The mythology of Kalijaai revolves around a temple located in the brackish waters of a lagoon in the eastern coastal state of Odisha. The lagoon which surrounds it, Chilika is the largest lagoon ( a large stretch of saltwater which is isolated from the sea by a sandbank) in India and the second largest in the world. The temple is located in an island which goes by the same name. The main deity of the temple is ‘Maa Kalijai’ who is an incarnation of the Hindu Goddess of death, destruction, and doomsday, Kali. Let’s dive into the legend and myth surrounding her story.
Mythology of Jaai
The origin of the temple has an interesting mythology associated with it. In his famous poem,’Kalijai re Sandhya’ (translates to ‘an evening in Kalijai) Pandit Godavarish Mishra recites how the temple came into being.
‘Jaai’ was a girl who resided in one of the islands in the lagoon. When she came of age, her parents decided to start looking for a suitable husband to marry her off. Over time, they found the perfect match. The groom was a resident of another island called Parikud, which was nearby. On the day of the wedding, after all the rituals were over, the bride had to leave her house and travel to her in-law’s place.
Now, Parikud was a few miles off the island in which Jaai resided in and could only be reached by ferrying on a boat. Jaai’s father accompanied her along with a few seafarers on one boat with the groom on another. As the procession moved forward, dark clouds began to gather overhead. The coast of Odisha is prone to cyclones (tropical rainstorms) and witnesses at least one cyclone each year. As wild winds blew and rain lashed down on them, their boats capsized. After the rain subsided, the group started making their way towards the coast. To everyone’s horror, Jaai was nowhere to be found. They all started looking around frantically, diving into the stormy waters but to their utter dismay they couldn’t find a single trace of her. The story spread like wildfire across all the islands in the lagoon. It was said that her spirit haunted a hill in a small isle nearby and whenever a boat passed by, she would capsize it.
The locals gathered together and built the Kalijai temple in her honor. They believe that in order to have a safe passage across the lagoon, one has to stop at the temple and pray for Goddess Kalijai’s blessing.Even today, people believe in this myth and no one ever travels across those waters without first stopping at the temple. The temple is visited by millions of people throughout the year who travel thousands of miles to learn the story of the bride who drowned.