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The Mystical Kamakhya Temple: An Adi Shaktipeeth on the Nilachal Hills of Assam

Let us travel to the mystical lands of Northeast India, to a mountainous destination that's full of lore and devotion. The Kamakhya Temple, one of the 51 Shaktipeethas, is in the hilly state of Assam. Perched atop the Nilachal Hill, located 7 km from Guwahati, the Kamakhya Temple overlooks the mighty Brahmaputra River. The area is a rich site for biodiversity, and you might spot some unique birds and plants around.

According to the legend of the Shaktipeethas, when Lord Vishnu cut Sati's body into 51 pieces, her yoni fell at Kamakhya, giving this place the sacred status of a Shaktipeeth. Thus, the divinity here symbolizes fertility and the power of creation. In the ancient Hindu texts, Kaalikapurana and Devipurana, Kamakhya has been said to be the supreme Shaktipeeth of all the 51 sites. The Shakti here is named Maa Kamakhya and Bhairav is called Umananda or Umanath.

Another legend tells us that the original temple was built by Kamdev, the Hindu god of love, after he regained his lost powers at this spot. The only temple of Kamdev in Assam is present in Kamakhya. Over the centuries, the Kamakhya site has been a centre for many religious cultures of the Northeast region. Yet another story tells that the temple was originally dedicated to Kali, making it one of the most revered centres of Tantra Sadhana in India. Archaeological evidence suggests that it could have been a centre of Tantric practices as early as the 5th century.

The current Kamakhya Temple structure dates back to the 16th century, but the roots of the Kamakhya Temple are much older, extending deep into antiquity. Studies show that the holy place started as a cave temple 1500 years ago. The temples have been rebuilt many times over the centuries, and new ones added to develop into the large complex we see today. The latest ongoing renovation and development has also led to the establishment of many new temples at the site.

The Kamakhya temple lacks the traditional Hindu temple spire (shikhara) but displays various architectural styles from different time periods. The intriguing sculptures dating back a thousand years, the various shrines dedicated to different deities such as Yama, and the beautiful carvings gracing the walls, all contribute to the mesmerizing charm of the Kamakhya Temple.

The heart of Kamakhya Temple–the garbhagriha–is quite unique. Unlike most temples, it's located underground and there isn't a traditional statue of the deity. Instead, a special cleft in the rock, symbolizing a woman's yoni, is worshiped. Even more fascinating, there's a perennial spring that flows beneath it, connecting nature to the divine. Among the various shrines in the temple complex, there are five main ones dedicated to different forms of Lord Shiva – Kameshwar, Siddheshwar, Aghora, Amratokeshwar, and Kautilinga among others. There are three main temples of Lord Vishnu, present in the form of Kedara, Gadadhara and Pandunath. There are temples dedicated to various forms of Goddess Kali and various forms of Shakti, the supreme Mother Goddess.

Every year, the temple attracts devotees from far and wide, especially during the annual festival Ambubachi Mela, celebrated in the monsoon months, around mid-June. People gather in millions for this unique festival, which celebrates the monthly cycle of the goddess, marking it as an empowering celebration of womanhood. Several other pujas are organised in Kamakhya Temple including Durga Puja, Manasa Puja, Pohan Biya and Vasanti Puja.

At present, the Kamakhya Temple has become a model for environmental conservation. For instance, the temple authorities have started a project to convert floral offerings into organic manure, reducing waste and promoting sustainability. Solar panels have been installed to generate electricity, and rainwater harvesting systems have been set up to conserve water. Visiting the Kamakhya Temple is more than just a religious journey; it's a voyage that can teach you about the rich history of India, respect for nature, and the power of the feminine divine.

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