This magnificent temple for Maha Prathyangira Devi is in Sholinganallur, Chennai, in the state of Tamilnadu. It stands adjacent to the Bay of Bengal beach and on the banks of the Buckingham Canal. Maha Prathyangira Devi is said to protect people from the evil effects of witchcraft, and she has the power to punish Adharma. There are very few temples for Prathyangira Devi, and this is one of them. It is also the only temple for the Shanta (peaceful) form of the goddess. This is the first temple built exclusively for the goddess in Chennai. It was founded in 1998 by Sri Prathyangira Swamigal.
The temple and the two-tier raja gopuram are built in the Kerala architectural style. The goddess is seen sitting in the Sukhasana posture. She looks fierce, and her right leg rests on a lion. In her right hand is a soolam. Devotees believe that she can remove all their obstacles and fears.
Legend says that she emerged from one of Lord Sarabeswara’s wings. Sarabeshwara was a form of Lord Shiva who manifested to pacify Lord Narasimha.
Some of the other deities present in this renowned temple are Goddess Varahi, Goddess Neela Saraswathi, Ganesha, Sarabheswara, Muruga, Agni, Lakshmi Hayagreeva, Panjamukha Anjaneya, Agni, Goddess Kaalikaambal, Ayyapa, Saniswara, Narasimha, Kalabhairava, Gayatri, Dhanvantari, Garuda, Rahu and Ketu, Guruvayoorappan, and Shiva. This temple is also famous for its in-house Varahi Amman Temple.
Prathyangira Devi has an association with Sri Chakra. In Sri Chakra worship, she offers protection to her devotees from all problems and guides them to follow the righteous path in life.
Maha Prathyangira is a powerful Devi who supposedly destroyed Sarabeshwara’s arrogance. Sarabheswara was an avatar of Lord Shiva. The Kalisahasranama Stotram refers to her as Narasimhika, a half woman-half lion form that embodies Courage. When Narasimhika shakes her lion’s mane, even the stars fall into disarray.
The Puranas cite different origins for Maha Prathiyangara Devi. According to some accounts, she emerged from the third eye of Sarabheswara, with 1,008 lion faces, 2,016 hands, and a protruding, blood-stained tongue. She played a role in reducing the ferocity of Vishnu’s incarnation, Lord Narasimha.
Other accounts hold that when all the Gods were incapable of pacifying Lord Narasimha, the three Goddesses, namely Parvathi Devi, Saraswathi Devi, and Lakshmi Devi, created Prathyangira Devi. They sent her to Narasimha, whose ferocity was unabated after he had killed the demon King Hiranyakashipu. Prathyangira Devi sat on Narasimha’s thigh, and he became calm.
Another origin story says that in ancient times, two rishis, Prathiyangira and Angiras, discovered a goddess through a Moola Mantram when they were in meditation. Since she was nameless, she honored the rishis by taking their names. Thus, she got the name Prathiyangira Devi.
This powerful goddess is said to be easily propitiated when devotees offer her the proper sacrifice. As she supposedly has the power to grant any boon, the ancient sages ensured that her worship was shrouded in secrecy for many centuries. They did not want the wrong people to worship her and benefit from her powers, as they might have misused them. In the epic Ramayana, Ravana’s invincible son, Indrajit, might have helped Ravana achieve victory over Rama and his army if Lord Hanuman had not disrupted the third night of his yaga.
She has a dark-complexioned and terrible aspect in some images. In these, she has a lion’s face and red eyes, and she rides a lion. She wears black garments and wears a garland of human skulls. She holds a trident, a hand-drum, a skull, and a serpent in the form of a noose in her four hands. She is also linked to Bhairava and has another form, Atharvana-Bhadra-Kali.
Obscure, but Powerful
Goddess Prathyangira is an obscure deity. Supposedly, she resides in several layers of the SriChakra with various names like Ahankaraaharshini, Maha-Vajreswari, and Anakamalini. She is always worshipping Lalitha Parameshwari, the Supreme Goddess. Some have argued that certain holy men are bringing her out into the open for the sake of helping selfish and greedy people to gain undeserved wealth and power over others. This, they claim, can only create trouble. Nowadays, the temples for this deity perform ceremonies to install Yantras that were once used by kings of pre-colonial times to achieve war victories and control over their subjects. It is believed that if someone uses her mantra for harmful purposes, it can react and have an adverse effect on the person who performs such rites. This proves that the deities have both protective and destructive powers. Direct experience with the energy of the Pratyangira aspect of the Divine is said to be the sole privilege of rishis and saints. Seeing the goddess in any form is regarded as a great blessing.
The energy of Pratyangira is like a swift and often ferocious current. Saints who have witnessed it described it as half lion and half-human, where the lion’s head is male, and the body is female. In her complete form, she has 1008 heads (representing the Sahasrara Chakra which has 1008 petals and is the universal chakra of cosmic energy) and also 2016 hands. She rides a chariot drawn by four lions representing the four Vedas and carries several swords to destroy obstacles. Her energy has immense power to destroy negative karmas and can be a great blessing for those on a spiritual path. But its current can be very rough, so one should treat it with respect and be careful of what one demands of it.
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