Ambubachi Mela: Fertility of Kamakhya

Kamakhya temple is a temple of the 16th century located on Nilachal hill in Guwahati, Assam. Kamakhya is the main temple in the complex that includes other minor ones, dedicated to various aspects like Bhuvaneshwari, Bagalamukhi, Chinnamasta, Tripura Sundari and Tara.

Kamakhya is revered as a goddess of fertility and Tantrism that evolved in the Himalayan hills first as the Tantric deity of the goddess Tara worshiped by tribal pagans, with the missionaries of Vatsyayana Brahminism that created the legend of Kam-e-kha in Garo hills.

The earliest manifestation of the sanctified goddess in the Garo Hills was destroyed. The name means desire, and this manifestation is revered in the rebuilt Kamakhya temple during 1645 in the form of a stone yoni, female generative organ, symbolic of the goddess. The temple remains one of the most important sites and pilgrimage Peethas among Hindu temples in the world.

Kamakhya as a goddess probably is related to an important goddess of Khasi tribes, which retains matrilineal social systems but not matriarchal, since the final authority remains with men over the maternal line. The locally revered ka-me-kha was likely to be Sanskritized as Kamakhya.

Another legend has it that this temple was built 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.

Kamakhya is imagined as a young powerful goddess with ornate dresses, typically wearing a red sari, opulent jewelry and red flowers like hibiscus.

The temple darshan is done not by sight as in most temples, but through touch and there is no idol, but rather a large crack in the bedrock dampened by water flowing upwards from an underground spring, usually covered by fabrics and ornate clothes, flowers, and red sindoor powder. Devotees and pilgrims offer items for worship directly 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 is circumambulated clockwise. There is also the prevalence of the custom of animal sacrifices here. A large number of animals and birds, especially goats and pigeons are sacrificed daily on the altar of the Goddess.

Crossing the threshold of sacralized fence there are devotees who snare the goats to take them to the place of sacrifice, where there are rectangles dug in the ground, with two separate vertical planks of wood between them just enough to introduce the head of the victim, who today are the goats and oxen, but at one time there were men.

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 and as such as a female must always be moist and menstruating, synonymous with her fertility period.

More deeply, special rooms are dedicated to the real ritual, where the priests of the temple after psychological preparation lie down on their back to enable women of childbearing age to take over them, with the feet to the side of the hips, and then diving on the erect sex of the officiating priest that enters into the vagina of a postulant. Obviously, tantrism provides that the priest should not be emotionally involved and the ritual absolutely excludes ejaculation.

The Kamakhya temple attracts millions of visitors each year, particularly for Ambubachi Mela, held during June or July, celebrating her menstruation period and refers to the biological cycle of the Goddess, to whom the festival is dedicated. The festival draws upwards of 100,000 pilgrims every day during the 4-day festival. The energy radiated by the faith during the celebrations becomes almost palpable.

Here people dress mainly in vermilion, with fronts marked in purple and the blood of animal sacrifices offered to the goddess flows and even dye the water of red and the entire sanctuary is dominated by the color red, 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 as the goddess is considered unclean and no rites are offered. 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 which according to the belief are shreds of Angavastram, a kind of stole, used to cleanse the goddess during her periods and is thus stained with her menstrual blood.