Sunday, 13 January 2013

The Goddess who mensurates

This is one of the most famous temples of India and it has a long history of Tantric worship. It is also the only temple in India that remains closed for three days in an year when the Goddess here is supposed to go through her menstrual cycle.
When the temple reopens on the fourth day, there is a mad rush of devotees to obtain a small piece of moist clothe as prasad. This clothe is supposedly moist with the menstrual fluid of the Goddess and this is considered to be very powerful and auspicious.
This is the temple of Kamakhya in Guwahati, the capital of Assam and one of the best known temples of the north east and even in India.
The temple was built in first millennium during the time of Kamarupa Kingdom.  It was destroyed during the middle of second millennium. The temple was reconstructed in 1565 by Chilarai of the Koch dynasty.
The temple is situated on a hill and it consists of three major chambers. The western chamber is large and rectangular and it is not used by the pilgrims for worship. The middle chamber is a square, with a small idol of the Goddess, a later addition. The walls of this chamber contain sculpted images of Naranarayana, related inscriptions and other gods.
The middle chamber leads to the sanctum of the temple in the form of a cave, which consists of no image but a natural underground spring that flows through a yoni-shaped cleft in the bedrock. During the Ambuvaci festival each summer, the menstruation of the Goddess Kamakhya is celebrated. During this time, the water in the main shrine turns red with iron oxide resembling menstrual fluid.
Another unique practice here is that the goddess is worshiped according to both the Vamachara as well as the Dakshinachara modes of worship  Offerings to the goddess are usually flowers, but it also includes animal sacrifices. Devotees come to the temple in the morning with goats to sacrifice.
According to the Kalika Purana, the Kamakhya Temple denotes the spot where Sati used to retire in secret to satisfy her amour with Shiva, and it was also the place where her yoni fell after Shiva danced with the corpse of Sati.
However, this story is  not corroborated in the Devi Bhagavata, which lists 108 places associated with Sati's body, though Kamakhya finds a mention in a supplementary list. The Yogini Tantra, a latter work, ignores the origin of Kamakhya given in Kalika Purana and associates Kamakhya with the goddess Kali and emphasizes the creative symbolism of the yoni.
Ambubachi Mela, also called Ambubasi, is held during monsoon season. This meal is closely associated with the Tantric cult and it is also known as Kamkhya Devi Puja.
It is believed that Goddess Kamakhya goes through her menstrual cycle during these days and, therefore, the temple remains closed for three days. Ambubachi Mela is also known as Ameti or Tantric fertility festival and is a four-day mela (fair).
People in thousands wait outside the temple on the fourth day, when the temple will be opened. Sanyasins and Pandas from around the country assemble at the Kamakhya temple during this period.
Apart from the Kamakhya temple, it also comprises of some other major temples of Devi Kali, Tara, Bagala, Chinnamasta, Bhuvanesvari, Bhairavi and Dhumavati. There are also five temples of Shiva belonging to his different forms of Kameshwara, Siddeshwara,  Amarkoteshwara, Aghora and Kotilinga.
The temple complex also consists of three temples dedicated to Vishnu. They are Kedara or Kamaleswara, Galadhara and Pandunath.
The temple is in the city centre and, therefore, there is no problem of  connectivity. The temple is about 20 km from the airport and 6 km from the railway station.

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