Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Kamakhya Temple, Guwahati

The Kamakhya/Shakti  Temple is supposedly built on the location on Nilachal Hill, where Sati's yoni fell when  her body parts were scattered across India when Vishnu used the Sudarshan Chakra to break up her body to halt Shiva who was dancing the Rudra Tandava after disrupting the yagna of Daksh Prajapati (Sati's Father) Thus making this one of the 58 Shakti Peethas across the country.  Kamakhya Temple has evolved into a major tantric center, perhaps because this was where her yoni (female reproductive organs) fell.

Here Shakti is known as Kamakhya - the granter of desires.

The temple is supposed to be very Holy and hence we decided to start our sojourn in the North East by visiting this temple and so we headed straight here from the airport. The temple is a couple of kilometres away from the cityu and lies on the route bewteen the city and the airport.

The complex houses many temples and also a place where ritual animal slaughter is carried out. Apart from the main devi temple, some other major temples of devi Kali, Tara, Bagala, Chinnamasta, Bhuvanesvari, Bhairavi and Dhumavati. Sitala Temple, Lalita Kanta Temple, Jaya Durga Temple, Vana Durga Temple,  Rajarajesvari Temple, Smasanakali temple, kali temple of Abhayananda dharmashala and the Sankhesvari temple. There are five temples of Lord Shiva in the Kamakhya complex. They belongs to different forms of Lord Shiva like Kamesvara (Umananda), Siddhesvara, Amratokesvara (Heruka), Aghpra, and kotilinga (Tatpurusa).  The complex also contains three temples of Lord Visnu. They are as the Kedara (Kamalesvara), situated near the northern side of the main temple, as the Gadadhara, situated in the north-western direction of the Kamakhya temple, and as Pandunath, which is situated in the eastern foothills of Nilachal also kinown as Pandu.

Since we were in a bit of a hurry and it was very hot, we only visited the main temple and we shall return to explore the complex again.

This temple is famous for the Ambubachi Mela held between June 22- 26. The temple isclosed for 3 days (for the Godesses Menstrual cycle) but on the 4th day a Tantric fertility festival is celebrated.

Entry to the temple complex is free, but you only get an outside view after queueing up for awhile. To get into the inside garba graha (sanctum sanctorum) there is a special ticket for 501/- INR. But even though the line is much shorter, the experience is humid, hot, sticky, chaotic. Pandits inside, jostle with each for one-upmanship.

In India, men don't normally have physical contact with women unknown/unrelated to them and this is very strictly upheld in temples. But here, I was routinely held at the shoulders and wrists by pandits supposedly trying to enforce discipline in the queue. It wasn't groping at all. But it made me very uncomfortable because I do not expect to be physically touched in this way inside a temple.

The line took awhile to get moving especially after doubling back on itself. Inside the garba graha was dark and claustrophobic. I was pushed to my knees by a pandit behind me and another seated pandit, smeared red vermillion on my forehead and insisted that I bend down and touch the Holy water at the bottom of the steps below me. I then relaised why most of the regular female visitors were dressed in maroon and red clothes (to prevent them from getting stained from the vermillion on the floors and all the walls around)

If I hadn't promised my Father-in-law that I would seek the blessings of the Goddess from the Garba Graha, I would have left the inside of the temple much earlier. If you aren't a devotee, I'd advise you to just take a look from the outer gates and just enjoy exploring  the complex itself.

Preferably visit in the morning, so the ground isn't too hot (as you have to enter barefoot) I will visit again, but only to explore the other temples in the complex.

Note: List of temples in the complex sourced from

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