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Kamakhya

Kamakhya is an important Tantric fertility goddess that evolved in the Himalayan hills first as goddess Tantric goddess 'Tara' worshipped by the tribal pagans, with the Vatsayana Brahamin missionaries creating the legend of 'Kam-e-kha' in the Garo hills in the 10 C. The Brahaminical creation of a 'yoni' goddess in the legend of Kamakhya is first mentioned in the Kalaki Puran ,closely identified with Kali and Maha Tripura Sundari as convenience to the Hindu rituals by the preists to equate every female goddess to 'shakti'. According to the Tantric texts (Kalikapurana Stotra, Yoginitantram) that are the basis for her worship at the Kamakhya temple, a 16th century temple in the Kamrup district of Assam.The earlier manifest of the goddess sanctified at the Garo hills is destroyed, although the Vatsayana priests are said to have carried away the manifest of the goddess to the Hindu kingdom in Kashmir and later sanctified in a remote hill forest in Himachal. Her name means "renowned goddess of desire," and she resides at the present rebuilt Kamakhya temple replacing the lost manifest now in the form of a stone yoni (female generative organ) symbolic of the goddess in 1645 C. The temple is primary amongst the 51 Shakti Peethas related to the myth of Sati, and remains one of the most important Shakta temples and Hindu pilgrimage sites in the world.

Contents


Origins

One of the origins of the tantric goddess is the fertility yoni 'Kamekhe' worship in the Garo hills by the tribals. However in the Brahaminical legend is the most persistent Hindu mythologies by the fusion of the tantric goddess with the Hindu Shakti goddess concerning the origin of worship 'Shakti' at the site associated with the myth of Sati, who was the wife of the ascetic god Shiva and daughter of the Puranic god-king Daksha. Daksha was unhappy with his daughter's choice of husband, and when he performed a grand Vedic sacrifice for all the deities, he did not invite Shiva or Sati. In a rage, Sati threw herself onto the fire, knowing that this would make the sacrifice impure. Because she was the all-powerful mother goddess, Sati left her body in that moment to be reborn as the goddess Parvati. Meanwhile, Shiva was striken with grief and rage at the loss of his wife. He put Sati's body over his shoulder and began his tandava (dance of cosmic destruction) throughout the heavens, and vowed not to stop until the body was completely rotted away. The other Gods, afraid of their annihilation, implored Vishnu to pacify Shiva. Thus, wherever Shiva wandered while dancing, Vishnu followed. He sent his discus Sudarshana to destroy the corpse of Sati. Pieces of her body fell until Shiva was left without a body to carry. Seeing this, Shiva sat down to do Mahatapasya (great penance). Despite the similarity in name, scholars do not generally believe that this legend gave rise to the practice of sati, or widow burning.[1]

According to various myths and traditions, there are 51 pieces of Sati's body scattered across the Indian subcontinent. These places are called shakti peethas and are dedicated to various powerful goddesses. Kamarupa ("form of desire") is the region in which the yoni ("vulva," "womb," or "source") is said to have fallen to earth, and the Kamakhya temple was said to have been constructed on this spot.

Kamakhya as a goddess likely predates the Sanskritization of Assam. She is likely related to an important goddess of the Khasi, a tribe originally from Assam that retains matrilineal social systems (not matriarchal, however, since final authority rests with the eldest males of the maternal line). The goddess ka-me-kha was likely Sanskritized and Brahminized to Kamakhya.[2] This origin may survive in local Assamese pronunciation of the goddess's name, which sounds similar to "Ka-me-kha."

Identity

Kamakhya is mentioned in the Kalika Purana as the most important goddess of Tantric worship, and is referred to in the text as Mahamaya, the "great goddess of illusion," who takes on many forms depending on her mood. Devotees also call her Kameshwari ("beloved goddess of desire"), and consider her a form of Maha Tripura Sundari, also called Shodashi. She is identified with Kali in the Kalika Purana, Yoginitantra and Kamakhya Tantra, each of which echoes this verse[3]:

"It is certainly well known that Kamakhya is truly none other than that mother goddess Kali, who is in all things the form of wisdom."

Kamakhya is associated with the Dasa Mahavidyas, who each have temples dedicated to them at the Kamakhya temple complex in Assam. She is also closely associated with Durga.

Mantras for general worship of the Mahavidyas at the Kamakhya temple complex reveal a close identity with Kamakhya herself. Several of these goddesses are worshipped as forms of Kamakhya explicitly.[4]

Iconography

Kamakhya is pictured as a young goddess, 16 years old, with twelve arms and six heads of varying colors, representing a powerful goddess who is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. She is ornately dressed, typically wearing a red sari, opulent jewelry and red flowers such as hibiscus.

She holds in each of ten hands a lotus, trident, sword, bell, discus, bow, arrows, club or scepter, goad, and shield. Her remaining two hands hold a bowl, which is made either of gold or a skull.

She is seated upon a lotus, which emerges from the navel of the corpse of Shiva, who in turn lies atop a lion.

To each side of her sit Brahma and Vishnu, who are each seated upon a lotus, as well.

Worship

Kamakhya is often synonymous with Shakta Tantra. Tantric worship of Kamakhya is very secretive in nature. Tantric texts such as the 10th century Kalikapurana and 15th century Yoginitantra suggest that worship of this goddess is radically non-dual in nature and of the vamachara, or "left-hand path," which includes the use of forbidden substances (such as panchamakara) and practices designed to transcend desire and personal ego. Features of Tantric worship may include the drawing of a yantra with sindoor and repeating the bija mantra associated with her.[5] However, common worship of this goddess is fairly orthodox in nature. The Kalikapurana states that all worship is acceptable to the goddess, and that one should worship her according to one's own customs.[6] Worship of Kamakhya grants moksha, or ultimate spiritual liberation.

Darshan at this temple is performed not by sight as in most temples, but by touch. There is no murti, but rather a large cleft in the bedrock moistened by water flowing upward from an underground spring, generally covered by cloths and ornate chunris, flowers, and red sindoor powder. Devotees and pilgrims offer items for worship directly to the goddess, then touch her and drink water from the spring. They are then given a tilak and prasad by the attending priest.

After completing darshan, devotees light lamps and incense outside the temple. Like other temples, worship is not considered complete until the temple is circumambulated clockwise.There is also the prevalence of the Custom of animal sacrifices here.Significantly,large number of animals & birds,especially male-goats and pigeons are daily sacrificed at the altar of the Goddess.Male buffaloes are also sacrificed here on certain days and occasions.The customs that are practiced here are orthodox and traditional.

The Kamakhya temple itself is one of the most important Shakta pilgrimage sites in the world, attracting millions of visitors each year, particularly for Ambuvaci Mela in June/July, which celebrates the Earth's menstruation and draws upwards of 100,000 pilgrims per day during the 4-day festival.

See also

References

  1. J.S. Hawley, Sati, the Blessing and the Curse. Oxford University Press (New York: 1994). p. 50-1.
  2. N.N. Bhattacharrya. History of the Sakta Religion, Second Revised Version. Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers (New Delhi: 1996). pp. 19, 21.
  3. B. Shastri. Kamakhya Tantra. Bharatiy Vidya Prakash (Delhi, Varanasi: 1990). p. 20.
    y devi k lik m t sarva vidy svar pin |
    k m khy saiva vikhy t satyam devi nac nyath ||
  4. Viswa Shanti Devi Yajna. Viswa Shanti Devi Yajna Committee. Mandala Communications (Guwahati: 2004). pp. 22-8.
  5. B. Shastri. Kamakhya Tantra. pp. 16-17
  6. Kalikapurana 64.34: yadi desantaradyatah pitham desantaram prati | tat daisikopradesena tada pujam samarabhet || "If a foreigner comes to this pitha which is away from his homeland, then he could worship the deity according to his own rites."

Further reading

  • Hindu Goddesses: Vision of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Traditions (ISBN 81-208-0379-5) by David Kinsley
  • Renowned Goddess of Desire: Women, Sex, and Speech in Tantra (ISBN 978-0195327830) by Loriliai Biernacki
  • The Power of Tantra: Religion, Sexuality and the Politics of South Asian Studies (ISBN 978-1845118747) by Hugh Urban
  • The Kalikapurana: Sanskrit Text, Introduction & Translation in English (ISBN 8170812305) by Biswanarayan Shastri

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