Friday, October 3, 2014

Kamakhya Temple

The Kamakhya Temple  is a Hindu temple dedicated to the mother goddess Kamakhya, one of the oldest of the 51 Shakti Pitha.s, Situated on the Nilachal Hill in western part of Guwahati city in Assam, India it is the main temple in a complex of individual temples dedicated to the ten Mahavidyas: Bhuvaneshvari, Bagalamukhi, Chinnamasta, Tripura Sundari, Tara, Kali, Bhairavi, Dhumavati, Matangi and Kamala. Among these, Tripurasundari, Matangi and Kamala reside inside the main temple whereas the other seven reside in individual temples. It is an important pilgrimage destination for general Hindu and especially for Tantric worshipers.



History

Ancient

The earliest historical dynasty of Kamarupa, the Varmans (350-650), as well as Xuanzang, a 7th-century Chinese traveler ignore the Kamakhya, when it is assumed that the worship was Kirata-based beyond the brahminical ambit. The first epigraphic notice of Kamakhya is found in the 9th-century Tezpur plates of Vanamalavarmadeva of the Mlechchha dynasty. There is enough archaeological evidence of a massive 8th-9th century temple.


The Kamarupa kings from Indra Pala to Dharma Pala were followers of the Tantrik tenet and about that period Kamakhya had become an important seat of Tantrikism. The Kamarupa kings, after Brahma Pala, adopted Tantrikism as their tenet and, as a result of this royal patronage, Kamakhya soon became a renowned centre of Tantrik sacrifices, mysticism and sorcery. That system of mystic Buddhism, known as Vajrayana and popularly called the "Sahajia cult", found its way into Kamarupa as early as the tenth century, is corroborated from an unexpected source. It is found from Tibetan records that some of the eminent Buddhist professors in Tibet, of the tenth and the eleventh centuries, hailed from Kamarupa. The Kalika Purana, a well-known work, gives the Sanskritized names of most of the rivers and hills of Brahmaputra valley. It gives a full account of the Naraka legend and the old city of Pragjyotishpura. It dwells upon the special merit and sanctity of the shrine of Kamakhya.

Medieval

There is a tradition that the temple was destroyed by Kalapahar, a general of Sulaiman Karrani (1566–1572), though the latest historical findings favor instead an earlier destruction during Hussein Shah's invasion of the Kamata kingdom (1498) then under Nilambar. The ruins of the temple was said to have been discovered by Vishwasingha, the founder of the Koch dynasty, who revived worship at the site; but it was during the reign of his son, Naranarayan, that the temple reconstruction was completed in 1565. The reconstruction used material from the original temples that was lying scattered about. Banerji (1925) records that this structure was further built over by the rulers of the Ahom kingdom. Many other structures are yet later additions.

The current structure has been built during the Ahom times, with remnants of the earlier Koch temple carefully preserved.Temple was destroyed during the middle of second millennium and revised temple structure was constructed in 1565 by Chilarai of the Koch dynasty in the style of medieval temples.

According to a legend the Koch Bihar royal family was banned by Devi herself from offering puja at the temple. In fear of this curse, to this day no descendants of that family dares to even look upward towards the Kamakhya hill while passing by. Without the support of the Koch royal family the temple faced lot of hardship. By the end of 1658, the Ahoms under king Jayadhvaj Singha had conquered the Kamrup and their interests in the temple grew. In the decades that followed the Ahom kings, all who were either devout Shaivite or Shakta continued to support the temple by rebuilding and renovating it.

Rudra Singha (reign 1696 to 1714) was a devout Hindu and as he grew older he decided to formally embrace the religion and become an orthodox Hindu by being initiated or taking sharan of a Guru, who would teach him the mantras and become his spiritual guide. But, he could not bear the thought of humbling himself in front of a Brahmin who is his subject. He therefore sent envoys to Bengal and summoned Krishnaram Bhattacharyya, a famous mahant of Shakta sect who lived in Malipota, near Santipur in Nadia district. The mahant was unwilling to come, but consented on being promised to be given the care of the Kamakhya temple to him. Though the king did not take sharan, he satisfied the mahant by ordering his sons and the Brahmins in his entourage to accept him as their spiritual guru.

When Rudra Singha died, his eldest son Siba Singha (reign 1714 to 1744), who became the king, gave the management of the Kamakhya temple and along with it large areas of land (Debottar land) to Mahant Krishnaram Bhattacharyya. The Mahant and his successors came to be known as Parbatiya Gosains, as they resided on top of the Nilachal hill. Many Kamakhya priests and modern Saktas of Assam are either disciples or descendants of the Parbatiya Gosains, or of the Nati and Na Gosains.


Worship

It is likely that this is an ancient Khasi sacrificial site, and worshiping here still includes sacrifices. Devotees come every morning with goats to offer to Shakti.The Kalika Purana, an ancient work in Sanskrit describes Kamakhya as the yielder of all desires, the young bride of Shiva, and the giver of salvation.Shakti is known as Kamakhya.


The first tantric Kamakhya Temple was destroyed during the Mongol invasion in the Nilachal hills in the 12 BC, so was the fate of the second tantric temple destroyed in the Muslim attacks, probably by the Hindu convert Muslim warrior 'Kala Pahad'. The Brahaminical legend of the 'Shakti' in the later period led to the worship of the tantric goddess as Hindu 'Shakti' goddess. The worship of all female deity in Assam symbolizes the "fusion of faiths and practices" of Aryan and non-Aryan elements in Assam. The different names associated with the goddess are names of local Aryan and non-Aryan goddesses. The Yogini Tantra mentions that the religion of the Yogini Pitha is of Kirata origin.According to Banikanta Kakati, there existed a tradition among the priests established by Naranarayana that the Garos, a matrilineal people, offered worship at the earlier Kamakhya site by sacrificing pigs.


The goddess is worshiped according to both the Vamachara (Left-Hand Path) as well as the Dakshinachara (Right-Hand Path) modes of worship. Offerings to the goddess are usually flowers, but might include animal sacrifices. In general female animals are exempt from sacrifice, a rule that is relaxed during mass sacrifices.


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