temple of Kamakhya is situated on a hill three miles from Guwahati, the
headquarters of the Kamrup District. It is about eight hundred feet above
sea level. There is a small township on the hillock consisting of some 200
families who are mostly connected with the temple. It has certain modern
facilities too such as a Post Office and certain educational institutions
upto high school standard level.
The Legend Of Kamakhaya
The name of the hillock where the shrine stands is called "Nilachala" (blue mountain). This name is associated with legend, which is preserved in the Kalika Purana in the chapter on 'Daksa Yaina'. According to this source, when King Daksha, the father of Parvati (Sati), instituted a great sacrifice, he sent invitation to all his daughters and the gods and sages except his eldest daughter Parvati and Shiva, his son-in-law, as he disliked them.
This dislike was due to the fact that in spite of his opposition Parvati married Shiva, whose peculiar habits and quite irrelevant attitude were not favored by him. Parvati however, came to learn about the performance of the sacrifice through Narada. She further learnt from Narada that all her sisters with their husbands had gone there. She very much desired to see her parents as well as her sisters and also wanted to know from her father what made him 'adopt such a negligent attitude towards her and her husband.
Therefore, with the permission of her husband, Parvati journeyed to her father's place uninvited. But to her utter dismay she found her father not a bit happy at her arrival. This was naturally discouraging to Parvati, who was further mortified to find that no necessary arrangement was made for the reception of Shiva although great care was taken to assign places of honour to all other gods. When she asked her father why Shiva was so much neglected by him, Daksha, without making secret of his displeasure started abusing Shiva.
Parvati could not bear to hear the insults and took her seat on the ground, closed her eyes, and reduced her body to ashes by the yogic fire produced internally by abstract meditation on Shiva.
Shiva, overcome by grief, destroyed Daksha's sacrifice and wandered hither and thither in frantic sorrow carrying her dead body on his head. Brahma and other gods grew alarmed and approached Vishnu to put a stop to Shiva's penance and save the world from destruction. Brahma, Vishnu and Shani then conspired to deprive Shiva of his wife's body and free him from infatuation. These three gods, thereupon, entered into the dead body of Sati and disposed of it limb by limb.
The Sacred Pithas
The places where pieces of Sati's body fell are said to have become 'Pithas' i.e., sacred places for worship of the goddess in her different forms and as much of the eastern land as was covered by wandering Shiva with Sati's body on his shoulder should be regarded as sacrificial land or "Yajnodaka Desah". The early Puranas and the Tantras, how ever, make mention only of the four important Pithas (catus pitha), which are:
(i) Odra, seat of Goddess Katyayani and Jagannatha, in the west.
(ii) Jala Saila, seat of the Goddess Chandi and God Mahadeva, in the north.
(iii) Purna or Purnasaila (Purnagiri), seat of Goddess Purnesvari and God Mahanatha, in the south
(iv) Kamarupa, seat of Kamesvari and Kamesvara, in the east.
Having a stronghold of Goddess Shakti (Mahakali) Kamakhya became the centre of Tantra cultism. The original temple was installed by the king of Giant's 'Narakasur' was destroyed by 'Kalapahar' in 1553 led to the building of a new temple in 1665 by the King of Coochbihar Naranarayan.
Layout Of The Temple
The vertex of the temple is oval shaped like beehive-having 7 spires, 3 golden pitchers on blossoming lotus, upon that a golden trident. The temple is beautifully decorated and ornamented with gods & goddesses of Hindu Purana being depicted there on the temple wall. Even Lord Shiva in beard & whiskers is depicted in the temple.
The temple represents old Ahom sculpture. Goddess Kamakhya made of an alloy of 8 metals is seated on a throne made of five jewels (Panchratna), and is being worshipped in the other forms of Goddess 'Durga', 'Kali', 'Tara', 'Kamala', 'Uma', and 'Chamunda' also. The Goddess is very potent.
Kamakhya is one of the 51 pithas. The vaginal form of sati severed by Vishnu-wheel was dropped here. A flight of steps leads into the dim lit interior where Devi Kamakhya is seated. The 'Devi Kunda' or the interior of the temple is in excess of water level overflowing out of the breach made of holy vaginal-pulpit.
The Ambubachi Festival Rituals
In the period of Ambubachi the Goddess has the period of menses. The colour of the water also becomes red. Drinking the water acts like a cure-all medicine. The divinity and nobility of the bloodstained cloths of Devi is unending. Highest festival is performed on the eve of Ambubachi. One can view the goddess or the vaginal form of Devi covered on red cloth in candlelight. The sacrifice of buffalo is customarily a part of the grand festival.
Pilgrims gather from all over India and tourists crowd the festival. However, in the period of Ambubachi, the temple remains closed for 3 consecutive days. A marriage festival on the occasion of Devi's marriage with Lord Kameswar is called "Paus-Bia". The Spring festival in spring season and such other festivals are celebrated round the year in Kamakhya.
This temple is pervaded with scores of prejudices, horrors, thrills and mysteries. Legend says man becomes sheepish at the Devi Kamakhya hill. Devis anger might deprive one of one's line of descent. Again, the blessing of Devi may help a barren woman to bear child.
The temple remains open from 8.00 am to sunset, except for 2 hours at noon. In the front premises of the temple, there is a pool namely, "Sauvagya Kunda" and other temples of "Dasamahavidya", "Siddheswar" and "Kameswar" are located around the main temple of Devi Kamakhya.
HOW TO GET THERE
Road: A fine road, which can be used for light vehicular traffic and the stone pathway, connect the foot of the hill with the top. Buses ply every 10 or 15 minutes from Guwahati to the foot of the hill from where one can go to the top by taxis that are readily available at the bus stop.