Shakambhari is an incarnation of the primeval Mother Goddess, Devi Durga, who is a consort of Lord Shiva.  Shakambhari ideally means the bearer of vegetables, as Shaka in Sanskrit means Vegetables and vegetarian food and Bhari means one who is the bearer.

It is believed that Goddess Durga incarnated as Shakambhari Mata to stop famine and give relief to starved people and the parched earth.

Purnima in the month of Paush is known as the Shakambhari purnima as it is believed that on that day Devi Shakambhari had incarnated. In 2019, Shakambhari Utsav will be observed in the month of January.

  • Legend of Shakambhari Mata

It is believed that long ago there was a cruel demon named Durgamasur. He was the son of Ruru and was from the lineage of Hiranyaksh. He once decided that he wanted to attain knowledge from the four Vedas and needed to do penance to learn and understand. Thus he went to the Himalayas and started a severe penance. He performed severe penance for a thousand years. His penance had such power that even the Gods started becoming jittery and finally Lord Brahma appeared to him and asked him to seek his boon as he was pleased with his hard work.  Durgamasur asked for the 4 vedas. Brahma granted them to him. From that day unfortunately all the sages and the learned men forgot all about the Vedas and pujas. There was a general decay in daily activities and finally this distress reached great proportions.  The Gods started getting weaker as they were not being offered their daily pujas and the demons invaded Heaven. The Gods took refuge in caves and mountains having fled from Heaven. People and Gods together started praying to the highest God – the Great Goddess. The ponds, rivers all dried up having been denied of any rain. There was no food at all and people started to starve.

Sages and all the people started praying to Goddess Maheswari, Mata Durga for giving them respite. Durga reacted to the prayer and enquired of what was happening of the Gods who were in hiding. Seeing the condition of earth and the suffering of people she turned blue and her body became all lotus eyed. And then she began to shed copious tears from her eyes. Plantations began to grow again and ponds and rivers started to fill. Gods came out of hiding and together with sages they began to sing the hymns in praise of Devi Mahamaya. Then the Satakshi Devi transformed herself into a beautiful form –  in her eight hands she held grains, vegetables, cereals, greens, herbs and meat. She wore a beautiful garment and this is the avatar which came to be known as Shakambhari Devi. Hearing the chanting of the Gods and sages, she gave those fruits, vegetables etc.

Then Devi Parvati heard about the Vedas being with Durgamasur. She sent a lady emissary to ask him to return the Vedas. But the demon refused and a great turbulence arose. The demon appeared with one hundred Aksauhini army; which consist of 21,870 chariots, as many elephants; 65,610 horses, and 109,350 foot soldiers to fight with the Goddess. The Gods trembled in fear and the Goddess created a sphere and kept them in safety and came to fight him alone. She had all weapons on him and the fight went on and on.  At this moment from the Devi’s body emerged in spirit all these Devis – Kali, Tarini, Tripur Sundari, Bhairavi, Chinnamasta, Dhumavati, Bhuvaneshwari, Bagalamukhi, Matangi and Kamalatmika. The NavaDurgas; Brahmacharini, Shailaputri, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda,Katyayani, Skandamata,Mahagauri, Kalaratri, Siddhi datri and Matrika Brahmani  all came out. Also joined in this tumultuous battle other incarnations of the Devi such as – Vaishnavi, Maheshwari, Kaumari, Narasimohi, Shivadooti, Chamundai, Indrani, Varahi, Devi, Shakti, Adi Shakti, Parameshwari, Maha Shakti, Bhagawati, Bhadrakali, Gauri, Jagadamba, Chandika, Kaushiki, Mahakali, Ambika, Jagatjanani, Mateshwari, Tridevi, Mahadevi, Uma, Narayani, Singhavahini, Bhavani, Yudhadevi, Yogmaya, Aparajita, Vyaghravahini, Mahamaya, Sherawali, Vindhyavasini, Shaambhavi, Bhramari, Jumadi, Rajarajeshwari, Kalika, Gayatri, Akhilandeshwari, Kamakshi, Mahadurga, Ishwari, Gatral, Bahuchara, Prathyangira, Meenakshi, Ramchandi, Hingalaj, Nagbai, Varaki, Vihat, Vaishnodevi, Santoshi, Dhavdi, Sadhi, Hadkai, Mogal, Pithad, Meldi, Jagadhatri, Modheshwari, Guhyakali, Umiya, Momai, Amba, Shitala and Raktachamundatoo joined in this battle. Some yoginis such as – Aditi, Agneyei, Ajita, Bhimachandi, Chandi, Damani, Aparna, Bhayankari, Dhriti, Gandhari, Ganga, Medha, Rati, Raudri, Jaya, Kapalini, Kauberi, Shanti, Siddhida, Swaha and many more too emerged from the Goddess to fight with her on this battle. When all the Shaktis managed to destroy the one hundred aksauhini army, the Gods blew conches. Then Durgamasur appeared in the battle field and fought with the Devi. On the last day, the eleventh day the demon wore red clothes, a garland of red flowers and put red sandal paste on his body and went to fight. The Goddess shot 15 arrows at him. 2 at his eyes, 2 on his hands, the charioteer took one arrow, the four horses were hit by four arrows, his flag by one arrow and his heart was pierced by 5 arrows. The demon died vomiting blood and the world heaved a sigh of relief. The Goddess told all the Gods, that whenever evil appeared, she too will appear in any form to put a stop to that.

  • Celebrations of Shakambhari Utsav

Shakambhari Devi is worshipped in parts of Karnataka, Maharashtra and Rajasthan mostly. The ancient temple of Shakambhari Devi is at Sakarai, some distance away from Udaipur in Rajasthan. There is also a temple of Sakambhari mata in Pakaur in Jharkhand, Bihar. There are also three temples of Shakambhari Mata in Kolkata, West Bengal. Nine days are celebrated as she shed tears for nine days. Her worship is done by decking up the Goddess in garlands of vegetables. In Vijaywada, The Kanaka Durga Temple also celebrates the Shakambhari Devi Jayanti in a great manner with lot of devotion and fervor. She is known as Goddess Banashankari in Karnataka, and Banada Ashtami  is a great event celebrated during Navratri.