Kamakhya
Overview
Kamakhya is an important Tantric
Tantra
Tantra , anglicised tantricism or tantrism or tantram, is the name scholars give to an inter-religious spiritual movement that arose in medieval India, expressed in scriptures ....

 mother goddess closely identified with Kali
Kali
' , also known as ' , is the Hindu goddess associated with power, shakti. The name Kali comes from kāla, which means black, time, death, lord of death, Shiva. Kali means "the black one". Since Shiva is called Kāla - the eternal time, Kālī, his consort, also means "Time" or "Death" . Hence, Kāli is...

 and Maha Tripura Sundari
Tripura Sundari
Tripurasundarĩ or Mahã-Tripurasundarĩ , also called Śoḍaṣĩ , Lalitã and Rãjarãjeśvarĩ , is one of the group of ten goddesses of Hindu belief, collectively called Mahavidyas.As Shodashi,...

, according to the Tantric texts (Kalikapurana Stotra, Yoginitantram) that are the basis for her worship at the Kamakhya temple
Kamakhya Temple
The Kamakhya Temple is a Shakti Peeth temple situated on the Nilachal Hill in western part of Guwahati city in Assam, India. It is the main temple in a complex of individual temples dedicated to different forms of the mother goddess as the Dasa Mahavidya, including Bhuvaneshvari, Bagalamukhi,...

, a 16th century temple in the Kamrup
Kamrup
Kamrup district is an administrative district in the state of Assam in India, named after Kamarupa, a name by which Assam was previously known in ancient times. The district, however, is now a small western part of Assam, with a distinctive native Kamrupi culture and dialect . The distinctive...

 district of Assam
Assam
Assam , also, rarely, Assam Valley and formerly the Assam Province , is a northeastern state of India and is one of the most culturally and geographically distinct regions of the country...

. Her name means "renowned goddess of desire," and she resides at the Kamakhya temple in the form of a stone yoni
Yoni
Yoni is the Sanskrit word for the vagina. Its counterpart is the lingam as interpreted by some, the phallus.It is also the divine passage, womb or sacred temple...

 (female generative organ). The temple is primary amongst the 51 Shakti Peethas
Shakti Peethas
The Shakti Pithas are places of worship consecrated to the goddess Shakti or Parvati or Sati or Durga, the female principal of Hinduism and the main deity of the Shakta sect...

 related to the myth of Sati
Dakshayani
Dākshāyani or Satī is a Hindu Goddess of marital felicity and longevity. She is worshipped particularly by Hindu women to seek the long life of their husbands...

, and remains one of the most important Shakta temples and Hindu
Hindu
Hindu refers to an identity associated with the philosophical, religious and cultural systems that are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. As used in the Constitution of India, the word "Hindu" is also attributed to all persons professing any Indian religion...

 pilgrimage sites in the world.
One of the most persistent mythologies concerning the origin of worship at the site is associated with the myth of Sati
Dakshayani
Dākshāyani or Satī is a Hindu Goddess of marital felicity and longevity. She is worshipped particularly by Hindu women to seek the long life of their husbands...

, who was the wife of the ascetic god Shiva
Shiva
Shiva is a major Hindu deity, and is the destroyer god or transformer among the Trimurti, the Hindu Trinity of the primary aspects of the divine. God Shiva is a yogi who has notice of everything that happens in the world and is the main aspect of life. Yet one with great power lives a life of a...

 and daughter of the Puranic god-king Daksha
Daksha
In Hinduism, Daksha, "the skilled one", is an ancient creator god, one of the Prajapatis, the Rishis and the Adityas. Daksha is said to be the son of Aditi and Brahma...

.
Encyclopedia
Kamakhya is an important Tantric
Tantra
Tantra , anglicised tantricism or tantrism or tantram, is the name scholars give to an inter-religious spiritual movement that arose in medieval India, expressed in scriptures ....

 mother goddess closely identified with Kali
Kali
' , also known as ' , is the Hindu goddess associated with power, shakti. The name Kali comes from kāla, which means black, time, death, lord of death, Shiva. Kali means "the black one". Since Shiva is called Kāla - the eternal time, Kālī, his consort, also means "Time" or "Death" . Hence, Kāli is...

 and Maha Tripura Sundari
Tripura Sundari
Tripurasundarĩ or Mahã-Tripurasundarĩ , also called Śoḍaṣĩ , Lalitã and Rãjarãjeśvarĩ , is one of the group of ten goddesses of Hindu belief, collectively called Mahavidyas.As Shodashi,...

, according to the Tantric texts (Kalikapurana Stotra, Yoginitantram) that are the basis for her worship at the Kamakhya temple
Kamakhya Temple
The Kamakhya Temple is a Shakti Peeth temple situated on the Nilachal Hill in western part of Guwahati city in Assam, India. It is the main temple in a complex of individual temples dedicated to different forms of the mother goddess as the Dasa Mahavidya, including Bhuvaneshvari, Bagalamukhi,...

, a 16th century temple in the Kamrup
Kamrup
Kamrup district is an administrative district in the state of Assam in India, named after Kamarupa, a name by which Assam was previously known in ancient times. The district, however, is now a small western part of Assam, with a distinctive native Kamrupi culture and dialect . The distinctive...

 district of Assam
Assam
Assam , also, rarely, Assam Valley and formerly the Assam Province , is a northeastern state of India and is one of the most culturally and geographically distinct regions of the country...

. Her name means "renowned goddess of desire," and she resides at the Kamakhya temple in the form of a stone yoni
Yoni
Yoni is the Sanskrit word for the vagina. Its counterpart is the lingam as interpreted by some, the phallus.It is also the divine passage, womb or sacred temple...

 (female generative organ). The temple is primary amongst the 51 Shakti Peethas
Shakti Peethas
The Shakti Pithas are places of worship consecrated to the goddess Shakti or Parvati or Sati or Durga, the female principal of Hinduism and the main deity of the Shakta sect...

 related to the myth of Sati
Dakshayani
Dākshāyani or Satī is a Hindu Goddess of marital felicity and longevity. She is worshipped particularly by Hindu women to seek the long life of their husbands...

, and remains one of the most important Shakta temples and Hindu
Hindu
Hindu refers to an identity associated with the philosophical, religious and cultural systems that are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. As used in the Constitution of India, the word "Hindu" is also attributed to all persons professing any Indian religion...

 pilgrimage sites in the world.

Origins

One of the most persistent mythologies concerning the origin of worship at the site is associated with the myth of Sati
Dakshayani
Dākshāyani or Satī is a Hindu Goddess of marital felicity and longevity. She is worshipped particularly by Hindu women to seek the long life of their husbands...

, who was the wife of the ascetic god Shiva
Shiva
Shiva is a major Hindu deity, and is the destroyer god or transformer among the Trimurti, the Hindu Trinity of the primary aspects of the divine. God Shiva is a yogi who has notice of everything that happens in the world and is the main aspect of life. Yet one with great power lives a life of a...

 and daughter of the Puranic god-king Daksha
Daksha
In Hinduism, Daksha, "the skilled one", is an ancient creator god, one of the Prajapatis, the Rishis and the Adityas. Daksha is said to be the son of Aditi and Brahma...

. 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
Shiva
Shiva is a major Hindu deity, and is the destroyer god or transformer among the Trimurti, the Hindu Trinity of the primary aspects of the divine. God Shiva is a yogi who has notice of everything that happens in the world and is the main aspect of life. Yet one with great power lives a life of a...

 or Sati
Dakshayani
Dākshāyani or Satī is a Hindu Goddess of marital felicity and longevity. She is worshipped particularly by Hindu women to seek the long life of their husbands...

. 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
Parvati
Parvati is a Hindu goddess. Parvati is Shakti, the wife of Shiva and the gentle aspect of Mahadevi, the Great Goddess...

. Meanwhile, Shiva
Shiva
Shiva is a major Hindu deity, and is the destroyer god or transformer among the Trimurti, the Hindu Trinity of the primary aspects of the divine. God Shiva is a yogi who has notice of everything that happens in the world and is the main aspect of life. Yet one with great power lives a life of a...

 was striken with grief and rage at the loss of his wife. He put Sati's body over his shoulder and began his tandava
Tandava
' or ', the divine art form, is a dance performed by the god Shiva, who is revered by Hindus. According to Hindu mythology, Shiva’s Tandava is a vigorous dance that is the source of the cycle of creation, preservation and dissolution...

 (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
Vishnu
Vishnu is the Supreme god in the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism. Smarta followers of Adi Shankara, among others, venerate Vishnu as one of the five primary forms of God....

 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.

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
Yoni
Yoni is the Sanskrit word for the vagina. Its counterpart is the lingam as interpreted by some, the phallus.It is also the divine passage, womb or sacred temple...

 ("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. 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
Tripura Sundari
Tripurasundarĩ or Mahã-Tripurasundarĩ , also called Śoḍaṣĩ , Lalitã and Rãjarãjeśvarĩ , is one of the group of ten goddesses of Hindu belief, collectively called Mahavidyas.As Shodashi,...

, also called Shodashi. She is identified with Kali in the Kalika Purana, Yoginitantra and Kamakhya Tantra, each of which echoes this verse:

"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
Durga
For the 1985 Hindi Film of Rajesh Khanna see DurgaaIn Hinduism, Durga ; ; meaning "the inaccessible" or "the invincible"; , durga) or Maa Durga "one who can redeem in situations of utmost distress" is a form of Devi, the supremely radiant goddess, depicted as having eighteen arms, riding a lion...

.

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.

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
Shiva
Shiva is a major Hindu deity, and is the destroyer god or transformer among the Trimurti, the Hindu Trinity of the primary aspects of the divine. God Shiva is a yogi who has notice of everything that happens in the world and is the main aspect of life. Yet one with great power lives a life of a...

, who in turn lies atop a lion.

To each side of her sit Brahma
Brahma
Brahma is the Hindu god of creation and one of the Trimurti, the others being Vishnu and Shiva. According to the Brahma Purana, he is the father of Mānu, and from Mānu all human beings are descended. In the Ramayana and the...

 and Vishnu
Vishnu
Vishnu is the Supreme god in the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism. Smarta followers of Adi Shankara, among others, venerate Vishnu as one of the five primary forms of God....

, who are each seated upon a lotus, as well.

Worship

Kamakhya is often synonymous with Shakta Tantra
Tantra
Tantra , anglicised tantricism or tantrism or tantram, is the name scholars give to an inter-religious spiritual movement that arose in medieval India, expressed in scriptures ....

. 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
Vamachara
Vāmācāra is a Sanskrit term meaning "left-handed attainment" and is synonymous with "Left-Hand Path". It is used to describe a particular mode of worship or sadhana that is not only "heterodox" to standard Vedic injunction, but extreme in comparison to the status quo.These practices are often...

, or "left-hand path," which includes the use of forbidden substances (such as panchamakara
Panchamakara
Panchamakara, also known as the Five Ms, is a Tantric term referring to the five substances used in a Tantric puja or sadhana:...

) and practices designed to transcend desire and personal ego. Features of Tantric worship may include the drawing of a yantra
Yantra
Yantra is the Sanskrit word for "instrument" or "machine". Much like the word "instrument" itself, it can stand for symbols, processes, automata, machinery or anything that has structure and organization, depending on context....

 with sindoor
Sindoor
Sindoor is a traditional red or orange-red colored cosmetic powder from the Indian subcontinent, usually worn by married women along the parting of their hair. Usage of sindoor denotes that a woman is married in many Hindu communities, and ceasing to wear it usually implies widowhood...

 and repeating the bija
Bija
In Hinduism and Buddhism, the Sanskrit term बीज bīja , literally seed, is used as a metaphor for the origin or cause of things and cognate with bindu....

 mantra
Mantra
A mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation"...

 associated with her. 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. Worship of Kamakhya grants moksha
Moksha
Within Indian religions, moksha or mukti , literally "release" , is the liberation from samsara and the concomitant suffering involved in being subject to the cycle of repeated death and reincarnation or rebirth.-Origins:It is highly probable that the concept of moksha was first developed in...

, or ultimate spiritual liberation.

Darshan
Darshan
or Darshan is a Sanskrit term meaning "sight" , vision, apparition, or glimpse. It is most commonly used for "visions of the divine" in Hindu worship, e.g. of a deity , or a very holy person or artifact...

 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
Dupatta
Dupatta Dupatta(Urdu: دوپٹا, Hindi: दुपट्टा, Bengali: ওড়না, Sindhi: پوتي, Tamil:துப்பட்ட) Dupatta(Urdu: دوپٹا, Hindi: दुपट्टा, Bengali: ওড়না, Sindhi: پوتي, Tamil:துப்பட்ட) (alternative names include chadar (in Pakistan), orni/odhni, chunri, chunni, orna, and pacheri, is a long,...

, flowers, and red sindoor
Sindoor
Sindoor is a traditional red or orange-red colored cosmetic powder from the Indian subcontinent, usually worn by married women along the parting of their hair. Usage of sindoor denotes that a woman is married in many Hindu communities, and ceasing to wear it usually implies widowhood...

 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
Prasad
Prasād is a mental condition of generosity, as well as a material substance that is first offered to a deity and then consumed...

 by the attending priest.

After completing darshan
Darshan
or Darshan is a Sanskrit term meaning "sight" , vision, apparition, or glimpse. It is most commonly used for "visions of the divine" in Hindu worship, e.g. of a deity , or a very holy person or artifact...

, 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
Kamakhya Temple
The Kamakhya Temple is a Shakti Peeth temple situated on the Nilachal Hill in western part of Guwahati city in Assam, India. It is the main temple in a complex of individual temples dedicated to different forms of the mother goddess as the Dasa Mahavidya, including Bhuvaneshvari, Bagalamukhi,...

 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.

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

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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