On 29 October 2017, my father-in-law Kailash Anand took his entire family to Jaipur, Rajasthan, to celebrate his 75th birthday. Our group of 70 family members checked into the Rajputana Palace hotel and spend the whole day celebrating the event. It was a typically Rajasthan style fun holiday, with the grandiose hospitality, delicious cuisine, folk songs, pagris (colorful turbans) and many other things. The evening stretched on late in the night, but I excused myself at 10 pm and came to my room for doing my ShivKaliBodh process. Although many times it does not seem appropriate to take early leave from parties, but by now my relatives and friends have accepted this as a necessary irritant when they have me around.
By the time I completed my meditation it was 11:30 pm. I took my laptop, went out and sat on a lounge chair next to the pool. The surroundings were beautiful and serene, the moon light simmering on the water in the pool and not a sound other than the humming of the suction machine being used by a worker to clean the pool. The reality of the disparity in our lives disturbed me momentarily only, as I have accepted this as a necessary part of the divine creation…some enjoying the intoxication in opulence, while others remain busy doing their jobs late in the night. Understanding the divine plan is beyond our comprehension, so I too graciously accepted the little privilege I had at the moment.
I opened my laptop and did Google search of `Devi Temples in Jaipur.’ Devi temples are of special interest to me and I make it a point to visit old temples dedicated to Shiv and Shakti in a new place of visit. As Durga and Kali temples are my favorite, I was intrigued by the first name that appeared on the screen, Shila Devi Temple in Amer Fort. A temple in a fort will be rich in history and I continued my read eagerly. The gist of the information I could gather from various sites available on the subject is as follows:
Shila Devi is an incarnation of goddess Durga. Raja Man Singh I of Amer was a devotee of Ma Kali. The goddess appeared in his dream and advised him to recover her statue from under the sea near Jessore (now in Bangladesh) and install it in a temple. The idol was recovered from the sea in the form of a shila (slab) and in 1604 AD, Maharaja brought it to Amer. After washing and cleaning it, the idol appeared. Therefore, the goddess was named Shila Devi. The process of building the temple was started and it took ten years to complete. Maharaj Man Singh won many victories in battles by worshipping Ma Shila Devi.
The miraculous powers of Ma Kali are well known in India and many kings of bygone years have worshiped her in her various forms. I prayed to divine mother to permit me to have her darshan the next day. I am of the firm belief that visits to places having even a perceptible presence of divinity is possible only with the permission of the divinity they represent.
The next day passed swiftly with the festivities continuing throughout the day. Finally at about 6 pm, with a wane in the activities, I decided to leave for Shila Devi Temple. Some relatives advised me against it as they were of the opinion that the temple will be closed by the time I reached there and it was not safe to be there late in the night. Not one to be dissuaded so easily from a spiritual traverse, I decided to continue with my plan. I asked Aakaash and Alokita and they readily agreed inspite of the fact that they would miss some precious time with their cousins. It seems we all share a common adventure bug in our DNA, the spiritual intensity varying.
We quickly got into the taxi and drove through some major landmarks of Jaipur - Tripolia Bazar, Johri Bazar, Hawa Mahal, MI road, Jal Mahal, among others. Our driver, Bhairav was very helpful and during the drive he narrated the fascinating history of Amer Fort and the Maharajas. In the ebbing sunlight, the silhouette of the approaching Amer Fort was an amazing sight.
Finally, we were outside the fort. It was already dark and we thought that the temple will be closed. But the moment we entered the fort, we were greeted with huge crowds of people who had gathered for the last arti in the temple. As we entered the temple, we were welcomed by the gaiety and frenzy of the worshipers. Incense sticks were burning, the air was filled with the sound of the bells and a couch was being blown with gusto. People were swarming the area in front of the platform where Ma Shila Devi idol was installed. We slowly made our way forward and finally we came face to face with the deity.
What a magnificent site it was to behold! Divine mother was resplendent in all her finery. The flames of the arti illuminated her form. She seemed so composed and tranquil. I had never seen a similar form of Ma Kali before. Her image was so captivating that I kept looking at her till I was pushed out of the queue. I could feel her energy within me and I was whelmed with tears. Aakaash and Alokita were not surprised since they are accustomed to this emotional state of mine when I visit spiritually vibrant places.
I wanted to sit in a corner and spend some time in the charged atmosphere, but with the hordes of devotees coming in the temple it just wasn’t possible. So after prostrating and expressing my gratitude, I left the temple with a resolve to visit again and stay a little longer in this sublime palace of Ma Shila Devi.