Ama, in Tripuri language
literally means 'my mother' but in spirituality she represents the mother
goddess, consort of Subrai, the creator of universe. Ama is the mother of
Tripuri people or the mother land Tripura. As mother is full of compassion, Ama
is also full of compassion, love, welfare, kindness, care, and all the qualities
of a mother. She is identified with many names and forms. She is called
'Hachwkma' literally meaning Parvati, also 'Sangrongma' or goddess of earth, she
is also 'Mailuma' means goddess Laxmi, she is 'Khuluma' goddess of cotton or
knowledge and she is 'Twibukma' or goddess of water i.e. Ganga, she is 'Skal'
that is goddess of destroyer of evils or Kali. She is also the strength of
soldiers or Durga. She had been worshipped by Tripuri people since the
prehistoric times, and continued till the present time in different names.
She is one among the fourteen goddess, of the Kula Devata of Tripuri people, and
she is the second after Lord Shibrai or Siva in the series of fourteen gods.
What ever explanation may be given the about the birth or embodiment of Tripura
Sundari, it remains truth is that she is none but the Mother Goddess of Tripuri
people or Mother Goddess Tripura. The rest of so called experts, historians,
spiritualist, Brhamins may give in what ever way they think it fit to explain
their ideology or preoccupied ideas.
Hearsay: There are
certain common talks that prevails regarding the installation of the devi-idol.
It is learnt that Maharaja Dhanya Manikya decided to bring the Shivalinga or
phallic symbol of shiva (Swayambhuinga or Swayambhunath) from Chandranath, a
place of pilgrimage at Chittagong, to his state when he came to learn about its
divine grace and power. Excavation began at full swing but eventually it was an
unsuccessful attempt to dislocate it. One night the Maharaja perceived a divine
message in his dream that the Shivalinga couldn't be dislodged from its place,
instead, the idol of Tripura Sundari could be translocated, if he wished. But
there was a precondition that the idol could be shifted away anywhere as far as
possible by the following night only and by no means it could be moved after the
day break. According to the divine message, the Maharaja arranged for the
transfer of Tripura Sundari idol. Servants loyal to the King toiled hard all the
way to bring the idol but were forced to halt on the way when the idol became
static as soon as day broke out. Maharaja Dhanya Manikya built a temple just at
that place and installed the idol there in. The place was later named Matabari.
Another hearsay is that, the
present image of deity was actually found submerged under water of Brahmachhara
nearby Matabari, The Maharaja perceived a divine message in his dreams to rescue
the Devi. Thereafter, he built the temple. Matabari is located approximately 3
kms South to Udaipur town. The temple is built on a relatively small hillock
which is convex shaped, almost like a tortoise (thus also referred as Kurmapitha).
The temple was constructed on the top location of the tortoise shaped hillock.
It is popularly known as the Temple of Tripura Sundari, Tripura Sundari or
Matabari among the people of Tripura. In the course of time, the area adjacent
to the Temple too was named as Matabari. Presently, the block also endorses the
There is a big pond 'Kalyansagar'
on the east of the temple. The pond dates back to the period of Maharaja Kalyan
Manikya (1625 -1660 A.D.), i.e. it was dug up at least 124 years after the
temple was founded. Another big pond was said to be there, in the north of the
temple Chandroday Vidyabinod, the expert of stone - inscription had seen the
signs and remains of the pond in 1903 A.D. During the time, it was thickly
covered with bushes and bore a deserted look. It is not yet evaluated, when and
who had actually (lug the pond up. But owing to its proximity to the temple, it
is assumed that the pond was dug after the temple stood up and probably it was
dedicated to the Devi. Highlighting this, Chandroday Vidynbinod in his book 'Shilalipi
Samgraha' quotes, 'It is assumed that Maharaja Dhanya Manikya, founder of the
temple had himself arranged for the excavation of the pond.' In the north and
east of the pond Is the 'Sukhsagar'. Another pond in the west of the temple and
'Sukhsagar Jola' in the further west of it had been mentioned in 'Shilahpi
The temple of Tripura Sundari or
Matabari faces westward. Though the main entrance is in the west, there is a
small entrance also in the north. According to Chandrodaya Vidyabinod
Bhattacharya the latter might have been carved out Construction in the later
years. He observed that generally the pattern of the ancient temples didn't seem
to have more than one entrance, The temple had been measured physically in 1892
A.D. which furnished the data that exterior of the temple was 24'x24' and the
inner compartment 16'x 16'. The temple wall had a width of 8' and it was 75'
tall. The difference in measurement between the outer and inner lies in the fact
that the temple wall was exceedingly thick.
Though the outer morphology of
the temple is tetragonal, the core-chamber or lumen inside is rotund just as the
circular roof inside. Seldom such temples with spherical lumen are visible in
India. There are four buttresses or supports at the four corners of the temple
exteriorly. The horizontal carvings protruding at frequent intervals encircling
along the buttresses enhance their beauty extensively. Intricate artistry
resembling inverted pitcher beautifies the apex of the buttresses. Horizontal
lines symmetrically joined by vertical lines at alternate intervals produce a
texture of rectangles with different magnitudes all along the surface of the
walls. The top of the temple is covered by four slanting roofs or Chaar chaalas
that hold a circular block at the centre. There rests a conical or stupa like
neck on the block and numerous small alcoves or Kulangi serially surrounding its
base render it the look of a blooming lotus. The neck beholds the Aanilok, a
conical or a myrobalan shaped structure. Slender, convex undulatory curve lines
along the Aamlok are distinctly visible from a distance. Aamlok is ascended by
Karanda, a typical structure that resembles a flower-basket or a bee-hive that
also bears the sacred flag on top.
The apical portion of the temple
is considered to be that of a modified form of the typical Buddhist stupas. A
chaala-temple or a temple with slant roofs is a typical example of the Bengal
architecture of the medieval period. Such a modified form of construction of a
Buddhist-stupa on a tetrad roof or Chaar chaala is an unique phenomenon and seen
nowhere in India. While such a pattern on four chaalas had evolved due to
blending of Hindu and Buddhist style of construction, there are certain
accessory structures on the temple unseen in either Hindu or Buddhist
architecture. Hindu temples don't seem to have buttresses which are otherwise
very prominent in Tripura Sundari temple. Regarding 'buttresses', in his book
'Temples of Tripura', Sri Adrish Bandopadhyay denoted them to be heavily
inspired from Muslim towers or Minars. Though a blend of various forms of
construction styles had influenced the Tripura Sundari Temple, yet, one can say
Tripura can boast of this architectural wonder as its own. Obviously, the
architectural design of the temple is referred to as that of a Tripura-style
The temple had actually come up
on a raised pucca terrace. According to ancient paintings of the temple, there
used to be a roofed Naatmandir or open prayer hall for offering prayer and other
devotional performances near the core-chamber of the temple. It was pulled down
at its worn out stage during the reign of Maharaja Radha Kishore Manikya. The
present day hail had been newly built by him in 1903-l904 AD. The construction
of the hall seems to been heavily influenced by Orissa-style of architecture.
These are live stone slabs
bearing inscriptions engrafted on the walls of Tripura Sundari temple. Among
them, one is in the north and two each in the east and South. But there is no
such inscriptions in the front side i.e. the west. The editor of 'Rajmala', Sri
Kaliprasanna Sen way back in 1892 A.D. had seen a deep mark on the anterior part
of the front door of the temple. He opined that once there might have been a
stone-inscription engraved or engrafted on that spot that eventually got damaged
years ago. Possibly the scar might have been filled up and restored during the
renovation in the later years. Probably such a task was carried out during the
reign of Radhakishore Manikya. Although Radhakishore Manikya undertook the
renovation work of the temple in 1904 A.D., no stone- inscriptions had been
preserved as a proof, stated the 'Rajmala'.
It is quite obvious that there
ought to be some sort of stone- inscription or other marks depicting the
founder's name somewhere around the temple, and generally, such marks are found
to be in front of temples. The Shilalipi Samgraha, in this respect mentions ' It
is beyond doubt that there were stone-inscriptions. In 1423 Saka Era Maharaja
Dhanya Manikya built the temple and installed the idol of Goddess Tripura
Sundari Kali and orderly placed a stone slab in Tripura Sundari Temple bearing a
Sloka inscribed on it'. In fact the 'Rajmala' bears the description of the Sloka.
Both the stone slabs in the east have inscriptions on the same matter and both
fragments are actually part of a single script. Though the stone-inscription was
in Sanskrit Sioka, Bengali script had been used for that. Most probably, the two
stone-inscriptions were installed in 1681 A.D. in the temple. It is mentioned in
the inscription that Maharaja Dhanya Manikya in 1423 Saka Era (1501 A.D.)
founded this temple and dedicated it to Devi Ambika. Ram Manikya Dev carried out
the renovation work of the temple in 1603 Saka or 1681 A.D. after it had been
struck by natural calamities (as a hearsay goes, it was once struck by a
powerful lightning causing lot of damage).
In the year 1603 Saka or 1681
A.D. Ram Manikya Dev, expired. During the period, Balibhim Narayan used to be
very powerful. He enthroned his nephew Rudra Manikya who was just four at the
time and himself became the Prince. Balibhim used to look after the royal duties
and probably that's why the temple had been renovated under his guidance in 1681
hAmong the two stone-inscriptions
one was written in Bengali. It mentions the name of Dhanya Manikya, Ranagan, Ram
Manikya and Dharmaraj. It depicts the construction period as 1423 Saka Era. The
last thing written was the year '1603 Saka Era'. This stone- inscription too was
engraved in 1681 A.D. It becomes clear from this stone-inscription that
following the construction of the temple by Dhanya Manikya, its first renovation
had been carried out by Ranagan. Ranagan was brother-in-law of Udai Manikya (he
was married to Udai Manikya's sister) and also the General. He was popularly
known as Ranagan Narayan and he was alive even after the death of Maharaja Udai
Manikya in 1489 Saka Era (1576 A.D.). Possibly the temple had undergone the face
lift operation by Ranagan only after the death of Udai Manikya.
The second stone-inscription in
the south tells us that Queen Sumitra Jagadishwari had carried out a renovation
work of the temple in 1269 Tripura Era (1857 AD.). Regarding the pattern of
construction of the temple, the 'Shilalipi Samgraha' states- 'Tripura Sundari
temple has been built (The surname Dharmaraja' might have been attributed to Ram
Manikya because no rulers in between the reign of Dhanya Manikya and Ram Manikya
had the title 'Dharrna prefixed to their names.) in the style of the 'Joykail
temple' at Kalighat'. Inspite of few similarities in their style the statement
can't be accepted because the temple at Kalighat had been built (1806-1809 A.D.)
305 years after the Tripura Sundari temple. Thus, it is obvious that Oldest the
construction of Tripura Sundari Temple was not among the inspired by that of the
Kalighat, instead, the latter had old Temples absorbed a lot from the former.
The temple of Tripura Sundari is older than both the Kalighat temple as well as
the temple of Kamrup Kamakhya at Guwahati. Kamakhya temple was founded by the
king of Koch Nara Narayan and Chilla Ray in 1565 A.D. Among the three pitha-temples
in the eastern India, the temple at Udaipur is the most ancient.
The idol of Goddess Tripura
Sundari or Tripur Sundari which adorns the temple is made up of touch-stone. The
of height of the idol is 1 meter 57cm and its width is inside the temple 64 cm.
It is being installed on a stone-altar. The Devi or the Goddess bears two pairs
of forelimbs which depicts typical gesture or Mudra of Devi. According to
scriptures, the upper right hand exhibits Varmudra or a gesture of blessing. The
lower right hand exhibits Abhaymudra or a gesture of trust and assurance. The
left forearm holds a Kharag or a Faichion; whereas, the lower arm holds an
Asur-Munda or a head of a demon. But, these features are not distinctly visible
in the present idol. The Devi wears a, Joga-mukut (a 'crown on matted hair')
which conceals the tufts of undulating matted hair that flow down bilaterally.
She wears a Munda-mala or a wreath of 13 severed heads. Her face is oval with a
small flat nose and a pair of relatively small round eyes. The well shaped
structure of the idol radiates the kind of charm that is unprecedented. She
stands upright on the idol of Shiva that lays in Shavasana. Five mundas are
supposed to be engraved on the surface of the altar which bears the Devi.
According to Tantrasaar, Devi
Tripuri has been referred to as Kali. If one keenly follows Murtishastra or the
theories of idol-making one would observe that Devi Tripuri lacks similarities
with Tripura Bhairavi and Tripura Sundari Kali. Tripuri Devi bears four arms and
rests in Godhasana. The hands pose typically showing the configuration of Paash
Ankush Var and Abhaimudra. Tripura Bhairavi Devi bears a pair of arms and she is
found associated with the Shiva. She holds a book in one hand and an Akshamaala
in the other. On the other hand, Devi Tripura Sundari has two arms and she is
posed on the Shiva. Considering the various attributes, the idol installed by
Maharaja Dhanya Manikya can't be claimed as that of Tripura Sundari, according
to the 'Fundamental principles behind idol-making'.
Thus, following that, although
the image of the deity is that of Kali, as a Pitha Devi; according to the
scriptures, the idol would be considered that of Tripura Sundari. Moreover, this
idol has been worshipped as Tripura Sundari, the Mother-Goddess of Tripura,
right from the ancient times. It has since the inception considered as "Ama
Tripura" by the Tripuri people.
One can't say exactly when the
idol of Tripura Sundari had been carved out, but, studying the style and
craftsmanship, probably it could be some time between 10th to 12th century.
There is another stone-idol inside the temple and it is known as 'Chhoto Maa' or
'Chandi'. The idol is 48cm tall and extends 35cm bilaterally. The Mudra signs of
the four hands of the Devi is beyond recognition as the upper layer of the stone
has been worn out. But it looks distinct that once there was a Jota Mukut on the
head. Eyes are relatively small. The nose is pressed and the lips are small
and thick. It accounts that the sculptor of the deity had been from the
According to a hearsay, it
states that during the battles the Maharajas used to keep the idol of 'Chhoto
Maa' along with them as the replica of Tripura Sundari. Another hearsay 'Chhoto
Maa' had been worshipped by one and all before Devi Tripura Sundari came up.
Though basically an idol of Kalika Devi, it is being worshipped as Chandi, since
the scriptures don't allow the worship of two Kalika idols under the same roof.
Another peculiar yet fascinating
possession of Tripura Sundari Temple is the image of Lord Vishnu. The God is
being worshipped here in the form of a 'Shaigram Shila' or a black geode. Such
an instance of Vishnu being worshipped along with Sakti Devi in a Kali temple or
any Shaktapitha is not only rare but an unique feature in this subcontinent.
This makes the temple an unparallely exceptional one. And this very exception is
the significance of the temple too. This unique synapse and harmony between
Shakta and Vaishnav culture have not only magnified the greatness of the temple,
but also largely glorified its significance too.
Here, the Devi is being
worshipped through Shorashi Yantra, Iviantra of ShorashiKall and keeping with
Vichaar Tantra. Such a harmonious process of making use of Tantra, Mantra and
Yantra together is actually the outcome of the basic principle behind Tantrik
Sadhana or its methodical use. A prayer is being recited through a Tantra,
Yantra is employed for invoking Devi Sakti through typical geometrical drawings
and eventually through this procedure directed in Tantra, a puja is being
The site at Matabari in Udaipur,
where the temple of Tripura Sundari has come up is regarded as one of the 51
Pithas. There is a mythological anecdote behind the establishment of the Pitha.
Once, Prajapati Daksha arranged for a 'Mahayagna' or a great Sacrificial rite.
All the Gods except Shiva were invited. Sati turned up in her father's home
without any invitation. Suddenly, at the yagna site, Daksha started condemning
Shiva acrimoniously. Sati could not bear the reproach against Shiva and she gave
up the ghost at the very site. When Shiva heard this, he assumed a destructive
mood and consequently, Birbhadra came into being from the shrine or his
yellowish-brown matted hair. Along with the the 'Pitha' company of
Shiva-followers, Birbhadra demolished all the preparations of the Yagna. Furious
with anger, Shiva took up the life-less body of Sati on his shoulders and began
'Tandava-Nritya' or a frantic annihilation dance. All the objects of creation
including the Earth was on the verge of extinction as a result of the 'Tandava'.
When all attempts to stop the 'Tandava' failed, Lord Vishnu used his invincible
wheel shaped missile 'The Sudarshan Chakra' that severed the body of the Sati
into many pieces. The sacred fragments of the body of Sati fell on to many parts
of the Sub-continent, which were later referred to as Maha-Pithas. Later, those
sites developed into holy places of pilgrimage.
It is mentioned in the 'Pithamaala
Tantra', 'Maha Pitha Nirupan' and 'Shiva Charita' and other references that the
right hind-limb of Devi fell on Matabari as a consequence of 'Tandav'. Here
'Devi' implies to Tripura Sundari and 'Bhairav' is 'The Supreme Lord of
Tripura'. It is also mentioned in Dr. Dinesh Chandra Sarkar's book 'The Shakta
Pitham' that the Maha Pitha in Tripura came into being on account of the right
leg of Sati.
Tripura Sundari is a popular
site in the country as a famous Devi Pitha. It is true that both the popularity
and the significance of the temple had greatly enhanced as it came up in a
Pitha. But, one can't deny that had Dhanya Manikya not built the temple over
there, it would have been virtually impossible to detect the site of this Pitha,
mentioned in the scriptures. Since, the temple and the Pitha occupy the same
place, their attraction and significance compounded by-and-by.
When Maharaja Dhanya Manikya
founded the Tripura Sundari Temple in 1501 A.D., the Vaishnav culture was yet to
find its ground. Though a contemporary figure, 'Chaitainya Dev' took to
asceticism (Sanyaas) in 1510 A.D. The Vaishnav culture began to spread from that
period. Its influence in Tripura was detected in the following years. That there
was a heavy influence of Shakta Dharma or Shakta culture in Tripura was evident
from the temple itself and various other descriptions on religious activities
In his book Rajmala and The
History of Tripura', Sri Kailash Chandra Singha have mentioned that Dhanya
Manikya was a Shaivite and he built and patronised many a temples meant for
worshiping of Shiva or Shakti images. On the auspicious day of the ritual
enshrinement ceremony of the holy idol of Tripura Sundari, many beasts as well
as humans were immolated as offerings to the Devi. Long before that human
sacrifices were already prevailent in Tripura. Dhanya Manikya had imposed some
restrictions on the practice of Human sacrifices. Practice of sacrifices was not
a feature of the Shakta Dharnia only, it had been noticed in the customary
traditions of the natives Tripuri people too. The Tripuri used to offer eggs in
the Tripura Sundari Temple and goats in the Mahadev Temple at Udaipur. It is
worth mentioning that the individual used to sacrifice beasts in front of the
Mahadev idol and the Tripuris felt it a sacred duty, offering Chicken to Devi
Maximum human sacrifices in
Tripura were offered at the 'Chaturdosh Devta Temple'. While commenting on human
sacrifices in Tripura, Rev. James Long saysó "Human sacrifices prevailed at an
early period in Tripura, and even of the Late years strong suspicions have been
entertained of the practice being occasionally observed at the Shrine of
Kamakhya in Assam, and at the Kalighat at Calcutta. But in no part of India were
more human victims offered than in Tripura which appears to have been one of the
strongest holds of Hinduism". (J.A.S.B.-V0L. XIX)
In those days, goats, buffaloes,
wild bovines, tortoises, ducks and eggs used to be sacrificed and offered to the
deities, and some of these practices still prevail today. Those specifically
employed by the Maharaja for performing the sacrifices were known as Gaalims.
Construction of the Tripura
Sundari Temple reflects the religious conscience of that period. When Maharaja
Dhanya Manikya was constructing the Tripura Sundari Temple, at the same time The
Sultan of Bengal Alauddin Hussain Shah also undertook the construction of a
Mosque at Ballipur under Dhaka. Dhanya Manikya was enthroned in 1490 A.D. and
Hussain Shah in 1493 A.D. Both were said to be engaged in four battles over the
Three years prior to the
completion of the Tripura Sundari Temple, in 1498 A.D., Vasco-Da-Gama discovered
the route to India and he landed on the Calicut port. The Portuguese followed
the same route to India which later opened the door for colonization. Famous
religious leader, the Sikh guru, Nanak emerged at the same time in India. At the
other hemisphere of the globe, Italy was experiencing the golden period of
Renaissance, and the famous artist Leonardo Da Vinci was creating waves with his
While describing different
profile of the history of Tripura Sundari Temple, The Rajmala states that the
Mogh forces had once demolished the crown of the Tripura Sundari Temple which
was again rebuilt by Kalyan Manikya. This mishap might have occurred during the
reign of Amar Manikya. This assumtion is based on the fact that Udaipur was once
invaded and conquered by the Arakan with the help of the Portuguese in 1584 A.D.
Consequently the Arakans or the Moghas carried out unimpeded looting, killings
and massacre at Udaipur. Though the crown of the temple was severely damaged, it
was not revealed whether other parts of the temple were affected. The idol of
the temple was also not disturbed or looted. This suggests that there would be a
Swarna-Kalash or a pitcher made of gold on the temple crown which had lured the
invaders. It's notable that the Gopinath Temple (1650 A.D.) also had a
gold-pitcher crowned on the top.
Nevertheless, one must admit that Tripura never experienced
the kind of atrocities which had destroyed so many temples and monasteries
across India at different period in the past. Even Tripura had never witnessed
destruction of any temple by invaders. In the past, looting of precious items
used to be the inevitable consequence of any invasion or a war. Thus, there
might have been precious ornamentation like a gold pitcher on the crown of the
temple that led to its destruction.
According to historian Sir
Jadunath Sarkar, Udaipur was attacked and conquered by the Mughals in 1618 A.D.
and they had the possession for almost two and half years. The history of that
period has no description over any attacked on Tripura Sundari Temple. But
according to the hand written old Rajrnala, religious practices, worshipping
Chaturdosh Devata and Kalika Devi were all forbidden. To mark the supremacy and
the governance of the Mughals, 'Mughal Mosque' was built at Udaipur.
Nevertheless, temples or monasteries were never affected.
Besides the hostile and
discriminatory attitudes exercised in the form of attacks on temples and
religious prohibitions, there was a fascinating account of how an invader
belonging to one religion showed great honour to another religion. That, Samser
Gazi's though Samser Gazi had attacked Udaipur, he also Devi- Worship worshipped
the idol of Tripura Sundari Temple, is mentioned in the biography, 'Gazinaama',
written by Sheik Manuhar. 'Gazinaama' also states that daily offerings to the
Devi was virtually interrupted for seven days due to the unfavourable situation
that persisted after the battle between Samser and the king.
"There was one Motai
Thakurani* in Udaipur. Maharaja used to bear the expenses of the daily worship.
Worship remained off for seven days due to up roar She appeared in the dreams of
Gazi. I'm the Motai Goddess, recognise me. Wake up and go allot for a win in the
battle. Sacrifice buffaloes and you'll definitely win the battle. O Almighty. I
am a Muslim and thou a Goddess. Muslims don't practice all the rituals of the
Hindus. So, not myself but, I'll arrange a Brahmin for thy worship. A Brahmin
was hired who conducted the worship with proper rituals. The aroma of inseenee
powder, oil and musk enchanted the mountains.' -Gazinaama
*In Kokborok i.e. Tripuri language Motai means
Goddess. In the past. Tripura Suodari Devi was also known as Motai Thakurani."
But it hasn't been learnt
whether Devi Puja was stopped during the reign of Samser Gazi after he took over
Tripura in 1746A.D. Today, a fair is being held every year at Matabari during
the time of 'Dipawali'. Lakhs of people gather around there. Whether such fair
would have been held in the past is not known. But from 1903 A.D. onwards a fair
began to be held annually at the Tripura Sundari Temple premises on every
Uttarayan Samkranti (the solstice or the transitory period between the month of
Poush and Magha i.e. in the mid January). It was hitherto unknown before that.
Another fair was supposed to be held annually on every Shiva-Chaturdoshi (the
14th lunar day of the month of Phalgoon when Shiva is worshipped) at Mahadev
Bari in Udaipur. Its venue was said to be fixed in 1902 A.D. An interesting
profile of this fair has been mentioned in the book ('Udaipur-Biharan' written
by Brajendra Chandra Dutta which states that an exhibition on agriculture and
industry had also been arranged during the fair in 1904 A.D. Considering this,
the history of the Matabari-Fair doesn't seem to be too old.
Pilgrims, for years, right from
very old days, have experienced a different attraction to Matabari. But due to
inaccessible terrains and remote location, pilgrims had to face various
problems. One can say there was almost no road linkage across Tripura in those
days. One would walk on foot; ride on a boat, a palanquin or an elephant as
means of communication. Horses were seldom used by common people as they were
not found in plenty in Tripura and were only employed by royal members.