TODAY -

Of wonders and spirituality at Ambubachi

Kamal Baruah *



For Guwahatian, Nilachala Hill or blue hill could be right place for an evening ride towards the holy township but for outsiders it’s a place of the most sacred and oldest of the 51 Shakti Peethas on earth where half of a hundred thousand visitors visit during the festival of spirituality Ambubachi.

It’s an important pilgrimage destination for Hindus and especially for powerful Tantric Shaktism cult. Localities have normally found no intent to see the wonders in their surrounding vicinity but Mr Bhupen Mazumdar and his family decided to venture out at Ambubachi mela.

They reached the foothill towards the Kamakhya temple at 8 pm and walked along with his native friend there. There’re traffic restrictions except special arrangements for free ferry car service for old, differently-abled person and mothers with babies in their arms on the route. It looked like a sea of people climbing along the hills. They couldn’t believe that night.

People living in Kamakhya are mostly Priests and modern Saktas. The devotees were mostly outsiders climbing 2.5 km stretch of the road to the Goddess of desire. The volunteers were offering water throughout the road. The queue was very slow-going and they only reached half of destination at midnight 12.

Temples don’t allow wearing shoes or chappals. They saw a large number of chappals/shoes dotted in queues. At one moment, some volunteers collected those into a large bag and scattered in the open area. People were rushing towards looking for their pairs. It was such inhuman task that followers witnessed.

Most of them were not getting their pair instead they got with different shape and size. Some went with anything as they like. My friend decided to pack one of his shoes with polythene bag and another one kept open.

The devotees made a bee-line towards the main temple area. There were large accommodations from the District Administration and Bhandaras were assigned to deliver free food and basic amenities at the rest camps. But there was queue for every freebie.

People got amazed watching Sadhus, Yogis, Swamis and its significance with long hair and beards that turned into dreadlocks. They say, it happens only if Shiva blesses them. But common people failed to decode their secret hairstyle. They chanted during havan and exhibited mystical powers.

As part of bending tradition, Naga sadhus don clothes at temple. Saffron coloured clothing symbolized their renunciation. They are religiously ascetic and dedicated their life through meditation for achieving moksha (salvation).

At night 2 O’clock, they finally reached the main gate. Kamakhya door closes for three days to mark the start of “prabitti” during Ambubachi and devotees rushed to make a round. Ambubachi is a ritual of access observed with Tantrik means. On the fourth day, the devotees are allowed to darshan. Surprisingly, another queue had already formed for that darshan gate for fourth day.

The temple has a long ancient history. The current structural temple was built and renovated many times. From the archaeological evidence, the temple was constructed during Mlechchha dynasty (8th – 9th century) capital at Hadapeshvar (now Tezpur) and Palas of Kamrup Kings (Indra Pala, Dharama Pala). Tibetan Buddhist visited Kamrup during 10th – 12th century.

The temple was invaded and destroyed by Bengal ruler Hussein Shah during Medieval period. The founder of Koch dynasty Vishwa Singha (1515-1540) had revived worship at the temple. Later Narnarayan (1540-1585) reconstructed it with original scattered stone. The main temple was rebuilt by Chilarai using stone ruins with a brick dome. Jayadhaj Singha conquered Kamrup after the battle of Itakhuli (1681) and Ahom got control over the temple and renovated through royal patronage.

Rudra Singha (1696-1714) embraced Hindu religion and invited Shakta of Mahant Krishnaram Bhattacharyya from Bengal as spiritual guru. Siba Singha (1714-1744) handed over the management of the temple along with large area of Debottar land to Mahant. Now his successors are known as Parbatiya Gosains residing in the hills. The temple has fully developed ground plan of five chambers. The last chamber was added by the Ahom King Rajeswar Singha (1751-69).

The holy shrine is bestowed with myths and mysteries. There are quite a few oral legends of Lord Shiva and Sati. 9th century Kalika Purana provides a mythical story about the origin of the temple. The 16th century ancient literature “Yogini Tantra” mention about Goddess Kamakhya.

A huge crowd had finally gathered near walls of architecture. The crowd were fleeing high at the centre of the temple and stampeded as if they sense impending danger. The police provided no room for manoeuvre and the crowd had to go at a snail’s pace. They must have felt dreadful night at Maa Kamakhya Devalaya for being with the Goddess last year.

It was difficult to describe such experience unless one had faced. There is more to life than being happy and they found their shoes in place as camouflage worked on the side of the road using little sixth sense.

People living down the hills saw the sufferings of visitors, they were beyond expression. Most of the devotees come just once in a lifetime. The administration might fail to provide adequate pilgrim services like transport and accommodation. On 22nd June, the five days Ambubachi Mahayog 2019 starts. City dwellers must visit the shrine during auspicious days. The shift in priorities for localities would surely allow them to embrace spirituality in a more profound way.


* Kamal Baruah wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer is a former Air Warrior and currently working for SBI Dispur. He can be reached at kamal(DOT)baruah(AT)yahoo(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on June 25, 2019.



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