The Kamakhya Temple dedicated to goddess Kamakhya which stands tall above the Nilachal hills is one of the most sacred destinations of Hindu pilgrimage. Chronicles has it that this was the place where Tantrik Hinduism found its roots. Assam until a few centuries ago i.e before the British opened it to the rest of India was popular as a land of sorcerers and magicians. “Pragjyotishpur” the former name of Guwahati was derived from two words “Prag” & “Jyotishpur”, which meant the eastern city of astrologers.
Every year thousands of devotees throng the temple of Kamakhya during the Ambubachi Mela in the month of Ahaar (mid June). It marks the yearly menstruation cycle of the Goddess Kamakhya and is a celebration of fertility of mother earth and nature. For three days (marking the menstruation cycle) all the doors and gates of the main temple premises are closed for visitors. After this the temple premises are open for devotees from across the world. Finally after a total of 7 days the festival comes to an end. If one is lucky enough to visit the glorious Ambubachi Mela there are certain things that will definitely catch the eye and attention.
There is no form of idol worship that is performed during the Kamakhya temple. You will hardly find any ritual being performed day in and day out. Devotees who are encamped near the temple perform various songs and dances devoted to the goddess of Shakti. Saadhus perform various tricks that portray determination, concentration and will power. You will find one person standing by his head for hours after hours; another will stand on one leg for the entire duration of the festival. Puffs of white smoke keep blowing in the air all throughout. Another important thing to note is that Ambubachi Mela holds no discrimination in the name of caste or creed. There is no one waiting at the entrance to identify which caste you belong to. If you are a devotee of the goddess you are free to enter the temple and offer your prayers. Many of us have often heard that pre-historic Assam was a land of Shakti Hinduism where no traces of a caste system could be found. I think Kamakhya still holds the tradition till today.
Hinduism as many suggests exists in various folds and forms in the local folklore of people spread across the sub-continent. The Ambubachi Mela at Kamakhya is a place where an inquisitive mind can find the largest collection of such stories. Through the beating of drums and blowing of horns the devotees perform various dramas that talk of the local folklore of various Hindu gods and goddesses. It was at this very Ambubachi Mela itself that a Sadhu Baba narrated to me a Ramayana which I had never heard before. In his version Sita was the daughter of Ravana and Ram was definitely not a god but a certain human with all human imperfections. After nearly 4 years I found his version of the story vividly described in the book “Asura” by Anand Neelkanthan. There will definitely be hundreds and thousands of such stories. It is a good fortune that all of them come together in these days of the year.
Overall the Ambubachi Mela with its deep rooted liberal outlook of Hinduism and the mutual respect for the various ways in which a person might understand the Hindu religion gives it a distinct identity. To popularize this facet of the festival and the festival itself which is an asset of the people of Assam is the foremost duty of the administration. Ambubachi Mela holds great prospect for religious tourism and learning. The Ambubachi Mela at Kamakhya Temple which is held in supreme regards by many must be beautifully promoted to draw people from all over. The surging energy levels, the never ending beats and tunes, they will all leave every visitor mesmerized and spellbound.
When the waters of the Brahmaputra flows with its full strength, when Mother Nature caresses Assam into her loving arms and when the goddess herself comes to bless us all, it is time to visit the Nilachal hills to feel her presence amongst us all. May the Goddess Kamakhya’s blessing be with you all.