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Kamakhya Temple

Kamakhya Temple

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The Kamakhya Temple is a Shakti Peeth temple situated on the Nilachal Hill in western part of Guwahati
Guwahati
Guwahati, Pragjyotishpura in ancient Assam formerly known as Gauhati is a metropolis,the largest city of Assam in India and ancient urban area in North East India, with a population of 963,429. It is also the largest metropolitan area in north-eastern India...

 city in Assam
Assam
Assam , also, rarely, Assam Valley and formerly the Assam Province , is a northeastern state of India and is one of the most culturally and geographically distinct regions of the country...

, India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

. It is the main temple in a complex of individual temples dedicated to different forms of the mother goddess as the Dasa Mahavidya
Mahavidya
Mahavidyas or DashaMahavidyas are a group of ten aspects of the Divine Mother or Devi in Hinduism. The Ten Mahavidyas are Wisdom Goddesses, who represent a spectrum of feminine divinity, from horrific goddesses at one end, to the ravishingly beautiful at the other.The development of Mahvidyas...

, including Bhuvaneshvari, Bagalamukhi
Bagalamukhi
Bagalamukhi or Bagala ,, is one of the ten mahavidyas in Hinduism. Bagalamukhi Devi smashes the devotee's misconceptions and delusions with her cudgel...

, Chinnamasta, Tripura Sundari
Tripura Sundari
Tripurasundarĩ or Mahã-Tripurasundarĩ , also called Śoḍaṣĩ , Lalitã and Rãjarãjeśvarĩ , is one of the group of ten goddesses of Hindu belief, collectively called Mahavidyas.As Shodashi,...

and Tara
Tara (Devi)
In Hinduism, the goddess Tara meaning "star" is the second of the Dasa Mahavidyas or "Great Wisdom [goddesses]", Tantric manifestations of Mahadevi, Kali, or Parvati...

. It is an important pilgrimage destination for general Hindu and Tantric
Tantra
Tantra , anglicised tantricism or tantrism or tantram, is the name scholars give to an inter-religious spiritual movement that arose in medieval India, expressed in scriptures ....

 worshipers.

Description


The current temple structure was constructed in 1565 by Chilarai
Chilarai
Shukladhwaj , or more popularly Chilarai , was the younger brother of Nara Narayana, the king of the Kamata kingdom in the 16th century. He was Nara Narayana's commander-in-chief, and he got his name Chilarai because his movement as a general was as fast as a chila .Chilarai is known to have...

 of the Koch dynasty
Koch dynasty
The Koch dynasty of Assam and Bengal, named after the Koch tribe, emerged as the dominant ruling house in the Kamata kingdom in 1515 after the fall of the Khen dynasty in 1498...

 in the style of medieval temples. The form of the earlier structure, destroyed by the Kala Pahar, is unknown. The current structure has a beehive
Beehive
A beehive is a structure in which bees live and raise their young.Beehive may also refer to:Buildings and locations:* Bee Hive, Alabama, a neighborhood in Alabama* Beehive , a wing of the New Zealand Parliament Buildings...

-like shikhara with delightful sculptured panels and images of Ganesha
Ganesha
Ganesha , also spelled Ganesa or Ganesh, also known as Ganapati , Vinayaka , and Pillaiyar , is one of the deities best-known and most widely worshipped in the Hindu pantheon. His image is found throughout India and Nepal. Hindu sects worship him regardless of affiliations...

 and other Hindu
Hindu
Hindu refers to an identity associated with the philosophical, religious and cultural systems that are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. As used in the Constitution of India, the word "Hindu" is also attributed to all persons professing any Indian religion...

 gods and goddesses on the outside. The temple consists of three major chambers. The western chamber is large and rectangular and is not used by the general 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 sanctorum
Sanctum sanctorum
The Latin phrase sanctum sanctorum is a Latin translation of the biblical term: "Holy of Holies" which generally refers in Latin texts to the Holiest place of the Tabernacle of Ancient Israel and later the Temples in Jerusalem, but also has some derivative use in application to imitations of the...

of the temple in the form of a cave, which consists of no image but a natural underground spring that flows through a yoni
Yoni
Yoni is the Sanskrit word for the vagina. Its counterpart is the lingam as interpreted by some, the phallus.It is also the divine passage, womb or sacred temple...

-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 runs red with iron oxide resembling menstrual fluid.

It is likely that this is an ancient Khasi sacrificial site, and worshiping here still includes sacrifices. Devotees come every morning with goats to offer to Shakti
Shakti
Shakti from Sanskrit shak - "to be able," meaning sacred force or empowerment, is the primordial cosmic energy and represents the dynamic forces that are thought to move through the entire universe in Hinduism. Shakti is the concept, or personification, of divine feminine creative power, sometimes...

.

The Kalika Purana, an ancient work in Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

 describes Kamakhya
Kamakhya
Kamakhya is an important Tantric mother goddess closely identified with Kali and Maha Tripura Sundari, according to the Tantric texts that are the basis for her worship at the Kamakhya temple, a 16th century temple in the Kamrup district of Assam...

 as the yielder of all desires, the young bride of Shiva
Shiva
Shiva is a major Hindu deity, and is the destroyer god or transformer among the Trimurti, the Hindu Trinity of the primary aspects of the divine. God Shiva is a yogi who has notice of everything that happens in the world and is the main aspect of life. Yet one with great power lives a life of a...

, and the giver of salvation.Shakti
Shakti
Shakti from Sanskrit shak - "to be able," meaning sacred force or empowerment, is the primordial cosmic energy and represents the dynamic forces that are thought to move through the entire universe in Hinduism. Shakti is the concept, or personification, of divine feminine creative power, sometimes...

 is known as Kamakhya
Kamakhya
Kamakhya is an important Tantric mother goddess closely identified with Kali and Maha Tripura Sundari, according to the Tantric texts that are the basis for her worship at the Kamakhya temple, a 16th century temple in the Kamrup district of Assam...

.

Kamakhya Temple in Himachal Pradesh.

The Kamakhya temple
Kamakhya Temple
The Kamakhya Temple is a Shakti Peeth temple situated on the Nilachal Hill in western part of Guwahati city in Assam, India. It is the main temple in a complex of individual temples dedicated to different forms of the mother goddess as the Dasa Mahavidya, including Bhuvaneshvari, Bagalamukhi,...

 in the forest region of Polian Purohitan in Una District of Himachal State is situated at about 600 mt above sea level. The Pindi,was brought over by the Rajpurohits of Brahaminical - Aryan
Aryan
Aryan is an English language loanword derived from Sanskrit ārya and denoting variously*In scholarly usage:**Indo-Iranian languages *in dated usage:**the Indo-European languages more generally and their speakers...

 descent of the sage Vatsayan some 800 years ago after the invasion of the Shans in 1200C, with the destruction of the tantric ritual
Ritual
A ritual is a set of actions, performed mainly for their symbolic value. It may be prescribed by a religion or by the traditions of a community. The term usually excludes actions which are arbitrarily chosen by the performers....

 site. The worshippers escaped in mass migration from the Khasi
Khasi Hills
The Khasi Hills are part of the Garo-Khasi range in the Indian state of Meghalaya, and is part of the Patkai range and of the Meghalaya subtropical forests ecoregion...

  hill
Hill
A hill is a landform that extends above the surrounding terrain. Hills often have a distinct summit, although in areas with scarp/dip topography a hill may refer to a particular section of flat terrain without a massive summit A hill is a landform that extends above the surrounding terrain. Hills...

 region of Assam
Assam
Assam , also, rarely, Assam Valley and formerly the Assam Province , is a northeastern state of India and is one of the most culturally and geographically distinct regions of the country...

 ,via the Tibet
Tibet
Tibet is a plateau region in Asia, north-east of the Himalayas. It is the traditional homeland of the Tibetan people as well as some other ethnic groups such as Monpas, Qiang, and Lhobas, and is now also inhabited by considerable numbers of Han and Hui people...

 Himalaya silk route  and the kuldevi of the Rajpurohits was sanctified at an isolated forest hill in Polian Purohitan.

Worship


The Kamakhya Temple in Assam symbolizes the "fusion of faiths and practices" of Aryan and non-Aryan elements in Assam. The different names associated with the goddess are names of local Aryan and non-Aryan goddesses (Kakati 1989, p38). The Yogini Tantra
Yogini Tantra
Yogini Tantra is a voluminous Tantra that is especially important in the vamachara form of tantric worship. It is dedicated to the worship of Kali and Kamakhya. The work was composed in Assam, and generally contains some historical information....

 mentions that the religion of the Yogini Pitha is of Kirata
Kirata
The Kirāta is a generic term in Sanskrit literature for people who lived in the mountains, particularly in the Himalayas and North-East India and who are postulated to have been Mongoloid in origin. It has been theorized that the word Kirata- or Kirati- means people with lion nature. It is derived...

 origin. According to Banikanta Kakati, there existed a tradition among the priests established by Naranarayana that the Garo
Garo
-Garo People and languages :* Garo , a tribe in India and Bangladesh.* Bodo-Garo languages, a small family of Tibeto-Burman languages spoken in eastern India,** Garo language, the language spoken by the Garo tribe...

s, a matrilineal people, offered worship at the Kamakhya site by sacrificing pigs (Kakati 1989, p37).

The goddess is worshiped according to both the Vamachara
Vamachara
Vāmācāra is a Sanskrit term meaning "left-handed attainment" and is synonymous with "Left-Hand Path". It is used to describe a particular mode of worship or sadhana that is not only "heterodox" to standard Vedic injunction, but extreme in comparison to the status quo.These practices are often...

 (Left-Hand Path) as well as the Dakshinachara
Dakshinachara
The term Dakshinachara is a technical term used to refer to Tantric sects that do not engage in heterodox practices. In contrast, Vamachara is used to describe particular tantric practices that are considered heterodox according to usual Hindu social norms.-Etymology:N. N...

 (Right-Hand Path) modes of worship (Kakati, 1989 p45). Offerings to the goddess are usually flowers, but might include animal sacrifices. In general female animals are exempt from sacrifice, a rule that is relaxed during mass sacrifices (Kakati 1989, p65).

Legends


According to the Kalika Purana, Kamakhya Temple denotes the spot where Sati
Dakshayani
Dākshāyani or Satī is a Hindu Goddess of marital felicity and longevity. She is worshipped particularly by Hindu women to seek the long life of their husbands...

 used to retire in secret to satisfy her amour with Shiva
Shiva
Shiva is a major Hindu deity, and is the destroyer god or transformer among the Trimurti, the Hindu Trinity of the primary aspects of the divine. God Shiva is a yogi who has notice of everything that happens in the world and is the main aspect of life. Yet one with great power lives a life of a...

, and it was also the place where her yoni fell after Shiva danced with the corpse of Sati. This 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
Kali
' , also known as ' , is the Hindu goddess associated with power, shakti. The name Kali comes from kāla, which means black, time, death, lord of death, Shiva. Kali means "the black one". Since Shiva is called Kāla - the eternal time, Kālī, his consort, also means "Time" or "Death" . Hence, Kāli is...

 and emphasizes the creative symbolism of the yoni.

Kamakhya during Ahom era


According to a legend the Koch Bihar
Koch Bihar
Koch Bihar was a small kingdom located south of the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, west of the upper Brahmaputra valley Ahom kingdom, and north-east of the Ganges plain and Bengal. It was formed when the Kamata Kingdom under the Koch dynasty split following the death of Nara Narayan in 1586. The...

 royal family was banned by Devi
Devi
Devī is the Sanskrit word for Goddess, used mostly in Hinduism, its related masculine term is deva. Devi is synonymous with Shakti, the female aspect of the divine, as conceptualized by the Shakta tradition of Hinduism. She is the female counterpart without whom the male aspect, which represents...

 herself from offering puja at the temple. In fear of this curse, to this day no descendants of that family dares to even look upward towards the Kamakhya hill while passing by.

Without the support of the Koch royal family the temple faced lot of hardship. By the end of 1658, the Ahoms under king Jayadhvaj Singha had conquered the Lower Assam and their interests in the temple grew. In the decades that followed the Ahom kings, all who were either devout Shaivite or Shakta continued to support the temple by rebuilding and renovating it.

Rudra Singha (reign 1696 to 1714) was a devout Hindu and as he grew older he decided to formally embrace the religion and become an orthodox Hindu by being initiated or taking sharan of a Guru, who would teach him the mantras and become his spiritual guide. But, he could not bear the thought of humbling himself in front a Brahmin who is his subject. He therefore sent envoys to Bengal
Bengal
Bengal is a historical and geographical region in the northeast region of the Indian Subcontinent at the apex of the Bay of Bengal. Today, it is mainly divided between the sovereign land of People's Republic of Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal, although some regions of the previous...

 and summoned Krishnaram Bhattacharyya, a famous mahant of Shakta sect who lived in Malipota, near Santipur in Nadia district
Nadia District
Nadia district is a district of the state of West Bengal, in the north east of India. It borders with Bangladesh to the east, North 24 Parganas and Hooghly districts to the south, Bardhaman district to the west, and Murshidabad district to the north....

. The mahant was unwilling to come, but consented on being promised to be given the care of the Kamakhya temple to him. Though the king did not take sharan, he satisfied the mahant by ordering his sons and the Brahmins in his entourage to accept him as their spiritual guru.

When Rudra Singha died, his eldest son Siba Singha
Siba Singha
Sutanphaa was a King in Assam in the early 18th Century.-The Reign:As per wish of Swargadeo Rudra Singha from his deathbed, he was succeeded by his eldest son Siba Singha ....

 (reign 1714 to 1744), who became the king, gave the management of the Kamakhya temple and along with it large areas of land (Debottar land) to Mahant Krishnaram Bhattacharyya. The Mahant and his successors came to be known as Parbatiya Gosains, as they resided on top of the Nilachal hill. Many Kamakhya priests and modern Saktas of Assam are either disciples or descendants of the Parbatiya Gosains, or of the Nati and Na Gosains.

Festivals


Being the centre for Tantra worship this temple attracts thousands of tantra devotees in an annual festival known as the Ambubachi Mela
Ambubachi Mela
The Ambubachi Mela is the most important mela celebrated in the Kamakhya Temple in Guwahati, Assam. This yearly mela is celebrated during the monsoon season that happens to fall during the assamese month Ahaar, around the middle of June, when the Brahmaputra river is in spate. It is the celebration...

. Another annual celebration is the Manasha
Manasa
Manasa is a Hindu folk goddess of snakes, worshipped mainly in Bengal and other parts of northeastern India, chiefly for the prevention and cure of snakebite and also for fertility and prosperity. Manasa is the sister of Vasuki, king of Nāgas and wife of sage Jagatkāru...

 Puja
. Durga Puja
Durga Puja
Durga puja ; দুর্গা পূজা,ଦୁର୍ଗା ପୂଜା,‘Worship of Durga’), also referred to as Durgotsava ; , is an annual Hindu festival in South Asia that celebrates worship of the Hindu goddess Durga. It refers to all the six days observed as Mahalaya, Shashthi, Maha Saptami, Maha Ashtami, Maha Navami and...

 is also celebrated annually at Kamakhya during Navaratri in the autumn. This five day festival attracts several thousand visitors.

External links