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About Maa Samleswari 

Maa SamleswariMaa Samaleswari is the presiding deity of Sambalpur and is a strong religious force in western part of Orissa. Maa Samaleswari is known as the symbol of Sambalpuri Culture. On the bank of the river Mahanadi the mother goddess Samaleswari is worshipped from ancient times as Jagatjanani, Adishakti, Mahalaxmi and Mahasaraswati. Sambalpur region is popularly known as Hirakhanda from ancient times notably for the diamond mines that were present here. The place also find references in the work of Ptolemy where he names this ancient township as Sambalak, Enshrined in a tall temple on the bank of the Mahanadi, Maa Samlei was once the tutelary deity of the Sambalpur Chauhans, whose progenitor was Balaram Dev (AD 1540–57) of the lineage of the illustrious Prithviraj Chauhan of Delhi. Although the actual age of the idol has been a subject of much confrontation, the temple belongs to the later part of the sixteenth century.

The Idol of Samalei Devi consists of a large block of Granite rock with an inverted, trunk like projection at the bottom. A shallow cut on her "Baraha" like face symbolises her mouth. Traditional Sambalpuri nose ornament of pure gold hangs down from her imaginary nose Beaten gold leave fixed on two disproportionate golden eye like depression on the face acts as substitute for her eyes in an attempt to define the face of the mother deity on a mass of self shaped rock, the Devi's idol inspires sublime sentiments of awe, fear, reverence, devotion, love and affection towards all pervading motherhood.

The idol of  Maa Samleswari has been a subject of debate between the historians and devotees for long. While many historians avouch by its aboriginal origin and taking the shape of the giant stone that is presumed by the devotees to be the form of Mother Durga, contend its Greco Roman origin, the Hindu devotees have for long contended its Aryanized origin taking etymology as the base that refers to the name of the goddess Samaleswari to be a consort of Lord Shiva.( ‘Somlai’ is derived from Soma = crescent/moon, La=to wear & ‘i’ the feminine gender in Sanskrit). The massive triangular rock, on the other hand with a prominent protrusion in its bottom part has been interpreted by historians as a conjoint Linga-yoni image that is reminiscent of the very ancient Greco Roman practice of Phallus worship. They even contend that etymologically the word “Samalei” has been derived from “Sambhalai” that suggests one’s ability to bear. They thus attribute the origin of the image to a period that dates far back than the recorded history of Orissa.

Whatever be the history of the idol and the image, it is a matter of fact that Maa Samelei is the deity that has been ruling supreme over the heart and minds of the people of the Western Orissa since long. And quite like Goddess Charchikai of Banki, Birajai of Jajpur, Sarala of Jhankad, Chandi of Cuttack, and Tarini of Ghatagaon Samlei of Sambalpur has made this important district headquarters a famous centre of Shakti worship in Orissa.

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