One of the most important centres of Tantric Hinduism, Tarapith is easily visited on a day-trip and features in William Dalrymple’s recent book Nine Lives. The temple and the cremation ground, in a grove beside the river littered with shrines 50km north of Shantiniketan, are popular with Tantric sadhus, and it’s not uncommon to witness rituals involving skulls and cremation ashes. The temple, in a perpetually busy courtyard, is dedicated to the mysterious and feared goddess Tara, who appears here with a silver face and large eyes. The lanes leading to the temple are a hive of activity where pilgrims procure offerings and liaise with temple priests (panda) to officiate in deeply personal ceremonies.

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