Kamakhya Devi Temple in Guwahati is a very sacred temple for The Hindus and counted among the 51 Shakti Peethas of Hindu Mythology. For the many visitors, this temple is the only reason to visit Guwahati. It is believed to be 2000 years old, but in such a long existence, it was destroyed and built several times. The current structure is about 500 years old. This temple is dedicated to Mata Kamakhya Devi (also known as Shakti). It is also a major pilgrimage center for Tantric Worshippers in India.
Mythological Legend: It was the place where the yoni (vagina) of Goddess Sati felt during the tandav nritya (dance) of Lord Shiva with the burning body of Goddess Sati. The legend goes back to the time of The Great Yagya, organised by the King Daksha. He invited every notable person in the universe, except his daughter Sati and her husband Lord Shiva. Despite of the unwillingness of Lord Shiva, Sati went to her father’s home, only to receive humiliation and dishonour. In the grief and anger, she sacrificed her body at the altar of the yagya.
When Lord Shiva heard this news, he came there and destroyed the yagya. In the rage of losing her beloved wife, he stared the Tandav Nritya , with the burning body of Sati. Because of this, the parts of the burning body started falling on the earth one by one and that way, 51 shaktipeethas came in existence at 51 different places, mainly in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
Apart from this, many other legends and stories are also associated with Kamakhya Temple.
How to Reach? Kamakhya Temple is situated on the edge of the Nilachal hill at the height of approx. 800 feet and is about 9 kms from the railway station. Direct Public Buses are available from many points in the Guwahati like Paltan Bazaar, Pan Bazaar, Chandmari, Dispur, Six Miles etc. These public buses drop at the base of the hill. From there, a shared jeep available to the temple (fare INR 10), that is about 3 kms away from the base.
Temple Timings: Daily from 0800 hrs to 1300 hrs and then from 1430 hrs to 1730 hrs. To avoid rush, better to visit in the afternoon.
Entry Tickets: Three type of entry tickets are available for the devotees, that can be purchased at different counter in the temple premises. A Free entry as well as an entry by VIP pass is also allowed.
Different Entry Queues are as following:
1. General Entry: It is free of cost. But the queue starts in the early morning normally from 0500 hrs, on auspicious days from 0300 hrs!
2. For Defence/Police/Paramilitary Forces: INR 10 per person before 0830 hrs and between 1500 hrs to 1600 hrs from Monday to Saturday. In other hours, it is INR 50 per person. On Sunday, it is INR 10 per person from 0830 hrs to 1030 hrs. After that, this option is not available on Sunday. There is a separate Defence queue for these people.
3. Special Entry: If not a defence personnel, we can still be a part of Defence queue after buying a ticket of INR 101 per person.
4. Direct Entry: Available at the cost of INR 501 per person. This ticket entitles us a separate queue close to the main sanctum.
5. VIP Passes: Free of cost issued by the district authorities. In this case, we will be the part of direct entry queue.
Entry Patterns: Despite of these Entry Tickets, there is a set pattern to accommodate devotees inside the temple. They generally starts the day with 60-80 devotees from general queue, then 50-60 devotees from defence queue, then rest of the devotees from direct queue. This pattern repeated in a cyclic manner. So, on average, a general queue requires at least 3-4 hours, defence queue requires at least 2 hours and direct queue requires at least 1 hour for the entry.
After entering in the temple, all type of queues merge in a single queue at a point outside the main sanctum. This room is also the part of the ancient temple complex. From there, everybody follow a single queue to the main sanctum.
Reaching Garbhagriha or Inner Sanctum: The garbhagriha of the temple is basically a cave, below the ground level. It is small, dark and reached by narrow steep stones from the hall where all types of entry queues merge. The path is so narrow that two person can not pass from side by side comfortably without rubbing the shoulders. Only 2-3 small lamps are there inside the cave, so it is very hard to see anything clearly.
Inside the garbhagriha, there is no image or sculpture, but a vagina-shaped rock fissure, about 10 inches deep, that is considered as main deity. It usually remains covered with the flowers and other offerings. Generally, its very difficult to see that rock fissure because of the darkness. The hallow rock-fissure is consistently filled with an underground water spring. People also used to collect some water in the small bottles to carry back with them.
What are allowed and What are not? Cameras are allowed to carry in the temple premises, but photography is not allowed inside the main temple as well as in inner sanctum. Backpacks are not allowed, but small ladies bags are allowed inside the temple. Shoes are not allowed, even in the temple premises. Better to remove them at one of the prasad shop outside the temple.
Performing a Special Prayer: There are lot of people known as Pandas are available in temple complex to perform a special pooja or ritual for the devotees. In their orange clothing, they are clearly visible near the main entrance. Pandas generally charge a heavy fee to perform the pooja. Better to negotiate the price in advance before hiring them for a special pooja.
Prasad and other Souvenirs: There are series of shops on the both sides of the temple lane that starts at least 300 meters before temple. From the first shop itself, the shopkeepers asked us to remove the shoes and buy the prasad and other offerings, but we found a shop near the temple gate to buy those items. Typical offerings include a coconut, a packet of lachidana, a chunri, a small box of sindoor and some incenses. Later, after the darshan of Mata Kamakhya Devi, we again bought some religious souvenirs from those shops.
Other Important Landmarks outside the Main Temple: There are many individual temples in the temple premises of Kamakhya Temple, dedicated to ten Mahavidyas. Out of ten mahavidyas, three reside inside the main temple and the other seven reside in individual temples scattered in the premises. A sacred pond is also there, but these days, water is very dirty in that pool.
Other important places inside the temple premises are:
Place for Lighting Diyas: A marked place is the there to light diyas and incense. There are 7-8 rows of stands available for this purpose.
Place to Offer Coconut: A separate place is there to offer coconuts. A metal cylinder is fixed on a wooden cylinder where people breaks their coconut and offer it to the goddess.
Place to Tie the Thread: There is also a tree to tie the thread, that people generally do in the case of some mannat (wish).
Place to perform Sacrifice Rituals: This temple is a major center of Tantric rituals in India. Due to this, a large number of rituals with animal (particularly goats) sacrifices take place everyday. Devotees come every morning with goats to offer to Devi Shakti. Devotees can also buy these animals from the temple premises.
There is a big hall in the temple premises, where this ritual takes place. A wooden slab fitted with the tool to cut the head of the animals is clearly visible in the hall. In the morning, when temple premises was being washed, we could see the blood everywhere, in every corner of the drains spread around the sacrifice hall and main temple building.
A Special Annual Festival: Ambubachi Mela: Ambubachi Mela is the most celebrated annual festival at Kamakhya Devi Temple. It is celebrated generally during monsoon season in the Assamese month of Ahaar, around the middle of June. It is believed that the presiding goddess of the temple, Devi Kamakhya, the Mother Shakti, goes through her annual cycle of menstruation during this time stretch. So, this annual celebration marks the yearly menstruation course of goddess Kamakhya. Lots of sacrifice rituals are being performed at the temple during this festival.
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