Kamakhya Temple- “The Nalanda of Tantra.”

By- Praharsh Mishra

A lady was crying helplessly, visiting different psychiatrists for her son’s condition. This was the seventh psychiatrist treating him, she prayed that may this be the last doctor treating her son, may her son gets well this time. She went along with her son with a feeling of getting him cured. She describes the doctor that on every Wednesday her son’s personality completely changes. A seventeen year old boy living in Delhi who only knows Hindi and English to speak, starts speaking in Marathi. He neither learned Marathi nor has any Marathi friends. His male voice changes into a heavy female voice. His body gets out of control and he starts shivering. Although the boy is thin but to get control over him he is tied with a rope with the help of five to ten men. When they tie him he starts speaking and it feels like whoever is controlling his body is not going to leave him. After listening the description carefully the doctor went into an egregious mode. He said that these are very rare cases and hard to believe. But your face is revealing more than your words. The doctor further added that your son is a rare example among those suffering with Dissociative Identity Disorder, we have to try methods like Psychotherapy and Cognitive behavioural therapy first. The lady believed the doctor but even after four month’s of treatment nothing happened.

Her neighbour used to visit Kamakhya Temple(in Nilachal hills, Guwahati, Assam) every year. Seeing her family condition she urged her to take her son there. She urged her to meet a famous tantrik whom she called “Ramakant baba”. Noticing a hope of ray the lady agreed. She met the tantrik along with her son and enumerated every thing. After examining him the tantrik used a mantra on him. The boy became unconcious and after few minutes woke up. The tantrik further gave the lady a mantra and directed her to use on him every day for the next three months. He added that a Marathi girls spirit has entered in his body. The spirit was finding a spiritually weak body and he was the first one to get into this. He articulated that the spirit is stubborn and won’t go easily so use the mantra on daily basis. They returned back and the day when they returned was Wednesday. The boys personality started changing again but this time his mother started chanting the mantra in her mind and the boy went unconcious and woke up after few minutes in a well condition. More than three years have passed but the boy is well and leading a happy life. Where science and medical failed, tantra worked!

At Kamakhya temple you will find many tantriks. You call it a belief or a quixotic approach but it is what it is. Generations after generations have witnessed miracles. Some come to get rid of black magic, some come to worship the goddess, some come to get rid of evil spirits, some come to get blessed with a child. You will hear numerous incidences enunciated by people which will definitely sound like a miracle. These miracles are mostly achieved by tantra. Indeed, the Kamakhya temple is the “Nalanda of Tantra”.

The Kamakhya temple has mainly three true narrative arcs. First one being the temple, the second one being the mythological perspective and the third one being the tantra. Besides tantra what makes Kamakhya temple stand apart from millions of temples. The temple has no image of goddess Kamakhya. Goddess Kamakhya is the goddess of fertility, creative power and desire. The goddess is worshipped in a non-iconic form of a stone shaped like a yoni. The sculpture i.e. yoni has a continuous natural underground spring of water which keeps it moist. The offerings of flowers and leaves are made to the Yoni.

According to the Kalika Purana, Kamakhya Temple denotes the spot where Sati used to retire in secret to satisfy her amour with Shiva, and also the place where her yoni(genitals, womb) fell after Shiva’s tandav with the corpse of Sati. But the Yogini Tantra which is a latter work disagrees the concept given in Kalika Purana and relates Goddess Kamakhya with Goddess Kali. It emphasizes the creative symbolism of the yoni. Kalika Purana further describes Kamakhya Devi as the yielder of all desires, the young bride of Shiva i.e. Sati and the giver of salvation. According to this Shakti is Kamakhya.

Now comes the bizarre part. This temple attracts thousands of tantra devotees in an annual festival known as the Ambubachi Mela. It is believed that the Goddess Kamakhya is menstruating during this time i.e. month of June. The nearby river i.e. Brahmaputra river turns red and the temple remains shut for three days. The temple then is reopened in a grand manner on the fourth day. The holy water called the ‘Angodak’ is distributed amongst all the devotees. A red cloth called the ‘Angavastra’ is also distributed amongst the devotees. Basically a white cloth is used to cover the sculpture but after the menstruation period the white cloth changes into red.

Ambubachi celebrates the annual menstruation of the goddess. As ambu(rain) endows life and fertility on earth in the same way the blood is believed to bring life to the world. Well, there is no solid scientific explanation behind it. Some say it is due to the high cinnabar and iron deposits in the water, some say priests pour vermillion powder in the water, some say it might be the red algae that covers the river every monsoon. Other pujas are also celebrated like Durga Puja, Pohan Biya, Durgadeul, Vasanti Puja, Madandeul and Manasa Puja.

If we are discussing about Maa Kamakhya then a shloka from Kamakhyatantram must be included here. It goes as:

काली करालविक्रान्ते कामेश्वरी हरप्रिये। सर्वशास्त्रसारभूते कामेश्वरी नमोऽस्तु ते ।।

(kāli karālavikrante kämeśvari harapriye sarvaśāstrasārabhūte kāmeśvari namo’ stu te)

-Mother Kamakhya is the greatest goddess in the universe. She is the mother of all creations. She is the supreme power of Shiva. She is the source of all the permanent and temporary objects of the universe. She is Sati or Goddess Durga. Durga and Kamakhya are the same goddess.

There are different explanations regarding the origin of Devi’s name as ‘Kamakhya’. First, the genital organ of sati fell on the Nilachal during Shiva’s tandav. The goddess secretly came here to satisfy her amour(kama) with Shiva. As the Sanskrit word for lovemaking is ‘kama’, devi was named Kamakhya. Second, the Indian god of love Kamadeva once lost his virility due to a curse. To get free from the curse he sought out Shakti’s womb and genitals. Thus the goddess was named Kamkakhya. It is also said that after worshipping he got back his beauty(Rupa, saundarya) and hence this place was called Kamarupa. Third, the name ‘Kamakhya’ signifies different aspects to different communities in Assam. For the Bodo-Kacharis tribe she is Kham Maikha (the old/ancient mother), to the Garos, Nuting, Muring-she is the energy behind creation. Fourth, according to a scholars perception the prefix ‘Ka’ is for the feminine. ‘Kā mei’ may mean mother power. Ka-mei-kha is the primeval(of the earliest time) female principle.

The word ‘akhya’ needs more words than are needed to express its meaning as there are less known names of the goddess like Śivākhyā, Brahmākhyā etc (mentioned in the twelfth chapter of Kūrmapurāņa).Therefore, the goddess is called Kāmākhyā.

If we discuss the historical perspective then historians suggests that the worship at Kamakhya progressed in three phases. First, yoni(female genital and womb)under the Mlechhas, yogini(female practioner of yoga and tantra) under the Palas and the Mahavidyas( includes ten Hindu tantric goddess- Kali, Tara, Tripura Sundari, Bhuvaneshwari, Bhairavi, Chhinnamasta, Dhumavati, Bagalamukhi, Matangi and Kamalatmika) under the Kochs.

The main temple is surrounded in a complex of individual temples dedicated to the ten Mahavidyas of Shaktism- Kali, Tara, Tripura Sundari, Bhuvaneshwari, Bhairavi, Chhinnamasta, Dhumavati, Bagalamukhi, Matangi and Kamalatmika. Tripura Sundari, Matangi and Kamala reside inside the main temple whereas the other seven reside in individual temples. This amalgamation of ten individual Mahavidyas to form a group found in a temple is probably not elsewhere. This feature also makes it unique and rare. Historians also suggests that the Kamakhya temple was an ancient sacrificial site for a tribal goddess, Kameikha (old-cousin-mother) of the Khasi and Garo people.

A 16th or 17th century tantric text i.e. the Yogini Tantra mentions that the religion of the Yogini Pitha (seat of female masters of yoga in Hindu tantra, broadly equated with goddesses especially Parvati, incarnating the sacred feminine force) is of Kirata origin(term in Sanskrit literature for people who had territory in the mountains, particularly in the Himalayas and Northeast India and are believed to have been Sino-Tibetan in origin). According to a prominent literary figure, critic and a scholar of Assam- Banikanta Kakati, there existed a tradition among the priests established by Naranarayana that the Garos, a tribe, offered worship at the earlier Kamakhya site by sacrificing pigs. The tradition of sacrifices continues till today with devotees coming every morning with animals and birds to offer to the goddess. But the sacrifice of a female animal is prohibited.

Did you know how Kamakhya temple became an important seat of Tantrikism? Well, the later palas of Kamarupa kings, from Indra Pala to Dharma Pala, were followers of the Tantrik tenet and in that period Kamakhya had become an important seat of Tantrikism. The Kalika Purana was composed in the tenth century and Kamakhya soon became a renowned centre of Tantrik sacrifices and mysticism. The Kalika Purana mentions that during the time of the Kiratas and just before Naraka, a demon, started to live here, goddess Kamakhya was there in Kamarupa. After the Kiratas were driven out, Naraka himself became a devotee of Kamakhya. This shows that Kamakhya was originally a tribal mother goddess. It can also be said that the Garos and Khasis who were not far from the site were original worshippers of Mother Kamakhya.

There is even a story behind the temples staircases which will evoke your intrigue. Once a demon Naraka proposed to marry Goddess Kamakhya. She then gave him a task and promised that on completion of task would marry him. The task was to build stairs from the bottom of Nilachal hill to the top in one night. Naraka started the work and when he was about to complete the work he was tricked by the goddess. She converted the crow into a cock in order to give him an illusion that the night is over. Naraka was tricked easily and stopped making staircase halfway through. This incomplete stairs are called ‘Mekhelauj path’.

Kamakhya Devi Temple is considered to be the seat of Aghoris and Tantriks. Kamakhya Mata is the most important goddess for Tantriks after Kali and Tripura Sundari Devi. There is an influx of Sadhus and Aghoris. If a person is suffering from black magic then he can come here and get rid of his problem.

Tantriks are even capable of warding off evil forces. However, they uses their powers with great care. The tantriks and sages of Kamakhya are capable of performing miracles. Many people go on pilgrimage to Kamakhya for the fulfilment of marriage, children, wealth and other desires. But people have often misconceived the concept of tantra. It is also often thought of being a kind of black magic. In reality, tantra is a positive practice, representing the practical aspect of Vedic tradition. But this also does not mean tantra does not deal with the harmful aspects of nature. Tantra is basically an advance science.

The word ‘Tantra’ is derived from the combination of three words , ‘Tattva’, ‘Mantra’ and ‘Yantra’. Tattva is the science of cosmic principles, based on the five elements – air, water, fire, earth and space. Mantra refers to the science of mystic sounds and vibrations. Yantra deals with channelizing the energies of two types- sound and cosmic energy. Tantra links the spiritual world with the materialistic world. Hence, be it peace of mind, solving family problems, getting rid of evil forces and black magic, tantra has infinite power with unlimited applications. There is a notion among the people that in Kamakhya Temple, black magic is performed but the reality is that through tantra black magic is eliminated.

To get a tantric “siddhi” every tantra practitioner final goal becomes to get a vision of the ten Mahavidyas. There is a strong belief that if a ‘sadhak’ does not visit Kamakhya his ‘sadhna’ will be incomplete. The Kamakhya temple has long been considered the highest seat of tantra. In other words, this temple is a different world altogether.

According to an article published in the Indian Express-

William Dalrymple narrates that he met several politicians in West Bengal and Bihar who turned to tantrics. They not only worshipped skulls but also offered animal sacrifices to the goddess before standing for election. One of them explained that in his state, Bihar, “politics is only for the strong” and that “tantra is much more powerful than conventional religion”. Indeed, it is all about power. And local politicians are not the only ones to resort to tantrics in the hope of benefitting from their power; even prime ministers have done the same. Indira Gandhi did it privately to protect Sanjay Gandhi after the emergency. Pupul Jayakar wrote in her biography that she had performed Laskshachandi Path, a ritual where 1,00,000 verses were recited to invoke the primordial power and energy of Chandi, the all-encompassing mother. These rituals were held in the Kali temple of Jhansi. The yagna, the oblations to fire, and the recitation of the verses were conducted in secret from 1979 to 1983. It seems That she continued to do it after Sanjay died to disqualify a rival using the “evil eye”. According to Jayakar, she had received “secret reports of tantric rituals and black magic rites, being performed to destroy me and my sanity”. This is one of the reasons why Indira Gandhi turned to Dhirendra Brahmachari, who “was one of those people who frightened Indira by evoking dark tantric rites practised in secret sanctuaries by those who wished to destroy both her and Sanjay. Brahmachari doubtless spoke to her of other equally powerful rites and mantras that could protect her from these evil forces”. Brahmachari was eased out of the Gandhi household in 1984, after the death of Indira. But other tantrics were used by top politicians in the 1990s.

Devi Kamakhya celebrates the power or ‘shakti’ within every women. According to the Hindu scriptures, there are four important Shakti Peethas (Temples with highest powers of divinity) in the country and Kamakhya Temple is one of them. Kamakhya Temple celebrates the power of the woman to give birth. The entrance designed is simple yet has elegant carvings decorated with colourful flowers. It is believed that the genital and womb of the goddess is present in the Garbhagriha. If you get a chance to visit the temple you must do so.

Altogether, I would like to conclude this article with the Sanskrit shloka mentioned in Kamakhyatantram

सनातनी जगन्माता सच्चिदानन्दरूपिणी । परा च जननी सैव सर्वाभीष्टप्रदायिनी ॥ १९ ॥

(sanatani jaganmatā saccidānandarūpiņi/ pară ca janani saiva sarvabhiṣṭapradayini)

-She is Eternal, Mother of the Universe, Existence-thought and Joy. Chief, mother and grantor of all desires.

May Maa Kamakhya bless us all. Jai Maa Kamakhya!

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