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The Saptashrungi hill range lies at a distance of about 60 km from Nashik in a small village of Maharashtra called Nanduri. It consists of seven hills that form a part of the Sahyadri range of the Western Ghats. These hills are locally known as Ghads. The average height of the peaks along this range is approximately 4,500 feet. The Saptashrungi hills hold many water bodies known as Kundas in the watershed of the hills. The lush green forests of the area are known to grow herbs of great medicinal value. A circular path set on a steep rocky topography surrounds the hills and is used by the devotees of the Saptashrungi temple to perform their parikrama (an act of circling around the perimeter of a holy site).

Saptashrungi is an important site of Hindu pilgrimage and is dedicated to goddess Saptashrungi Nivasini. This temple is one of the fifty one Shakti Peeths located all over the Indian subcontinent. According to Hindu mythology, body parts of Sati had come apart from her dead body and fallen at different locations as Shiva danced his tandava with her body carried on his back. These places became sacred and came to be known as Shakti Peeths. It is believed that Sati’s right arm fell on this region.

The Saptashrungi Temple

The Saptashrungi temple is a shrine dedicated to the Goddess Sati, or as she is known here, Saptashrunga nivasini. It is a two storied structure with the Devi enshrined on the upper floor. Devotees believe that the image of the Devi is “swayabhu”, that is, it is self manifested. It appears to be carved in a cave on a rock on the sheer face of the mountain. The deity is surrounded on all sides by the peaks of the seven hills. It is because of this quality that the goddess was given the name Saptashrungi Mata, or the mother of seven peaks.

The deity is portrayed as the goddess Mahalakshmi of Devi Mahatmya. She has eighteen arms, each of which is equipped with different weapons. The image of the goddess is about eight feet tall, smeared with sindoor and adorned with many ornaments. Her attire comprises of a robe and a blouse that are changed by the priests every day. The goddess receives an abhisheka or bath regularly. It is believed that warm water is used by the priests twice a week to cleanse her. Her bright white eyes shine brightly from her otherwise red visage.

Over the years, this temple has undergone many renovations. Various facilities have been added to the premises in keeping with the times to accommodate the large number of devotees who visit this place as a pilgrimage. Some of these facilities include the construction of about five hundred odd steps, a community hall and a gallery for the devotees to gather and assemble into queues before they can obtain a darshan (sight) of the deity. The steps were cut into the rocky slopes of the hill in 1710 by Umabai Dabhade to add to the convenience of the pilgrims who visit this site. Figures of Rama, Hanuman, Radha and Krishna, Dattatreya and tortoises are seen to adorn these steps.
On the way down from the temple premises, tourists can venture into a cave on the Mahonidri Mountain. According to the legends, it is this caves that goddess Saptashrungi disappeared in after having defeated the demons.

The Legend of Goddess Saptashrungi

The goddess Saptashrungi Mata and her temple by the same name are surrounded by many legends and myths. This temple is one of the fifty one Shakti Peeths located on the Indian subcontinent. It is said, that King Prajapati Daksha, the father of Sati was performing a Yagna to appease the gods. Sati, despite being uninvited for the event, decided to attend the function organised by her father. Daksha, not at all in favour of his son in law Shiva, whom his daughter had married out of deep love, decided to take this as an opportunity to chide her. He not only ignored her presence completely, but also went on to slander Shiva openly. Unable to take this insult from her own father, Sati jumped into the yagna fire and committed suicide. When Shiva was informed of this incident, he became enraged. Not only did he wreak havoc upon Daksha, he picked up the corpse of Sati on his back and danced tandava across the universe. Alarmed, Vishnu and Bramha decided that it was necessary to bring Shiva back to his normal self. Hence, Vishnu followed Shiva wherever he went and cut Sati’s body and separated her from him with his sudarshan chakra. These pieces fell in fifty one places across the Indian subcontinent and became the Shakti Peeths. According to the legend, Sati’s right arm fell on the Saptashrungi ranges.

People also believed that the eighteen armed Saptadshrungi Devi took the form of Durga and destroyed the demon king Mahishasura. Mahishasura had taken the form of a buffalo and was wreaking havoc in the forests. Hence, at the foot of the hill, one can see the head of a buffalo, carved out of stone that is believed to be the head of the demon Mahishasura.

Best Time for Visit

The best time to visit Saptashrungi is during the festivals organised within the temple complex. The biggest festival of the year is Chaitrotsav, a festival that commences on the Ram Navami and culminates on the day of the full moon. Nearly a million devotees from all over India and the rest of the world gather here for the final three days of this festival. Other important festivals include Dussehra and Navaratri which are celebrated with great gusto by locals and devotees alike.

How to Reach Saptashrungi

Saptashrungi is well connected to the major cities of Maharashtra by road and can be approached by many routes. State Highway 17, that is connected to National Highway 3, links the nearby villages Vani and Nanduri to the nearest city, Nashik. Buses provided by state transportation ply regularly and carry passengers right up to the temple precincts.

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