By: Himanshu Guru
Though it seems unbelievable, there is a place in Odisha where the Sati pyre is burning for the last 264 years. In the Sati Mutt (Sati Matha) of Dharakote in Ganjam district the funeral fire is burning incessantly for the last 264 years.
As per history, King Hadu Singh of Khidisinghi royal dynasty ascended the throne of Dharakote in 1477 AD. He constructed a huge palace by the hillside. Since then, so far 17 kings have reigned in this kingdom.
Since long years, 13 mutts have been established in Dharakote. The Sati Mutt is one of these. It is said long ago saints of the Naga community were living in this mutt who were spending most of their time in meditation and divine practices. The same had been established in the bank of River Rushikulya while a number of medicinal plants had been planted around it. Even today many such old trees are seen here.
After demise of the Sixth King Jay Singh his wife queen Padmamala Devi sacrificed herself by sitting atop the funeral pyre of her husband in 1758. To keep up the Sati pyre the late king’s successor Rajendra Singh made all arrangement to keep the Sati pyre burning up in respect of the queen. He assigned Nirakar Das Baba with the task of keeping the sati pyre burning and made all arrangements.
Later, the eighth king of Dharakote Krishna Singh ruled in the kingdom from 1781 to 1788. When he died his Paata Mahadei queen Chandrama Devi also sacrificed herself by sitting atop the funeral pyre. Accordingly, gravity of Sati mutt doubled following two such incidents.
It is to be noted that Sati is a banned Hindu practice, in which a widow sacrifices herself by sitting atop her deceased husband’s funeral pyre.
According to another legend once the seventh king Rajendra Singh had gone for hunting to the forest. During his return journey it heavily poured. Shivering in cold somehow the king along with his associates reached near the Sati pyre in the erstwhile Dharakote. The king witnessed that an ‘Abdhut baba’ was sitting near the pyre. Mysteriously, except the pyre place, it was heavily raining in other areas. As the astonished king enquired about the pyre mystery, the saint narrated about it to him.
In present time we can see that the Sati mutt is spread in around 12 acres of land where Lord Radha Krishna and Yagneswara are being worshiped in two temples here. The pyre has been kept burning by pouring ghee on it. As per the locals the sati pyre keeps up burning even amid strong wind. And for the last 264 years it is burning. In the meanwhile, many kings have reigned in the kingdom while many Mahantas have taken care of the Sati pyre one after one, but the pyre has been kept burning.
In the recent years, after demise of King Kishore Singhdeo his daughter Sulakshyana Gitanjali Devi is officially now the king of Dharakote kingdom. In absence of any son of the late king she was crowned as the king. She is now taking care of the palace and the Sati mutt.
Dharakote has a huge palace that houses the king’s court, Rani Mahal as well as sheds for elephants and horses among others. However most of these are in dilapidated condition. It has now become a difficult task to take care of such a huge palace. Former MLA queen Nandini Devi is now living in this palace along with her two daughters while a few staffs are there.
Visitors from far places are coming to witness the King’s Palace and Sati mutt. Another king of this dynasty Ananta Narayan Singhdeo was also in Politics. The locals have demanded for the development of the sati mutt as a tourist destination.
With inputs from: Sanjiv Patnaik, Surada