The holy place (peetha) of the Goddess Hingula is situated on the bank of the river Simhada in the West of erstwhile Talcher Estate (Now in the District of Angul). In Assam, there is a place of pilgrimage named Jwalamukhi where a similar goddess Hingula or Hingulei or Hingulaksi is being worshipped. It is for this reason that the presiding deity of Talcher in village Gopal Prasad who bears the form of fire is named Goddess Hingula. Such holy-places (peethas) of Hingula are also situated even outside India in Karachi and Kabul. Both Hindus and Muslims worship at this holy place like that of Kaipadar in Khurda.
In the fifteenth Century A.D., the illustratious poet Sarala Das has described Goddess Hingula in his Mahabharat as the Manifestation of the Goddess Sarala. In fact he always worshipped Goddess Sarala asGoddess Hingula. Sarala Mahabharat[SabhaParva, P.401,479,490,491,492,493,495,500,501,502,503.] It is believed that one can achieve his desired object if he/she worships or mediates on Goddess Hingula. It is also believe that cooking foods become delicious through the blessings of the Goddess. It is described in the Mahabharat that Goddess Hingula was worshiped by King Nala of Surya Vanshi. It is by her grace that king Nala was able to prepare Gouri-Sauri Paka [Sabha Prava ]. Thus the name of Goddess Hingula is associated with cooking with perfection. The successors of king Nala of Vidarbha also worshiped the Goddess Hingula. As Nala was the King of Vidarbha, his successors are worshiping Goddess Hingula from generation to generation.
There is a legend that not only explains why the peetha of the deity is situated at Gopalprasad Gada but also links with the daily-rites of Lord Jagannath at Puri.
According to the legend, when queen Gundicha thought of introducing Sixty pauties of Bhojan (daily offerings) for the Lord Jagannath and sought the permission of the Lord . The King was ordered in dream to worship Goddess Hingula for the smooth conduct of cooking. It is for this purpose, the king went to Bidarbha and with the help of Nala tried to bring the Goddess to Puri. King Nala brought the Goddess Hingula in his upper garment, where the Goddess herself in the form of fire. But a marvel took place when the King Gajapati and Nala were taking rest near the Bank of the river Singhada at Gopal Prasad Gada, the Goddess disappeared and a voice from the void announced Gopal Prasad Gada to be the holy place (Puja Peeth) of Goddess Hingula. The voice also declared that her two associates Kuteisuni and Karadei will also be worshiped here. However the place of action of Goddess Hingula will be the kitchen of Shree Mandir at Puri. From this date the Hingula Peeth remains at Gopal Prasad Gada and before the Sixty Pautis Bhoga for Shree Jagannath is prepared at Shree Mandir a sacrifice is offered to Goddess Hingula before the fire is lit to the oven in the Kitchen. It needs special mention that Goddess Hingula has no other form except fire and she is linked with the Agni Kona (South East direction). It is , therefore, no wonder that Orissa is situated in the south east direction of India, Puri is situated in the south east direction of Orissa; Gopal Prasad Gada is situtated in the south east direction of Talcher and the Hingula Peeth is situted in the south east direction of Gopla Prasad. Even the Temple of Hingula is in the south east direction of the house of her priest. Similarly the kitchen of Srimandir lies towards the south east of Shree Kshetra and Goddess Hingula is worshiped in the south east direction of the kitchen.
The tutelary Goddess of Talcher mother Hingula is the centre of devotion for the people of Angul, Athamallik, Hindol, Dhenkanal, Pallahara & Deogarh, etc. This being a primitive Sakti Peeth, special worships are being offered during both the autumn and the spring. However, the worship during the spring assumes, greater importance and it is a more festive occasion. The main worship of Mother Hingula being conducted on the day of Bishnu Damank Chaturdashi, which falls on the fourteenth day of the bright phase on the moon in the month of Chaitra. The festival starts from an auspicious movement on the Thursday of the dark fortnight (Krushna Pakhaya) when the principal worshipper Dehury remains on austerity away from his family in the temple. A special oven is made here and the worshipper cooks and takes his meal once in a day till the competition of the festival. He does not involve himself with any of the family works abstaining himself from daily rite like shaving etc. A special worship is offered to the Goddess on every thursday of the month of Chitra. An auspicious day is choosen on the basis of the star and zodiac position of the Goddess before seven days of the festivals and on the same day the Goddess is worshiped on the pendal of the deity “Kuteisuni”. The worship is called “Jantal Puja” . It is believed that the deity worshiped enters in to the body of the patiara after the performance of Puja which is known as Sodasaupachara (Sixteen rituals). The mother Goddess indicates the direction of her appearance by entering the body of the patiara and the tradition says that the Goddess generally appears from the eastern or the western direction of the Peetha. Dehury, the traditional worshipper of Goddess goes to find out the place of appearance of the Goddess in the midnight of the same day. Since the Goddess is seen the form of fire and moves at many places and moves from one place to the other, Dehury worships the Goddess by chanting `Sabari Mantra’ and pacifies her by making a fire on the Charapthar (char/coal). Every day more coal is added to the main fire of the Goddess during the time of worship by which the girth of the Goddess increases to the very big dimension on the final day of the festival. A kandha tribal fixes the appliqué presented by the king of Talcher by tying it to four bamboos. This appliqué has a height measuring sixteen hands from the place of appearance of the deity. A specialty of the occasion is the intimate relationship between the Goddess and her worshipers, who offer themselves a lot of things which are consumable by fire like juggery,ghee, honey,variegated silk, Sarees, jute, incense sticks, special sweets made of Til (Rasi Ladu), Bananas, Coconuts and many other sweets like Kushi Gaja, Gaja Muan, Khandsari etc, directly without any intermediary worshipper. Moreover there is absolutely no distinction between the upper and lower caste. Who unhesitating by snatch away and take prasad from one another. The caste differences are drowned during this worship. Thousands of devotees assemble here seeking the blessing of the Goddess and offer many scarifies. In the morning the hairs from the heads of the babies are shaved. In the afternoon Alam, the mobile image of the Goddess arrives at the big pendal from the temple for worship, in a procession accompanied by the devotees and the traditional instrumentalists and drum beaters, who carry umbrellas, Taras Adenis, Cymbals, Conches, Chowries,etc. The procession is also accompanied with the devotional songs and Kirtans, presenting a a delightful sight. It may be mentioned here that the Goddess has servants of thirty six types named Chhatisa Pataka Niyoga, similar to that of Lord Jagannath from a very ancient time.
The principal worshipers in order of succession are Suda Dehuri, patiara, king’s representatives, Gadanayak and Paika etc., which include the carpenters and the Brahmins also. The Services are specified and remunerative. The worship continues with Dehury offering worship, in the big pendal in all the five seats, where sit Hingula Karadei, Koteisuni, Chandi and Andhari. Mango and Mahula are offered this offering is called “Nuakhai Festival” of the Goddess. Khambeswar Mahadev and Khambeswari Devi, who remain on the left side of the pendal are worshiped without lightning any candle (Deepa). They are called Dark Gods (Andhari Devata or Pidha). The legend states them to have come under darkness from Boudha the shelter of Goddess Hingula, when Buddhist religion spread in the region. It is for this reason that they are called Andhari Pitha (Dark Seat). After this the Patiara being possessed by Hingula is worshipped. He arrives at the place of appearance of the Goddess in the form of Kalishi and it is at this place that is body gets dispossessed (from Kalishi). Then Dehury carries the mobile image `Alam` to the place of appearance where she is offered worship. The king along with his family come to the place and offer oblations (Ahuti) to the Goddess. Since the Jantala festival to the Sitala or Situla festival the Brahmin or the priests recites chandi (seven hundred verses of Goddess Durga) daily. The devotees offer hens, Goats, Sheep, and Buffaloes, etc. at the end of the worship. The Goddess then returns to the big pedals where animal offerings are again made after which she returns to the temple during midnight. On the night day of the festival the Situla festivals of the Goddess is celebrated Appliqué is hung on this day and the fire of the Goddess is put off. The specialty of this day of the festival is that unlike the other days when the Goddess is worshipped with the Bel leaves, the principal offering is made with Baruna leaves.
Besides these festivals special offering are also made on every full moon day of the months of Vaisakha, Kartika and Magha. These offerings are pious, because they are conducted without any animal sacrifices. Eight more full moon days are termed Athuari because in these days the offerings include animal sacrifices and therefore different from the earlier ones.
Like all other Goddess the Saradiya or Dasahara festival is also an important one, where the mobile image “Alam”goes in a procession from the temple to the place of worship in the Dasahara ground. But offerings are made only after she comes to the Kuteisuni Mandap for the purpose. The Goddess bears one more testimony of the tribal Kandha Culture, which is called “Nakhi” This Nakhi is a special form of offering which is made on every worship of the Goddess. Here the new pot (Handi) is used unwashed and even the Arua rice that is used for preparing Nakhi is not washed for fear of acquiring untouchability. The ingredients of the offerings include rice, milk, honey solid molasses (kanda) and ghee, from which a sweet dish (khir) is prepared.
On the fourteenth day of the bright phase of the moon during the month of phalguna, the fire festival is observed. This day the Goddess meets Durga madhava and in the presence of both the Gods the fire festival is observed. The deity Dolagovinda comes to the place of fire festival from village Solada.
Another festival that need special, mention is the patabani festivals of the Goddess, which bears a similarity with the Navakalevara of Lord Jagannatha. However, this festival takes place only when a new king is coroneted after the death of the old king. During the occasion Dehury collects five salgram stones from the river Brahmani situated near Nadhara Kamalanga as per the directives of the Goddess.
Almost all the rituals that are followed before and during the Navakalevara of Lord Jagannatha, are also observed here like the search for sal wool, the construction of the pillars (Khamba) and the planting of Bramha like Golden nail or stick in the heart of Khambeswari, etc. After the pillars are planted in their proper places (two pillars near chandi, one pillar near Kuteisuni and other pillar near bali (the place of Sacrifice). The king ascends the throne, wearing silk Garment (pata) only after the Goddess is adorned with pata (silk saree). It may be painted at here that many devotees offer silk robes for the Goddess but it is the usual practice that the Silk robe which is offered by the king is only worn by the deity.
It is also important to note that Dehury carries to the palace Alam of the Goddess during all the daily rituals of the king accompanies by Chhatisa Niyoga.
The presiding deity of the Hingula Temple is Goddess Hingula. Jagannatha is present only as an accompanying God (Parswa Devta). The tribal Kandha Goddess Hingula is now worshipped as an integrated Goddess of the Aryans and the Non-Aryans through the process of historical evolution. Since the Goddess is still worshipped by Sabari verses (the verses of the tribals Savaras) the palm leaf manuscript which is being worshipped here needs further research, which may reveal important socio cultural factors of the ancient tribal life.