Pavitrya

Kamakhya Temple Assam

Kamakhya-Temple

The Kamakhya Temple also Kamrup-Kamakhya  is a Hindu temple dedicated to the mother goddess Kamakhya. It is one of the oldest of the 51 Shakti Pithas. Situated on the Nilachal Hill in western part of Guwahati city in Assam, India. The main temple in a complex of individual temples dedicated to the ten Mahavidyas: Kali, Tara, Sodashi, Bhuvaneshwari, Bhairavi, Chhinnamasta, Dhumavati, Bagalamukhi, Matangi and Kamala. Among these, Tripurasundari, Matangi and Kamala reside inside the main temple whereas the other seven reside in individual temples.

It is an important pilgrimage destination for general Hindu and especially for Tantric worshipers. In July 2015, the Supreme Court of India transferred the administration of the Temple from the Kamakhya Debutter Board to the Bordewri Samaj. The earliest historical dynasty of Kamarupa, the Varmans (350-650), as well as Xuanzang, a 7th-century Chinese traveler ignore the Kamakhya; and it is assumed that the worship at least till that period was Kirata-based beyond the brahminical ambit.

The first epigraphic notice of Kamakhya is found in the 9th-century Tezpur plates of Vanamalavarmadeva of the Mlechchha dynasty. Since the archaeological evidence too points to a massive 8th-9th century temple,  it can be safely assumed that the earliest temple was constructed during the Mlechchha dynasty. The later Palas of Kamarupa kings, from Indra Pala to Dharma Pala, were followers of the Tantrik tenet and about that period Kamakhya had become an important seat of Tantrikism. The Kalika Purana (10th century) was composed and Kamakhya soon became a renowned centre of Tantrik sacrifices, mysticism and sorcery. Mystic Buddhism, known as Vajrayana and popularly called the “Sahajia cult”, too rose in prominence Kamarupa in the tenth century.

It is found from Tibetan records that some of the eminent Buddhist professors in Tibet, of the tenth and the eleventh centuries, hailed from Kamarupa. The Kalika Purana gives the Sanskritized names of most of the rivers and hills of Brahmaputra valley. It gives a full account of the Naraka legend, the physical description of the land and the old city of Pragjyotishpura as well as the special merit and sanctity of the Kamakhya Temple.

There is a tradition that the temple was destroyed by Kalapahar, a general of Sulaiman Karrani (1566–1572). Since the date of reconstruction (1565) precedes the possible date of destruction, and since Kalapahar is not known to have ventured so far to the east, it is now believed that the temple was destroyed not by Kalapahar but during Hussein Shah’s invasion of the Kamata kingdom (1498). The ruins of the temple was said to have been discovered by Vishwasingha (1515–1540), the founder of the Koch dynasty, who revived worship at the site; but it was during the reign of his son, Naranarayan (1540–1587), that the temple reconstruction was completed in 1565. The reconstruction used material from the original temples that was lying scattered about, some of which still exists today. Banerji (1925) records that this structure was further built over by the rulers of the Ahom kingdom. According to historical records and epigraphic evidence, the main temple was rebuilt by Chilarai using the available stone ruins, with the brick dome being an innovation.

The current final structure has been rebuilt during the Ahom times, with remnants of the earlier Koch temple carefully preserved. According to a legend the Koch Bihar royal family was banned by Devi herself from offering puja at the temple. In fear of this curse, to this day no descendants of that family dares to even look upward towards the Kamakhya hill while passing by. Without the support of the Koch royal family the temple faced lot of hardship. By the end of 1658, the Ahoms under king Jayadhvaj Singha had conquered the Kamrup and their interests in the temple grew. In the decades that followed the Ahom kings, all who were either devout Shaivite or Shakta continued to support the temple by rebuilding and renovating it. It is likely that this is an ancient Khasi sacrificial site, and worshiping here still includes sacrifices.

Devotees come every morning with goats to offer to Shakti. 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 known as Kamakhya. The worship of all female deity in Assam symbolizes the “fusion of faiths and practices” of Aryan and non-Aryan elements in Assam. The different names associated with the goddess are names of local Aryan and non-Aryan goddesses.

The Yogini Tantra mentions that the religion of the Yogini Pitha is of Kirata origin. According to Banikanta Kakati, there existed a tradition among the priests established by Naranarayana that the Garos, a matrilineal people, offered worship at the earlier Kamakhya site by sacrificing pigs. The goddess is worshiped according to both the Vamachara (Left-Hand Path) as well as the Dakshinachara (Right-Hand Path) modes of worship. Offerings to the goddess are usually flowers, but might include animal sacrifices. In general female animals are exempt from sacrifice, a rule that is relaxed during mass sacrifices.

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