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History & Mythology of Maa Samleswari

Samleswari TempleThe present day temple of  Maa Samaleswari has been accepted by the historians to have been built by Balram Dev during his rule, somewhere between 1540 A.D to 1557 AD. Since the exact date of the idol of the Mother has been difficult to establish, nothing incisive that could validate the historian’s perspective can be said. This has created lots of space for myths and stories to be woven around the Mother.

It is an established fact that the kingdom of Patna was ruled by Narsingh Dev from 1540 A.D. to 1547 A.D, with its capital near the present day Patnagarh. It is said that he had granted vast tracts of land to his younger brother Balram Dev which came to be known as Huma Desh. This stretch of land on a later part of time came to be known as Sambalpur. Balaram Dev ruled Samablpur some time between 1540 A.D. to 1557 A.D.

He established the Chowhan dynasty in Huma Desh with the capital at Bargarh (near the modern town of Bargarh) on the left bank of the river Jira. For military reasons or for smooth governance of the vast territory, later on he shifted the capital to Nuagarh, near the Barapahar range of mountain and then camped at Chaunpur on the right bank of Mahanadi (near the existing Chaunpur village) to select a new place as his capital. Balaram Dev, besides being a great warrior was also a keen hunter. It was during his reign that the temple of  Maa Samlei was established at Sambalpur. An interesting legend is associated with the erection of the temple.

Once on a hunting expedition to a nearby forest on the other side of Mahanadi, he observed a strange thing, a miracle of sorts. His hounds meant to accompany him and assist him in his hunting trip, were being chased hotly by a small rabbit. And the hounds were in mortal fear of the rabbit. The king stood stunned and later noticed that the rabbit returned to the foot of a huge Simili tree on the left bank of Mahanadi and disappeared. Later in the night Mother Samaleswari manifested herself in his dream stating that she was residing in Guradarha river and that he should establish her at the foot of the Simili tree and build a temple. Next morning Balaram Dev left to search for the Goddess and upon locating, had Her installed in the designated place .Later on he built a temple under the Simli tree. This temple was rebuilt by the 7th independent king of Sambalpur namely Chhatra Sai Deo who reigned during 1657 to 1665 AD. He also endowed vast landed property for seva and Puja of the deity to a group of sevayats.

Legend of Kalapahar

Maa SamleiAnother famous legend associated with Maa Samlei is that of the Afghan invader and the military commander of the Nawab of Bengal ,the dreaded “Kalapahad”. It is said that during his military expeditions to western Orissa, he had camped with a huge army near the temple of Samaleswari. He had a huge drum made of cow hide and had oversized bells (Hulgulas). It is said that with the beating of the drum and the confusing noise made by the bells (Hulgulas), the limbs of deities of the temple automatically disappeared. The intention of Kalapahar was to destroy the temple of Samaleswari and other temples in the historic town of Sambalpur and deities installed therein. Before he could start the depredation, one evening, a beautiful milk-maid came selling milk, curd and cheese,dressed up in ornate golden jewelry to the camp of Kalapahar. Next morning it is said that the entire army including Kalapahar suffered from cholera and had to abandon the plan of invasion of the temple. He left the territory with survivors of his army leaving behind most of his armory, the huge drum and the brass bells (Hulgullas). It is believed that the Goddess Samaleswari manifested herself in the form of a milk-maid and caused devastation in the army of Kalapahar. A huge drum and a large number of bells that used adorn the Mukhashala of the Samaleswari temple, were supposed to be those belonging to Kalpahad only. Even a large number of tombs found in a mango grove near Samaleswari College on the bank of river Mahanadi, are supposed to be those belonging to the dead soldiers of Kalapahad.

Legends apart, the shrine of the Holy Mother is one of the important Sakta centres in the state. Human sacrifice has reportedly been carried out in the temple premises in the ancient time. This is confirmed as the temple history proves that its foundation was laid on the bodies of an old Brahmin couple called Krupasindhu Panigrahi and his wife. The initial human sacrifice was over the years supplanted by buffaloes and then by goats and sheep.

Legends and myths are a part of her folklore. But despite all these stories that lay woven around her, Maa Samlei resting in Sambalpur commands respect of the people residing in the entire western Orissa.

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