A seeker here takes us on a journey of her experience at the Grand Ambubachi Mela at the Kamakhya Devi Temple this year. As the days of celebration progressed, there is much that captivates, moves and amazes our senses, some that brings bewilderment and chaos too. There is also an immense sense of calm, tears, love and devotion that unfolds as the gates open to receive a glimpse of the Goddess that bleeds while Brahmaputra turns red.
Atop the Nilachal hill, in the Guwahati city of Assam, Devi Kamakhya resides. To someone who doesn’t know about Shakti peeths, the concrete expressions of the immanent feminine worshipped in various forms, this might come across as another Hindu temple with annual festivities on the way. The history of the Kaamaroopa Peetha, as this Shakti Peeth is called is shrouded by many myths, legends and controversies. But to the devout, the Kamakhya Devi is beyond the three Gunas and has taken the form of Rakta Paashaan (Red Stone), a form depicting the place where the ‘yoni’ of Goddess Sati fell.
One of the most coveted melas of India, the Ambubachi mela marks the annual celebration of the Devi’s power to create and sustain each and every life form. It is a celebration of Goddess Kamakhya’s menstruation, but in fact, it is the menstruation of the entire Mother Earth. It is said that with the monsoon rain the creative and nurturing power of the ‘menstruation’ of mother Earth becomes accessible to devotees at this site during Ambubachi. The temple remains closed for three days of the mela, signifying the resting period for the mother goddess, just the way it was intended for every woman to allow room for healing and rejuvenation (though it became a means to discriminate and suppress women overtime, claiming they are impure). At this time, the Brahmaputra river near Kamakhya turns red (there is many an explanation as to why it turns red). Nevertheless this symbolizes the bleeding of the goddess, hence the very source of life and sustenance. Thousands of Sanyasis, Sadhus, Tantrics, curious onlookers, travelers and other devotees who travel from all across India and the world are a part of the festivities. For those pursuing spiritual path, either it is a time to reap the benefits of one’s sadhana or a time to intensify their sadhana.
So this year, we had the privilege to experience the mela in real time. In spite of the crowded mela, we managed to find a place to stay at a place in one of the by lanes behind the temple, overlooking the Brahmaputra river. We got a chance to revel ourselves in this space and focus on our sadhana during these three days, with a plethora of events happening around as the days passed by.
Most of the seating spots around the temple are occupied and if you aren’t smart enough you might end up standing throughout your visit except a few stairs which overlook the visitors taking a pradikshna (circumambulation) round the temple. Be it twelve am or two am, the three days of the Ambubachi mela is packed with lakhs of visitors and one can witness a parade of various groups in the night.
Quite a few Sadhus (sages), Tantric practitioners came in a few days earlier and parked themselves at a space allocated for them called as the Akhada. Many of them in bare minimum robes and ash smeared on themselves. They did not seem dangerous and were usually busy with their own practices, but some may come to bless you in return for your dakshina (offering money to feed them). Looking at the crowd and the rush to take a sneak peek of the Goddess, we almost felt like shouting all around – The Goddess is within you, she is within you! Let’s just sit and meditate to experience that energy which Kamakhya Devi invokes within you.
In one corner there were a troupe chanting Hare Rama Hare Krishna Bhajans with their percussion instruments and on the other end, the Kinnars, the transgender community, soaking into the celebration of the bleeding goddess. Amidst them there were a few Sadhakas- seekers who sit around all day and night chanting mantras and meditating. The Ambubachi mela gives an oppurtunity for many to express their feminine by simply dressing up as a Goddess, smeared in shades of red and to some this is the only time they can bank on some extra cash. Surely it is a maddening sight for anyone who is not familiar with the amusing chaos in India and its mela culture. To the few of us seekers, even grabbing a spot outside the sacred sanctum for few minutes was a treat. Three days spent in doing one’s own spiritual practice prepares us to imbibe the grace of the goddess when one receives the darshan when the temple gates reopen. If one is initiated properly into a spiritual practice, one can surely not miss the reverberating energy of this powerful seat of Shakti – Kamakhya.
As Kamakhya Devi is worshipped as yoni and not as deity here, one can experience the energy much more evidently, in a raw form rather than focusing on the shape and form which scintillates the mind than the being.
One can sit and meditate around the outer sanctum area or on the steps of the huge pond in between (if you don’t want the crowd to disturb you) during the days when the temple is closed. The temple area also has a dedicated space which is “an altar for sacrificial offerings”. One can also witness many sadhus stationed at different places with photographs and shrines of their respective goddesses or forms they worship. For some seekers who live/eat only what they have been offered, this is the time to receive from countless families who offer sweets, fruits and money to these people.
“A rush of cry was throbbing my being, falling in Maa’s lap of grace”
After witnessing the chaotic rush, finally the day of having the darshan of the Devi arrived. We were once again lucky to get an early darshan of Maa Kamakhya. Words can never translate a seeker’s experience or the emotion that permeates one’s being and yet one cannot but help the very same words from sprouting within.
Oh Maa Kamakhya,
They say you call and then one gets to see you
There we were at your foothills
You greeted us and held our hand
Walking us to your door
Overwhelmed by your other devotees
I tucked away my frail self
Shying away to just be
With a thought lingering,
Could I see you?
The mad rush it was all for,
Could I feel it too?
Three days that you made us dance around you
Witnessing the shades of humankind
In despair, in fear, in devotion
Some in mad faith
Some to solve their case
Some to seek your grace
Some lost in your embrace.
Tread gently I remembered my Guru's words!
Indeed I was walking on your land,
Relentlessly walked in craze
Witnessing all your devotees
All just to just get a piece of you
To drink of you, to feel you
As you held us and walked us to you.
A rush of cry was throbbing my being
Falling in your lap of grace
Feeling the embrace of creation
Dark and not of this world
Just a fraction of minute
Could that all it be?
So be it:
I drank of you, I felt you
And I knew it was all you
Through me that flowed.
I was then grateful;
To all those you made it happen
To my Guru who opened the door to you.
I shall wait till another time
To seek your embrace once again
For I know you are in my journey
To rekindle the feminine within
Oh Maa Kamakhya
For those who seek you
And those who do not
Let them know you
Let them experience you.
There is much to say, but that is for another time. Watch this space for more glimpses of the Ambubachi mela in the next blog.