|Maa Kamakhya Temple, Guwahati |
Maa Kamakhya temple, Guwahati: The land of mystic spiritualism
Kamakhya is sacred for tantric and eternity seekers that’s why I have named this post- “Maa Kamakhya Temple, Guwahati: The Land of Mystic Spiritualism”. Because of many misconceptions about the scared Kamakhya temple, many people avoid travelling here. On the other hand, Shakti sadhaks (disciples) and tantric worshipers thronged here to attain eternity. It is a belief that in Kamakhya true worshiper of Maa Shakti, understands the reasoning of the bondage of birth, life, and death; thus attain ‘moksha’.
The Kamakhya is one of the oldest and sacred temples, residing on the hilltop of Neelanchal hills in Guwahati. The discussion and description of this place are cited in many Hindu mythological scriptures- Mahabharat, Kalika Puran, Yogini Tantrum, and much other ancient literature related to tantra.
Since ancient times, the misconception about the myth of black magic in Kamakhya prevails in the mindset of pilgrims. But thanks to the increased awareness and connectivity, in which information technology and social networking have an important role, this misconception is shredding down. But still, our curious minds search for the mystic world of Kamakhya and this is blog is my journey and search for sacred rituals of Kamakhya.
List of all Content’ Subheading:-
Please click on below desire content subheading list for getting detailed information-
- My journey to Maa Kamakhya Temple
- Mythological: A folklore on Kamakhya Temple
- Architectural description of temple Complexes
- Historical aspects of Kamakhya Temple
- Fairs/Festivals of the Kamakhya Temple
- How to reach Kamakhya Temple
- Places near Kamakhya Temple for exploring
- Best time to visit Kamakhya Temple/Guwahati
- Places to stay in Kamakhya
- Where and what to eat in Guwahati
- What and where one should buy souvenirs
- Tips and information for visiting the Kamakhya Temple
- Maa Kamakhya’s world - No one returns disappointed
- My overview
My journey to Maa Kamakhya Temple
Yesterday’s Umananda trip (Umananda Island) was memorable and today’s we planned a day trip to Maa Kamakhya temple. We took a private tri-auto wheeler from the hotel for Kamakhya temple. It is about 7-8 km and the complete journey took us 1 hr approximately. It was early in the morning, still, we were welcomed by a long queue of devotees. There is another way to Maa Kamakhya temple via VIP pass for special VIP person and this VIP pass is available on ticket counter near to temple complex. I could just imagine the crowd during Kali puja. To accommodate the long queue of devotees, the temple trust has divided the courtyard of the temple into very narrow lanes barricaded with grills. These narrow lanes give the feeling of your entrapment of life i.e. ‘Maya’.
Some important notes:-
- Temple opens the door at 8.00 AM for the darshan.
- The door closes at 1.00 PM for Prasadam
- Door reopen 2.30 PM for visitors
- Aarti 5.30 PM, visitors are allowed in garbhagriha (only those who are already in the garbhagriha) and closes for the night then.
In my opinion, if you are visiting with young children, then do not forget to take water, juice, fruits, and biscuits with you. In general, it will take you two to three hours to reach temple garbhagriha so one should mentally prepare to stand for such a long time. It is treacherous for old people and young children.
Mythology: A folklore on Kamakhya temple
Maa Kamakhya temple is built in reverence to Goddess Sati, one of several incarnations of Maa Shakti. There is a mythological legend associated with the temple. Daksha, the son of Brahma performed a celestial “Yagna Kund” and intentionally didn’t invite his youngest daughter Sati and her husband Lord Shiva. Goddess Sati was not happy with her father’s behaviour. Despite reservation from Lord Shiva, Sati went for the ceremony, but she felt insulted by her father. She couldn’t tolerate the further insult and thus immolate herself in yagna fire. Upon hearing this news, Lord Shiva, in his wrath created Virabhadra and Bhadrakali. Along with Shiva’s attendant ‘bhootgana’, Virabhadra marched to the kingdom of Daksha. They destroyed his Yagna and Virabhadra decapitated Daksha’s head. Shiva’s anger later pacifies, and he forgave Daksha. He returned him his life but with the head of a goat.
Yet upon seeing the charred body of Shakti, Shiva went into a trance state of deep grief and anger. Shiva performed celestial dance: ‘Tandav’; uncontrolled destruction everywhere. Thus Vishnu decided to console Shiva, and to do so, he cut the body of Sati into 51 pieces (some say 108). The body pieces fell on the earth and place where it fell revered with the power of Shakti. These places are worshipped by Hindu pilgrimage and called Shakti Peetha. And on the Neelanchal hill or Kamgiri, Maa Sati’s Yoni (female genital) fell. Thus, since then people worship Maa Sati at Kamakhya temple. The sanctum of the temple is below the ground level and the idol is consists of a rock with a fissure representing a female genital. This vulva-shaped depression is worshipped as Maa Kamakhya.
This sanctum is miraculously always filled with underground water. This kind of creation made by nature gives us the feeling of those unseen power and we get bowed down. We worship these unseen powers in the form of God, which is the basis of religion. Das Mahavidya Devi is also established here which is 10 different cosmic personalities of Divine Mother Kamakhya (Maa Sakti/Maa Durga).
Architectural description of temple Complexes
The courtyard of the Maa Kamakhya temple was reverberating with Maa’s mantra:
ॐ जयंती मंगला काली भद्रकाली कपालिनी दुर्गा क्षमा शिवा धात्री स्वाहा स्वधा नमोऽस्तुते I
The chanting of this mantra infuses energy. We were chanting this mantra while waiting in queue to worship Maa. While I was in the queue, I was able to study the architectural marvel of the temple. Maa Kamakhya temple is very distinct from other temples from northern India. The temple is largely a rock-cut sculpture with a hemispherical dome on a cruciform base, popularly called the Nilanchal type. The temple has four chambers, aligned in a line from east to west. The entrance to the temple is via the northern door and also a way to the garbhagriha is via a narrow lane staircase in the east.
The chambers are:
Garbhagriha is the main chamber where the yoni-shaped idol resides, and the rest three chambers are called mandapas. Garbhagriha has big Shikharas of polygonal dome like structure and it is circled by a number of minarets. It is like a small cave, to go down there is a narrow stone step which leads to the mother’s symbol where there is always an atmosphere of mystery due to darkness.
The first mandapas are Calanta, a square shape chamber. Its wall contains images of deities and related inscriptions. The middle chamber is the biggest one, called Pancharatna and in the west. It is in a rectangular shape with a flat roof. It has five similar shikharas; the middle shikharas is bigger than the rest.
The last one is Natamandira at the west with an apsidal end and ridged roof. The walls of all chambers are decorated with sculpted images of gods, goddesses, and have inscriptions mainly from the Ahom period. On the other hand, stone sculptures are engraved on the outer wall.
Historical aspects of Kamakhya temple
Though the mythological legend is more famous, the archaeological aspects of the temple tell a different story. The inscriptions found in the Nilachal region are dated as early as the 13th century with a majority from the 5th century. These are clay seal and copper plate inscriptions, popularly called Kamarupa inscriptions. Temple may predate the establishment of the Kamarupa dynasty.
It could be a religious sacrificial site for Khasis, Garos, Kiratas and Naraka’ Austroasiatic local tribal goddess (Kuldevi): Kamei-Kha which was later called Kamakhya by the Hindus. Khasis and Garos belong to Indo-Mongoloid, an admixture of both Aryan and non-Aryan blood, living in the hills of northeast India. These tribes were worshipers of Shiva. The cult of the mother goddess worshipped in the Yoni symbol is opposed to Shiva. Thus, Nilachal hills must have belonged to matriarchal tribes and were later adopted by Khasis and Garos. And this is evident from the presence of Shiva-Lingam in Umananda, the Peacock Island.
Thus, Shaivism and Saktism cults were popular among tribes of north-eastern India and predate the Aryan period. The Kalika Purana and Yogini tantra formed the guidelines for such practices. Later with the Aryan invasion, such practices were inculcated in Aryan culture and later formed an important sect in Hinduism. Hinduism flourished in north-eastern India via royal patronage. The earliest written inscription i.e., epigraphy about Kamakhya temple is from Vanamalavarmadeva of the Mlechchha dynasty of the mid-9th century. The Tezpur plates indicate a massive temple of Nagara architectural style; pointing out Mlechchha rulers were patronage of the Kamakhya temple. Later, rulers of the Pala dynasty of Kamarupa kingdom main promoter of the Tantric sect of Hinduism in North-East India worshipped Kamakhya.
During the 10th century, Kamakhya Temple was the famous centre for Tantrik worship/sacrifices and black sorcery which made the image of this temple very mysterious among the people. Meanwhile, a very mysterious cult was emerged called Buddhism Vajrayana cult which is the same as Hindu Vampanth/Vamachara cult. The practice of animal and bird sacrifice which has been going on since ancient times continues in this temple even today but then this should be stopped in the Kamakhya temple because the mother never wants to sacrifice any innocent living.
The modern temple of Kamakhya has a lineage to Vishwa Singha who found the ruins of the ancient temple and later his son Nara Narayan built it during his reign. And it was later supported by rulers of the Ahom Kingdom. Rudra Singha and Siba Singha of Ahom Kingdom were the main patronages of the temple. He established the Mahant culture in the Kamakhya temple. On a separate note, the Nilachal architecture of the temple was inspired by a mix of Islamic and Nagara styles and by the both Hindu and Muslim craftsmen of Bengal.
Fairs and Festivals of the Kamakhya Temple
Maa Kamakhya, Maa Durga, Das Mahavidya, and Maa Shakti are all forms of the same Mother Goddess therefore, here at this place the mother powers have major influence and dominated all. Due to this, almost all events related to maternal powers are mainly celebrated as festivals. From those, two main religious ritual festivals are celebrated in the Kamakhya temple site with great fervour and prominence. People from all over India and abroad come in million to see and join these traditional rituals festivals are:
It is celebrated yearly in every June month as per the Gregorian calendar and mostly falls on either 21stor 22nd June. It is a 4-5 days celebration of the festival. Ambubachi is locally known as “Ameti” or “Amoti” means “fertility” so this holy religious festival is locally known as “fertility festival” which is associated with Maa Kamakhya and Mother Earth. The word Ambubachi means water flowing (“Ambu” means water and “Bachi” means flowing) and this is observed during the monsoon season in a natural way.
· Maa Kamakhya-
It is a religious belief that Goddess Maa Kamakhya goes through her annual cycle of menstruation during this time and its symbolic idol (naturally female genital like structure on stone) is visible in the cave of this holy mother Kamakhya Temple which is the object of reverence where womb of the Mother Goddess fell.
· Mother Earth-
On the other hand, people from ancient time; believe that during this time (monsoon rains), Mother Earth enters into the period of her annual menstruation as the fertile woman who represents her creative and nurturing power which show the deep-rooted connection of Mother Earth with ancient agriculture value.
Both connections show the women’s power (shakti)of fertility and childbearing capabilities within every woman and thus we all celebrate this auspicious festival as womanhood.
During Ambubachi Mela, the temple closed for three days as it believes that the goddess rests for three days and regain her fertility like the traditional women’s menstrual seclusion and on the fourth day the temple is re-opened for pubic and prasad (i.e., ‘Angodak’ and ‘Angabastra’) is distributed. Angodak is water from spring, symbolic representing fluid of the Maa Kamakhya’s Yoni. Here a piece of red cloth is given to devotees called “Angabastra” which is used to cover the stone yoni during menstruation days. It is considered highly auspicious and powerful. That’s why devotees’ crowds gather to get this prasad.
On these four days, Tantrik, Aghoris, Sadhus, and female Sadhvis appear in bizarre costumes which symbolize their religious acts. Those who remain the centre of attraction in a way, but there is a need to be careful with them because pretence and hypocrisy dominate here too with their Tankrik Shakti cult.
Durga Puja (Kumari Puja)-
Durga Puja is another major festival that is celebrated at Kamakhya Temple. By the way, this is celebrated all over India with great enthusiasm and pomp. In which Bengal and Assam have their importance of Durga Puja, but Durga Puja is celebrated differently in Kamakhya Temple. The religious rituals act here is unique and different from other places such as the ritualistic bath of the deity (Pithasthan/shaktipeeth). There is a traditional practice of offering sacrifices in which pigeons, buffaloes, fishes, goats, sugarcanes, gourds, and pumpkins are sacrificed.
- Kumari Puja -
It means worship of a virgin girl which occupies a prominence without which honour to Maa Sakti is not complete. Here, the virgin girl represents Maa Kamakhya and is decorated, like a mother goddess. It is believed that this ritual makes Maa Kamakhya happy and gives blessings by removing all the sorrows and misfortune of her devotees.
There is a hidden message in every act of Hinduism. For example, virgin girl worship also adored the value of women and celebrate womanhood. Philosophically, it shows the power of creation, stability, and destruction. But it is also a matter of introspection whether we respect women in today's context. Is girl, maiden, or woman able to feel their importance and power? On one hand, we celebrate the yearly menustration cycle at Maa Kamakhya temple and on otherhand, we consider female menstruation as impure. Maybe it is time for us to learn from our own ritual's hidden meaning. It is long overdue to celebrate feminism at par with masculinity.
How to reach Kamakhya Temple -
Guwahati is well connected to all major cities of India by air, railway, and road route. From Guwahati, one can easily reach to Maa Kamakhya Temple:
Guwahati International Airport, also known as Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport, is the nearest airport to reach Kamakhya temple by taxi, cab, or bus as per your convenience. There is a 20 Km distance between them.
Guwahati is also well connected with adjoining cities and other states by National and State highways. The bus services are available from the main Guwahati bus stands are- Adabari, Paltan Bazar, and ISBT Guwahati. If you are fond of road trips and love to see lush green landscapes, hills, and forests then a road trip is the best way. I am fond of driving and thus prefer this.
There are two main railway stations nearest to the Kamakhya temple are Guwahati and Kamakhya stations. Both stations are connected to all major cities of the country. Temple is located 8km and 3 km from Guwahati and Kamakhya railway stations respectively. You can reach Kamakhya temple via taxi, bus, or cab from these railway stations.
Near Places to Kamakhya Temple for exploring -
Friends, there are lots of other places to explore around Kamakhya Temple. Other points of interest are more temples, National Parks Planetarium, and Museums:
Temples to explore other than Kamakhya Temple are –
Hajo Temple, ISKON Temple, Umananda Island/Temple, Basistha Ashram Temple, Navagraha Temple, Sri Surya Pahar Temple, Vashishtha Temple, Ugratara Temple, Bhuvaneswari Temple, Sukreswar Temple, Janardana Temple.
· Parks Near Kamakhya Temple is –
Kaziranga National Park, Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, Assam State Zoo, Nehru Park
Exhibition and cultural centres –
Assam Rajyik State Museum, Guwahati Planetarium, Regional Science Center
Best time to visit Kamakhya Temple/Guwahati-
The best time to visit Guwahati is from October – April, during which weather is very nice and the temperature is comfortable 10 – 25 degrees centigrade.
Where to Stay
There are lots of Hotels near Kamakhya temple ranging from star 1 to star 5. Before booking, you should check the review so that you do not have to regret it later.
Maa Kamakhya Temple trust also provides lodges/Guest Houses and food facilities, but lodges and Guest Houses are heavily booked during the main festive event. This facility is also closed since last year due to the Corona pandemic.
Assam Tourism Development Corporation also provides good lodging with the best local cuisine at a reasonable price by the name of LalitaKantaYatri Niwas.
I think OYO hotels are another better option which will fit with your wallet, available at different reasonable prices. It also provides the best quality of service.
Where and What to eat in Guwahati
Every place has its local food test which is quite famous in local people and also popular among tourists. Some Assamese cuisine, popular in Guwahati which you can taste, is mainly made up of fish and meat. Fish are fresh and come from local ponds, the Brahmaputra river, and lakes. The herbs and vegetables uptight the flavours, which are also influenced by Bengali cuisine. Fusion food is a very delicate affair for all food lovers. If you want to taste the local food, then there is a special local market for that where you can enjoy the local flavours: Fancy Bazaar, Pan Bazaar, Paltan Bazaar, and Maligaon Market.
Famous Assamese local delicacies are:
- Hukuti- It is the main dish made from roasted dried small fish and other ingredients are added after that. It is stored in bamboo tubes and served with Assamese rice.
- Koldil Bhaji- It is made from banana flowers(Koldil) and potato and served with Parathas. One could eat Koldil Bhaji with Pigeon meat, a delight for non-vegetarian in winter.
- Bamboo Shoot Fry- It is prepared from fresh stemmed out bamboo shoots, deep-fried with other fresh vegetables. It is served as a side dish or as a main dish with rice.
- Ou khatta- This is sour chutney is made of boiled elephant apple and jaggery and sautéed with mustard seeds in slight oil. This will truly be going to tingle your taste buds.
- Xaak Aru Bhaji- It is mainly consisting of edible fern (Xaak), grown in the wild near water bodies. It is served with curry or salad or in fried form, for example, Xaak stir fry with potatoes is very popular among locals in Guwahati.
- Narikolor Laru- It is a sweet ball made with roasted coconut and sugar/jaggery.
- Pitha- It is a most popular side dish or snack, usually taken with tea in the evening. There are a wide variety of pithas available, most are sweet or sour, but most of them are prepared via steamed or fried. Panipithas and Tilpithas are two popular ones. KholasaporiPitha is another delicious rice pancake served with tomato sauce or chilli sauce.
- Poita Bhat and Aloo Pitika -It is one of the simplest Assamese cuisines where mashed potato is the main ingredient. It is served with mustard oil, onion, coriander, and salt. Being smashed potatoes is the main staple for Europeans, it is a must-try for Europeans to juggle their taste buds with mustard potatoes.
· Other local delicious dishes are Khorika dishes, Chilli smoked pork and Roasted pork. There is some famous restaurant which provides an above Assamese cuisine with their authentic test in reasonable rates are- Khorika Restaurant, Morung Restaurant,and Parampara Paradise Restaurant.
What should buy and where to buy for a memory-
There are some famous markets here which are known for a particular item. You can buy from here as a memory at good prices:-
- Uzan Bazar- Famous for different food items related to Fish.
- Fancy Bazar- Famous for artefacts and (local/traditional) designer clothes and don’t forget to buy a Jaapi- a local traditional bamboo hat.
- Paltan Bazar- Famous for traditional Assamese garments and local items.
- Ganeshguri- Famous for high-quality perfumes and handicrafts
- Pan Bazaar- Famous for local Art & Craftwork, Sporting goods, and merchandise.
- G.S Road- Famous for home decor products, electronic gadgets, footwear, and high-end fashionable clothes.
- Silkalay- Famous for the finest silk and Assamese traditional attire for women.
- Maligaon Market- Famous for Bengalese - Food, Sweets, and items.
Tips and information while visiting the Kamakhya Temple-
- Photography or videography is not allowed inside the Maa Kamakhya Temple complex. Even smartphones are not allowed for safety purposes. The temple committee doesn’t allow any photos and videography. One needs a special permit from the government of India for this. All photos and videos of the temple complex in this article are taken from my ascetics Guru Bhai, who is also my best friend: He spent few years in Maa Kamakhya Peeth, now he is living as a monk in the Kedarnath region.
- There is always a long queue for entering the temple, so try to reach early in the morning and keep a water bottle with you.
- Don't get caught up in the magic trick of scamster/con disguise as sage, because true sages don't show miracles on street.
This temple complex is a sacred place and a national heritage. Therefore, please don’t do respect the rules and sentiments of locals. Along with this, do not spread filth on temple premises.
Maa Kamakhaya’ Kingdom- No one returns disappointed-
We stayed in the temple courtyard till 4PM; the atmosphere here was very spiritual, very pleasing to the mind. We saw and explored every part of the temple and tried to understand the carving, structure, importance of the temple, and its history.
Monks dressed in saffron clothing and performing different ‘mudras’ (creating different shapes with the help of hands and fingers) were attracting people towards them. The reverberation of mantras, seeing people performing religious rituals in a group was making the atmosphere quite exciting, curious, and mysterious. In Kamakhya, people come in search of truth, material desire, or enjoyment, despite all these Maa Kamakhya never belittles her visitor. It is said that a true devotee with faith and devotion for Maa, will get one's wishes fulfilled.
We came out of the temple courtyard, bow down to Maa with a promise to return. We went to explore the local market here and bought some local handicrafts as a souvenir.
People's desire to get everything quickly, lead to their vengeful action which may be due to their ignorance and immaturity. Spiritual powers are being misused in the name of Maa Kamakhya, which may be in the form of black magic. One needs to understand that one needs to pay for their deeds. Those who are misusing their spiritual power, deviate from their spiritual goal. Their actions may malign religion. When people run behind their desire and lust; they first fall into the trap of these cons disguised as sage. So, beware of these cons near the temple.
One can’t find a real sage in this material world unless until one finds his true disciple or audience of his worth. My own experience says that Maa Kamakhya loves everyone. So how did the word black magic get associated with Maa Kamakhya? Even many myths of black magic are mainly trickery of cons. These actions create an atmosphere of fear, mistrust, and confusion among people. I think we human beings are responsible for creating such confusion and leading entangled life with illusion. Maybe someday when I will visit Maa again, I will elaborate more especially on some of my personal spiritual experiences in Nilachal.
For now, I will end this blog with the earliest reverence for Maa in Hinduism, appearing in chapter 10.125 of the Riga Veda, popularly known as the Devi Suktam hymn.
“I am the Queen, the gatherer-up of treasures, most thoughtful, first of those who merit worship. Thus, God has established me in many places with many homes to enter and abide in. Through me alone all eat the food that feeds them, – each man who sees, breathes, hears the word outspoken. They know it not, yet I reside in the essence of the Universe. Hear, one and all, the truth as I declare it. I, verily, myself announce and utter the word that Gods and men alike shall welcome. I make the man I love exceeding mighty, make him nourished, a sage, and one who knows Brahman. I bend the bow for Rudra [Shiva], that his arrow may strike, and slay the hater of devotion. I rouse and order battle for the people, I created Earth and Heaven and reside as their Inner Controller. On the world's summit, I bring forth sky the Father: my home is in the waters, in the ocean as Mother. Thence I pervade all existing creatures, as their Inner Supreme Self, and manifest them with my body. I created all worlds at my will, without any higher being, and permeate and dwell within them.
The eternal and infinite consciousness is I, it is my greatness dwelling in everything.”