Ambubachi mela is celebrated annually in North-East India in Guwahati, Assam. This festival celebrates the childbearing capabilities of women. Every year a large number of people from India and abroad visit Assam to experience this one of its kind ceremony.
The Story behind Kamakhya Temple
According to Hindu mythology, when Sati married Lord Shiva her father- Prajapati Daksh was not happy. When he performed a yagna. He invited all the deities except Shiva and Sati. When Sati reached the place where yagna was held. She was disheartened when her father insulted Shiva. She jumped into the yagna’s fire. Shiva got very angry and he reached there in the form of Veer Bhadra. He took the corpse of Sati and started doing Tandav. All the other deities feared that this would end the whole universe. They went to God Vishnu and he divided the body of Sati into different parts with his Sudarshana Chakra. Wherever these parts fell a Shakti Pitha was formed.
The Kamakhya temple is one of them. It is the most important one among the 51 Shakti Pithas located in different parts of India. It is also known as the Kamrup- Kamakhya temple or the Kamakhya Devalaya. This temple belongs to Devi Kamakhya, goddess of creative power, desire, and fertility. It is situated on the Nilanchal Hills in the western part of Guwahati, Assam. It was believed that this temple was built by Narakasura. But records show that after getting destroyed, it was rebuilt by Koch King Naranarayana in 1556.
The Ambubachi Mela
The Ambubachi Mela or Ameti or the Tantric fertility Festival is a Hindu festival celebrated every year during the monsoon season. It was celebrated in the Assamese month of Ahaar. It falls in mid-June according to the Gregorian calendar. It was usually celebrated between 21 June to 25 June.
When Sati’s body was divided into various parts by Sudarshana Chakra, the vaginal part fell in the place where the Kamakhya temple is situated today. That is why the Ambubachi Mela marks the celebration of the annual menstrual cycle of goddess Kamakhya. There is no idol placed in the Kamakhya temple. There is only a yoni-like stone (symbolic representation of Shakti in Hinduism) placed there. A natural spring flow over it.
Celebration of the Festival
It is a four days festival in which the temple is closed for the first three-days. In these days the goddess completes her annual menstrual cycle. During these days, women pray for their fertility and celebrate their capabilities of carrying a child in their womb. There are some restrictions also. In these days, cooking, performing prayers and reading of holy books is restricted.
On the fourth day, after performing all the rituals and giving bath to goddess Kamakhya. When it was ensured that the goddess has retrieved her purity, doors of the temple were opened for the devotees, and prasad was distributed.
Two forms of Prasad is given to the devotees. Angodak and Angabastra. Angodak means the water from the spring that flows over the yoni-like stone at Kamakhya temple. And Angabastra, as the name suggests is the piece of cloth that is used to cover the yoni during the three days when the temple is closed. Both these prasad had great significance. They are given to Tantrics as well as the common devotees.
Every year five lakhs footfalls are observed during the Ambubachi Mela. The majority of visitors are from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. This is why it is also known as the ‘Kumbh of East’.
In the Chengannur town of Alleppey district of Kerala, similar kinds of customs are followed. The Devi temple is closed for a few days when it was believed that the Goddess is menstruating.
Significance of Ambubachi for Tantrics
It is also called the Tantric Fertility Festival because it is closely associated with Tantric Shakti. A large number of Sadhu, Sadhvis and Tantrics attend this festival. Some of them are those who are seen only during these times of the year. They are not seen in public for the rest of the year. The prasad given at the festival is helpful for them in their tantric practices.
Bringing change in the society
This festival mainly focuses on the menstrual cycle of women. Health officials said that, it is the best occasion to promote menstrual hygiene through the use of sanitary napkins. This is also the reason why Menstruation is not a taboo in the state of Assam.
Current status of Ambubachi Mela
In light of the recent scenario, where Coronavirus cases are increasing every day, this festival has been canceled for the first time in history as per the notification from Maa Kamakhya Devalaya management committee. But the priests of the temple will perform all the rituals following social distancing and other safety guidelines provided by the government.
Author: Anjali Datt
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