Sri Kanakadurga Devi shines brilliantly on Indrakiladri, in Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh on the banks of river Krishnaveni. Devi is often referred to as kShipraprasAdini – granting boons immediately. Thousands of years ago, a Yaksha named Indrakeela, who was a great shAkta, worshipped Amba and as a boon Amba granted her eternal presence to him. As a result, he assumed the form of a hill named Indrakeeladri and devi began to reside on this hill. As described in Kena Upanishad, Amba appeared as umA haimavatI, adorned with beautiful shining jewels and with incomparable beauty and it is this form of Amba that also came to be referred as kanaka-durga by shAktas with durgA as their mukhyopAsyA. The name durgA means – duHkhenApi gantumashakyA durgA – that power which cannot be attained or reached even with the greatest of difficulty. In other words, Durga is that supreme power which has no second. Sri Kanaka Durga represents the combined force of the eighteen Durga-forms – nine prauDha durgAs (shailaputrI to siddhidAtri) and nine bAla durgAs (kumArI, rohiNI, subhadrA etc). of these, the second of the prauDha durgas – brahmachAriNi – is worshipped in ten forms: sthala durgA, nadI durgA, vanadurgA, parvatadurgA, sAgaradurgA, grAmadurgA, paTTanadurgA, raNadurgA, chaNDI durgA and shUlinI durgA (the list of five durgas in AkAshabhairava kalpa includes vanadurgA and shUlinI durgA) and it is this form that is chiefly associated with Sri Kanakadurga Devi.
sahyAdri khaNDa of skAnda describes thus:
durgamo nAma danujo AsIdvailokakaNTakaH |
devaprArthanayA devI durgamaM nijaghAnaha ||
tadA tattejasAvyAptaM dadR^ishuH kanakaprabham |
devAH sarvAH stutiM chakruH sarvopaniShadAM gaNaiH |
devIM kanakadurgeti mudA tuShTivurAdarAt ||
To protect the Devas, Amba killed a demon named durgamAsura and then her form exuded brilliant golden light in all directions. The Devas – headed by Brahma- Vishnu – Rudra, praised her with various Vedic hymns as Kanakadurga – Durga with golden brilliance, kanaka meaning gold. Also,
taM kIlAdriM swarNamayaM tadrUpAM jagadambikAm |
indrAdidevasaMsevyAM tadagre divyarUpiNIm ||
Indrakiladri itself is known as swarNagarbha parvata and Devi residing there is called swarNadurgA. After slaying mahiShAsura, devi began to reside on this hill according to some puranas.
At a later period, a king named mAdhava Varma ruled that region. Once when his son was accused of accidentally killing some infants, he ordered his son to be hanged till death. Pleased with his righteousness, Devi showered gold and resurrected the dead infants. Thereafter, Vijayawada came to be known as kanakapuri and Amba as Kanakadurga.
The idol of Kanakadurga is a swayambhU mUrti with eight hands, as described in the dhyAna shloka of vanadurgA –
arishaMkhakR^ipANakheTabANAn sadhanusshUlakatarjanIrdadhAnA |
mama sA mahiShottamAMgasaMsthA navadUrvAsadR^iShI shriye.astu durgA || [which is the rAjasika dhyAna of devi]
It is also believed that Adi Shankaracharya established a shrIchakra to the left of Amba and calmed her ferocious form and restricted the performance of Vamachara rituals in this place. It is believed that Abhichara Prayogas do not work in the surroundings of this temple due to the immense power of Amba. It is also believed that Amba is shrIvidyAswarUpiNI (presence of shrIchakra) and mahAvidyAswarUpiNI (Devi is in the form of araNyadurgA and mahAvidyA pArayaNa is done at the shrine regularly) and clears all doubts of the devotees related to shrIvidyA or mantra/yoga shAstras, if the devotee stays on the hill for a night. Sri Kalyanananda Bharati Swamigal of Virupaksha Peetham has confirmed this leela of Amba. Also, a small idol of lakShmI gaNapati situated on the left of Devi is known to bless devotees by granting boons.
It is described in skAnda that Brahma performed shatAshvamedha and penance to please Shiva and Mahadeva blessed him and appeared to him in the form of a swayambhU linga. Brahma worshipped this linga with jasmine flowers (mallikA) and the Lord came to be known as mallikEshwara and later as malleshwara. This linga disappeared in Kali Yuga. Adi Shankara decided that it was not auspicious to leave durgA alone without Mahadeva and established a linga to the north of Kanakadurga temple and named it mallikeshwara. He also arranged for the utasava vigraha of Amba to be taken to Mallikeshwara and Kalyanotsava performed every year on chaitra shuddha pournami with panchAhnika dIkShA.
It is on Indrakiladri that Arjuna performed a penance to please Shiva in order to obtain pAshupatAstra. Shiva appeared as kirAta mUrti or AraNyaka Ishwara along with Amba as kirAta durgA or araNya durgA to Arjuna and granted his desire. Arjuna established a linga named vijayeshwara (Vijaya is one of the epithets of Arjuna) to the south of Amba's temple. The city thereafter came to be known as vijayavATikA and later as Vijayawada. It should be noted that there are two kinds of pAshupata – laghu pAshupata related to rudra (granted to Arjuna) and mahApAshupata related to sadAshiva – the two of the pancha brahmas and hence both these are referred to as Brahmastras. Arjuna, acknowledging the fact that it was solely due to Amba's grace that he obtained the astra, worshipped her as brahmAstreshwarI. Sri Yajnanarayana Shastrigal, a renowed upAsaka from Andra desha once mentioned that Indrakiladri was the best place to perform purashcrana for Bagalamukhi and her astra saptaka – also called Brahmastra.
A ruler named Pratapa rudra visited the shrine and was pained to see Vamachara puja with liquor and nara bali practiced and wanted to resurrect the original code of worship established by Adi Shankara. But the priests of the region expressed their incapability in stopping such worship. Then, Sri Umapati Chalapati Shastri, the priest of Durga Nageshwara Swami in Kallepalli – a pUrNa dIKshita, arrived according to divine orders, established a shanthi yantra and re-established the Dakshinachara method of worship. This is documented in the Mecanjee collections gazette in Madras Oriental library. Pleased with his upAsana, Amba granted a part of her right arm to umApati and asked him to worship the same. According to her instructions, he performed a special paste with sanjivakarini rites and applied it to the idol to make it complete once again. To this day, the descendents of umApati shAstri (tripurasundara shAstri, nAgabhushaNa shastri, venkataratnam) worship the right arm (bAhushakala) of Amba along with their archA murtis.
Sri Vidyashankara, another illustrious Acharya of Sri Dakshinamnaya Sringeri Sharada Peetham, known to be ever-living in the state of Khecharatva, visited the shrine, and praised Amba with beautiful hymns, known as KanakadurgAnandalahari. Here are a few shlokas from this magnificent hymn:
shive sevAsaktA shritabharaNakAryaikachature
shirobhirvedAnAM chiravinutakalyANacharite |
jaganmAtarmAtarjaya kanakadurge bhagavati || 1 ||
jaganmAtarmAtarjaya kanakadurge bhagavati || 2 ||
stuvadbhiH sAnandaM shrutimadhuravAchAM virachanaiH |
asaMkhyairbrahmAdyaiH amarasamudAyaiH parivR^ite
dayA kartavyA te mayi kanakadurge bhagavati || 3 ||
bhavatpAdanyAsochita kanakapIThI parisare
patantaH sAShTA~NgaM muditahR^idayA brahmaR^iShayaH |
na vA~nChanti swargaM na cha kamalasaMbhUtabhavanam
na vA muktermArgaM nanu kanakadurge bhagavati || 4 ||
sasa~NgItaM nIrAjita charaNapa~Nkeruhayuge
kR^ipApUraM mahyaM disha kanakadurge bhagavati || 5 ||