Saktam is the cult of Mother worship. Every women is a living goddess and only in India we pray and offer Puja to a living symbol of Sakti, either in the form of a Kanya or Suvasini.
Prior to the advent of Adi Sankara, the worship of Kali was practiced in its wildest form of sacrifices-humans and animals. It is believed that the kali was ferocious. Adi Sankara evolved the theory of a Loveable Goddess and installed her in the Sri chakra form-which is the current mode of worship.
That she is the Universal Mother is an undisputed fact. According to the Devi Bhagwatam, she is the absolute Para Sakti. She created the trinity of Gods-Brahma, Vishnu and Siva. She also created Saraswati, Laxmi and Parvati-her amsa representing the 3 gunas-rajas-sattvic and tamas and gave them away in marriage to the 3 Lords to help them in their function of Creation, Preservation and Destruction.
In the Soundarya Lahari, it is said that Siva is in a position to perform his duties only when he is in union with Uma-or Parvathi and without her, he is just a dead body. The power is complementary and true in respect of all the 3 Gods. This applies to every living being. Do we not say that a woman is behind the man, for his success?
We have separate shrines in every temple for the consort – in the same precincts. In every Siva temple we find the consort in any of her multi-faceted glory.
If we have Sri Ramanatha at Rameswara, so is his consort Parvathavardhini, So is the case of Vaishnavism.
Mother worship has a great significance in the present age of turmoil in the world. There is a solace for mankind in Devi worship.
SRI KAMAKSHI (Kanchipuram-Tamil Nadu)
This temple is situated in the centre of Kanchipuram Town in TamilNadu. The Devi is seated in majestic Padmasana posture, showering grace, peace and plenty on those who come for the darshan. Besides holding Pasa and Ankusa on her upper arms, Sri Kamakshi holds Sugar cane bow and floral arrows in her lower arms.
Sri Kamakshi Devi is Raja Rajeswari, and an embodiment of Universal Power-Parasakti. Hence there is no separate Ambal or Sakti shrine in Siva temples within the limits of Kanchipuram.
Sri Adi Sankara had installed and consecrated a Srichakra in front of the Deity and the daily worship is done for this chakra-known as the kamakoti Peeta.
Kamakshi is the presiding deity of the city of Kanchi The Goddess is said to reside as Bala Tripurasundari in a Bila(niche) situated under the shrine. The front mandapa is called the Gayatri Mandapa. In the Ardha Mandapa preceding the Garbhagriha, the Goddess is enshrined in a Pitha, as Sri Vidya Parameswari.
Sri AKILANDESWARI(Tiruvanaikoil-Tamil Nadu)
Jambukeswaram, popularly known as Thiruvanaikka is situated near Srirangam in Trichy District, Tamil nadu. This is Appu or water linga among the five lingas dedicated to five elements-Pancha Bootha Kshetras
There is perennial oozing of water from under neath Sivalinga in the sanctum Sanctorum, which is emptied at regular intervals.
Lord Siva is said to have sat under a Jambu tree and done penance to have the darshan of Lord Vishnu in order to get rid of the sin of Brahmahatya(killing of a repository of Vedas)
Akilandeswari, the Mother of the Universe, is said to have worshipped the Lord in this temple. Symbolically even today, at noon the priest, dressed in a saree, performs pooja to sri Jambukeswara.
It is said Sri Adi Sankara Bhagavatpada consecrated the Thatanga(earrings) Chakra, now adorning the ears of the Devi. Sri Adi Sankara installed a Ganapathy Vigraha in front of Sri Akilandeswari and this contained her Ugrakalai-malignant aspects.
Sri MEENAKSHI (Madurai, Tamil Nadu)
Madurai is about 492 Kms. From Madras. This town is famous for Goddess Meenakshi temple and was capital of Pandya Kingdom. Sri Meenakshi Devi is the incarnation of Parashakti. The sthala purana has it that the king Malaya Dhwaja, a great devotee of Lord Siva and childless and hence conducted puthra kamesthi yagna. Goddess Parvati was born and named as Meenakshi(Her eyes being in the shape of fish). Meenakshi was a great devotee of Lord Sundareswara(Siva) and the Lord comes in disguise followed by many thrilling episodes known as (sixty four tiruvilayadals), before marrying the goddess Meenaksi.
Many poets adorned the court of Pandaya kings and Madurai was the seat of tamil literature. It was also popularly known as the birth place of tamil sangam.
Sri ANNAPOORNESWARI(Varanasi-Uttar Pradesh)
Annapoorneswari, the presiding goddess of Kasi. The Divine mother of the universe not only gives food and riches to her children, but also takes care of their spiritual emancipation by bestowing the nectar of Atma Gnana- the knowledge of the self. Adi Sankara who had immortalized the power and glory of Annapoorneswari, in his immortal hymns Annapoornastakam-eight verses rendered there, implores on our behalf the grant of Gnana Vairagyam-the steadfastness born out of realization.
The beautiful golden idol of Annapoorneswari in the temple, which is hundred yards away from the Visweswara temple, is thrown open for darshan to the devotees during Deepavali festival on Dhanathriodasi Day when Pooja is performed for the golden idol, and throughout next day on Chotti Deepavali day – it is kept open for public darshan.
According to the Sthalapuranam-the universal mother, who started on a journey down South from Badrikasramam decided to stay at Varanasi, because of the drought for twelve years.
Sri KALI MATA(Kolkata -West Bengal)
This temple known as Kalighat Temple and situated in Kolkata is one of the 52 Sakti Peetas of India. It is situated in Alipore about 5 miles from Howrah. There is always a big crowd of devotees from all over the country to worship the Kali Mata. The poojas and other festivals of light, crackers and colourful processions connected with Navarathiri celebrations are hallmarks and highlights of the festivals conducted in honour of the Goddess Kali.
Source: Our Heritage – from www.kamakoti.org