Pushing my Luck at Maa Kamakhya Temple in Guwahati
I lifted my heels and got on my toes to peek at the queue in front. It has been close to one hour of standing and the queue has not moved an inch. There are seats installed on both sides of the queue. It only goes to show that the temple administrators were visionary enough to gauge the popularity of the Maa Kamakhya temple well in advance. It was past sunset and like many others, I was standing tall with all my grit and determination. Visiting Maa Kamakhya Temple was on my list from the very moment an air ticket to Guwahati landed in my inbox. There was no way I was leaving the temple without offering my prayers to the deity. But the destiny has different plans.
A little history about Maa Kamakhya Temple
Maa Kamakhya is one of 51 venerated Shakti Pithas in India. The temple is situated on the Nilachal Hill in Guwahati city in Assam. it is the main temple in a complex of individual temples dedicated to the ten Mahavidyas: Kali, Tara, Sodashi, Bhuvaneshwari, Bhairavi, Chhinnamasta, Dhumavati, Bagalamukhi, Matangi and Kamalatmika. Among these, Tripurasundari, Matangi and Kamala reside inside the main temple whereas the other seven reside in individual temples. While the majority of the religious sites in India forbid the entrance of menstruating women, at Maa Kamakhya the same is revered as the ability of women to conceive and give birth to a new life. The deity in the temple is a celebration of this “Shakti” (power) within every woman. This temple doesn’t have an idol of Kamakhya to worship but a yoni (vagina).
The story behind the formation of the temple is intriguing and revolves around God Shiva and Goddess Sati.
The legend has it that despite being forbidden by her husband Lord Shiva, Sati went to a yagna performed by her father Prajapati Daksha. Lord Shiva & Sati were not invited by Daksha. After Sati reached the Yagna spot, Daksha started to insult Lord Shiva in front of all the denizens of Tribhuvana. Unable to bear the insult, Sati took her own life at the Yagna spot itself. When Lord Shiva came to know about the tragic incident, he became furious. He took dead Sati’s body on his shoulders and started performing Tandava.
Lord Vishnu tried to pacify Shiva but failed. Later he dismembered the body of Sati into 51 pieces with his Sudarshan Chakra. The places where each part fell came to be known as the Shakti peethas. Kamakhya, also mentioned as Kubjika Pitha is the place where the Yoni- Mudra ( the female Genitalia or the Vulva) of Sati fell. The spot was not known until Kamadeva, the God of love, searched it out to rid himself of a curse by Brahma. He regained his rupa (beauty) after worshipping 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.
Guwahati was my transit location and hence I had limited time in hand. Having read and heard so much about the Maa Kamakhya temple there was no way I was leaving Guwahati without offering my prayers to the deity. I totally underestimated the following of Maa Kamakhya when I decided to visit it post visiting Umananda Temple.
The temple closes at 5 PM and I along with one other fellow blogger joined the queue around 4:45 PM.
I had a train to catch for the next destination at 8:30 PM. The naïve me thought 2-3 hours would be enough for the whole process. I stood in the queue for close to 2 hours and the queue hardly moved. The temple was packed with people. At around 7 PM I got to know that it would at least take 2 more hours for the darshan. I couldn’t risk missing the train and hence had to leave the queue in between.
Since I still had some time in hand (not enough for the darshan) so I decided to take a look around the temple. I couldn’t see the temple properly while entering because I was more focused on joining the queue as soon as possible. It was way past sunset and the whole temple was lit with green, blue and red colour lights making all the domes of the temple look like as if they are surrounded by colourful hues. The architecture of the temple looks like a good mix of nagara or North Indian and Saracenic or Mughal. Sometimes it is also referred to as Nilachala Style of Architecture.
The architecture of Kamakhya temple is unique in itself uniqueness.
It is the only temple in Assam that boasts a fully developed ground-plan. It consists of five chambers, namely, Garbhagriha or sanctuary, Antarala or vestible, Jagamohan or principal chamber, Bhogmandir or ritual chamber and Natmandir or opera hall for performing traditional dance and music. Ahom King Rajeswar Singha (A.D. 1751-69) is responsible for adding the last chamber to the temple complex in A.D. 1759.
It is interesting to see that the superstructure of each of the above chambers exhibits different architectural features. While the main temple contains a modified Saracenic dome, the Antarala carries a two-roofed design similar to the traditional thatched cottages; the Bhogmandir with five domes similar in appearance to the main temple and the Natmandir having a shell-roof with an apsidal end similar to some of the prayer halls found in Assam.
In addition to the ten Mahavidyas, one could also find five Siva temples namely Kameswara, Siddheswara, Kedareswara, Amratokeswara, Aghora and Kautilya, one Vishnu temple and a few shrines and temples of some other deities as well.
I left the temple with a heavy heart.
Having come so close and yet not being able to witness the deity had left me in despair. I continued my journey to Basar for the Basar Confluence. I had totally given up on the idea that I would be visiting the temple anytime soon again. But imagine my surprise when I manage to get my return ticket to prepone by a day.
The first thought in my head was visiting the temple again. The day comes and I reach the temple and again the same story. This time the queue was even longer, way longer than the last time. I didn’t think twice and joined the queue. Four hours of waiting, observing other people in the queue, fiddling with the phone and I finally reached the darshan point. The main hall of the temple houses the statue of the deity for representation purposes.
The queue moved ahead and I was directed to stairs, which lead to a dark sanctum.
The Yoni Sakthi peeth lies right in the middle of the dark sanctum. Totally covered with kumkum (red powder) and Hibiscus garlands it took me some time to understand the Sakthi peeth. I only got a few minutes to look at it but I clearly remember what it looked like. I distinctly remember each and every curve of the peeth. Before I could make anything out of it I had to move ahead. Though very brief the darshan was totally worth the pain and wait.
I left the temple premise with all the solace in the world. If I were unsuccessful this time as well I would have really been disappointed and sad. But to my good fortune, I could offer my prayers to the goddess of Shakti. The narrow lane leading to temple seemed a little brighter and colourful as I walked back. Maybe it was all the light that Maa Kamakhya bestowed me with.
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