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Travelogue Assam - Religious Site - Kamakhya Temple Location & Getting there - Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport of Guwahati, Popular Legends

 

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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.

The 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.

Temple Location

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 visible.

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 now.

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 eternally.

Contributed By: Debarati Bhattacharya an Advertising Professional with experience in writing. bhattacharya.debarati@gmail.com

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