A Travelogue :
KAMAKHYA TEMPLE :
I had heard about the famous Kamakha Devi Temple ( a very famous landmark of Guwahati city ) since my childhood days but for a long time had never got the opportunity to visit.
I was bit scared earlier too due to the stories that I had heard, so I used to avoid going there if any of my relatives visited. I had heard that, only if the Goddess wants you, do you get to visit and you cannot visit before your time or your call. And if you promise even once to visit and offer prayer to the goddess, then you must fulfill that promise in this lifetime. However, if you visit with a skeptical mind, then some misfortune might befall you on your journey to the temple. And there is supposedly a haunted hindu crematorium grounds near the temple, aptly named 'Bhootnath'. Later on of course I didn't care about these stories and infact did visit the place and it was a memorable experience which I enjoyed.
I was simply awed at the inner of the temple where you have to climb several steps down into the dark caves and offer prayers. Climbing those slippery, tiny steps could be hazardous though. The priest who conducted our prayers would chant his 'mantras' like a bullet train, so many times I got all the mantras wrong. Whether you are religious or not, Kamakhya temple is worth a visit if only to admire this ancient place and its unique architecture via the curvy road running to the top of the picturesque hill leading to its location.
There are many small shops that will greet you selling various religious/ritual items. We had several rounds of offering prayers, however, I do not remember any as it was too complicated for me. ( I'm bit agnostic too hence didn't pay much attention to the rituals, hope the goddess doesnt bestow her wrath on me )
The Kamakhya Temple ( one of the sacred Peethasthanas ) - had been built in admiration to Goddess Kamakhya or Sati, who was one of the numerous incarnations of Goddess Durga or Goddess Shakti. Kamakhya - the granter of desires. Assam traditionally has been known as the Kamarupa Desa and has been associated with Tantric practices and Shakti worship. The Kamakhya Temple in Assam is one of the most venerated Shakti shrines in India, and is regarded as one of the Shakti Peethams associated with the legend of Shiva and Daksha Yagna.
The stories or origin of the Kamakhya temple are quite fascinating too ( quite unbelievable for me, if I may add ).
Most Popular Legends are :
1. Once when Parvati's father King Daksha organised a yagna, he did not invite his daughter and son-in-law to participate in it. Parvati, who was angry at this treatment of her father, went to her father's place to ask the reason for it. Daksha insulted Parvati again by calling Shiva poor and wild. Being the ideal consort of Shiva, Parvati could not bear the fact that her husband was being insulted in front of the guests. She immediately jumped into the yagna fire out of shame and anger and killed herself. Knowing this, Lord Shiva, became very angry and came to Daksha's palace. His rage was such that he punished Daksha by replacing his head with that of a goat. On seeing the dead body of his wife, he was torn between misery and blind fury. He was so enraged that, he lifted the body on his shoulder and started dancing the tandav ( the dance of destruction ). The dance continued for several days and the earth was on the brink of being destroyed.
Then, on the appeal and pacifying of all the other gods and goddesses ( as the intensity of the destroyer`s fury was so overwhelming ), Lord Vishnu with the help of his chakra, started cutting Goddess Parvati's body ( into 51 pieces ). It is said that the parts of Parvati's body fell at different parts of the country, which are all considered centers of power or Shakti peeth. The reproductive organ ( female genitalia 'yoni' ) of Goddess Parvati is said to have fallen atop the Nilachal hill or Kamagiri in Guwahati and that is where the Kamakhya temple stands now. However, the place where her uterus fell was not known till the god of love, Kamadeva, searched it out to rid himself of a certain curse of Brahma`s. Kama regained his body here. The place came to be known as `Kamarup` and the presiding deity as `Kamakhya` or one worshipped by Kama.
The temple is said to mensturate during Amavashya days, and because of this reason the temple is kept closed for 3 days and opened with great festivity on the fourth day. It is believed to be inauspicious to till the ground or to plant seeds, during this period. A unique festival is observed here during that time, the Ambuvaci ( Ameti ) fertility festival wherein it is believed that the Goddess ( mother Earth ) undergoes her menstrual period. Devotees from all over India converge on this holy place during Ambubachi Mela and Manasha Puja.
Durga Puja is also celebrated annually during Navaratri (Durga Puja in West Bengal) in the month of September- October. It is a three day festival attracting several visitors.
2. The other story is the Goddess herself appeared in dreams of Narakasur and ordered him to construct a temple in her honour within a single night. It was a condition as a Goddess couldnot marry a demon/asura which he was, as he was in love with the Goddess and wanted to marry her. Narakasur agreed to do it. He had almost finished building the temple too. But this scared the Goddess Kamakhya and before the final steps of the temple were completed, a cock was sent to cry cock-a-doodle-do to announce the arrival of the morning, before it was actually dawn. This made Narakasura very angry and he killed the cock on that spot. But Narakasura couldn`t marry Goddess Kamakhya as he had agreed to the condition.
3. Another Legend says that Shakti, the mother Goddess, challenged the supreme creative power of Bhrahma and that Brahma could thereafter create, only with the blessings of the Yoni, as the sole creative principle. After much penance, Bhrahma brought down a luminous body of light from heaven and placed it within the Yoni circle, which was created by the Goddess and placed at Kamarupa Kamakhya in Guwahati.
The temple consists of seven oval spires, each topped by three golden pitchers, and the entrance spirals down to a curvy path of some distance, which specially links the main road to the temple. The Kamakhya Temple has a beehive like shikhara. The temple is a natural cave with a spring. There is no image of Shakti here. Down a flight of steps to the bowel of earth, is located a dark, mysterious chamber ( a corner of a cave in the temple ). Here, draped with a silk sari and covered with flowers, is kept the "matra yoni" which is a sculptured image of the Yoni of the Goddess, the object of reverence. A natural spring keeps the stone moist.
Some of the sculptured panels of the temple carry depictions of Gods and Goddesses of Hindu pantheon carved, such as images of Ganesha, Chamundeswari, other dancing features etc.
Other temples on the Nilachal hill include those of Tara, Bhairavi, Bhuvaneswari and Ghantakarna.
The exact date of the original temple is not known. It is believed that, the temple is an ancient temple. King Nara Narayana of Cooch Behar rebuilt the temple in 1665 after it had suffered destruction at the hands of foreign muslim invaders. It was an ancient Khasi sacrificial site, and sacrifices are still very much a part of worship here. Group of devotees arrive each morning with goats to offer to Shakti. Although little is known about the early history of the temple, the first reference to the place has been traced back to the Allahabad inscriptions of Emperor Samudragupta.
This sacred temple in the heart of the capital city of Assam is well connected via air, rail and road travel. The temple is situated a few ( eight ) kilometers away from the Guwahati Railway Station, ( and is nearer to Maligaon station ) and is open for visitors throughout the year.
See More Pictures of Kamakhya Temple - Here
Our Rating Scale is : 1 to 5 = ◕◕◕◕◕ - It was Amazing!
Other Religious Sites Of Importance On Your Visit To Guwahati, Assam :
Satras are basically monasteries which were built to propagate neo Vaishnavism. They also became centers for education and dissemination of all kinds of art of harmonius living. Satra culture developed mainly at Majuli, Bardowa, Barpeta, Madhupur etc.
Satras of Majuli
World's largest river island Majuli is the seat of several Satras established by Vaishnava revivalist, Sankardeva. During Rasotsava several thousand devotees visit these holy Satras every year.
Batadrawa Satra and Shrine
14 kms from Nagaon town, Batadrawa is the birthplace of famous Vaishnav are former Sankerdeva. The shrine is held in high veneration by the Vaishnavas.
Barpeta Satra and Kirtanghar
This famous Shrine and Kirtanghar attracts Vaishanavas from all over India. It was established by Madhadeva, the greatest disciple of Shankerdeva.
One of the finest example of ancient architecture, Da-Parbatiya of Tezpur dates back to 5th-6th century. The structure is not more than a door frame but the intricate carvings on it represents the best of Gupta art.
3. Shiva Temple
The Shiva temple of Umananda, reached by motor boats and public ferries from Umananda Ghat, stands on an island ( peacock island ) in the middle of the Brahmaputra. This attracts devotees from all over the country during the Shivaratri celebrations.
4. Navagraha Temple
Situated atop a hill ( Chitrachal ) in east Guwahati, Navagraha temple or the "temple of nine planets," is an ancient center of astrological and astronomical research. Housed in a red beehive-shaped dome, the central lingam is encircled by further nine representing the planets (graha) - Sun (Surya, Ravi), Moon (Chandra, Soma), Mercury (Buddh), Venus (Sukra), Mars (Mangal), Jupiter (Brhaspati) and Saturn (Sani). Two more were added, Rahu and Ketu, the dragon's head and the dragon's tail, or the ascending and descending nodes of the moon.
5. Vashistha Ashram
At a distance of 12 km from the railway station is the Vashistha Ashram ( the abode of sage Vashistha ), an interesting old shrine, with plenty of greenness. It is an important pilgrimage centre with rivulets Sandhya, Lalita and Kanta converging here. The confluence is famous for being a holy spot and is believe to free the past sins of the person who takes a dip here. It is located on the Sandhyachal hills. The ashram has a bestowing charm of its own.
It was said that the hermit Vashistha used to perform his ‘sandhya’ in a stream near his ashram, which was also his home. The sage became agitated due to the ardent games played by Lord Indra with his queen Shachi and other heavenly women in the stream, as the water became impure.
As a result of this, the sage cursed Indra that he would have sexual contact with a Daitya woman. This curse transformed Indra into a normal person and the curse of Vashistha also came true.
However, Lord Indra granted the Daitya woman with a blessing that her son would become a king. Her son later became the progenitor of the Ahom Kingdom and was the ruler of the entire region of Assam. According to another legend, it is believed that the sage gained spiritual success by dwelling into the secrets of Sakta practices.
6. Ugratara temple
It is famous for its golden idol and buffalo sacrifices.
7. Bhubaneshwari Temple
Above Kamakhya is another small temple, Bhubaneshwari, from where one can have a bird's eye view of the Guwahati.
8. Sukreswar Temple
The Sukreswar Temple is an important Shiva temple in the state of Assam.The temple is located on the Sukreswar or Itakhuli hill on the south bank of river Brahmaputra in the Panbazar locality of Guwahati city. Leading down from the temple compound is a long flight of steps to the river. Sitting on the steps of Sukreswar ghat one can enjoy the scenery of sun setting on the river, boats moving across the river, people performing puja in honour of their relatives who have left this world, children and older people bathing, far removed from the din and noise of the city.
9. Srimanta Sankaradeva Kalakshetra
It is a cultural institution in the Panjabari area of Guwahati, Assam, named after the medieval poet-playwright and reformer Srimanta Sankardeva. It includes a cultural museum, library and various facilities for preserving, demonstrating and performing cultural items, besides a children's park. In addition to being Northeast India's largest cultural congregation, the Kalakshetra is also a major tourist spot in Guwahati.
It is the tallest Shiva temple in North East India. It is located in Sibsagar. This temple is on the banks of a huge lake where thousands of migratory birds are seen during winter.
11. Maha Bhairav Temple
Dedicated to Lord Shiva this temple is the oldest Shiva shrine in the region. It is located in Tezpur town.
12. Hayagriva-Madhab Temple
Hajo, about 20 Kms. from Guwahati is the meeting place of Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism. It is an important pilgrimage for Hindus and Buddhists both. Krishna, the legend formed an essential element of Vaishnavism in Kamarupa. Hayagriva ( Vishnu with horse head ) is the name of one of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu. Under this name, he is specially worshipped in Assam even to day in the Hayagriva Madhava temple at Hajo. It is built on a hill called "Monikuta".
13. Poa Mecca
At Hajo itself there is this Poa Mecca. It is a pilgrimage for Muslims. It is believed that by offering prayers here a faithful gains one fourth spiritual enlightenment of what could be gained at Mecca.
14. Dargah of Ajan Pir
The dargah of Muslim saint Shah Aulia alias Ajan Fakir, who led a Muslim reform movement in Assam, is a revered place of pilgrimage for the Muslims and Hindus alike.This is in a place known as Sahaguri Chapari near Sibsagar.
15. Dargah of Hazrat Zahir Auliya Khuwajagan
The dargah of Pir Hazrat Zahir Auliya Khuwajagan (Chisti), at the banks of river Bharalu, in Ulubari near Gawahati, is one of the popular dargahs of Assam. People in thousands, gather at the annual Urs (annual religious ceremony) of the renowned Pir which is held every year in the month of February.
( Ref/Images : Google/Wiki )