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Thu, 21 Sep 2017

Northeast Today

Worshipping Shakti, the Cult of Femininity

Worshipping Shakti, the Cult of Femininity
July 15
13:03 2017

June Edition, Culture, Sneha Choudhury

Ambubachi, the festival of celebrating the creative power of womanhood by worshipping Maa Shakti, which is also considered as the annual menstruation cycle of the goddess. During this period mother earth is also kept at rest and thus farming, ploughing etc are avoided.

Sati’s immolation when her father, Daksha continuously insulted Lord Shiva, her husband, who was also not invited to the sacrificial rite organized by Daksha, is a well known legend. At Sati’s death, an outraged inconsolable Shiva started tandav , the dance of destruction. To calm him down Vishnu dismembers Sati’s body with his Sudarshan Chakra and that was when Sati’s womb and genitalia fell on the Nilachal hill, along with her other parts of body falling in different places giving rise to all the Shaktipeeths. That is how, according to religious legends Kamakhya Temple came into being.

Nilachal hill got its name from the believe that when Sati’s body part fell on the hill it turned blue and hence Nilachal (blue mountain). The name of the place Kamrup Kamakhya was given by Narakasur, the demon king thereby making Kamakhya his patron deity. The original temple was built by Kamdev, the God of Love, with the help of the celestial architect Vishwakarma.

Every year in the month of Ashaad (June-July), a plethora of devotees, pilgrims and sadhus from around the world gather in Kamakhya Temple to be a part of a four day event- Ambubachi Mela (Fair) or Ambubachi Festival. The Guwahati city graces a veil of lights during the night and a conglomeration of the mass continuously moving towards the temple, where tourists pour in from every part of the country and abroad.

The believe behind this festival is the yearly menstruation period of the Goddess. Mother earth is considered unclean during this time and hence for three days restrictions in religious activities are observed by the devotees. The temple also remains closed during this process and instead of the Deity, a Yoni is worshipped on which a natural spring flows. Only on the fourth day the Goddess is bathed along with other rituals and the usual visit of devotees inside the temple is resumed. As prasad Angodak and Angabastra are distributed. Angodak is the water flowing from the natural stream that flows over the Yoni and Angodak is a piece of red cloth that is used to cover the Yoni during the period of seclusion.

Known as the seat of powerful tantrik cult in India, the Ambubachi mela is also known as Ameti or Tantric fertility festival . Reportedly, some Tantric Babas and Sadhus, who otherwise remains secluded, make their public appearances only during these four days of the festival.

Kamakhya is a temple complex of individual temples of all ten Mahavidyas. Shaktism is known for its various sub-traditions of Tantra, as well as a galaxy of goddesses with respective systems. It consists of the Vidyapitha and Kulamarga. The pantheon of goddesses in Shaktism grew after the decline of Buddhism in India, wherein Hindu and Buddhist goddesses were combined to form these Mahavidyas, a list of ten goddesses. Apart from the deity Kamakhya Devi, other avatars of Shakti viz Dhumavati, Matangi, Bagola, Tara, Kamala, Bhairavi, Chinnamasta, Bhuvaneshwari and Tripuara Sundari, reside in the temple.

Along with the Ambubachi Puja in Ashaad, the temple also celebrates Pohan Biya, Vasanti Puja and Manasha Puja around the month of Pausha, Chaitra and Bhadrapada respectively.

Mohit Sarma and Kabindra Prasad Sarma, Doloi of the Samaj or the temple committee expresses their delight for the upcoming Ambubachi Festival. “Our temple has planned and made preparations for the festival and are ready to accommodate worshippers and devotees near our vicinity for the four day festival to be held next month,” says Mohit Sarma. While the vicinity around the temple complex and the hill receives an unimaginable crowd, the administration however expects approximately 20 Lakh visitors this time with an increase of 5 lakhs from last year. The pandas or the purohits who perform the rituals at the temple form a committee run by the BordewriSamaj. The elected head of the committee are Bordoloi and Sorudoloi together known as Doloi. Their responsibilities extend proper administration, maintenance of the temples sanctity, continuity of daily prayer schedules and managing the major festivals and pujas round the year.

Every year, the number of devotees takes a radical plunge breaking records of the previous years. Ambubachi being a spiritual congregation, the temple witnesses huge number of devotees every day, but during these four days the toll rises upto 15 lakhs (2016). The temple is all set to welcome this year’s Ambubachi Festival which is due on 22- 25 June this year.

Another facet of this mela is that it has changed into a process of religious faith into a commercial affair. As the attraction of lakhs of tourist increases, certain sectors such as tourism, hospitality, healthcare, transportation are commercially benefitted. This not only adds to the economy of the state but involves utilization of human resources and thus employment generation. Further, the advent of this event allows the city receive a makeover in terms of traffic management, civil works, beautification etc. Thus, Assam State Tourism Corporation (ASTC) is seen to be involved in this event more than it was 10-15 years back. While hosting awareness camp, providing facilities such as fooding, lodging, medical help, easy commute, safety and security becomes the prime focus making sure of the devotees peaceful stay. Also, preparations for the tourists to visit other parts of the state can be extended for a much bigger spectrum.

An identity of Assam, the temple of Kamakhya is ruled by the metaphysical reality that believes in the supreme feminine power of Devi Shakti. Alongside flows the mighty river Brahmaputra which carries the stories galore- of the impressions of religion throughout its reach in every part of the state and the profound belief on the invisible strength which will remain rooted till the existence of time and mankind alongside the new age patters of development and civilization.

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