The Legend of Nilachala, Kamakhya-Part II
Kamakhya, as we saw before, stands atop a mountain referred to as Nilachala or the Blue Mountain. The mountain is thought to be the very body of Shiva, and when Sati’s vagina fell on it, it turned a violent blue, giving the mountain its present name. Kamakhya, is thought to be the place where Sakthi secretly resorts to satisfy her amour with Shiva and hence all the love and erotic legends connected with it.
What is unique about Kamakhya, is the absence of any particular idol of the goddess. The main item of worship which is given all respects is a yoni, (a hole shaped like the clittoris or the opening of a vagina), from which flows a perennial spring keeping it moist always. It is often covered with red cloth and flowers and the devotees are allowed to touch it and worship it. Some even drink the water that wells up from the yoni believing that it will rid them of the birth-death cycle.
The evolution of Yoni has been quite obscure, again. The Kalika purana reports a dialogue between Devi and Shiva, where Devi asks Shiva about the yoni worship and the legend of Kamakhya. Shiva replies to her questions with a short explanation on the origins of Kamakhya.
It so happened, that Brahma after having created the universe, prided himself on this master accomplishment and his supreme force of creation. The supreme goddess noticed this and to suppress the pride of Brahma, created a demon out of herself and named him Kesi. Kesi chased Brahma around the corners of the universe, keeping his mouth wide open, ready to swallow Brahma. Brahma fled the universe. Kesi then built a city named KesiPuri from which the ever reverbrant sounds of “Brahma Kunjah” (Kill Brahma) came out. Brahma, realising his mistake and after vanquishing his vain pride, offered his prayers to Mahashakthi. “Divine mother, I am a fool to have prided so much on my powers when you are the source of it all. Please forgive this sinner for this greivous act. Kesi has to be vanquished for the good of the world. Have grace on us, Oh Supreme Goddess.” Shakthi took pity on him and destroyed Demon with a simple blow from her mouth ending in ‘hum’ (the syllable of destruction).
To atone for his sins Brahma had to create a mountain out of Kesi’s ashes and cover it with grass for the cattle. The mountain should neither be too tall nor too short. The sins of Brahma would be absolved depending on the cattles grazing there. The gods and goddesses offered their salutations to Mahashakthi from atop the Govardhana hill created by Brahma. Sakthi pleased with their prayers burst forth as a spring from the top of the hill, from a opening and commanded Brahma that this place indeed would be the very center of creation and the source of his creative power. Brahma has to meditate on this yoni before he begins any other creation in the future. When Brahma got all his sins cleansed and absolved, he brought down a luminous ray of light from the heavens and placed it on the yoni circle. Devi had placed the yoni in Kamarupa essentially for the good of the world.
The yoni is the essence of feminity and is a yantra for some shaktha based tantric cults in India. People familiar with ‘The Da Vinci Code’ may have some knowledge of what the yoni might be. It is none other than the Chalice, the ultimate symbol of Goddess worship in the predominantly Christian world. Represented as a downward pointing triangle, it stands for the sacred feminine womb, from which all life springs. The worship of the Goddes at Kamakhya is in this form of her creative power. She is venerated as a life giver, as every woman should be. This happens to be one of the few temples in hinduism where the goddess is worshipped in her reproductive aspect as the source of all life on earth.
The temple on Kamakhya is first said to have been built by Kamadeva, the god of Love. Legends say that when Shiva went into deep meditation upon Sati’s death, the gods grew very anxious about the future of the world. Further creation would only be possible if the divine union between the Mother and the Father takes place again. They sent Kama to shake Shiva out of his yogic state and make him fall for Parvathi, the daughter of Himavan, the very reincarantion of Sati. Kama, scared though he was, went ahead for the good of the world. He let his flower arrows fly from his sugarcane bow. They struck Shiva and woke him up from his trance. Furious with the disturbace, Shiva burnt Kamadeva with a single glance.
Shocked at this, the gods along with Kama’s wife Rathi, pleaded with Shiva explaining the situation to him. “Shambo Mahadeva”, they pleaded,” Why burn Kama when he was just trying to bring you back to normal? The creation of the world needs a Mother to give forth life. If you continue with your yogic trance, all world would become dead and extinct. Please have grace on him and return him to life”. Shiva, understanding the good will of Kama brought him back to life. But he was now devoid of all his usual charm and beauty.
Shiva smiled at him and told, “Dont worry Manmadha. It was all a part of my divine act. You will regain your good looks once you build a temple for my beloved Sati at the spot where her vagina fell.” Kamadeva dutifully built a temple with the help of Vishwakarma, in honor of Sati on top of Neelachala and got back his good looks. Shiva, struck by Kama’s arrows, did fall for Parvathi and married her amidst much pomp and gaiety.
The present temple is said to have been built by NaraNarayan after it was destroyed by the muslim, Kalapahar, in the early 16th century. Kalapahar was initially a hindu brahmin who was thrown out of the brahmin society after he married the local sultan’s daughter. Since the brahmins refused to accept him back, he took his vengeance on them by destroying a number of hindu sites sacred to the brahmins.
Naranarayan was the king of the Koc kingdom in north-east India. Having conqured a large part of the Yajnodaka desah, he went forth to capture Bengal. However, his army suffered severe losses in the battle and his younger brother Chilarai was taken as a prisoner. In prison, Chilarai was visited by the goddess in his dreams. “Oh Chilarai, I gave your brother much victories afore now, and he didnt even care to rebuild my temple. Thats why he is suffering losses in this battle.” Chilarai is alarmed by the goddess’ presence and even more shocked by her explanation for their defeat. He fell at her feet and begged for forgiveness. The Mother takes pity on him, “Son, I will get you out of this mess. But will you promise me to rebuild the temple?” Chilarai readily agrees and the goddess departs.
Soon the word was out that the Sultan’s mother had been bitten by a serpent. Physicians came from far and wide to cure her but in vain. Finally Chilarai is allowed to treat he. By the grace of the goddess, he cured her immediately. The Sultan was overjoyed at the turn of events and ordered his release.
Chilarai retuned back to the Koc capital and relayed the news to his brother. Naranaraya, overwhelmed with joy on getting his brother back, realised his folly and immediately made preparations to rebuild the temple. It is believed that the present day temple was built of bricks baked in ghee. Naranarayan and Chilarai dedicated the temple to the goddess and made large gifts of land, gold, cash and people to serve the temple. They even carved their own figures on the temple walls, which can be seen to this day.
The present day temple has mixed elements of architecture. The most prominent being the beehive shaped shikara over the main sanctum. There are sculptures of Chandi, Ganesh and other aspects of the goddess on the walls. Shrines for various other deities also exist within the temple perimeter. The temple derives much of its income from the lands owned by it. The offerings by devotees also contiribute to the expenses. The temple is easily reached from Gauhati, by bus and car alike. People line up outside the main temple and pass through eerie semidarkness into the depths of the temple to reach the sacred yoni. A visit to this place is supposed to grant moksha and relieve a person from the trouble of rebirth. The temple celebrates a number of festivals, Durga pooja being one of them. The highlight of the temple, however, happens to be the Ambubachi festival celebrated in the month of August-September. This highly colorful festival is attended by tantrics from all over the country as the temple doors are kept closed for three days.
The details of this festival…
To be continued….