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Kamakhya The Mother Goddess

Kamakhya, the Mother Goddess. She is second only to the mighty Brahmaputra. Guwahati, where she resides, in fact the entire State of Assam, would be like a lost child without its presiding deity.

Karup Kamakhya or just Kamakhya as the place is popularly known, is reckoned to be the most significant pilgrimage in the east. It is a pilgrimage to the Mother Goddess from whom springs forth all material and ethereal creation. Kamakhya is also the home of the most respected school of Tantra believed by the followers of the Tantric path to be a shortcut to salvation.

Rising to a modest height of 562 feet above the mighty Brahmaputra, the Nilachal Hill on which the temple stands commands a magnificent view of the entire city.

From the foothills of Nilachal there are two ways of traveling to the top. One is a small metalled serpentine road where vehicles ply. The other is a steep climb meant to be covered only by foot. This steep path is known by its ancient name, Mekhela Ujua Path. It goes through lush green canopied paths with various temples and stone structures and rock carvings on the way. It is believed that this path was built in a single night by the demon King Narakasura of Pragjyotishpur, the name of ancient Assam, to fulfill the Goddess Kamakhya’s wishes as a precondition to fulfill his ambition to marry her. The Goddess ultimately frustrated his ambition by tricking him when she showed him an artificial morning just when he was about to complete the construction of the path. Many such legends abound about Kamakhya.

The Kamakhya story goes back to the beginning of time itself. Material manifestation, the work of Brahama is preserved by Vishnu and is eventually destroyed by Shiva. Buy Shiva being always engrossed in severe penances and meditation needs to be reminded from time to time of his particular task by a consort. A consort who could overlook his wild manners and cajole him to do his duties could only be the Mother Goddess. So Brahma asked his son Daksha to propitiate her to assume a physical form as his daughter and marry Shiva. The Goddess consented on the condition that at the slightest neglect on Daksha’s part, she would sacrifice herself and invoke the wrath of Shiva. In due course the Mother Goddess as Sati married Shiva and perfect harmony reigned.

On day King Daksha organized a royal yagna (religious sacrificial rite) and threw a banquet to which he invited all the deities except Shiva because he was not happy with Shiva’s because he was not happy with Shiva’s unusual temperament. Sati, however, being the daughter, went uninvited. Unmindful of his promise to Sati, Daksha began to speak ill of Shiva. Sati became infuriated and she immolated herself by jumping into the yagna.

The meditation of Shiva, who is omnipresent, was disturbed furious, he descended on Daksha and his kinsmen and destroyed them and, with the dead body of his beloved on his shoulders he proceeded to destroy all that came in his path. But the time for the destruction of the three fold world had not yet come so a worried Brahma and Vishnu contrived to calm down Shiva. They though that if they could cause the body to disappear, Shiva would regain his equilibrium and return to his abode to resume his austere penances. So Vishnu used his Sudarshan chakra (wheel of death) to cut up the body and scatter it everywhere. The body was cut up in 51 parts and each spot where a part of Sati fell came to be venerated as symbol of the divine decree. Te place where Sati’s yoni (reproductive organ) fell thus became one of the most sacred of all religious sites.

When the yoni of Sati fell on the hill where the temple stands, the hill turned blue and came to be known as Nilachal or Blue Mountain.

The name of the place, Kamrup Kamakhya, was given by Naraksur, a former king who made Kamakhya his patron deity. It was during his time that the township around the temple came up and the place became a pilgrimage centre. The four great stone pathways from the base of the hill to the temple were built by him. The Tantras and the Puranas hold that Narakasur was born of the universe and Narayana in the form of a boar. Though a demon by birth, he was attracted by Aryan culture since he was brought up in the house of Janaka, the father of Sita. By the grace of Vishnu, Narakasur became the king of Pragjyotishpur. His kingdom flourished so long as he abided by the counsel of his mentor, Vishnu. The great Goddess Kamakhya granted his every wish. At the end of dwapar, the third epoch of creation, Narakasur formed an alliance with Bana, the powerful demon king of Sonitpur. Instead of paying obeisance to the Gods, Narakasur began to harass them. Narakasur began dreaming of becoming master of the universe and so Brahma and Vishnu had to destroy him and his kingdom and the temple of Kamakhya fell into ruins amidst impenetrable jungles.

However, the people of Nilachal remembered and always venerated the spot. Centuries passed and the land which was once known as Pragjyotishpur came to be known as the Kingdom of Ahom after the Ahom dynasty who now ruled over it. The name has survived till today but in an anglicized version – Assam.

Until the late 15th century the temple remained in ruins and was rebuilt not by the Ahom kings but by the Maharaja of Cooch Behar, Biswa Singh. In fact Cooch Behar was at war with the Ahoms. In the helter skelter of war, Biswa Singh was separated from his army and found refuge in Nilachal. He met an old woman offering prayers near the sacred spot and learnt from her of the greatness of Goddess Kamakhya. The Maharaja prayed to the Goddess to be reunited with his forces and to bring peace to his kingdom. He promised to build a temple of gold if his wishes were fulfilled. His scattered army returned to him and his re-established kingdom became a haven of peace. Biswa Singh remembered to fulfill his promise and began to rebuild the temple. But instead of gold he used bricks. To his surprise, as soon the edifice was raised, it came crashing down. One night the Maharaja had a dream in which a heavenly maiden reminded him of his promise to build a temple of gold. He begged the Goddess’s forgiveness and spoke of his inability to procure such a huge amount of gold. The ever merciful Goddess then asked him to put just a token amount of gold between each brick and build the temple. The temple was built as such and priests were appointed for regular worship of the Goddess. The temple built by the Maharaja stands till today.

The actual site of the temple is a cave containing a spring. During the month of asadha (June-July), the spring water turns red and the temple is closed for three days. Traditionally no one ploughs his field during this interval to enable the Mother Goddess to rest. Immediately after this period, there is a festival celebrated for four days which is the biggest attraction of the year at Kamakhya. During this period, in the night hours, inside the temple, deodashis (temple dancers) move in frenzied trance. Starting slowly to the beat of drums and blowing of conch shells, the dance reaches a crescendo when the dancer is said to be ultimately possessed by the Mother Goddess herself. It is generally believed that one can get anything foretold by the deodashis during this time. Male members are prohibited from watching the dances. There is a story about the Ahom king who dared to watch the goddess dancing and was immediately turned into stone.

Kamakhya in its present form was built in the 10th century by the gentle Koch Narayana who nominally ruled much of Assam alongside the Ahom kings. Preferring religious discourse to governance, the kingdom was governed by his brother, Sukladhwaj. Close to the temple cave stand statues of these two brothers because the siblings were not allowed to even look at the temple they had built because, according to a legend, the Goddess Kamakhya, pleased with the works of Narayana, visited him and gave him some instructions which he disobeyed because he did not recognize her. Infuriated, the Goddess proscribed the Koch dynasty from viewing her temple. Indeed, the Goddess is much feared. It is said that one of Narayan’s descendants, Maharani Gayatri Devi of Jaipur, visited Guwahati some 30 years ago and she meticulously averted her eyes while overflying Kamakhya in a helicopter.

Kamakhya is also the most important temple of the Shakti cult wherein all creation is perceived to the emanating from a temple deity. The practice of Shaktism has always been very personal and esoteric. It has never had any connection with any public religious order. Its tenets and history have been preserved in a special class of magical and sacramental literature, incomprehensible to the uninitiated. Not all inhabitants of Nilachal practice Tantrism. Whilst Tantra holds out the promise of unimaginable power for its followers, it also demands of them tremendous self-discipline which few can take.

Kamakhya is a unique synthesis of puritan ritualism and practicable customs. It is a pilgrimage in the traditional Indian mode. There are no hotels, no big shops and none of the attractions of urbanization. It affords an extremely privileged view into the life and rituals of an Assamese Brahmin because all the homeowners in Kamakhya re Brahmins.

From Kamakhya the next move is generally taken to Kachapukhuri. This is a natural pond full of turtles. Nobody knows as to how, when, why and who brought these amphibians from the plains to so high an altitude.

Around Kamakhya there are other temples of which the Bhutanese Tara temple and the shrine of the snake Goddess, Manasa, are more frequented. Manasa is menacingly dark because as soon as lights are fixed on, they immediately get fused.

Further up the hill, Bhubaneswari temple is situated at the highest point of the hill and offers a spectacular view of the city and the Brahmaputra river.

Not many people know that Kamakhya is a network of a myriad temples. Then, there is also a tunnel (now in bat-filled ruins) leading from here all the way to Shillong!


Since prehistoric times Assam or Kamarup Desh was renowned as the home of great occult masters with magical powers and the ability to channelized sacred and profane force inhibiting unearthly realms through their tantric siddhis or gifts.

Tantric siddhi in its pure form deals with centering one’s soul force in the sahasrahar or thousand petalled lotus in the brain where Sada Shiv dells in chinta mani, the jewel which bestows al desires through his union with Shakti by the upward flow of Kundalini or the serpentine vital force coiled at everybody’s spinal base. Once the individual soul enters this divine core, mantras (chants) with tremendous powers for doing good or evil create vibrations which the tantric siddha has to control or be controlled by. But the true purpose of al Tantric sadhana is entering into nir vikalpa samadhi or that desireless state of supreme bliss when the individual atma (soul) merges with the universal paramatman.

Tantricism became very popular in those parts of India like Assam inhabited by indigenous tribes because all are entitled to Tantric worship. Vedic Hinduism on the other hand excluded females and low castes from performing the sacred rites of worship or reciting many sacred mantras. But anyone regardless of class or sex can participate Tantric chakras or circles of worship.

The Kamkhya shrine at Guwahati became India’s foremost centre of Tantra because the Shiv, Devi and Skanda Purans say that this was the precise spot here the female genitalia of the Great Mother Goddess, Sati, fell when Vishnu started dismembering her body to force her inconsolable husband, Shiv, into performing his divine duties again. Venerated since the ancient Vedic and Puranic times, this Goddess became the patron deity of Assam. Several smaller shrines and temples dedicated to Kala Bhairav, Shiv and other Hindudeities have sprung up here over the centuries. Kamakhya Devi’s inner sanctum is a deep dark.

Underground rock chamber into which one descends via dangerously worn slippery stone steps. The so-called Matra-yoni is kept covered with silk saris and flower garlands. Only a few fortunate worshippers are allowed here to light incense and lamps before the sacred yantra in which the goddess resides.

In the open temple courtyards upstairs, regular worshipers from the city and pilgrims offer coconuts, white pigeons, goats and even buffaloes as sacrifices to Kamakhya. Scantily clad saddhus and sari-draped sadhvis can be seen in quiet contemplation or talking to anxious persons eager to know the future or have their horoscopes read.

Hindus believe that the doctrine of Tantra Yoga was revealed by Shiv to his female creative force, Shakti, or goddess Parvati. These question answer sessions were recorded be her son, Ganesh, Lord of wisdom in a book called Maha Nirvana Tantra. The Yogini Tantra, the Kularav Tantra, the Kubjika Tantra and other ancient Sanskrit scriptures enumerate Tantra Yoga’s various beliefs, cults and doctrines. It is one of the accepted paths of traditional Hindu Sadhana or practice in the soul’s ceaseless search for fulfillment of desires on earth and liberation from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth, called Nirvana or Moksha.

Precise mystic formula involving beej aksharas or word of power, yantras or geometric diagrams with occult powers, sadhana or discipline and balidaan or sacrifice were evolved, catalogued and taught to deserving disciples by great Tantric gurus. The ancient sages and masters were extremely wary of conferring awesome supernatural powers on the undeserving.

Assam’s other famous Tantric centre now falls in the State of Arunachal Pradesh. Parsuramkund and Brahmakund are the ultimate pilgrimage spots for true sanyasis and ascetics practicing Tantric yoga. This hallowed spot is associated with the great buy angry sage, Parshuram, a contemporary of Lord Rama and a great Shiva devotee. Parshuram washed his blood-drenched hands here in the swirling whirlpool created by the great Brahmaputra as it enters the plains of Assam from Tibet through the east Himalayan foothills. Since the Great Mother Goddess is believed to exist in al forms, only her worship could absolve Parshuram of the grave sin of matricide. Remote and virtually inaccessible, Parshuramkund is still crowded with determined scholars, matlocked sadhus and turbaned yogis sitting cross-legged round the Brahmakund at sunrise with iron tridents and wooden water pots. Or under the huge peepul and Banyan trees which have stood there for centuries.

A very strong Marchane atmosphere pervades Malinitha, a city famous in Vedic and Puranic times for its Tantrics and magicians and faith healers. Cobras glide through the magnificent statues, friezes and temple pillars carved from single granite block that one can still see scattered in the jungles around Parshuramkund. Temples dedicated to Maha Kali and Kala Bhairav or Lord of Time, are still see used for performing sacred Tantric rites from which outsiders are strictly excluded.

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¤ Bodhgaya ¤ Chidambaram ¤ Chitrakoot
¤ Dargahkaliyarsharif ¤ Dharamsala ¤ Dilwaratemples
¤ Dwarka ¤ Gangasagarmela ¤ Garhwal
¤ Goa ¤ Guruvayur ¤ Hardwar
¤ Jageshwar ¤ Jambukeswaram ¤ Jambukeswaram
¤ Kailashmansarovar ¤ Kamakhya ¤ Maheshwaromkareshwar
¤ Mathura ¤ Parashuramkund ¤ Pilgrimagecenters
¤ Pilgrimagesofsikhs ¤ Rameshwaram ¤ Rishikesh
¤ Sabarimala ¤ Shatrunjayahill ¤ Shivapur
¤ Tawangmonastery ¤ Thirukalikundrum ¤ Tirupati
¤ Travelofgods ¤ Trichur ¤ Tripureshwari
¤ Tungnath ¤ Vaishnodevi ¤ Varanasi
¤ Vrindavan ¤ Yamnotri