On a beautiful location of a hill top, in the Bilaspur District of Himachal Pradesh, sits the revered temple of Shri Naina Devi Ji. It is a notable place of worship in the state as it is home to one of the 51 Shaktipeeths, representing the fallen body part (eyes) of the Goddess Sati. The dedicated followers of Devi (goddess) are seen in a large number throughout the year and especially during the festive times. The Shri Naina Devi is an important pilgrimage center for the Hindus as well as for the Sikhs and attracts visitors from nearby cities of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and other. The word Naina is prominent and literally means eyes.
There are several mythologies and legends in association with the temple; however, the most important one is in relation to goddess Sati. It is believed that after the goddess burnt herself alive in the Yagna (pious fire offering), Lord Shiva in fury, marched forward causing huge destructions. In order to stop Shiva, Lord Vishnu released his Sudarshana Chakra (spinning disc like weapon) and cut Sati’s body into 51 parts. Shri Naina Devi Temple is the spot where Sati’s eyes fell down.
Another legend tells us how the Shri Naina Devi Temple is a Mahishapeeth, it was in this vicinity that the goddess defeated the demon Mahishasur. The demon had received an immortality boon from Lord Brahma. However, he could only be destroyed by an unmarried woman. Undermining the power of a woman, Mahishasur started professing confusion and spread terror on earth. This is how the Devi was created, all the gods combining their powers, in order to defeat the demon. Devi was successful in defeating Mahishasur and at the end when she took out both his eyes; she got the name Naina Devi.
Similarly, a story of a Gujjar boy named Naina is believed to have started the name of the temple. The boy, while grazing his chattel discovered the abstract manifestation of Devi. He witnessed a white cow showering her milk upon a stone for several days, he finally discussed about his experience with the King, Raja Bir Chand. The king then built this temple at this spot after witnessing the act.
Rituals and Fairs:
Shri Naina Devi is offered Puja archana 5 times a day; the offerings vary with each Puja followed by different aartis. The devotess chant out Jaikaras or praises of the Devi and the names of her several manifestations. The devotees ring the bell; it is believed that the sound of the bell keeps away all things that are not auspicious. Fairs commemorating the goddess are held here during Shravan Ashtami, Navratras, Chaitra and Ashwin Navrati. Devotees in a large number visit the temple; it is one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in the northern part of the country. The propitious nine day celebration is prepared with immense respect and faith.