Ambubachi Mela and Kukurakata Chaki, Kamakhya-Part III
Kamakhya, as seen before, has a mixture of architectual styles and elements. Some of these have stories of their own to narrate to the vast crowds that gather. The temple at Kamakhya has, for instance, attached to it, a water tank and a flight of steps from the foot hills. The story behind these two are just as interesting as the story of the temple itself and forms an integral part of the divine acts of Devi Kamakhya.
Naraka, was the King of Pragjyothishapura. He was born to Vishnu and Bhooma Devi and was left on Janaka’s field, entrusting his upkeep to the King of Mithila. Janaka brought up Naraka along with the other royal princes. Naraka excelled all the other royal princes in every form of art and warcraft. This frightened the King of Mithila. He was now worried about the possible seizing of his kingdom, by Naraka, from his successors. Secretly, he made plans to dispose of Naraka.
However, unknown to him was the fact that Bhooma Devi herself had stationed at his palace as the nurse of Naraka. Katyayani by name, she looked after Naraka, showering him with her maternal love. Shrewd and sharp, she came to know that conspiracies were underfoot to kill Naraka. She aprroached her ward, “Naraka, my child, let us go on a pilgrimage to Kashi. I would love to bathe in the holy ganges.”, she told him. “I will come with you, Katyayani, provided my father allows me to”, Naraka answered, placing his decision in the hands of Janaka. Caught in a fix Katyayani tells Naraka the secret of his birth. “… and if you come to Kashi, then there you can meet your true father”, she coaxed him.
Naraka readily agreed. Silently that night, mother and son escaped out of the palace and made their way to Kashi. There Naraka met his true father and accompanied by Vishnu and Bhooma devi, he landed up at Pragjyothishapura. With his exceptional skill at weapons, he conquered the entire land from the Kiratha tribals. Vishnu himself crowned Naraka and installed him on the throne of the land. “Naraka, listen carefully to me”, Vishnu said, “These lands belong to the divine right of goddess Kamakhya. She rules over you just as she does the people of this place. It is your duty, as their king to act justly and protect your subjects. And as a loyal devotee of devi Kamakhya, keep her pleased with your staunch devotion to her. May the gods smile upon you, Naraka.” Naraka bowed to his father and taking his blessings, ascended the throne of Pragjyithishapura.
Naraka was a just and fair king. He ruled the lands with the welfare of the people in his mind. He stauchly followed all the poojas and festivals that required to be conducted at the Kamakhya temple. The goddess was extremely pleased with his good acts of deed and his unflinching devotion. She appeared before him and granted him her vision. That’s where Naraka lost it. On setting his eyes upon the extremely beautiful form of the goddess, Naraka had the audacity to express his love to her. The goddess too accepted, provided that he fulfilled her conditions.”I will marry you'”, she said to the awestruck Naraka, “provided that you build a tank on the very top of the hill and a stairway from the foot hills to reach the temple. And that should be done by dawn tomorrow, else I will never be yours.” Naraka was so possessed by his lust that he immeadiately set forth on the task. With his desire burning bright, he toiled without a break and almost finished the task, when the goddess panicked. She immediately used her power to make a cock crow prematurely before dawn. The goddess then appeared before Naraka, “Oh Naraka, the cock has crowed, Dawn is here and you have lost your bet. I will not marry you.” Saying thus, she disappeared. Naraka was so furious at this that he went in search of the stupid cock and killed it. The place where he killed it is now called Kukurakata Chaki. The stairs to the temple and the temple tank stand even today, as a mark of testimony to Naraka’s foiled efforts at gaining the hands of the goddess.
The temple at Kamakhya is no doubt a great place of pilgrimage. The temple however gains further prominence in the months of August-September, when tantrics, sadhus and Kapalikas from all over the country gather at the holy site for what is the grandest spectacle in the calendar year of the temple- The Ambubachi Mela. It is believed that during this period, the goddess undergoes her annual menstrual cycle and menstruates for three days. This is a celebration of the glorious reproductive power of the divine goddess. Mother earth herself remains in menses for three days and a red fluid flows out of the yoni at the main sanctum. It is believed that this is indeed the menstrual flow of the goddess herself. It is thought to be that time of the year when Mother Earth attains her fertility to give rise to plants. Farmers usually sow their seeds immediately following the mela. However, during the three days when the goddess remains in her menses, she is thought to be impure and the temple is closed for the all of the three days. Outside the temple, the tantrics and Kapalikas perform rituals as they believe that this is the time when the entire power of the goddess is turned earthwards and hence a good time for praying to her. During these three days, there is no sacred activity that is undertaken and people just loll about the external perimeters of the temple, taking in the sudden burst of colour and joy that the mela brings about. When the temple doors are reopened on the fourth day, the crowds throng in to worship the goddess. She is offered red flowers, red clothes, kumkum etc. to signify her fertility. The devotees are given pieces of clothes stained in the goddess’ menstrual fluid for worship in their private shrine. The festival draws to a close on the fourth day, with the purification of the deity and the resumption of normal rituals. The mela draws huge crowds and is a major source of income for the temple.
And this is what Kamakhya is. The glorious seat of amour where the divine mother shines resplendantly with her ability to bring forth new life. A fitting tribute to all women, who need to be venerated for their capacity to bear and nurture a whole new life. And a spectacular shrine which embodies the very power of creation and the concept of the sacred feminine. May the divine mother always protect us, her children, from harm and disaster.