Kamakhya Devi


Kamakhya Shakti Peeta is considered as one of the powerful Shakti Peetas. It is one of the important seven Shakti Peetas as mentioned in Kalika Purana. Here the Yoni/Maha Mudra or the genital organ of the Devi has fallen. Devi is worshipped by several names such as Kamakhya, Kamagiri and Kamarupa. Lord Shiva is worshipped as Umananda.



The temple is located on Nilachal hills, Guwahati, Assam. The nearest bus stand is Nilachal, Guwahati. The nearest rail station is about 4 kms from the hill top. The airport is 18 kms from the temple. The temple is located on the banks of Louhitya, the river Brahmaputra. Temple can be reached either by taking the flight of stairs or several buses ply frequently to the temple. Private modes of transport are also available up to the temple.
Other places of tourist interest
Other temples which exist on the Nilachal hills are:
Shiva Temples: Koti Linga Temple, Amar Tokreswar Temple, Kedareswar Temple, Kameshwar Temple and Siddeswar Temple
Other temples: Jai Durga Temple, Bana Durga Temple, Namath Kali Temple, Hanuman Temple, Ganesh Temple, Pandunath Temple, Gadadhar Vishnu Temple and Shitala Temple.
Besides the above mentioned temples, there are also several ponds located near the Kamakhya Shakti Peeta.

The Temple

The main temple has seven bee hive shaped Shikaras (gopuras), with each shikara (gopura) having a golden Trishula. The temple consists of three chambers known as Calanta, Pancaratna and Natamandira. The large and rectangular chamber facing west has an idol of Naga Mata, which the devotees seldom worship. In the South chamber is the idol of Devi Chamundeshwari. The Pancaratna or the middle chamber leads to the Garba Griha or the Sanctum Santorum. The Garba Griha is in the form of a cave with narrow steps dimly lit by oil lamps leading to the Yoni, where the fissure of rock is found and worshipped.

The other images of Gods which are present in the temple are that of Lord Ganesha and Vishwa Karma. Atop the hill, are the temples dedicated to Dasha Maha Vidyas ((Kali, Tara, Bhuvaneshwari, Tripura Sundari, Bhairavi, Chinnamastha, Dhumavathi, Bagala, Mathangi and Kamala) along with temples for Kala Bhairava and Ghanta Karna. The temple complex has three other temples dedicated to Lord Kedara (Kamaleswara), situated near the northern side of the main temple. On the north western direction is located the Gadadhara temple and on the eastern foothills is located the temple of Lord Pandunath, also known as Pandu.
Umananda Temple
Umananda temple dedicated to Lord Shiva or Bhairava was constructed in 1694 AD by Bar Phukan Garhganya Handique based on the orders from Gadadhar Singh of the Tai –Ahom dynasty. The temple has beautiful sculptures. According to puranic reference, while Lord Shiva was meditating on the hill, Kamadev the Lord of love interrupted Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva got enraged and burnt Kamadev to ashes. Thus the plot on which the temple is built is known as Bhasmachala. The temple was considerably damaged due to the powerful earthquake that rocked the place in 1897. The temple was later reconstructed by a local merchant and several Vaishnavite inscriptions were added. It is a local belief held that praying to Lord Umananda on Monday during Amavasya, brings immense bliss. Umananda temple can be reached by boats and ferries from Umananda Ghat as the temple is located on an island in the middle of the River Brahmaputra.
Temple History
Kamakhya Devi temple is an ancient temple built around 7th Century CE. The Allahabad inscriptions of Emperor Samudragupta are one of the earliest references which mentions about the Kamakhya temple located in Assam. During that period, the temple was considered as a marvel of architecture. The temple was built during the rule of Pala dynasty.
According to the department of Geo Sciences, University of Guwahati, the base of the temple which has survived the ravages of invasion by various rulers is 2200 years old. The second layer of the temple is 1500 years old. The temple was renovated in 500 CE.
The temple had images of sixty four Yoginis and eighteen Bhairavas. Over a period of time and due to invasion by Muslim rulers, only the base of the original temple is intact. Subsequent rulers have contributed to the architecture and maintenance of the temple.
The earlier temple was at Garo Hills, Meghalaya which was plundered by various rulers prior to 16th Century. It is said that Vatsayana* priests had carried the original manifest of the Devi to the then Kashmir state and later moved the deity to a hill in Himachal Pradesh where the deity was sanctified. *Vatsayana refers to the name of a Hindu Philosopher who wrote the first commentary on Gotama’s Nayana Sutras. He lived around 3rd Century CE.
The temple was damaged in the 11th- 12th Centuries by Nasiruddin in 1227 and Malik Uzbek Tughril Khan in 1225 and 1257. These rulers plundered almost all the temples starting from Bihar, Bengal and Assam. During these expeditions, Devi Kamakhya temple was severely damaged.
King Bishwa Singha of the Koch Behar Kingdom discovered the ruins of the temple and started to re build the temple during 1515- 1525 CE. However, it was his son King Nara Narayana, who completed the temple construction in 1565 AD. After Kochar dynasty, the Ahoms came to power and rebuilt the temple in 1645 AD. The present structure of the temple is a contribution by Ahoms.
The earthquake in 1897 further damaged the temple. The temple was renovated using stone chips, steel reinforcements, and port land cement in 1910- 1915. The temple was again damaged due to another earthquake in 1950. The present dome was renovated in 1960s.

The Deity

Kamakhya Devi temple is a seat of Tantric worship. Goddess Kamakhya is popularly known as goddess of desire. Devi Kamakhya is worshipped as Maha Tripura Sundari, also called as Shodashi. In the middle chamber or Pancaratna of the temple, is an image of the deity who is depicted as a young goddess, sixteen years old with twelve arms and six heads (five looking front and one atop of them). The deity is seated on a lotus which emerges from the navel of the corpse of Lord Shiva, who is lying on top of a lion. The goddess is draped in a red sari and is decorated with red hibiscus flowers. She holds a lotus, a trident, sword, bell, discus, bow, arrows, club, goad and shield in each of her ten hands. In the remaining two, she holds a bowl made of gold or a skull.

In the Garba Griha is the fissure of a rock symbolising Yoni which is actually worshipped. A small spring underneath the rock keeps the Yoni or the rock always filled with water. All the rituals associated with the worship of Devi and Shiva are observed at the temple. The Yoni is worshipped facing North, although the temple is facing east. The rock is covered with a sari, decorated with flowers and vermillion. Goddess is worshipped according to Vamachar (left hand path or Tantric) and Dakshinachara (right hand path or the regular form of worship.) Flowers and sometimes animals such as goats, pigs, buffaloes etc are offered to the deity. Generally, female animals are not offered to the deity as a rule. During the ancient times, it was a Khasi or sacrificial site. Devotees come in droves and offer goats to appease Devi Kamakhya even to this day.

Puranic Reference

Devi Kamakhya in Kalika Purana is referred to as Mahamaya, “the great goddess of illusion” who takes on different forms to fulfil the desires of Her devotees according to her mood.
“Kamakhya paramam tirtham kamakhya paramam tapah
Kamakhya paramo dharmah kamakhya parama gatih”
According to Kalika Purana, each and every granule of sand around the Kamakhya Devi temple is a Shakti Peeta in itself. Several scriptures like Bhagavatha and Yogini Tantra mention about the Kamakhya Devi temple.
Another puranic reference is that once Narakasura, a demon expressed his desire to marry Devi Kamakhya. Devi Kamakhya agreed to marry Narakasura on the condition that he builds the staircase from the bottom of the Nilachal hills to the temple within one night. Narakasura took it as a challenge and tried all his might to complete the task. When he was about to complete the construction by day break, Devi Kamakhya, panic stricken made a cock crow even before the actual dawn broke. As Narakasura was tricked by the cock’s crow, he abandoned the task and chased the cock and killed it. The place where Narakasura killed the cock is known as Kukurakata, situated in the district of Darrang. The unfinished staircase is known as Mekhelauja path.
Another reference is that once Kamadeva was cursed by Lord Brahma. To get rid of his curse, he searched for the Yoni of Devi Sati and built a temple in Her name. Kamadeva regained his original form or rupa after praying at this Shakti Peeta. Thus the place gets its name as Kama Desa or Kamarupa and the Devi as Kamakhya. The temple is also known as the place where Lord Shiva and Sati Devi would meet for their romantic encounters.
Rituals and Festivals
Ambubachi Mela also known as Ambubasi festival is held during monsoon time- i.e June of every year for three days. This is time when the River Brahmaputra is in spate. Ambubachi Mela is an important festival in the temple. The mela or the celebrations signifies the annual menstruation of Devi Kamakhya. It is believed that Devi Kamakhya menstruates during this period and the water in the main stream turns red with iron oxide resembling menstrual fluid.
The festivities also signifies Mother earth becoming fertile in the monsoon season. The mela is also known as Ameti or Tantric fertility festival. Some tantrics make public appearances during these days and display their psychic powers like standing on one leg for long hours or standing on padukas made of nails etc.
The temple is closed during the period of mela for three days. Strict restrictions are observed by the devotees during these three days, like not reading scriptures, not cooking, no farming, not performing puja. The temple is opened on the fourth day when the Devi is given a ceremonial bath and other rituals are performed to restore her purity. After the puja, Prasad is distributed among the devotees.
The Prasad is distributed in two forms: Angodak and Angabastra. Angodak means the fluid part of the body. Here water from the spring is distributed. Angabastra is the cloth covering the body. Usually, a piece of red cloth is used to cover the stone – Yoni during the three days. A piece of cloth is distributed among the devotees. Devotees from all over the country visit Guwahati during the Mela. Sadhus, Aghoris, Khade Babas and Tantrics flock to the temple seeking the blessings of Devi Kamakhya. Women usually visit this temple seeking fertility and love.
Durga puja during Navaratri is celebrated with great fervour for three days. Thousands of devotees from Eastern States flock to the temple to take part in the festivities.
Another annual celebration at the temple is the Manasa puja*, celebrated on Naga Panchami during Shravan masa (July-August).
*Manasa Puja refers to the snake festival when women observe fast and offer milk at snake holes. It is festival observed for Manasa Devi who is considered as the goddess of snakes, mainly worshipped in Bengal and North East Indian States. Prayers offered to Manasa Devi is said to ward off snake bites, and bless women with fertility and prosperity.
People pray to Devi Kamakhya and tie bronze bells for the fulfilment of their desires.
Temple timings
The temple is open at 5.30 am for the morning rituals to the Devi. However, devotees can have darshan from 8.00 am onwards. This is followed by pujas and then at 1.00 pm nivedhya is offered to the goddess, which is then distributed as Prasad. The temple is then closed for the devotees. The temple reopens at 2.30 pm followed by evening aarti at 5.30 pm. Then the temple is closed.
The best time to visit the temple is from November to March when the weather is at its best.