By Swami Harshananda
Sometimes transliterated as: Kamakhya, KAmAkhyA, Kaamaakhyaa
Kāmākhyā literally means ‘Goddess known as the fulfiler of desires’. Kāmākhyā is pictured or sculptured as a youthful lady yellowish-red in color. She has unbraided hair, three eyes and two hands. The hands exhibit abhaya and varada mudrās. She is seated on a red lotus. The sun and the moon are her ear-ornaments.
Worship of God as Devī or Śakti, the Divine Mother, is as old as the Vedas. Most of the aspects of the Devī are the forms of Pārvatī. In the purāṇas, legends connected with Pārvatī and her spouse Lord Śiva are legion.
Conception of Kāmākhyā Śaktipiṭha
Our scriptures have proposed a story of the destruction of the sacrifice of Dakṣa by Śiva whose spouse Satī had immolated herself in the sacrificial ground being unable to bear the insult of her husband. Śiva carried the dead body of Satī on his back and roamed about the world in an inconsolable grief. At that time Brahmā and Viṣṇu cleverly managed to enter that body and cut it into 51 pieces. Every place, where a piece of that body fell, became a sacred spot and came to be known as a Śaktipiṭha. Śaktipiṭha means the seat of Śakti or the Divine Mother. Kāmākhyā is one such Śaktipiṭha where the yoni is said to have fallen.
Geographical Location of Kāmākhyā Temple
The temple of Kāmākhyā is situated on a hill known as ‘Nīlācala’. It is 5 km (3 miles) from Guwahati, the capital city of Assam. There is a small township here. The district is known as Kamrup or Kāmarupa.
Evolution of Kāmarupa
This region of Assam was earlier known as ‘Prāgjyotiṣapura,’ ruled by the king Naraka, who was killed by Śrī Kṛṣṇa. It got the new name ‘Kāmarupa’ after Kama (cupid) was restored to life by Śiva here. A temple for the Devī was built by Viśvakarma, the architect of gods.
The present temple has been built by the king Nara-nārāyaṇa of Coochbihar in CE 1565 after the earlier one had been destroyed by the Muslim iconoclast Kalapahar. The architecture of the temple is simple. The śikhara, dome over the sanctum, follows the beehive pattern. Parts of the older temple are also seen in the lower portion.
The temple houses no image of the goddess. There is a cave within the temple. In the corner of this cave stands a block of stone with the symbol of a yoni sculptured on it. It is kept moist from the oozings of natural spring within the cave. The devotees touch it and offer flowers and leaves.
Among the sculptures adorning the temple, structures of dancing Gaṇeśa and Cāmuṇḍā are outstanding. The former is charming whereas the latter is fierce.
Other temples on the Nīlācala are those of:
The most important festivals celebrated at this temple are:
The Debaddhani festival is connected with the goddess Manasā, snake-goddess identified with Jaratkāru, daughter of the serpent king Vāsuki. Animal sacrifice even exist today during the festivals.
- Yoni means generative organ.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore