For all those travelling to North-East, the visit is considered incomplete if one does not visit the famous Kamakhya temple in Guwahati (Assam). Kamakhya is also known as the bleeding or menstruating Goddess. This temple is not only for the devotees, but also for many history lovers, as it encompasses within itself the mythical beliefs of ancient India.
The legend goes that this is the very place where Devi Sati’s vagina and womb fell when Lord Shiva performed Tandava (a cosmic consummative dance of complete destruction) with the dead body of his wife Sati that was dismembered by fellow gods to save the universe. The body parts are believed to have fallen at 51 places on earth giving rise to Shaktipeeth shrines with Kamakhya temple being one of them.
It was Lord Vishnu who in order to calm down Shiva swung his Sudarshan Chakra and cut Sati’s body. The place where her reproductive parts fell came to be known as Kamakhya. The middle chamber of the temple leads the way to the cave like a sanctum that bears the vagina shaped cleft on a stone and an underground spring flows through this cleft, also known as Garbhagraha (womb). Apart from this, stories of Shiv and Sati’s romantic encounters pertaining to this place are also prevalent. So the place also becomes symbolic with fertility, love, romance and strength of a woman.
It was amazing to see that the temple highlighted the menstruating Goddess, a temple dedicated to natural cycles of a woman and its significance. During the month of June, the temple is closed for three days as it is believed that the goddess menstruates for those days and on the fourth day the doors of the temples are opened. All this while no prayer takes place and the pilgrims only seek blessing from the small spring coming out of the Garbhagraha in form of a small stream, which is believed to be flowing with menstrual blood.
Well apart from these amazing facts, what drew my attention was for some other reasons as well, rather shocking ones because in a country like ours where even to go out and buy sanitary wear for ladies is a source of embarrassment and talking about mensuration is a taboo, here is a temple which is completely dedicated to the bleeding Goddess and her productivity.
But it also made me realize that places of worship at times divide us on religious grounds, at times on our sexuality and most of the times on our social status.
A temple highlighting the strength and power of a women was also not untouched by the frills attached to the V.I.P (very important person) culture. Well we are aware of the red beacon syndrome spread in our country, the high and mighty known for throwing their weight around to an extent that even the ‘House Of Gods’ are no different.
Yes this culture can be seen in places of worship too, that too in epidemic proportions.
On one hand we have not forgotten our history of playing subservient to Britishers, which still lingers on. Some people still behave as the Mughal Monarchs, even if it is at the places of worship.
Yes one could witness the Darshan on priority basis here too, various counters for the ones with extra constitutional powers, the ones who were ready to shed some extra paper notes.
The ones who did not want to witness the odorous heap of thronging devotees all lined up for the blessing through normal channels. The ones who did not want to come out of their comfort cocoons, they were now the first ones to take a dip of faith, hardly able to differentiate between a river or a sewer now. But yes, they had found an escape route, whether it was on tax-evasion or back door entry to the holy place.
Here in the house of Gods , nobody was higher than the kings of today, not even the Goddess herself. The first row of visitors, who were busy proliferating the very important culture could be seen thronging the temple . Well they had all the reasons to flaunt their power, as special arrangement for entries were made for them, the cavalcade of the mighty ones created barricades and blockades for the onlookers, who were all caged up, waiting for their share of offerings in the temple.
The bystanders like me, in the name of protocol were stranded for hours, making us somewhat similar to the pigeons caged outside, kept for sale in the temple premises.
Here were we, amongst many who had sold their faith for an easy access but sighting of the deity was a long and arduous process. All devotees appeared more like the hens in a poultry farm, fighting amongst themselves for breaking or jumping the line, even the children were not to be spared. At regular intervals the whistling guards kept you moving and at times embarrassing you by their constant screams of chalo-chalo (keep moving) in that serpentine queue, which left us flabbergasted.
It was then, I wished there was some divine intervention or I was a VIP, who did not have to face such things, but on the other hand the important ones were rather blessed with special blessings by the priest himself. For them the route was a short cut, like instant two minute-noodles, but the darshan (special offering) was done with immense patience, and now they were in no hurry, unlike us, who were shooed from one corner to another.
I pondered over the poor state of the ordinary man, those who are always found standing in long lines whether it was of the ATM’S during money crunch or of a temple, a pious powerful place like this, and feeling like the lesser mortals or representing the hapless strata of the society.
How could I forget that with great power comes great responsibility and so the powerful were more responsible for paying their obeisance at sanctified religious places.
God is the answer to all our problems as we have a faith full of platters. He is our ultimate canvas of beliefs, a solution to all our troubles. Thousands of pilgrims come here from across the globe even though religious places denounce selfishness as it is considered as a cardinal sin, under all faiths.
But in these places of worship one also gets to witness such acts of dishonesty because it is guarded by us the humans, where being selfless is practically impossible in this materialistic world. It is rather inevitable, everyone wants to be considered as someone special.
There are umpteen examples of such mishaps every day, whether it is on the roads or temples, our culture thrives on such things and it is not at easy dealing with it even such sacred places of worship.
Summing it up in the memorable lines from the story on Mulla Nasurudin, when a guard interrupts him:
“Nobody is higher than the King…!”
Nasurudin replies “I am Nobody…!”
Yes we all are that Nobody, who wants to be Somebody, waiting for some divine intervention.
Anjali, with a masters in English is a teacher on a sabbatical, loves travelling and spending time in the lap of nature, observing its bounties and being thankful to the hills.