Experience the Goddess’ grace at Naina Devi Festival in Nainital
Standing atop the other side of the Naini Lake on Naina hillock, Naina Devi Temple in the mountain state of Uttarakhand, is the birthplace of the worldwide famous 8-day long Naina Devi Festival. One of the 51 Shaktipeeths of India, the Naina Devi Temple is considered to be an extremely powerful shrine among Indian pilgrims who flock here every year in lacs and thousands in hope of receiving blessings from Ma Naina Devi. The temple is associated with a very powerful legend that established the roots of the temple owing to Goddess Sati’s eyes which are believed to have fallen at the location.
Ancient Hindu scriptures describe the temple as an irreplaceable Hindu pilgrimage site in the country and explain the significance of the Naina Devi temple. Among the 51 shakthipeeths, Naina Devi temple is one associated with the legendary tale of Goddess Sati. It is believed that the Goddess Sati’s Nayan or eyes fell at the place after Lord Vishnu divided her body into 51 pieces. In fact, this place owes it’s name to the Goddess’ eyes and the entire town is named to be Nainital. Even the lake overlooking the temple is named as Naini Lake while the temple is known as the Naina Devi temple after the legend.
The temple was built in early 15th AD to worship the Goddess in the form of her eyes. Later, the Naina Devi temple’s idol was inaugurated inside the temple by Moti Ram Shaah in 1842 who was a devotee. The temple was completely demolished in a 1880 landslide after which it was rebuilt again by the locals who believe in the divine’s presence there in the temple premises.
About Naina Devi
The legend of the powerful Goddess Naina Devi is connected with the slaying of the dangerous demon Mahishasura. The other name of the Goddess is Mahishapeeth and she is known so because of her connection with the slaying of Maishasura.
The mighty demon Mahisasura was gifted with the boon of immortality by Lord Brahma on a condition that he can only be annihilated by a woman. Mahisasura, after getting the boon, unleashed terror on the devalok (the plane where Gods reside) and all the Gods came together to save themselves from him. All the Gods combined their respective powers to give rise to Devi Durga – the woman powerful enough to vanquish Mahisasura.
Fascinated by the divine beauty of Goddess Durga, Mahisasura wished to marry her. Goddess told Mahisasura that in order to do so, he has to first defeat Devi in battle. A fierce battle followed where Devi vanquished Mahisasura and the entire army of Mahisasura. While defeating Mahisasura, Devi plucked out Mahisasura’s eyes and from thereafter, she was hailed by everyone in the Devaloka by the call of ‘Jai Naina.’
Thus, Devi Durga was thereafter called as Naina Devi.
Mythology and Location of the Naina Devi temple
Standing tall on the side of the mesmerizing Naini Lake, the temple looks down from a height of over 11,000 m in the heart of the mighty Shivalik range. The town along with the temple is surrounded by the mighty Shivalik range, the highest peak being Mt. Nanda Devi. This is believed and worshipped to be Naina Devi’s sister.
Right towards the center of the temple premises, you can find two Nayan (or eyes of the Goddess) representing Mata Kali and Goddess Naina Devi to the left while Lord Ganesha resides in the right. Apart from that, you can also see two huge lion statues guarding the shrine’s insides that represents the Goddess’ Vahan or vehicle.
The mythology behind the temple’s erection goes as follows:
The legend states back to the times when a great king named Daksha Prajapati reigned and he was blessed with a beautiful daughter Sati. With time, Sati grew to be a beautiful young woman. King Daksh started his search for the most appropriate groom for her.
At the same time, Sati was mesmerized and she fell in love with Lord Shiva. This was never approved by Daksha. Nonetheless, Sati did not obey the King and went ahead to marry Lord Shiva. After their marriage, Goddess Sati along with Lord Shiva heard about a holy Yajna ceremony that was being held by the king Daksha. Ideally, the Yajna required the sacrifice of something in the pious fire.
To Goddess Sati’s disappointment, King Daksha refrained from inviting her Lord Shiva to the ceremony. Being his daughter, Sati arrived at the Yagna ceremony without an invitation but angry Daksha humiliated her and her husband. Goddess Sati, not being able bear this humiliation, jumped into the ceremonial fire thereby sacrificing herself.
Lord Shiva was struck with grief and unable to bear the loss of his beloved wife Sati. He started Tandava which is known as God’s dance form of destruction. Even after repeated requests and pleas from several Gods and Godesses, Lord Shiva continued to perform Tandava. It was then Lord Vishnu who stepped in to use his wheel or ‘Sudarshan Chakra’ and slashed Goddess Sati’s scorched body into 51 parts.
The 51 different parts of her body is said to have fallen at different locations where the 51 Shaktipeeths are now located in India. The Naina Devi temple is one of those locations and symbolizes Goddess Sati’s eyes as according to legends, her eyes were believed to have fallen there.
Experiencing Naina Devi Festival
During the time of August or September, the auspicious beginnings of Nanda Ashtami is observed every year which is a huge celebration across all of Kumaon region. This festival marks the worship and celebration of Nanda Devi, sister of Naina Devi and after whom, the highest peak of the Shivalik is named.
During the time of Nanda Ashtami, a huge fair is arranged on the grounds of Naina Devi temple which is known as the Naina Devi fair. During this time, many devotees flock to the temple seeking blessings from the Goddess. The Nanda Ashtami ocassion lasts for about 8 days within the premises of the temple. The last day or 8th day sees the terminal ceremony where the statues of Goddess Naina Devi with her sister Nanda Devi is immersed. This also marks the last day of the Naina Devi fair. Other holy occasions when fairs are organised are Navratri, Chaitra Fair etc.
The temple does not charge any special entry fee for darshan or entering the temple. The timings of the temple are between 6:00 am to 10:00 pm on all days of the week. Some of the things to consider before visiting the temple are:
- If you are visiting with kids or elderly people or even visiting alone, carrying adequate number of sufficiently warm woollen clothes are a must as the evenings on the temple top are extremely chilly.
- Always carry a government ID card with you and keep it handy to avoid hassles and obstacles.
- If you have planned for a trek, make sure to carry a pair of trekking shoes and do not forget first aid kit including antiseptic ointments.
- Carrying an adequate SPF sunscreen is important for the day.
- Always carry enough water, energy bars, and ORS solution for energy and hydration.
Route to Reach the Naina Devi temple in Nainital
- The Devi temple is situated towards the Northern point of the Naini Lake.
- The temple is situated at a 3 km distance from the main city bus station in Nainital. Alternatively, you may also stroll to the temple or reach by hiring an auto or rickshaw from the local auto stand.
- The temple is 36 km away from the closest railway station named Kathgodam station from where you can find several taxi and cabs that drop you at the temple.
- If you come by air route, the closes airport would be the Pantnagar Airport which is 55km away from the shrine. From the airport also, you can find numerous local cabs that go to the temple.
Things to do or popular sightseeing places around the Naina Devi temple, Nainital
- Boating – Naina Devi temple being located right on the sides of the mesmerizing Naini lake offers a stunning natural landscape to enhance the beauty of the temple. Not to mention, the lake is also a very popular tourist attraction, providing tourists with a great opportunity to enjoy a refreshing boat ride surrounded by the Shivaliks.
- Shopping – All tourist places come with one or the other shopping places the Nainital mall road is the biggest one near the temple. Crowded with shops selling diverse items handmade by the local artisans, the mall shopping complex is widely popular for candles, aromas, and handmade jewelry.
- Eco Cave Garden – Another locally popular tourist spot near the temple is the beautiful Eco Cave Garden that offers the perfect blend of nature with human creativity. The place is popular for several caves that have been carved in the form of different animals from the natural fauna of the Kumaon wildlife habitat.
- Sanctuary – Bird lovers would absolutely love visitig the exquisite Pangot and Kilbury Bird Sanctuary.