Delhi, the seat of power of consecutive dynasties, has inherited a majestic legacy of some of the most astounding architectural edifices in the form of temples, mosques, gurdwaras, churches, monuments, etc. As the capital of India this multi cultural city, is looked upon as a complete confluence of the traditional and the modern.Although all religious places have an equal reverence, there is something distinctive about the Shree Adya Katyayani Shaktipeeth Mandir, popularly known as Chattarpur Mandir, which is located four kms away from the famous Qutab Minar in South Delhi. The Shaktipeeth was established to pay homage to the omnipotent and omniscient Bhagwati Maa Katyayani (Goddess Katyayani is the sixth avtaar of Goddess Durga) and its architectural splendour blends harmoniously with the religious activity on its premises. The construction of the Chattarpur Temple, one of the most visited temples and a wonder of architecture was started in 1974. The Shaktipeeth designed to the last detail under the passionate and skilful guidance of Baba, started taking shape and devotees started gathering around him. Baba’s charismatic personality and compassionate nature aided by his straight forward message of removing the veil of superstition and ignorance from the minds of the common man had a great effect on the masses of the area. Baba’s mission to reveal to them the Sanaatan Dharma in its true and undistorted form with a view to spread the message of brotherhood, tolerance and patriotism attracted more and more people, who were willing to provide not only the financial support but also the physical labour required for building of the temple.
While the construction of the temple complex was progressing, Baba’s “Matri Parivar”, as he called the devotees, grew at a phenomenal pace. The Shaktipeeth soon became a popular place of pilgrimage, which devotees from all over the world started visiting and this tiny unknown village soon became a mini temple - town.Baba was totally averse to personal glorification of any kind. As a result, nowhere in the temple precincts can one find any placard, label or indication mentioning any individual for contributions. Narrow considerations of colour, caste, creed, region, social and economic status, etc have no place in the temple precincts. The rich, the mighty, the poor, the down trodden all sit together, worship and eat together, as children of the Benevolent Mother.
While the construction of temple was progressing and the throng of devotees was multiplying, the unending hard work started telling on Baba’s health. I was told that by the beginning of 1993, Baba had to be given oxygen for long durations and thereafter constantly. It was only through Ma Durga’s grace that despite such serious ailments, Baba, moving about a wheel chair, kept on monitoring the growth of the temple, till he breathed his last on mid night between December 15 and 16, 1998.The architecture of the temple bears the stamp of the South Indian style of construction which is distinticvtively attractive. The priest on duty very kindly tied an ‘angrakshak” thread around our wrists and after passing through a huge hall ornamented with some awesome architectural designs, we reached close to the deities made of silver, paid our obeisance and were taken to the massive dining hall, where thousands of the devotees are seated and fed at one time. We were also shown the spacious kitchens, where food is cooked, first offered to Maa Annapurna and then distributed amongst the devotees as “prasada”. We were told that on the days of full moon (Purnima), all the days of Navratras, festival days (Shivratri, Janamashtami, Guru Purnima, etc) and on some special occasions, free meals are served in the dining hall. Don’t be surprised if I tell you that on each day of the Navratras, more than one lac visitors are served food. You can imagine the magnanimity of the stupendous effort behind these arrangements.
After passing through the “Yagyashala” (perhaps the biggest I have seen), where havans are performed everyday during the Navratras and on all the Sundays, we went to the main temple complex. At the entrance, there is a “Kalpa Vriksha”, planted by Baba at the time of Bhoomi Poojan. Devotees tie colored threads and bangles on the branches of this colorful and decorated tree. The common belief is that by tying threads and bangles the desires of the individuals will be fulfilled. A small information–cum-reception centre is located by the side of decorated tree. Seeing the huge marvel of architecture in front of us, reflecting different architectural styles of the various regions of the country and not knowing where to start, we decided to take the help of the Reception Officer. He very kindly briefed us about the various temples and at our request agreed to send a volunteer, who would take us around and provide the requisite information. We were heading towards the white marble buildings offset by lush greenery, which transported us to a different realm altogether. The main shrine, with its ‘vimanas’ and ‘gopurams’ appeared to be transmitting poetry in stone.
We entered a large hall in the Shiva Mandir, which houses the statues of Shree Sankatmochan Hanuman, Ram Darbar consisting of Lord Shree Ram along with his consort, Sita and younger brother Lakshman and their inseparable devotee Shree Hanuman ji sitting at his feet. The last section mounted the deities of Lord Krishna and Radha ji. After paying our obeisance there, we climbed up the spiral stair case to enter the magnificent white marbled temple of Mother Goddess Maa Durga in the form of Ma Katyayani. The attending priest told the devotees the various forms of Shakti, the Mother Goddess, who was commonly referred to as Sati, Parvati, Devi, Kali, Durga and Katyayani. Shakti was the wife of Lord Shiva and the goddess of wisdom. She helped guide Shiva in his sacred tasks and decisions. While the priest was describing the powers of the goddess, for a minute a thought came to my mind relating to the contribution of the women in most of the Indian households, where their guidance and support alone is virtually responsible for the smooth running of the household affairs.
Although it would be relevant to talk about the various forms of Divine Mother, owing to space constraints, I will restrict my description to Ma Katyayani only. According to the legend, there was a great sage called Kata. His son was known as Katya. In his lineage, Katyayana became a sage of worldwide repute. He practised austere penance for several years in order to propitiate the Mother Goddess. He cherished a keen desire to have the Goddess in the form of his daughter. The Divine Mother was pleased to accede to his request.
After sometime when the high-handedness of a demon called, Mahishasura became unbearable, the Trinity of gods – Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva got infuriated and they created a goddess by apportioning to her some part of their splendour with a view to destroy the demon. The popular belief is that since the sage Katyayana had the first privilege to worship her, she was called Katyayani.In the temple, two forms of Goddess Durga are commemorated. One shrine, located on the first floor, is dedicated to Maha Gauri (form of Durga), which is open for ‘darshan’ every day. Another shrine is dedicated to Goddess Katyayani (also known as Mahishasur-mardini), where the devotees are allowed only on the day of ‘ashtami’ in each month. It is only during the Navratras that the ‘darshan’ of Goddess Katyayani can be had throughout the nine days.
During the time of Navratras, housands of people throng the temple. To control such massive crowds of devotees, Markandeya Mandapam serves as a holding area for the large crowds who pour in round the clock to have the darshan of the Divine Mother. From the parking lot itself they form into a line that passes through the Mandapam in channelized pathways and then to the subway (to safely cross the crowded main road) from where they enter the main Temple complex.
The image of Katyayani Devi is placed in a big hall, which can also be reached from the hall of prayers. The gilded image of Goddess Katyayani is always dressed in rich clothes with striking jewellery and elaborate garland of flowers. The golden image of Katyayani attracts the attention of devotees with its huge size and sheer divinity
Beside of the temple of Katyayani Devi, there are two rooms that are meant to be the Goddess’ rooms. The magnificent living room has tables and chairs made of silver, while the other room regarded as the ‘Shayan Kaksha’ (Bed Room), has a bed, dressing table and table, all made of silver. Besides their contribution in the field of education and medical facilities, the Shaktipeeth has contributed generously towards social causes during the Kargil war and other national catastrophes. earby attractions include Alai-Darwaza, Quwwatul-Islam Mosque - built by Qutubuddin Aibak, in the Qutub Minar complex right in front of the Minar, the famous 1500 years old Iron Pillar, located in the same complex, Alai Minar - a victory tower made of red sandstone, the mosque and the tomb of Iltutmish - built in 1235 by Shamsu’d-Din Iltutmish. On a clear day, on the way back from the temple, these places are well worth a visit.