Also known as Shakti Peeth, Kamakhya Temple located in Guwahati, Assam in northeastern part of India, is one of the most sacred pilgrimage sites for the Hindus, especially for Tantric worshipers. It is believed that if someone visits Assam, he must pay a vist to this temple.
Nestled in the Nilachal Hill of the Capital of Assam, the temple houses the primary deity Kamakhya, in stone architecture. There are altogether six stone temples here. The temple can be dated back to thousands of years back but the current stone sculpture was re-built during 1564-63 by Chilarai, a great warrior of eastern India.
The main temple is dedicated to Kamakhya Devi and the whole structure it is a complex of individual temples dedicated to ten Mahavidyas: Bhuvaneshvari, Bagalamukhi, Chinnamasta, Tripura Sundari and Tara, Kali, Bhairavi, Dhumavati, Matangi and Kamala. Among them Tripurasundari, Matangi and Kamala reside inside the main temple whereas the other seven reside in individual temples.
The most sacred part of the temple is the inner sanctorum, the garbhagriha. It is a cave below ground level and is small, dark and reached by narrow steep stone steps. Inside the cave there is a piece of stone that slopes downwards from both sides meeting in a yoni-like depression some 10 inches deep. This hallow is constantly filled with water from an underground perennial spring. It is the vulva-shaped depression that is worshiped as the goddess Kamakhya herself and considered as most important pitha (abode) of the Devi.
The garbhaghrihas of the other temples also follow the same structure—a yoni-shaped stone, filled with water and below ground level.
It is not possible to trace the original structure of the temple. But the present structure was built during the rule of Ahom dynasty. Remnants of the earlier Koch temple were also preserved.
Temple was destroyed during the middle of second millennium and revised temple structure was constructed in 1565 by Chilarai of the Koch dynasty.
The current structure has a beehive-like shikhara with sculptured panels and images of Ganesha and other Hindu gods and goddesses.
Out of the three major chambers of the temple, the western chamber is large and rectangular and is not used by the general pilgrims for worship. The middle chamber is a square, with a small idol of the Goddess, which is a later addition. The walls of this chamber contain sculpted images of Naranarayana, related inscriptions and other gods.
The middle chamber leads to the sanctum sanctorum.
Ambubachi Mela is the most prominent festival celebrated in the temple, when the menstruation of the Goddess Kamakhya is celebrated. During this time, (in July) the water in the main shrine runs red with iron oxide resembling menstrual fluid.
The Kalika Purana, an ancient work in Sanskrit describes Kamakhya as the yielder of all desires, the young bride of Shiva, and the giver of salvation. Shakti is also known as Kamakhya.
Vatsayana, a Sage in Varanasi during the first Century was approached by the King in the Himalayan region (now Nepal) to find a solution to convert the tribal population and their rituals of human sacrifice to a more socially-accepted worship. Vatsayana suggested the worship of Tara, a tantric goddess.
According to the Kalika Purana, Kamakhya Temple denotes the spot where Sati used to retire in secret to satisfy her amour with Shiva, and it was also the place where her yoni fell after Shiva danced with the corpse of Sati.
This is not corroborated in the Devi Bhagavata, which lists 108 places associated with Sati’s body, though Kamakhya finds a mention in a supplementary list. The Yogini Tantra, a latter work, ignores the origin of Kamakhya given in Kalika Purana and associates Kamakhya with the goddess Kali and emphasizes the creative symbolism of the yoni.
As a key centre for Tantra worship, Kamakhya temple attracts tens of thousands of tantra devotees during the Ambubachi Mela. Another annual celebration is the Manasha Puja. Durga Puja is also celebrated annually at Kamakhya during Navaratri in the autumn. This five-day festival attracts several thousand visitors. Pilgrims from all over South Asia pay their visit to the temple.
According to the legend, this is actually place where the female genitals, uterus, of Sati dropped when the Almighty Vishnu dissected her human body to force grief-stricken the Almighty Shiva in order to come out and about of the pain as well as carry out his celestial responsibilities.
Up to date Kamakhya Temple timings are as follows
5:30 AM: Snana of the Pithasthana.
6:00 AM: Nitya puja.
8:00 AM: Temple door open for devotees.
1:00 PM: Temple door closed for cooked offerings to the goddess followed by distribution among the devotees.
2:30 PM: Temple door reopens for the devotees.
5:30 PM: Aarati of Goddess followed by closing of the temple door for the night.
How to Reach: The Kamakhya temple is about 20km from the Guwahati airport and is about 6km from the railway station. From the airport as well as from the railway station cars are easily available for rent. So, devotees can hire cars for a trip to Kamakhya.