Kamakhya Temple of Assam is one of the most revered spiritual destinations of the country. This is a Shaktipeeth belonging to Goddess Kamakhya; the tantric form of Goddess Durga. Apart from the deity Kamakhya Devi, compound of the temple houses 10 other avatars of Kali namely Dhumavati, Matangi, Bagola, Tara, Kamala, Bhairavi, Chinnamasta, Bhuvaneshwari and Tripuara Sundari. There is no statue, idol or image of Devi in the temple, but in the corner of the cave in the temple, there is sculptured image of the yoni or Vagina of the goddess, which is the object of worship and reverence.
The Name ‘Kamakhya:
The God of love, Kamadeva had lost his virility due to a curse. He sought out the Shakti’s womb and genitals and was freed from the curse. This is where ‘love’ gained his potency and thus, the deity ‘Kamakhya’ devi was installed and worshipped here. Some people also believe that the Kamakhya temple is a place where Shiva and devi Sati had their romantic encounters. As the Sanskrit word for lovemaking is ‘kama’, the place was named Kamakhya.
The Bleeding Goddess:
Kamakhya devi is famous as the bleeding goddess. The mythical womb and vagina of Shakti are supposedly installed in the ‘Garvagriha’ or sanctum of the temple. In the month of Ashaad (June), the goddess bleeds or menstruates. At this time, the Brahmaputra river near Kamakhya turns red. The temple then remains closed for 3 days and holy water is distributed among the devotees of Kamakhya devi. There is no scientific proof that the blood actually turns the river red. Some people say that the priests pour vermilion into the waters. But symbolically, menstruation is the symbol of a woman’s creativity and power to give birth. So, the deity and temple of Kamakhya celebrates this ‘shakti’ or power within every woman.
The temple also has an annual fertility festival called Ambuwasi Puja in which the goddess is said to be going through her yearly menstrual cycle. The temple remains closed for three days and opens up with great festivities on Day 4. It is also said that the river Brahmaputra turns red during this time. Whether it really is blood, or vermilion put by pandits is a question left unanswered. This is what indicates the temple about the bleeding goddess and the temple remains shut. Later, the holy water is distributed among the devotees.
It is ironic that people visit the temple and some even claim that it is the most auspicious place in the country, but conversations still turn into whispers when we openly talk about menstruation!