Kamakhya Temple: Myth and Faith
Guwahati, Assam India
Assam..... The land
of exquisite flowers, rare animals, the lush green plains, dense forests
and a beleaguered people who are proud and inviting. Obviously, the land
of the mighty Brahmaputra and the gateway to the north eastern states of
India. This mystic land of eternal blue hills and beautiful rivers is
renowned for its tea, rich flora and fauna, the world famous one horned
rhinoceros and other rare species of wildlife.
When we reached Guwahati, it was already raining for the last two days.
Seeing the ease among people even after the rash landing on the slippery
runway of Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport of Guwahati,
we understood monsoon is always welcome in this part of India. The
monsoons are Assam's life blood; creating a bio-diversity that can compete
with the equatorial rain-forests and painting the region with a thousand
shades of green.
Among us there is confusion about Guwahati being the capital of Assam.
Actually Guwahati, known in ancient time as Pragjyotishpura or The
Eastern City of Light, was the capital of Kamrup. We find frequent
mention of Kamrup and its capital Pragjyotishpura in the Great Hindu Epic
Mahabharata and other Sanskrit volumes and historical lores.
In 1972, the capital of Assam was shifted to Dispur. Though Assam
is the land of blue hills and green valleys, and picturesque Brahmaputra
but we are here to explore the century old faith and the myth associated
with Mother Goddess Kamakhya.
Kamakhya Temple, Assam
The Kamakhya Temple is
one of the most venerated Shakti shrines in India, and is regarded as
one of the 108 Shakti Peethas. This temple honours the Mother Goddess
Kamakhya, the essence of female energy.
As per the legends, during
the time of self-sacrifice, the genital organ (yoni) of Sati fell at this
spot. Assam traditionally known as the Kamarupa Desa and has been
associated with Tantric practices and Shakti worship from time immemorial.
In Kalika Purana (an ancient scripture), Kamakhya is referred as the
goddess who fulfills all desires, the bride of Lord Shiva and the
benefactor of salvation.
But the word Kamakhya, means the granter of desires. The temple had
been an ancient Khasi sacrificial site and till date, sacrifices are very
much part of worship here. Every morning, group of devotees come with
goats to offer to Shakti.
Kamakhya is located in Neelachala Parvat or Kamagiri 8km away from
Guwahati. The Kamakhya Temple has a beehive like shikhara. Goddess
Kamakhya is also known as Sodashi in the local region. The temple is a
natural cave with a spring. In order to reach the temple, we have to
take a flight of steps that goes down to the bowel of earth into a dark
and mysterious chamber. There is no image of Shakti here. Better to say
there is no concrete form of goddess inside the temple. In the shrine,
Kamakhya Devi, in the form of (yoni), presides as a big crevice in the
bedrock. The Goddess is covered naturally by a rivulet of water gushing
upward from an underground spring. The crevice is usually covered with
sari, flowers and vermilion powder (Sindoor).
Besides Kamakhya Devi,
there are images of Ganesha, Chamundeswari and various dancing sculptures.
Inside the temple, an image of the King and related inscriptions are very
Popular Legends Associated With Kamakhya Temple
Most popular legends
say - when Parvati's father King Daksha organised a yagna, he
did not invite his daughter and son-in-law to participate in it.
Parvati, who was angry at this treatment of her father, went to
her father's place to ask the reason for it. Daksha insulted Parvati
again by calling Shiva poor and wild. Being the ideal consort of
Shiva, Parvati could not bear the fact that her husband was being
insulted in front of the guests. She immediately jumped into the
yagna fire out of shame and anger and killed herself. Knowing this,
Lord Shiva, became very angry and came to Daksha's palace. On seeing
the dead body of his wife, he was so enraged that, he lifted the
body on his shoulder and started dancing the tandav (the dance
of destruction). The dance continued for several days and the
earth was on the brink of being destroyed.
Then, on the appeal of all the other gods and goddesses, Lord Vishnu with
the help of his chakra, started cutting Goddess Parvati's body. It is said
that the parts of Parvati's body fell at different parts of the country,
which are all considered centers of power or Shakti peeth. The
reproductive organ of Goddess Parvati is said to have fallen atop the
Neelachal hill in Guwahati and that is where the Kamakhya temple stands
Another legend says that the demon Narakasura fell in love with
Goddess Kamakhya once and he wanted to marry her. But as a goddess cannot
marry a demon or asura, Goddess Kamakhya played a trick to save herself.
She laid a condition that she would marry him only if he builds a temple
for her within one night. Narakasura agreed to it and almost finished
building the temple overnight. This scared Goddess Kamakhya and before the
final steps of the temple were completed, a cock was sent to cry
cock-a-doodle-do to announce the arrival of the morning, before it was
actually dawn. This made Narakasura very angry and he killed the cock on
that spot. But according to the condition Narakasura couldn't marry
Goddess Kamakhya after that. It is said that the present Kamakhya
temple is the same that Narakasura had made for the Goddess.
Even according to some other the supreme creative power of Bhrahma was
challenged by Shakti, the mother Goddess, and that Bhrahma could
thereafter create, only with the blessings of the Yoni, as the sole
creative principle. After much penance, Bhrahma brought down a luminous
body of light from heaven and placed it within the Yoni circle, which was
created by the Goddess and placed at Kamarupa Kamakhya in Guwahati.
The temple was rebuilt in 1665, after being destroyed by Muslim invaders.
The temple was restructured by King Nar Narayan of Cooch, Bihar. The exact
date of the original temple is not known but is one of the ancient temples
of India. Even many believes it to be a Non Aryan temple.
A unique festival observed here is the Ambubasi or Ambubachi or the
fertility festival. It is believed to be inauspicious to till the ground
or to plant seeds, during this period. It is believed that, the Goddess or
the mother Earth undergoes her menstrual period during this period. At
that time the temple is closed for three days and opened with great
festivity on the fourth day. Before the door of the temple is closed white
sheets are draped inside the temple. We were lucky to be present here on
the day of door opening ceremony and be the part of bonhomie.
On the fourth day, when the temple is opened, the sheets are found red in
color. The faith we have traveled so far to be a part of. Devotees from
far and near, come to visit the temple at this juncture of the festival.
The red sheets are torn into pieces and distributed amongst the devotees.
We were amongst those devotees. Here, logical brain and belief and science
and religion camouflage in one flow.
Here, Durga Puja is also celebrated annually during Navaratri
in the month of September- October. Other temples on the Neelachala
hill include Tara, Bhairavi, Bhuvaneswari and Ghantakarna. We are
moving toward the Bhuvaneswari temple situated atop of Kamakhya
temple. From here one can have a bird's eye view of the Guwahati.
Reaching There - Transportation
As the temple is located at Guwahati, so reaching Kamakhya Temple
by air is not a problem. Guwahati has it own airport. Guwahati
has it own railway station. It is well-connected to all the parts
of the country. Accommodation is also not a problem in Guwahtai.
One can find all categories of accommodation here. The accommodations
here range from luxury to budget. Assam - the enchanting Sangrila
in the North East of India, is a mixing pot where culture, heritage,
tradition, lifestyle, faith and belief of Aryan & Non-Aryan,
numerous tribes & sub-tribes, drawn from various hives at different
points of time have gone into form the Assamese culture - a fascinating
and exotic recipe of delightful flavour. The culture of Assam
is a rich tapestry infused with multicoloured yarns of distinguished
heritage of all the races that populate her. The picturesque
blue hills and green valleys will remain embedded in our memory
Contributed By: Debarati Bhattacharya
an Advertising Professional with experience in writing.
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