triple goddess shrine

"In-Roads", Life Positive Magazine, July 2004

Talking of numbers, number three holds fascination. It is revered in all cultures in different guises. Christians see the trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Greeks have the three Fates and three Graces. The triad is found in the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, on the shields of crusaders, on the swords of Japanese nobility, on the rocks of Mongolia, on Tibetan rings, on Buddhist banners, and on the pottery of the Neolithic age. On the third day, Jesus rose again. Lust of the flesh, that of the eye and of life are three. Dimensions of time (past, present and future) are three. Subtle nerve channels of sushumna, pingala and ida are three. Gross, subtle and causal bodies are three. Heaven, earth and nether worlds are three. Creator, preserver and destroyer are three. Waking, dream and deep sleep states are three. In Tantra, the indwelling spirit who presides over universal trinity is called Tripurasundari.

On the left bank of Beas, 21 km from Manali, at an altitude of 1851m, breathes a small village called Naggar. This erstwhile royal residence of 1400 years became my destination when I learnt that it is also the hometown of the triple Goddess Tripurasundari. Journeying through town of Kullu, I saw barren trees lending their limbs to the cold cover of snow; the snow lending itself to the clouds; the immovability of hills lending way to pliable streams. I witnessed one force lending to another, as though a perpetual sacrifice, a perennial play of consciousness. Yet, between what was seen and felt, I felt the presence of a third. Just as between night and day, there is dawn or twilight, layered between the cycle of cause and effect, I sensed a nameless presence that made a triad of duality – call it the Witness… the Stranger… the Spirit. Or was she Tripura, the Triple Goddess who plays in creation, manifestation and dissolution...?

Walking the path snaking up to the village, Naggar felt like a dream erupted to reality. Echo of temple bell cutting across the valley, smoke rising from hearty village homes, cows leisurely munching fodder in the lazy Sun… every sound, each movement only heightened the silence. I stopped in my tracks as I confronted an old brown pagoda like structure, and I need not have been told that this was Her abode. It was the shrine of Tripurasundari, the One who holds infinity in her palms and eternity in an hour, and to whose feet the fifteen days of the waxing moon are attendants. I entered her three-storey stone temple through a low wooden entrance and sat in the innermost chamber where the kings once offered worship. And when I came out, great wonder seized me by merely looking at a ripe blade of grass. My heart blossomed on sighting a dainty purple flower thriving atop a rock. My magically rinsed perception saw spring sleeping in barren trees, and summer waiting in winter.

Just then, three village children, who were seen playing cricket in temple courtyard, ran into the forest and disappeared into the thick cover of woods… like crows disappearing into darkness. Night encroached on Naggar. The 16th century Naggar castle built by Raja Sidh Singh in 1460 AD in wood and stone lit up with soft yellow lights. Its wooden planks creaked sleepily, its stone walls yawned, while the embers in the fire pit hissed one last time. All an eye could see were the twinkling stars from the temple courtyard alongside the temple of Jagati Pat (which houses a stone slab brought down by Gods from the peak of Deo Tibba). The hissing clouds and the dreamy valley vanished into the night like the rising wave falls back into the ocean. And I slept in the lap of Her love, as a babe sleeps in mother’s embrace, lulled by trust, comforted by the brush of her garment.