayan says:

    @ Ritesh: ????? ???, ???? ?? ???? ?????? ??????????? ?? ??? ???? ???? ????????
    @ Nandan: Thanks for the appreciation. The Eastern Ghats are awesome but not really high (the highest peak, Jindhagada, is just under 1,700 metres) as they are pretty old, some 1450 million years old. I wish I could explore it more but the rampant Maoism in the area is a huge deterrent. And, you are absolutely right about the tyre mishap; it was not a puncture but a 2 square inch cut and I had no other choice but to junk the almost new tyre :-(

  • Photos of Nature, Railway Bridge and Laxminarayan temple are too good. Thanks for taking us to a unexplored place.

  • Giriraj Shekhawat says:

    Hi D.L
    Enjoyed reading your post …….. Maa Majhighariani temple and the legends associated with it are interesting namely like the construction of the bridge , defending rayagada against the advent of Samudragupta etc…,

    D.L i feel every time superlatives fall short in admiration . seriously !!!! Your snapshots are crisp … the detailing of the temple is very simple…. the other lakshminarayan temple was amazing …..
    In conclusion —— Always believe a women’s instincts especially the one’s forseen by a better half (6th sense) ……. he he he he ….. it is always true … BYE ….

    • D.L.Narayan says:

      Hi Giriraj garu,

      Nice seeing you here after a long time. Thanks for liking my post and hope to see your Chambal special soon on ghumakkar.

  • BISHNU says:

    Maa Majhighariani Mata Ji ki jai.

    Everyone who is reading this post, please also visit http://WWW.OMMAATARINI.IN. A beautiful article have been put after enormous search about history of Maa. Please keep on visiting the Shrine.

    Dear DL,

    Thanks once again for the true pictures. Your post is attached to the site and your name will be listed in the ‘Bhakta Book’. This site is still being devolved with the help of all you bhakts.

    Jai Mata Di
    Bishu prasad patro

  • Er.S.B.Maharana says:

    Dear Sir,
    There is a Photo Exhb. cum Competition organised in “Chaiti Parab – 2012” ( Dist. Level Cultural Programme). I want to exhibit your photographs (Maa Majhighariani Temple and Paikapada Temple) on behalf of you. You name and copy rights will be printed the footer of each photos. Kindly give your consent regarding this event.
    thanking you Sir,
    yours faithfully,
    ER.S.B.Maharana.

    • D.L.Narayan says:

      Maharana ji, I am greatly honoured that you have chosen to display these pictures in the Chaiti Parab Exhibition. You have my permission. It would be great if you provided the link to ghumakkar.com so that the visitors will be aware of this great travel site.

      Wishing you all the best for the Exhibition.

    • Dear Mr Maharana

      Good to hear that Photo Exhb. cum Competition organised in Chaiti Parab 2012? ( Dist. Level Cultural is happening.

      Herewith I am requesting wholeheartedly to promote our website http://WWW.OMMAATARINI.IN
      in the event.

      Just to give you the details about website

      1 ) SPRITUALLY SPEAKING This is website just allocated to Promote Cultural HERITAGE OF THE HOLY PLACE (SATI KUND ) AND SPREAD THE BRIGHTNESS OF MAA IN EVERYBODY LIFE.

      2 ) We hace copied brief history of MAA fron various articles and noted in http://ommaatarini.in/index.php/sample-sites-2

      3 ) we have ambitious and motivational plans to promote the temple , place and its heritage in various forums,peoples and cultures.

      4 ) above all we are not relates to temple management and this is not the official website of maa majhighariani
      5 ) We have plans for future plan like e NADIYA ( where all bhakts send NADIYA online with a click of button and through local vendor we can transfer the same to MAA

      6 ) This website is at its very preliminary stage and soon will be fully functional

      7 ) We will issue a IPAD version and Mobile version of this website ( discussion are going on )

      8 ) Anybody can join us by registering or mailing us and help yourself by promoting the website to an extent and vice cersa i.e, WE REQUEST YOU TO PROMOTE YOUR EVENT THROUGH OUR SITE ( FREE OF COST) We will send/inform to the target audience by opening a page in our website for your event.

      PLEASE PROVIDE US FEEDBACK IF YOU LIKE OR DO NOT LIKE ALSO

      End of the massage thanks once again to DL Narayana JI for his astonishing pictures of MAA

  • Gita AM says:

    Yet another interesting post from you about lesser known places.

    Rayagada – sounds so romantic! Hahaha but the drunky Drunkers do not.

    The name (Rayagada not Drunkers) is familiar from our intensive planning for our Araku Bastar trip that did not materialise and I will surely visit this region some day .

    Is that the same railway line that goes to Similiguda?

    • D.L.Narayan says:

      Thanks, Gita, for reading this old post of mine. Yes, Rayagada (probably a corruption of Rayagadh or the stone fort) does sound romantic but the town itself is largely nondescript except for the temple and the rugged hills surrounding it.

      The railway line from Vizag to Araku branches off at Kottavalasa Junction, 25 km from Vizag, towards Araku and beyond. Shimiliguda is some 10 km before Araku. Rayagada lies on the main line which goes via Vizianagaram. Both these lines merge again at Koraput.

      I suggest that you plan a visit to Chhatisgarh around August when monsoon is in full swing. The amazing waterfalls of Chitrakote and Tirathgarh, both near Jagdalpur, are at their most spectacular in this period.

  • Thanks DL Ji for this post. Somehow I missed reading it.
    Places seems very serene and peaceful. Even the temples are place in the serene environment and concrete jungle has not engulfed the locations.

  • Nirdesh says:

    Hi DL,

    Lovely post. Yes, I also think the best time for Ghumakkari are the monsoons – temp is mild, the rains wash away the dust and haze, everything is lush and green, the moss on the monuments has its own charm and the photos come out looking fresh and sharp.

    Thanks for taking us off the beaten track. Your article shows that Orissa has tons of temples whether in the capital city or in the country side. At least the riches that have been carted off to foreign lands are being take good care of. Here they would be dirtied and vandalized.

  • Nirmal Behera says:

    It is always nice to hear something good and very well written journey experiences about Odisha. As I am from Odisha ,staying in Hyderabad it makes me proud to read this beautiful enchanting journey to Odisha and pouring your heart out. Thank you for giving such a wonderful importance. Hope to hear more Odisha Journey from you. And your way of storytelling is very unique. Good luck

  • suryanarayana gunupuru says:

    Loard gowri matha (goddes) is all whishes succed

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