There are a number of towns and cities in India, which have derived their name from a temple the deity of which is commonly believed to be the presiding, deity of the place. The name Mumbai is derived from 'Mumba Devi while Patna, the, capital of Bihar, is named after Patan Devi whose temple is located at Gulzarbagh, an area of Patna. Arrah is the headquarters of Shahabad district.
The name Arrah is derived from the temple of Aranya Devi, which is located in the Chowk area. It is two miles from the railway station and about half a mile from the court buildings.
legends of this temple: -
Once Lord Krishna disguised as a hermit and Arjun as a lion went to King Mordhwaj at Arrah, who was renowned for his generosity. The hermit demanded human flesh for his lion saying that the lion did not eat animal flesh. The hermit (Lord Krishna) asked for the flesh of the king’s son. The king was puzzled and asked for the consent of his wife. His wife agreed. The hermit asked them to dissect the body of the boy with an arra (saw). This was done jointly by the king and the queen. The hermit demanded that they cook the flesh. The king and the queen obeyed him at once.
Now they were asked to eat the cooked flesh together with the hermit and the lion. This was also obeyed. The hermit asked the king to call the boy and partake of the meal. The kind said that the boy was killed and cooked. The hermit said, ‘No call the boy". The king called out the name of the boy. To their sheer amazement and joy, the boy appeared before them in a playful manner. Then Lord Krishna and Arjun gave their real identity and threw away the arra (saw) which was used in dissecting the body of the boy. The temple is said to have been erected by King Mordhwaj at the place where the saw fell.
The third legend regarding the temple is as follows: -
Like Harischandra, King Mordhwaj was also a great benefactor and charitable - minded. He was a very kind-hearted man -noble, gentle, loving, faithful, honest and simple. His name and fame spread all over India.
The fort of King Mordhwaj was a very big and spacious one covering the present Chowdhariana Mohalla, Jain school area and Devi Asthan sector.
But in spite of so much prosperity and gaiety, the king and the queen were not, happy at all because they had no son. And so with intense devotion they began praying to the goddess Durga to bless them with a soil. Finally the divine blessing did dawn upon them. The goddess appeared before the king in his dream and gave her blessing, and nine months after a son was born.
The royal boy was a prodigy and provided all the earthly pleasures to his parents. And so the years rolled away.
One night King Mordhwaj saw in his dream goddess Durga asking him to sacrifice his son before her altar. In the dream the divine mandate was that the imperial boy should be made to stand before the altar and the king and the queen, standing on either side of him, were to ply the saw from the boy's head downwards till his body was cut into two halves, with the blood falling before the altar and with no tears trickling down their eyes.
The second mythological version is that the area was covered with forest and the Ganga River was flowing near by and the people built a temple there, which was called 1he temple of Aranya Devi, i.e., goddess of the forest.The king took the dream seriously, conveyed it to his royal consort and both agreed to execute the mandate. And the royal prince also did not demur and was happy about the fulfillment of the divine wish. So the trial came.
The king and queen applied the saw (arra) on the head of the prince and, just as they were starting to ply the saw., the divine motherappeared physically before the scene of sacrifice, blessed the couple and the prince for their devotion to her and disappeared in the blue.It was in this way that the place, which was the scene of the sacrifice, came to be known as ARRAH, meaning, a saw. It is also believed that the king installed a temple at Arrah, which was called Aranya Devi temple
The temple faces the east. The dome of the temple is round. At the entrance of it there is a courtyard and there are two porticos or verandas to the west and north sides. In the west portico there are three bells. The weight of one bell is 25 seers and the other two are fifteen seers each. The portico of the west side is ten feet by eight feet. There are a Shiva linga and Nandi, a charity box (gupta dan peti) for secret offer by the visiting devotees and a well in the west portico.
To the west of the portico there is a space of about 3 feet by 3 feet for the priest and to the west of that place there is the singhasan (throne) of two Aranya Devis which are in the standing pose. The singhasan, of the goddesses is about ten feet high. The statues are of black stone. One statue is three feet high and the other is two feet high. It is said that both are sisters. They are attired in yellow sari with flower garlands and mukuts on their heads. The mukuts are made of paper.
On the left side of Aranya Devi that is on the north side of the temple there are the statues of Radha and Krishna. On their left side are the statues of Ram, Sita, Lakshmana, Bharata and Satrughna. The local businessmen in 1953 A.D installed these. All these statues are made of white stone (marble).
So far as the architecture is concerned, the whole temple has been reconstructed on modern lines. Marble and mosaic work is visible inside the temple. There is no authentic evidence to give us the exact date of the temple.
Regarding the routine of the rituals, the deity is daily bathed morning and evening and this is followed by offerings of prasad (fruits and sweatmeats etc.) and arti with reciting of hymns by the priest, accompanied with ringing of bells and drums
Aranya Devi is what is known as a Goddess of Sakama-bhakti. She is supposed to fulfill whatever desires are expressed before her by the devotee. This goddess being essentially a goddess of the masses, the number of such vows taken and gifts made or other acts performed in fulfillment of such vows is very great. And the forms are varied.
Devotees come here and ask for all sorts of things. Some are childless and pray to the goddess to be blessed with one. Others want money, still others desire a particular matrimonial alliance. All come and utter a vow before the goddess that if their desire is fulfilled, they would offer naivedya of bread and cooked sweetened gram. Some people bind themselves to make a pilgrimage to this kshetra (place) on some fixed days.Some carry jars filled with water and pour it on the image for a fixed number of days