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The famous Kamakhya Devi temple is one amongst the 51 Shakti peeths in India. Nestled at the top of Ninanchal Hill in the Western part of Guwahati City, this temple is dedicated to the tantric goddess. Apart from Kamakhya Devi, the temple also houses 10 other avatars of Goddess Kali namely Tara, Dhumavati, Bagola, Bhairavi, Tripuara Sundari, Chinnamasta, Kamala and Matinga.
The first reference to the place has been tracked back to the Allahabad inscriptions of Emperor Samudragupta. Destroyed in the early 16th century, it was rebuilt by King Narayana of Cooch, Bihar in the 17th Century.
Significance of the name Kamakhya
It is said that due to a curse, the God of love - Kamadeva lost his virility. He was only freed from the curse after he sought out Shakti’s womb and genitals. This is where ‘love’ gained strength and thus people began worshipping the deity ‘Kamakhya Devi’. Some also believe that this is the place where Shiva and Sati had their romantic encounters. In Sanskrit, the word for lovemaking is ‘kama’, thus this temple was named Kamakhya.
The Mythical Origin of Kamakhya
Legend has it that Sati married Lord Shiva against the wishes of her father, King Daksha. Once King Daksha organized a ‘universal yajna’, but Sati and her husband were uninvited. Sati insisted to attend the yajna despite her husband’s disapproval.
At the yajna, her father insulted her and Lord Shiva. Unable to bear the disrespect for her husband Shiva, she killed herself by jumping in the yajna fire. This drove Lord Shiva insane with rage and while holding the dead body of Sati on his shoulders, he started the dance of destruction of the universe. But in order to save the universe and to calm Shiva down, Lord Vishnu cut the body of Sati into pieces with his Sudarshan Chakra. These body parts of Sati fell at 108 places all over the world and this why these places are known as Shakti Peeths. Kamakhya Devi Temple is considered special because Sati’s womb and yoni (vagina) fell here.
The mythical womb and yoni of Goddess Shakti are supposedly installed in the sanctum or garvagriha of the temple. During the month of Ashaad (June), it is believed that the goddess menstruates or bleeds. Although there is no scientific proof but the natural underground spring near the sculptured image of the yoni turns red especially during this time. The temple remains closed for three days and holy water is distributed among the devotees of Kamakhya Devi.
Symbolically, this entire process is a symbol of woman’s creativity and power to give birth. Hence, the deity and the temple of Kamakhya celebrates the power within every woman.
Some quick facts about the Kamakhya Devi Temple:
-There is no statue, idol or image of the Kamakhya Devi here. The main object of reverence is the sculptured image of the yoni of the goddess covered by a red cloth.
- The sculptured image of the yoni is kept moist by a natural underground spring
- There are a number of special pujas held around the year in Kamakhya Temple apart from the daily puja offered to the Devi. These include Durga Puja, Ambubachi, Manasa Puja etc.
- There is an incomplete staircase to the temple known as the Mekhelauja path. Although this staircase leads to the temple, now there is also a finely paved and pitched road for pilgrims to travel by cars and other vehicles.
-The great Ambubabchi mela also known as the fertility festival takes place in this temple in the month of June for five days.
The Temple of Kamakhya is very powerful. Everyone comes to this world through the ‘yoni’ and this is the reason why this place is considered to be the center point for creation of the universe.
How to reach Kamakhya Temple
The city of Guwahati is well connected with the rest of the country. You can choose to travel to Guwahati by train or by flight. Most of the trains halt at the Kamakhya station, so if you are travelling by train you can check if the train you board halts at that station or not. Otherwise, once you are in Guwahati you can also easily hire a cab to reach this temple.