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Letters from India
Durga Puja sans Idols at Kamakhya Temple
By Nava Thakuria
Special Correspondent
The Kamakhya Temple at Nilachal hills in Guwahati, Assam, India.

Unlike any Durga Puja mandap that showcases splendid clay idols of Devi Maa, her children Lakshmi, Saraswati, Karthik and Ganesh along with demon king Mahishasura etc, the celebration at Kamakhya temple traditionally avoids any idol worshiping. The auspicious occasion symbolizing the victory over the demon king Mahishasura goes for a fortnight beginning with Krishna Navami and ending with Shukla Navami of Ahina. The rituals like Mahasnan, Pithasthan with Panchagarva, sacrifice of buffalo, goat, pigeon, fish, gourd, pumpkin, sugarcane etc are performed at the main Peeth. Thousands of devotees from different parts of Bharat and abroad throng Kamakhya temple nestled atop Nilachal hills in Guwahati of northeast India. The sacred temple, a major seat of Shakti worship, maintains the tradition of Durgotsav during Shardiya Navratri festival where Devi’s nine incarnations are being worshipped. Popular beliefs go that Goddess Durga visits her maternal home on Earth and leaves for Kailash on Vijayadashami (this time falls on Oct. 24, 2023) after nine days. A major Hindu festival, symbolizing the victory of Maa Durga over the demon, is traditionally organized with fanfare in Bengal, Assam, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, Tripura etc.

The pujas (Nitya, Prata Madhya, Sainni, Sandhya Arati) are performed every day with offerings of bhog. On Maha Saptami the pigeons, goats, buffalos are sacrificed. On the eighth day of fortnight, a special Bhog is offered. On Mahanavami, ducks are sacrificed and on the tenth day puja is performed in the morning and the Goddess is offered Pantabhata along with fried dove meat. During the rituals, temple doors remain closed for the devotees. Kumari Puja is also performed during Durga Puja as a manifestation of Devi Kamakhya. They are adorned with new red sari, vermilion (sindur), garlands, jewelries etc in the day long ritual. The philosophy behind Kumari Puja is to establish the value of women, where the maiden symbolizes the seed of power that regulates creation, stability and destruction.

According to the mythology, demon king Narakasura of Pragjyotishpur constructed a stone path (known as Mekhela Ujowa Path) connecting the temple from foothills with the intent to marry Kamakhya Devi, though he failed. Later, Devi killed Narakasura with the help of Lord Vishnu. Kalika Purana, an ancient work in Sanskrit describes Kamakhya as the deity to fulfill the desires of devotees and gives salvation. The temple however does not comprise any image or statue of Kamakhya, rather there is a sculptured image of Yoni in a cave inside the main temple. A natural spring believes to keep the stone always moist. The devotees touch the stone, draped with a silk sari, offer flowers & bel-paat on it and seek blessings.

As the legend goes, Sati (Kamakhya/ Parvati, one of the incarnations of Goddess Shakti) married Lord Shiva against her father Daksha Raj’s wish. In a Yagna, organized by proud king Daksha, Sati and Shiva were not invited, but she wanted to attend the rituals. Daksha humiliated Shiva in front of her and facing disgrace, Sati immolated herself at the site of Yagna. Listening to her death, an angry Shiva arrived at Yagna Bhumi and killed Daksha. Then Maheswar started wandering with Tandav Nritya (the dance of demolition) with the corpse of his beloved wife (Sati) on his shoulder. Apprehending the imminent danger, all the gods and goddesses appealed to Lord Vishnu to douse Shiva’s rage and bring to an end his dance. Vishnu cut Sati's mortal remains into 51 pieces through his Sudarshan Chakra. Lifeless body parts of Sati fell in various parts of Bharatbarsa and every location is today regarded as shrines for the Hindus. The female genital organ (Yoni) fell on the spot at Nilachal hill (then it was under Kamrup empire), where Kamakhya temple was erected. Few other religious festivals, held at the Kamakhya temple premises annually include Ambubasi Mela, Basanti Puja, Shivaratri Mahotsav, Manasa Puja etc. Ambubasi festival is associated with the legend of annual menstrual cycles of Devi Kamakhya. Hundreds of thousands of devotees with Sadhus gather in the temple premises during the festival and have a Darshan of Kamakhya.

An unbelievable saga of women’s power described by the legend of Devi Kamakhya indeed!



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Nava Thakuria, who serves as a special correspondent for The Seoul Times, is based in Guwahati of Northeast India. He also contributes articles for many media outlets based in different parts of the glove, and can be contacted at navathakuria@gmail.com

 

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