Taratarini Temple on the Kumari hills at the bank of the River Rushikulya near Brahmapur city in Ganjam District, Odisha, India is worshipped as the Breast Shrine and manifestations of Adi Shakti. The Tara Tarini Shakti Peetha is one of the oldest pilgrimage centers of the Mother Goddess and is one of four major ancient Tantra Peetha and Shakti Peethas in India.
According to the Puranas the origin of Maa Tara Tarini is directly attributed to Daksha Prajapati’s Jagna in Satya Yuga. The famous Shakta Peethas of Bimala, Tara-Tarini, Dakshina Kalika and Kamakshi originated from the limbs of the divine corpse of Devi Sati. Sacred texts like the Shiva Purana, the Kalika Purana, the Devi Bhagabat attest this fact. It is known from the Mahabharata that before the commencement of the Mahabharata war Lord Sri Krishna had advised Arjuna to offer prayer for victory at Shridevi Kupa or Bhadrakali. Bhadrakali originated from the limbs of Sati like the other four major Adi Shakti Peethas, which existed during the time of the Mahabharata or around 6000 years ago. This is the oldest data/information we get till date, regarding the existence of the shrines originated from the limbs of the divine corpse of Devi Sati. According to available historical sources the fall of Kalingan Empire and its capital Sampa in the Kalinga war around 2300 years ago by Mauryan Emperor Ashoka, strengthened the grip of Buddhists in this part of India.
The then Sampa was hardly 7 km from Tara Tarini Hill Shrine. So, scholars believe that Tara Tarini was worshiped as the principal deity of the mighty Kalinga Empire. After Ashoka conquered Kalinga scholars found it a famous centre of Buddhism. The region of Ganjam near the bank of river Rushikulya was an active Buddhist site as shown from the Special Rock Edicts of Ashoka found at Jaugada at a distance of 4 km from Tara-Tarini Hill Shrine. The name Tara, an important deity of Mahayana Buddhist Pantheon, is suggestive of Buddhist influence. An image of Buddha in meditation, present inside the sanctum sanctorum of the temple lends credence to the claim of this site as an ancient centre of the Buddhist Shakta cult.
According to the texts of Mahayana Buddhists, in the initial days, the Buddhists didn’t believe in the worship of Goddesses or in Pratimapuja. But, the ecclesiastical texts of Mahayana’s reveal that from 1st century AD after the fall of Kalinga, for the first time the Mahayana Buddhists accepted the worship of Mother Goddess ‘Tara’. So there is seldom any doubt that the Buddhists have learned the ‘Tara’ Puja concept from this shrine. The Bouddha Tantrik texts, texts of Vajrajani sect and Hindu Tantrik texts also attest these facts. Scholars believe that in the primary days the Buddhists worshiped Taratarini, the principal seat of Tantrik sect in Hinduism at that time, as Bouddha Tara, and later on included ‘Tara’ as the Tantrik deity or spouse of bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara in their belief system.
Gradually this ‘Tara’ worship spread to different parts of the world. Besides the worship of Tara by the Buddhist Tantrikas, the maritime history of Kalinga suggests the worship of Tara by the Sadhavas, merchants and seamen before launching their sea voyage from the great sea ports like Dantapura, Pallur near Chilika Lake, Kalingapatna and river Rushikulya. All these major sea ports of the ancient world were very near the Tara Tarini hill shrine. It is known from the available sources that till 17th century this place was out of the sight of the common man. But, according to a folk story, once Maa Tara Tarini appeared as two sisters in the house of Shri Basu Praharaj.
He was a learned Brahmin of Kharida Vira Jagannathpur village in Ganjam District and one of the great devotees of the Mother Goddess but child less. After staying for some years one day the sisters disappeared suddenly from the house of Basu Praharaj. According to the account of the villagers the sisters traveled up to the Tarini Parvat/Ratnagiri and disappeared there. Basu Praharaj searched these girls but did not find their tracings. His heart broke down with grief and pain. On that night he saw a dream where the Tara and Tarini informed Basu Praharaj that they were not his daughters; they are the Adi Shakti, Tara and Tarini.
The goddesses ordered Basu to come out of the grief and said that the time has arrived and with full devotion renovate the temple on the hilltop of Tarini Parvat and establish the deities according to the Vedic tradition. After that divine direction Basu discovered the tracings of ancient most presence of Adi Shakti Tara Tarini on the sacred hilltop and immediately took steps to reconstruct the temple and the shrine. Since that time for its magnetism and sanctity this Sthana Peetha (Breast Shrine) of Mata Sati, became a centre of faith and reverence for countless people, in search of peace, tranquillity, guidance and spiritual energy and its fame spread like wild fire to become one of the popular religious destinations for millions of devotees