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Thursday, December 2, 2021

Maha Shakti Peetha Kamakhya Mandir, Guwahati

The Kamakhya Temple is a Sakta temple dedicated to Devi Kamakhya. It is one of the Maha Shakti Pithas (18 in number also known as ashta dasha Shakti Pithas)

Situated on the Nilachal Hill in western part of Guwahati city in Assam, Bharat, it is the main temple in a complex of individual temples that represent the ten Mahavidyas of Saktism, namely, Kali, Tara, Tripura Sundari, Bhuvaneshawari, Bhairavi, Chhinnamasta, Dhumavati, Bagalamukhi, Matangi and Kamalatmika.

Among these, Tripurasundari, Matangi and Kamala reside inside the main temple whereas the other seven reside in individual temples. It is an important pilgrimage destination for Hindus and especially for tantric worshipers.

The current structural temple and the rock-cut sculpture strewn in the vicinity indicate that the temple has been built and renovated many times starting from 8th century. The temple consists of four chambers: garbhagriha and mandapas  locally called calanta, pancharatna and natamandira aligned from east to west.

The temple is believed to be the place where the womb of the goddess fell when Bhagwan Vishnu sliced the dead body of Bhagwan Shiva’s consort Sati with Sudarshan Chakra into pieces. Thus, it is also synonymous with supreme female power and fertility. The place where the Kamakhya temple stands today is also considered to be the place where Shiva first courted Sati.

The inner sanctum within the shikhara, the garbhagriha, is below ground level and consists of no image but a rock fissure in the shape of a yoni (womb). This hollow is constantly filled with water from an underground perennial spring. It is the vulva-shaped depression that is worshiped as the goddess Kamakhya herself and considered as most important pitha  (abode) of the Devi.

Historians have suggested that the Kamakhya temple is an ancient sacrificial site for an Austroasiatic (south east Asia) tribal goddess, Kameikha of the Khasi and Garo peoples; supported by the folklores of these people. Kalika Purana (10th century) and the Yogini Tantra too mention that Devi Kamakhya is of Kirata (i.e., Himalayas and North East) origin, and that the worship of Kamakhya predates the establishment of Kamarupa (4th century). 

The first epigraphic notice of Kamakhya is found in the 9th-century Tezpur plates of Vanamalavarmadeva of the  Mlechchha dynasty. Since the archaeological evidence too points to a massive 8th-9th century temple, it can be assumed that the earliest temple was constructed during the Mlechchha dynasty.

The later Palas of Kamarupa kings, from Indra Pala to Dharma Pala, were followers of the Tantrik tenet and about that period Kamakhya had become an important seat of Tantrikism. Mystic Buddhism, known as Vajrayana and popularly called the “Sahajia cult”, too rose in prominence in Kamarupa in the tenth century. 

It is believed that the temple was destroyed during Hussein Shah‘s invasion of the Kamata kingdom (1498). The ruins of the temple was said to have been discovered by Vishwasingha (1515–1540), the founder of the Koch dynasty, who revived worship at the site; but it was during the reign of his son, Nara Narayan (1540–1587), that the temple reconstruction was completed in 1565.

According to historical records and epigraphic evidence, the main temple was built under the supervision of  Shukladhwaja popularly known as Bir Chilarai, younger brother of Nara Narayan.

The Shikhara of the temple reconstructed using brick masonry by Meghamukdam, a Koch artisan’s innovation— a hemispherical shikhara over a ratha base—became its own style, called Nilachal-type, and became popular with the Ahoms (late medieval kingdom in Brahmaputra valley in Assam).  The Ahoms under King Jayadhvaj Singha had conquered the Kamrup and after the Battle of Itakhuli (1681) the Ahoms had uninterrupted control over the temple. The kings, who were supporters of Shaivite or Shakta continued to support the temple by rebuilding and renovating it. 

Being the centre for Tantra worship this temple attracts thousands of tantra devotees in an annual festival known as the Ambubachi Mela celebrated in the month of June. Another annual celebration is the Manasha Puja (on Naga Panchami in July-August)Durga Puja is also celebrated annually at Kamakhya during Navaratri in the autumn. 

It may be mentioned that worshipping the womb is a religious belief across nations. The symbol of the yoni is also regarded as a source of ‘potent magical influence’ in Japan. In a small cave near Yeddo in Japan, there is a huge sculpture of the yoni which is still worshipped.

According to the oral tradition, as well as the Vishnu Purana and Kalika Purana, it was Naraka who initiated the worship of Devi Kamakhya who dwelt on the Nilachal hill in Assam and built the original Kamakhya Temple. The Puranas depict Naraka as the son of Varaha Vishnu (the Boar incarnation of the Bhagwan Vishnu) and Bhumidevi (Mother Earth). 

According to the Brihaddharma Purana, when Uma (Sati) wanted to attend her father Daksha’s yajna (sacrifice) and Shiva forbade her, the ten different forms, the Dasamahavidya, came out of the third eye of Sati finally making Shiva granting consent. These different forms of the Mother Goddess, namely Kali, Tara, Mahavidya, Sodasi, Bhubanesvari, Bhairavi, Chinnamasta, Sundari, Bagalamukhi and Dhumavati are enshrined in different temples dedicated to her on the Nilachal. They contain no image and are known as Sakti peethas. The object of worship consist of a stone each moistened by a natural spring.

How to reach?– Guwahati city, capital of Assam is well connected by air, road and train routes. 

Reference- 

  1. https://directortourism.assam.gov.in/frontimpotentdata/ambubachi-festival
  2. http://www.kamakhyatourism.com/kamakhya.html

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Dr. B.N.V. Parthasarathi
Ex- Senior Banker, Financial and Management Consultant and Visiting faculty at premier B Schools and Universities. Areas of Specialization & Teaching interests - Banking, Finance, Entrepreneurship, Economics, Global Business & Behavioural Sciences. Qualification- M.Com., M.B.A., A.I.I.B.F., PhD. Experience- 25 years of banking and 14 years of teaching, research and consulting. 100 plus national and international publications on various topics like- banking, global trade, economy, public finance, public policy and spirituality. One book in English “In Search of Eternal Truth”, two books in Telugu and 20 short stories and 27 articles published in Telugu. Email id: [email protected]

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