Kamakhya Temple and its Legends

Temple, the most famous temple of Assam is a temple dedicated to Goddess Sati, an incarnation of Durga. From time immemorial, pilgrims from all across India have come to this place in pursuit of divine solace. This temple is also bestowed with its own set of myths and mysteries. The aesthetic significance of this temple cannot be ascertained only by its factual history; rather one needs to know the associated legends and folklores also to understand the same.


The temple which has been a subject of many tales is situated at a distance of only eight kilometres from Guwahati Railway Station. The temple is situated atop the picturesque Nilachal Hills on the southern bank of the Brahmaputra river. Of the various legends that have been associated with the temple, the first legend is that despite the disapproval of her husband Lord Shiva, Sati went to a yagna performed by her father Prajapati Daksha. Daksha had not invited Shiva and even abused him in front of other invitees. Unable to bear the insult, she committed suicide. When Shiva heard the tragic incident, he took dead Sati’s body on his shoulders and began a dance of destruction. Vishnu tried to pacify Shiva and cut the body of Sati into 51 pieces with his Sudarshan Chakra. The spots where each part fell came to be known as the peethas (holy shrines).


The place where the uterus of Sati fell was not known till Kamadeva, the God of love, searched it out to rid himself of a curse by Brahma. He regained his rupa (beauty) here after worshiping in this peetha. Since Kamadeva regained his rupa here the entire place is called Kamarupa (Kamrup) and the deity is known as Kamakhya or one worshipped by Kama.


The second legend goes that Narakasur, the demon king of Pragjyotishpur (The ancient name of Guwahati according to mythological inscriptions) charmed by the mesmerising beauty of Devi Kamakhya, fell in love with her and proposed her to marry him. Devi Kamakhya in order to ward off the demon, put a condition before him. that she would marry him only if he constructed a temple for her within a span of one night. Narakasur buoyed by the prospect of being in wedlock with the Goddess, started in his endeavour to construct the temple. He was almost successful in his quest when Devi realised the threat and deceived the demon by bringing a hen and making it to cry out declaring the onset of morning. Narakasur realised that he was deceived and ran after the hen to kill it. After much ado he caught the hen and killed it in a place called Kukurakata (a place where hens are slaughtered). Thus the temple was constructed by Narakasur.


Although little is known about the early history of this temple, the earliest of the references have been traced to the Allahabad inscriptions of Emperor Samudragupta. The present temple was built by King Naranarayan of Cooch Behar in 1665. So this fact essentially proves that the temple is a lot older than what some historians have been trying to prove. It would not be an overstatement to say that the basic attraction of Assam uptil now has been the Kamakhya Temple.


It is believed by Hindu devotees that the Devi menstruates during a unique festival called Ambubachi Mela which is observed during the Indian month of Ashaad (between June and July). It is held by believers that every year on the seventh day of Ashaad, the pool containing the uterus turns red. The temple remains closed thereafter for a period of three days. On the fourth day, the doors of the temple are opened for lakhs of pilgrims who throng the temple during this festival. This festival is one of the biggest of its kinds in the entire country and can only be compared with the like of Kumbhmela.


It’s a pleasure to slowly mount the hill by jeeps known as trackers enjoying the natural grandeur all around. The temple with its pristine glory welcomes all its visitors with open arms. With the advancement of time, things around Kamakhya Temple have changed. The entire place surrounding the temple has been converted to a residential complex sheltering all the pandas (protectors of the temple) with their families. There are places around where a visitor can stay for the night. So a visitor can expect all the luxuries that any other pilgrimage destination can offer in India. We can only wish the legacy of Kamakhya Temple last for ever.


Sunayan Bhattacharjee



[Image source:http://www.flickr.com/photos/jn/15058627/]