Tuesday, 26 June 2018

The goddess who mensurates annually - Kamakhaya temple, Guwahati, Assam


Goddess of mensuration, Ambubatchi mela, AssamFree Press Journal


India is a land of extremes, of contradictions and surprises. When such contradictions make an inroad into religion and divinity, obviously, it becomes a curious matter, bordering on superstition  or madness.
Mensuration or period is a natural biological process common among the humans and animals. Both women and girls up to  certain age experience this. So are the animals. What has mensuration got to do with religion and Goddess? When s
superstition takes precedence, rationality will be pushed far behind. 
Is it true that the Hindu goddess is on period? People with rationalistic bend of mind will laugh at this weird thing. Yes, there is a goddess in the state of Assam and the Kamakhaya temple is dedicated to goddess who undergoes this mensuration cycle periodically. This temple represents the womb and vagina of Goddess Sati, consort of Lord Shiva. It is in the form of a stone image in the sanctum - Srikovil. It is atop Nilachal Hills in Guwahati and is one of 51 shakti peetams. After 4 pm on Friday  doors of the temple are closed and the devotees are not allowed as the Goddess goes through the period. and after 3 days temple doors are open for darshan.

Legend has it, the goddess Sati (also known as Kamakhya) could not contain her grief and pain over the insults heaped on her husband lord Shiva by her father. Having no other recourse, she  committed suicide in protest against her father's arrogant behavior.  Lord Shiva, having become furious and out of control, placed the dead body of his beloved wife Sati on his shoulders and did the Tandav, the dance of destruction. Shiva did this dance in rage.The universe experienced the pulsations.  Lord Vishnu, to avoid disruption to the functioning of the universe   by this destructive dancing, cut Sati’s body into pieces and scattered them across the earth.
The places where the part of Sati' body fell down  a shrine for the goddess was built. These shrines are collectively called Sakthi peetams. Here in Assam her vagina (also known as  yoni) and womb fell on the Kamakhya hill and later a shrine had been built there. The Kamakhya temple is a popular one. Here,  Sati is worshipped in a natural cave (the womb), in the shape of a yoni-like rock with a spring.  A surprising fact is every year  in June, the temple remains closed for three days as the spring water turns red, implying the goddess  undergoes menstruation cycle and needs to be left alone and unfit for worship.
Kamakhya temple, Guwahati. Ambubachi Melathehindu.com/
Above image: Ambubachi Mela, a four-day fair to mark the annual menstruation of the goddess at Kamakhya temple in Guwahati, Assam, NE India. It is one of the Sakthi peetams.

That  the goddess goes through period every year is a puzzle. How come it is not a monthly affair? Nobody knows exactly how or why this happens. The red water coloration occurs during the yearly monsoon time and the red color could be due to the presence of iron  in the stone image and the color turns red when the water is percolated through the cracks or cleavages in the stone image. Iron oxidation is the reason for this red coloration. According to other version  temple’s priests dye it with vermilion powder. 

When the goddess undergoes period as other women do, it is a time to celebrate it. Ambubachi Mela is a popular  4-day festival that has close link with the fertility of the Earth and the women's power. This Mela is also a great  occasion to promote awareness on menstrual hygiene among women.  "Tuloni Biya"is a ritual widely celebrated in Assam when a girl comes of age. It is something like a mini wedding.
 Do you know what kind of Prasad you get from this strange shrine?  Hold your breath! Devotees are given prasads in the form of ' pieces of cloth dipped in the goddess’ supposedly  menstrual blood, which will bring good fortune and prosperity.
Tit-bits:
01. The taboo associated with mensuration is common  among  all religions, in particular,  Hinduism. The ritualistic celebration such as Ambubachi Mela brings out the myth associated with mensuration and the taboo. 
02. At the Chengannur Mahadeva Temple in Kerala , the shrine of Parvati remains closed for three days at specific times of the year, unlike most other temples. These menstruating idols in Indian temples  are said to bleed red during that period. So,  the temple authorities  close the temple and  cut off access to the goddess, much like ordinary mortal women  who  are kept away in seclusion in the house. In Kerala, the goddess is shifted to a secluded place in the temple. Socially, the practice of keeping the woman in isolation  is no longer in vogue, however, such women are not allowed to participate in family functions during that time. 

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