Ambubachi Mela: Fertility of Kamakhya

Kamakhya temple is a temple of the 16th century located on Nilachal hill in Guwahati, Assam. Kamakhya is a goddess of fertility and Tantrism that evolved in the Himalayan hills. The Tantric deity of the goddess Tara got worshiped by the tribals. The Vedic priests created the legend of Kam-e-kha in Garo hills.

The earliest manifestation of the sanctified goddess in the Garo Hills got destroyed. Kamakhya is in the form of a stone yoni, female generative organ, symbolic of the goddess. The temple remains one of the most important sites and Peethas among Hindu temples in the world.

Kam-e-kha was an important goddess of Khasi tribes. Another legend has it that the goddess got worshipped by Kamdev, the god of lust whom Shiva had reduced to ashes. Over the centuries the dominant theologies transform it to the tale of Shiva and Sati.

The temple darshan is through touch and there is no idol. There is a large crack in the bed rock dampened by water flowing upwards from an underground spring. It gets covered by fabrics and ornate clothes, flowers, and red sindoor powder. Pilgrims offer items for worship to the rock and then touch and drink the water from the spring.

After completing darshan, devotees light lamps and incense devotees outside the temple. Like other temples, worship is not considered complete until the temple gets circumambulated. There is also the prevalence of the custom of animal sacrifices here. Bulls, goats, and pigeons get sacrificed on the altar of the Goddess.

As an assembly line, as soon as the blood of a goat has escaped through the drain holes, here is ready the successor. Mother Earth must remain wet and drenched in blood and the reason is soon explained. The primordial deity, Kali is here seen as a figure of Mother Earth.

In the real ritual, the priests of the temple lie down on their back to enable women to take over them. With the feet to the side of the hips, they dive inside the erect priest that enters into the postulant. Tantrism provides that the ritual excludes release.

Ambubachi Mela is during July, celebrating her menstruation period during the 4 days. The blood of animal sacrifices offered to the goddess flows. While the crowd chants, Prithibi Rajashala Hoi, that means Mother Earth is menstruating.

During the first three days of the festival, the temple doors remain closed. On the fourth day finally open the doors of the temple, so that the faithful may offer their prayers.

When members leave the shrine, they carry with them the red fabric strips. These get used to cleanse the goddess and is thus stained with her menstrual blood.

Plynteria was an Athenian festival in honor of Athena. It was a purification ceremony of the sanctuary and the sacred image of the goddess. This festival took place in May. Kallynteria got celebrated on the 19th of the month and the Plynteria on the 29th. We see that these feasts included, in particular, the washing of the temple. There was also a ceremony in which the goddess was again displayed.

The day of the festival got counted by the Athenians as the impure days. The Temple of Athena got surrounded by a rope to prevent any communication with the interior. The women who were in charge of this ritual were praxiergidai.

The day of the Plynteria was a day of official leave when public affairs got stopped. The festival lasted five consecutive days. The legends about the origins of the festivals are not very clear. The absence of Athena is to last several days. We see that the figs play a part in the procession of the Plynteria. The procession begins, only to return in the evening. Athena received a sheep on the day of the Plynteria as an offering of purification. We know at what moment of the celebration this sacrifice got placed in. The bath of the goddess was at Phalereus. The statue of the goddess, purified, got replaced in the temple, and adorned again.
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  • Kala
    Kala March 16, 2012 at 8:20 PM

    I have never been to India before, Kalyan. Your posts and photos make me want to visit this beautiful and intriguing place with a culture very different to my mine.

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