Tanot is a small town about 120 Kms from Jaisalmer. It lies very close to the Indo-Pak Border. We visited a temple there which takes its name after the village or, perhaps, it is the other way around – it is called the Mata Tanot Rai temple.
There are many myths surrounding the temple but one of the oldest is the one associated with the self-immolation of Sati. As the popular tale goes, Sati was aggrieved that her father Daksa had not invited her husband Shiva for the grand yagna. She went even though she had not been called and against Shiva’s wishes and when her father refused to change his mind about Shiva, threw herself into the fire that had been kindled for the Yagna.
Shiva was grief stricken and furious with the ganas (Charans) who had been sent along with Sati. He cursed them for not being able to protect his wife and banished them from heaven. They ceased to be immortal and were sentenced to life on earth. The Charans pleaded but Shiva refused to yield. The Charans then fell at the feet of Sati’s lifeless body and started lamenting. A voice emanated from the dead Sati that said that Shiva’s curse would have to be borne. However, since she was responsible for their condition; every time she was born as a human, it would be in the Charan community. It is said that due to the blessings of Sati, there were numerous births of Sati in the Charan community and there are many minor myths and miracles credited to the goddess. Ever since, the Charans have come to be referred to as ‘devi-putra’ or sons of the goddess.
Shiva’s anger and grief however knew no bounds. He danced a terrible tandava with Sati’s body. Finally Vishnu was forced to use his sudarshan-chakra, the discus, to sever the body into different pieces. And every spot where a piece of Sati’s body is believed to have fallen has sprung a temple. In this region fell Sati’s head, and the place is known as Hinglaj.
The village, after Partition, was given to the Balochistan province of Pakistan and over time, the Charan community converted to Islam. The present temple is considered to be an extension of the main Shakti-peeth at Hinglaj. While there are many stories and miracles associated with Tanot Mata one of the most recent is set during the 1965 Indo-Pak war. The Pakistani troops were very close to the temple premises. They had set off more than 3000 bombs and nearly 450 of them were targeted at the temple. But none exploded! The villagers see this as nothing short of a miracle–some of the shells have been kept in the temple premises as souvenirs. After the war, the temple was handed over to the Border Security Force (BSF) which manages the temple and has erected a memorial within its premises. The temple has also found fame outside Rajasthan after being featured in the Hindi movie “Border”.

Tags: Tanot Rai temple, Devi, Charan community, Sati, Shiva, Hinglaj, Shakti Peeth