Shakti Peeth, or seat of Shakti, comprise a series of holy destinations originated when Goddess Sati’s body disintegrated into pieces and fell all over the subcontinent when Lord Shiv carried her corpse in sorrow on her death. 51 peeths are recognized around India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and Pakistan.
Out of this, 12 are considered main Shakti Peeth Tirth:
- Bhagwati Mahakali Maha Shakti, Ujjan
- Mata Kamakshi at Kanchi Puram
- Bramaramba, Malaygiri
- Kumarika, Kanya Kumari
- Ambaji, Gujarat
- Mahalaxmi, Kohlapur
- Devi Lalita at Prayag
- Vindhyavasini, Vindhya
- Vishalakshi, Varanasi
- Mangalavati, Gaya
- Sundari Bhavani, Bengal
- Guhyakesari, Nepal
Ambājī (અંબાજી, अम्बाजी) is located 185 km from Ahmedabad in Gujarat, and 45 kms from Mount Abu in Rajasthan. It is believed that the Heart of Sati Devi fell here, according to Tantra Chudamani.
The location where Devi Sati’s heart fell is Gabbar parvath. Gabbar also assumes significance in two main time periods in our history — during Ramayan, where Lord Ram and Laxman were told to worship Devi Ambaji at Gabbar, where he was given ‘Ajay’ arrow; and the mundan ceremony of child Lord Krishna in presence of his foster parents Nand and Yashoda.
A small temple has been built on Gabbar for darshan. For those who cannot climb to visit Gabbar parvath, a Cable car service is available with a lovely scenic view of one side of the mountain.
The temple, and the Shakti Yantra
The Shikhar of the temple is 61 ft high, at the top of which is a Dhwaj (holy long flag) and Mataji’s Trishul.
There is no idol or picture in the main temple. A convex-shaped Holy Shakti Vishwa Yantra, inscribed with figures and 51 Bijapatra (letters) and the ‘Shree’ syllable is installed such that it is visible for devotion, and cannot be photographed. Non-priests are no longer allowed in the core area around the Yantra.
The priests decorate the Shakti Yantra such that one can imagine it as an idol of Ma Amba in one of her incarnations, shown on her vahan. Depending on the day of the week, Devi ma is shown to be on a different vahan between a peacock, lion, elephant, etc. I will hopefully post the exact set the next time I’m able to visit.
About two years ago, a ‘museum’ of sorts has been setup in the temple, where the team shares a bit about the history of the temple and its importance. A replica of the yantra is also available, and it is truly amazing how different the yantra actually is, compared to what you experience in the temple itself.
Ambaji temple is one of the only places in the world where I experience true peace of mind. As a family, we do try to visit the temple at least once a year.
Over the last few years, the temple trust has been using gold donations to the template to encash the shrine in gold. Over 30 kg of gold has been donated so far, to help with the project to to cover the Shikhar, of which 41 ft have been completed.
The internals of the shrine have also been gold encased as of my last visit.
You can donate to the temple through SBI (Gujarat > Religious Institutions > Shree Arasuri Ambajimata Devasthan Trust) here.
The temple also has a Havan Shala, with one main Havan Kund and 8 smaller Havan Kund.
Bhadarva Poonam is one of the most popular festivals for visitors to the temple. An estimated 18 — 20 lakh pedesterian pilgrims visit during the festival. Have witnessed them walking along the path to the temple for days and various pop-up rest stops that serve tea, food and rest to the pilgrims are set up by devotees. The euphoria of devotees is a sight and feeling to behold, as I was fortunate enough to a couple of years ago. Devotees arrive with their dhwaj’s and are allowed to climb to the side of the Shikhar to hoist it.
51 Shaktipeeth replica
Lookalike temples of all 51 Shakti Peeth have been created right by Gabbar hills. The project took 6 years to finish and was opened for visit in 2014, allowing devotees to experience all 51 Shakti Peeths in one place.
Ambaji temple timings are as follows:
- Morning Aarti: 6–6:30 a.m.
- Darshan: 6:30–10:45 a.m.
- Rajbhog: 12–12:15 p.m.
- Atrakuth Aarti: 12:15–12:30 p.m.
- Afternoon Darshan: 12:30–4:15 p.m.
- Evening Aarti: 6:30–7 p.m.
- Evening Darshan: 7–9 p.m.