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Kamakhya Temple: The Abode of the Tantric Goddess of Desire

In India, a vibrant heritage bristles with temples at every step of the way. One such fascinating story is of the Kamakhya temple, Assam. Devotees flock to these ancient halls of worship to redeem themselves and integrate the mind, soul, body, and spirit. However, religion is still as mysterious as ever, and so are the places of worship.

Kamakhya temple
Source: pinku_haloi

Known as one of the oldest of the 51 Shakti Pithas, the temple is an ancient gateway to unlock India’s divine secrets. Here is a story of one of the most breathtaking temples that have intrigued humanity for ages.

Sati and Lord Shiva’s sacred place

Shiva's wall sculpture
Source: wikimedia commons

Built to worship the Hindu Tantric goddess of desire Kamakhya, this temple is mentioned in the Sati Purana. This ancient text is a part of 18 minor Puranas (Upapurana) and talks about Shiva. What is more intriguing is that the texts describe this sacred spot where Sati secretly met Lord Shiva. Worshippers will be stoked to discover that this place of worship is where Shiva danced with Sati’s corpse.

Kamakhya temple is a part of the four Shakti Peethas, which are supposed to have originated from the limbs of the corpse of Sati. The other peethas are- Sthana Khanda, Dakhina Kalika; and the third one is the Vimala temple, within the Jagannath temple complex.

People tend to question what they know because of the Yogini Tantra. The text disregards the origin of the Kamakhya mentioned in the Sati Purana. The ancient text is also known as Kalika Purana.

One of the oldest reflections of Hindu religion

Kamarupa-period stone sculptures
Source: Wikipedia

The structural temple was completed between the 8th-17th centuries. Constant re-building and renovation resulted in a hybrid form of a structure called the Nilachal type. It is a temple with a hemispherical dome on a cruciform base.

One of the oldest reflections of Hindu religion, the Vimana over the Garbhagriha, has a Pancha Ratha (five chariots). The dados (lower part of the wall) are probably from the time of Khajuraho, consisting of sunken panels. One will notice pictures of Ganesha and other Hindu gods sculpted on the panel.

The Garbhagriha is the most sacred abode of the Goddess. It is below ground level and consists of a rock structure in the form of a yoni (female genital).

Yoni rock structure
Source: darshananandalahari

The temple consists of three additional chambers. The walls of the first chamber houses sculpted images of Naranarayana. It further leads to the sacred pitha of Goddess Kamakhya. The second chamber Pancharatna is quite large and rectangular with a flat roof.

The third chamber Natamandira has wall inscriptions from Rajeswar Singha and Gaurinath Singha on its inner walls.

Ambubachi Mela

Kamakhya temple is the only religious site in India that celebrates the goddess of desire in her menstruating avatar during the Ambubachi Mela. During the course of the mela, the temple is closed for three days. It is believed that the goddess goes through her annual cycle of menstruation during this time period. In one of the rituals, the stone yoni is covered in red cloth.

Kamakhya Temple: An ancient sacrificial site?

The history of this temple comes with a twist. A few historians believe that the Kamakhya temple is indeed an ancient sacrificial site for the goddess, Kameikha, of the Garo and Khasi community. The claim might be valid because devotees do bring birds and animals in the form of offerings for the Goddess.

A History of more than 1200 years!

Kamakhya temple
Source: pikrepo

Pay attention history buffs! The first epigraphic evidence of the Kamakhya can be found in the plates of Vanamalavarmadeva of the Mlechchha dynasty. These plates date back to the 9th century. The Kamarupa epigraphs date back to the 5th century- early 13th-century copper, rock plates, and seal inscriptions. The base and bandhana suggest that the original temple was possible of the Malava style.

According to historical documents, the temple was destroyed by a Muslim general Kalapahar, a general in the army of Sultan of Bengal i.e., Sulaiman Karrani. However, contradicting dates discards a point in the history of this temple.

Historical records state that the temple was built over by the Ahom Kingdom, a late medieval kingdom in Assam.

In conclusion, the world temple conjures in mind revered religious destinations housing idols of gods and goddesses. The roots of the Hindu religion are spread all over India. And this notable, sacred, and historically rich temple makes for a good spot to find out more about ‘The Golden Bird’s’ past.

Curated by Ruchit Rastogi

(Featured image credits: picture_palace_pithoragarh)