Traditional temple

Mithila temple where a Muslim is invited to worship the goddess

Manjit Thakur/New Delhi

A small village in the Mithila region of Jharkhand state has a tradition of Hindu-Muslim ties that began centuries ago and has been mandated by the scriptures.

The Ugratara temple located in the Mahishi village of Mithila is one of the Shaktipeeths, the seat of the Goddess or the feminine element of divinity according to the Hindu religion. Although it is one of the holiest places for Shakti worshippers, prayers in the temple involve a strange tradition of the offering of a chicken and the presence of a Muslim.

Tradition dictates that the sacrifice be made in front of a Muslim; otherwise, prayers may not be answered. The village of Mahishi is the epicenter of the rich history and folklore of the Mithila region. Ugratara Devi Temple is considered the abode of Goddess Kali, the fierce form of Shakti. The Mahishi village temple is also a holy place for Vaishnavites, worshipers of Vishnu.

Interestingly, the villagers also follow some traditions of Buddhism.

Pandit Jatashankar Jha, an expert on Mithila traditions, says that “Ugratara Devi temple is important for Shakti worshippers; for Vashnavites, it is the seat of a famous incident in which a high-level scholarly discourse took place between a local scholar Pandit Mandan Mishra and Adi Shankaracharya. It is also a sacred place for Buddhists.

Jha says that Mahishi village was the place of a debate between Mandan Mishra and Shankaracharya. Mandan Mishra belonged to the Vaishnava sect of Sanatan dharma, while his wife Bharati was inclined towards Buddhism.

Mahishi village is also famous for saints like Laxminath Gosai who was born here. Another special aspect of the village is that Mallinatha, the only female Tirthankara of Jainism and the founder of the Shvetambara tradition, also lived here.

Describing the saga of Mahishi, Jha says, “The parental home of Queen Padmavati, who became the longest reigning ruler of Mithila, was at Mahishi. The tradition of all religious sects is alive in this village,” he said.

Ugratara temple in the Mahishi village of Mithila

Mahishi has the largest Shakta monastery in Mithila. The Shakta tradition has not only survived but is also practiced there.

In Hinduism, Malla is a caste which in today’s caste chart are Muslims.

In Hindu homes in Mithila, Kuldevi (goddess of a family) is usually worshiped on auspicious occasions. The Hindus of the village offer an animal sacrifice to appease the Goddess. It’s either a chicken or a lamb.

Tradition dictates that the chicken can only be slaughtered by a Mallakshya, who are today’s Muslims. Without the presence of a Muslim, the worship of the Goddess cannot be reconciled.

The Muslim involved in the ritual sacrifice is returned with new clothes and dakshina (money). There are many stories behind this tradition. Hindus who oppose the presence of Muslims in Garba should be made aware of this tradition.

Jha quotes the scriptures on this. He says, “The religious scriptures say that the tradition of Mithila is the solution to all disputes arising from a dilemma over religious practices.”

However, more importantly, Jha points out that sacrificing a chicken in front of the goddess is not a unique thing. Such sacrifices have been the tradition in the Vammarga of the Shakta tradition.

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Experts say such practices in Hinduism are a sign of its coordinated form and the arrival of a Muslim person in Mahishi to offer sacrifice before the goddess is a result of this mixed culture of the society.