Ambubachi Mela is a Hindu fair held at Kamakhya Temple in Guwahati, Assam. It is among the biggest festivals of eastern India and the most important festival of Kamakhya Temple – one of the 52 Shakti Peeths of goddess Shakti. This is a ritual of asceses observed with Tantrik means. It is believed that the temple goddess - Devi Kamakhya goes through her annual menstruation cycle during this time. The Tantric cults worship Maa Kamakhya during the Ambubachi Mela as Kamakhya Devi is the region’s dominant Tantric tradition deity. Here, She is worshipped in the form of a yoni-like stone, instead of an idol. A natural spring flows over the Yoni. The account below throws more light on this unique festival.
When is Ambubachi Mela Celebrated?
Ambubachi Mela is celebrated in the month of Asaadh of the Hindu calendar. It is celebrated in the temple premises, which is perched atop the Nilanchal Hill. The upcoming one will be held from 22nd June to 26th June, 2021.
Why is Ambubachi Mela Celebrated?
It is the celebration of the yearly menstruation of goddess Kamakhya. The Mela is an energetic affair that carries a scenic celebratory view by ascetics, making it a huge and important gathering.
Significance of Ambubachi Mela
The Ambubachi concept originates with influences of agricultural, religious, and social beliefs. All these have collectively resulted in the emergence of the festive reason. Thus, it is taken as a symbol of religious consent. The word ‘Ambubachi’ means spoken with water. Also, it implies that monsoon at this time adds to the fertility of Mother Earth and prepares her for procreation. Mother Earth’s ‘menses’ becomes accessible to devotees at this site during the mela. Considered an auspicious period, during this time women pray for fertility. On the fourth day of the fair when the temple is open to the public, people get a cloth piece soaked in a liquid that is believed to be the goddess’s menstrual fluid.
Legend of Ambubachi Mela
As per the legends, Shakti surrendered herself to the flames when her father insulted Lord Shiva. The Lord then carried Shakti’s burning body and started tandava that could have destroyed the universe, if completed. To save the universe from the dejected and infuriated Lord, Vishnu split Shakti’s body into 52 parts with His Sudharshan chakra. Each of the parts fell on different regions of India that are known as Shakti Peeths. At the place where Kamakhya Temple stands, it is believed that the womb and genitals of Shakti fell. And thus the practice, worship, rituals, and the festival.
If we look at the history of Kamakhya Temple, it was destroyed in the early 16th century. The king of Cooch Behar then rebuilt it. There are four chambers in the temple - Garbagriha, Calanta, Pancharatna, and Natamandiramong. The first chamber is the most important that leads to the temple’s sanctum, which is in the form of a cave.
Rituals and Practices
Being a supreme Tantrik worship centre, Kamakhya Temple has a Tantrik society, which performs the much significant Rajaewari pooja. All the rituals are secretly conducted and only initiates partake in those.
During the first three days of the fair, the entry to the temple is prohibited as the goddess is believed to be menstruating. Daily worship and any religious practice at the temple is suspended during these days. Also, agricultural tasks are forbidden such as ploughing, sowing, and transplanting of crops. Cooking food is also forbidden for widows, brahmacharis and brahmins. When the festival culminates, household items are washed and sprinkled with holy water. Worship at the temple resumes after cleaning.
Ambubachi Mela Celebrations
This festival is celebrated with rites of Shakti. Followers of the Shakti tradition flock to this place and perform ascetic modes of devotion such as tantra, jugglery, even practicing extremity with some body parts. The mela looks much like Kumbha Mela as in both, ascetics perform similar severe forms of extreme ascetic practices. Some of the activities are remaining buried in the mud, carrying heavy weights with delicate body parts, and continuously standing for days and months.
On the fourth day of the festival, Maa Kamakhya is believed to have completed her menstrual cycle. At this time, the temple priests carry out the Garbhagriha ritual bathing. Thereafter, the temple is open for devotees to seek blessings of the goddess.
How to Reach Kamakhya Temple
Kamakhya Temple can be easily reached by air, road, and train.
By Air: Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport, Guwahati is the nearest airport to the Kamakhya Temple (20 km approx.).
By Road: Regular Assam Tourism Department buses ply between the temple and the railway station. You can reach the temple in 20-25 minutes, depending on the traffic.
By Train: The Kamakhya Junction railway station in Guwahati is the nearest railway station from the Kamakhya Temple (6 km approx.).