Tarapith is a small temple town near Rampurhat in Birbhum district of the Indian state of West Bengal, known for its Tantric temple and its adjoining cremation grounds where Tantric rites are performed. The Tantric Hindu temple is dedicated to goddess Tara, a fearsome Tantric aspect of the Hindu Divine Mother the chief temples of the Goddess-oriented Shakta sect of Hinduism. Tarapith derives its name from its association as the most important centre of Tara worship and her cult.
Tarapith is also famous for Bamakhepa known as the 'mad saint', who worshipped in the temple and resided in the cremation grounds as a mendicant and practised and perfected Yoga and the Tantric art under the tutelage of another famous saint known as the Kailashpathi Baba. Bama Khepa dedicated his entire life to the worship of mother Tara. His ashram is also located close to the temple.
Legend And Importance:
There are several legends narrated on the origin and importance of this place, all related to the goddess Tara deified in the Tarapith Temple. A well-known legend relates to the Shakti Piths. Goddess Sati, the consort of Shiva, felt insulted when her father Daksha did not invite Shiva to the great yagna (fire-sacrifice) he organized. Unable to bear this humiliation, Sati gave up her life by jumping into the yagna fire. Infuriated by this tragic turn of events, Shiva went wild. Then, god Vishnu, in order to pacify Shiva decimated the body of Sati with his discus (Chakra).
The Tara temple in Tarapith steeped in the narrated myths is a medium sized temple in the rural precincts of Bengal. Its fame as a pilgrimage centre with the deity of Tara enshrined in it is due to "the temple’s founding myths, its type of worship (which includes blood offerings), the hymns sung there, the powers of the nearby tank, and the inhabitants and rituals of the adjacent cremation ground".
The cremation ground, amidst dark forest surroundings, is located on the river side at the end of town limits, away from the village life and practices of the Bengali social order. In Bengal, the cremation ground of Tarapith is also considered integral to the Shakti pith. It is believed that goddess Tara can be seen in shadows drinking blood of goats sacrificed every day at her altar, to satiate her anger and seek favours.
A saint, held in great reverence in Tarapith and whose shrine is also located in the vicinity of the Tara temple, was Bamakhepa (1837–1911) popularly known as the "mad saint". Bama-khepa, literally means the mad ("khepa") follower of "left handed" ("Bama" or "Vama" in Sanskrit) path - the Tantric way of worship. Bamakhepa, goddess Tara's ardent devotee lived near the temple and mediated in the cremation grounds.