Shakta Dharma And Their Acharyas - Anshul Pandey
Śhākta or shakti or devi puja is not a new upasana. It is being carried out right from the time of Vedic period. Puran’s tell us that rishi Vashishth would worship Tara devi. Parshuram ji worshipped Tripura devi, Agastya learned the secrets of Shri Vidya from Vishnu ji in Hayagriva avtaar. Bhagwan Ram, Laxman and Krishna too learned the tantrik vidya. Even Rig Ved 7.103.5 Sayan Bhasya also mentions about Śhākta/शाक्त(शाक्तस्येव शक्तिमतः).
Then we find that in the Harrappan excavations many figurines depicting Shakti were found. So in that age too, which was supposedly an urban city shakti was being worshipped. So naturally this tradition would be prevalent in rural areas too.
It is wrong to say that shakti puja originated from Bengal although it was popular there. Matsyendranath received this vidya from Maheshwari herself in Kamrup. We know that Shakti pooja is practised all over India. Not much is known about the Śhākta saints in other parts of India in the middle ages.
Adi Shankaracharya wrote Pramanech saar named book on tantra and Anand lahri book on Devi strotras. Then there were Acharya Shankar, Bhaskar Rai, Laxman, Deshikendra, Raghav Bhatt, Krishnand, Purnanand, Vijay Gupt, Mukundram, Bharat Chandra and Kamlakant. Laxman wrote Sharda tilak and Tara Pradip which is popular amongst tantriks. Raghav bhatt wrote the analysis of Sharda tilak. Bhaskar rai worshipped Shri Vidya and was a Sidhha purush. Bengali purohits still refer to Tantra saar written by Krishna nand. Then there is Shankar Agamacharya who is known as Shankaracharya of Bengal. He wrote Tara Rahasya Vritikar.
Shakti was worshipped as Chandi, Mansa, and Kali. Mukund ram, Bharat chandra and Vijay Gupt wrote Chandi mangal, Mansa mangal and Kalika mangal.
Music is also associated with shakti puja as most of the poetry could be sung. Popular to write songs amongst them is Ram Prasad. The above mentioned names were all sidhha purush their dedication to mata total.
Then there is Sarvadanand from Tripura who was first thought to be lunatic but after a turn of events he became a shakti pujak and wrote Sarv Vidya. Today also he is remembered by his bhakts every year on paush sankranti.
In the Śhākta tradition there is a woman saint named Jaydurga whose half body was fair and other half dark. Her followers, now mostly in Bangladesh believe her to be an avtar of Parmeshwari.
Then there is Gosai Bhattacharya who too had many siddhis. He had many magical powers. Then there was Vamacharan whom people thought him to be lunatic initially as he left his house and stayed in a samshaan. He was an avid bhakt of Taradevi. But later people had to change their opinion after they discovered that he had many siddhis.
The most famous name is of Ramkrishna Paramhans. His teachings published through Ramkrishna mission are read world wide. He took diksha from Bhairavi. He was a pujari of Dakshineshwar Kali mandir, but his tantra vidya supervised by his guru Bhairavi gave him world wide fame. Besides these there must be umpteen number of Śhākta or Shakti upasaks away from the limelight.
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Source – Gita press, Sant Ank & Shakti sampraday.
Image Credit – prohitarts (Instagram handle)