It was a heavy lunch and we got talking about ghosts and premonitions. And the chat kept moving between people with special powers, places of worship and how people are exploited in the name of spirituality. Then a journalist friend talked about the Kamakhya temple in Assam.
Temples are laden with history, myths, legends and also superstition. Some things remain mysterious and it’s the mysterious which compels us to explore the world within. And this is true of Kamakhya too. It is among the 52 shakti peeths or power spots of the Devi. It is said the yoni of Sati fell here. Among the ooh, aahs and ‘tell me more’, conversation now moved to interesting things such as the festivals held there, the ritual of sacrifice and more.
While most take the traditional puja thali when visiting the Goddess’ abode, some offer a goat too to please her. But yoni means productivity, my friend went on to tell us. And that’s the reason people come there—for finding the right partner, for falling in love, for having a child, primarily for marital bliss.
The year through, the Goddess is felicitated on various occasions. While thousands throng during Navratri, it is the Ambubachi that attracts tantra worshippers. Ambubachi is the time when the Goddess goes under menstrual period. The temple remains closed for three days and on the fourth day her return is celebrated. The unique Prasad is a red moist cloth, soaked in the goddess’ menstrual blood.
Pohan Biya is the marriage between Lord Kamesvara and Kamesvari during pausa month (December-January). During phalguna month (February-March), Durgadeul is seen in Kamakhya. In chaitra (March-April), its Vasanti Puja. Special puja for Lord Kamadeva and Kamesvara in chaitra is called Madandeul. Manasa Pujais done on sankranti of sravana (July-August) and continues up to the second day of bhadra (August-September).
The goddess resides with the 10 mahavidyas in the temple complex in Nilachal Hill, Guwahati, Assam. The 10 mahavidyas are: Kali, Tara, Sodashi, Bhuvaneshwari, Bhairavi, Chhinnamasta, Dhumavati, Bagalamukhi, Matangi and Kamala. While Tripurasundari, Matangi and Kamala reside inside the main temple, individual temples of the other seven are outside.
The temple is considered an important one for tantrics and tantra worshippers. My friend had gory tales to share being a Bengali herself and a journalist. But those are all hearsay. The main inner sanctum or the garbhagriha as it called in the temple is below ground level. This small, dark space is reached by narrow stone steps. Deep down is a sheet of stone that slopes downwards from both sides, meeting in a yoni-like depression which is around 10 inches deep. An underground perennial spring fills this space with water constantly. This vulva-shaped depression is goddess Kamakhya.
The yoni is important part of the female body, as it signifies productivity. And devotees come from all over to ask for prosperity. The garbhagriha for the other goddesses is the same–below ground level and filled with water.
Tales of sacrifices, human in earlier times and late animals abound. Historians said it was an ancient Khasi sacrificial site
Meeting the Goddess
Legend of Kamakhya goes to the time when Sati jumped into the sacrificial fire and killed herself as her father, Daksh, did not invite her husband, Shiva, to a yagya. And then a sad Shiva went around the world with her corpse on his shoulder. Vishnu had to cut the body with his sudarshan chakras and the yoni fell here. As per the ancient scripture Kalika Purana Kamakhya is the yielder of all desires and giver of salvation. There are more legends connected to the goddess, but its best to hear those from the main priest.
So while the Goddess remains busy the year through bringing prosperity on earth, we got busy booking our flights to Guwahati.