Timeless Shakti Peeta of Kamakhya in Tantra, Mantra, Yantra, Lore and Legend
18/07/2011 23:08:23  V Sundaram IAS  
The famous Kamakhya temple in Guwahati in Assam is one of the 108 Devi Kshetramas (Shakti Peetas) listed in the Devi Bhagavata. I have been inspired to write this article because the annual Ambubachi Mela of national importance at Kamakhya Temple began on 22nd June 2011 and concluded on 24th June 2011.

The famous Kamakhya temple in Guwahati in Assam is one of the 108 Devi Kshetramas (Shakti Peetas) listed in the Devi Bhagavata. I have been inspired to write this article because the annual Ambubachi Mela of national importance at Kamakhya Temple began on 22nd June 2011 and concluded on 24th June 2011.

To quote the appropriate words of Deepak :“Kamakhya stands atop a mountain referred to as Nilachala or the Blue Mountain. The mountain is thought to be the very body of Shiva, and when Sati’s vagina fell on it, it turned a violent blue, giving the mountain its present name. Kamakhya, is thought to be the place where Sakthi secretly resorts to satisfy her amour with Shiva and hence all the love and erotic legends connected with it. What is unique about Kamakhya, is the absence of any particular idol of the goddess. The main item of worship which is given all respects is a yoni, (a hole shaped like the clittoris or the opening of a vagina), from which flows a perennial spring keeping it moist always. It is often covered with red cloth and flowers and the devotees are allowed to touch it and worship it. Some even drink the water that wells up from the yoni believing that it will rid them of the birth-death cycle.”

The Kamakhya Temple remains closed for three days during the annual Ambubachi Mela because tradition has it that mother earth becomes unclean for three days and some restrictions are observed by the devotees like not cooking, not performing Pooja or reading holy books, no farming etc. According to tradition, the closing of the temple for three days and the non-observance of Pooja and the temporary isolation of the Goddess Kamakhya is very much like the traditional women’s menstrual seclusion. After three days Devi Kamakhya is bathed and other rituals are performed to ensure that the Devi is restored to her original purity.
Then the doors of the temple are reopened and prasad is distributed. On the fourth day the devotees are allowed to enter the temple and worship Devi Kamakhya.

The Kamakhya Temple in Assam is one of the most venerated Shakti shrines in India, and is regarded as one of the Shakti Peetha associated with the legend of Shiva and Daksha Yagna. Kamakhya is located on a hill known as Neelachala Parvat or Kamagiri near the city of Guwahati in Assam. Shakti, residing on the Kamagiri hill is known as Kamakhya, the granter of desires. Assam traditionally has been known as the Kamarupa Desa and has been associated with Tantric practices and Shakti worship from times immemorial. This temple was destroyed in early 16th century by the Muslim predator Kalapahar and then rebuilt in the 17th century by King Nara Narayana, of Cooch Bihar. Images of the builder and related inscriptions are seen in the temple.

According to the Kalika Purana, Kamakhya Temple denotes the spot where Sati used to retire in secret for her amour with Shiva, and it was also the place where her yoni fell after Shiva danced with the corpse of Sati. 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.

There are several fascinating legends associated with the Kamakhya Temple. I am summarizing the most important of them below.

Most Popular legend 

Once when Parvati’s father King Daksha organised a yagna, he did not invite his daughter and son-in-law to participate in it. Parvati, who was angry at this treatment of her father, went to her father’s place to ask the reason for it. Daksha insulted Parvati again by calling Shiva poor and wild. Being the ideal consort of Shiva, Parvati could not bear the insult heaped upon her husband by her father Daksha.  She immediately jumped into the yagna fire out of shame and anger and killed herself. Knowing of this, Lord Shiva, became very angry and came to Daksha’s palace. On seeing the dead body of his wife, he was so enraged that, he lifted the body on his shoulder and started dancing the Rudra Tandav–The Dance of Destruction. The Dance of Destruction of Lord Shiva continued for several days and the earth was on the brink of being destroyed. Then, on the appeal of all the other Gods and Goddesses, Lord Vishnu with the help of his chakra, started cutting Sati’s body. It is said that the parts of Sati’s body fell at 18 different parts of the country, which all became Centers of Power of Shakti—18 SHAKTI PEETAS. The YONI, reproductive organ of Goddess Parvati, is said to have fallen atop the Neelachal Hill in Guwahati and that is where the Kamakhya temple now stands.
According to some scholars, there are 51 Shakthi Peetas. There are others who are of the view that there are 108 Shakthi Peetas.

Adi Shankara composed the Shakti Peeta Stotram. This stotram names the places of 18 Shakthi Peetas and the name of the Goddess in each of thse Shakthi Peetas. When Lord Vishnu cut Sati’s body with his Chakra, the 18 parts of her body fell in different parts of Bharat Varsha. Each spot where a part of her body fell became a Shakti Peeta. The following details are mentioned in the Shakti peeta Stotram of Adi Shankara

The fallen part                    The Sacred Place                    Name of Shakthi
of the body                         where it fell

1. Groin –                       Trimkomali (Sri Lanka) –              Sankari Devi
2. Back Part –                   Kanchi (Tamilnadu) –                Kamakshi Devi
3. Stomach part –         Praddyumnam (Gujarat) –          Sri Srunkala Devi
4. Head hairs –                Mysore (Karnataka) –             Chamundeswari Devi
5. Upper teeth rows – Alampur (Andhra Pradesh) –         Jogulamba Devi
6. Neck part –              Srisailam (Andhra Pradesh) –      Bhramramba Devi
7. Eyes –                         Sholapur (Maharastra) –             Mahalakmi Devi
8. Right hand –                Nanded (Maharastra) –              Ekavenika Devi
9. Upper lip – Ujjain (Madya Pradesh) –                           Mahakalai Devi
10. Left hand – Pithapuram (Andhra Pradesh) –              Puruhutika Devi
11. Navel –                     Cuttack (Orissa) –                        Girija Devi
12. Left cheek –     Draksharamam (Andhra Pradesh) – Manikyamba devi
13. VULVA –                  GAUHATI (ASSAM) –       KAMARUPA DEVI (KAMAKHYA)
14. Fingers (hand) – Prayaga (Uttar Pradesh) –             Madhaveswari Devi
15. Head part –           Jwala (Himachal Pradesh) –            Vaishnavi Devi
16. Breast part –                 Gaya (Bihar) –                       Sarvamangala Devi
17. Wrist –                   Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh) –              Visalaksi Devi
18. Right Hand –                     Kashmir –                            Saraswathi Devi

I am presenting below the full Sanskrit text of the Shakti Peeta Stotram of Adi Shankara with the beautiful English translation done by Shri.P Ramachander

Lankayam Shankari devi, Kamakshi Kanchika pure /
Pradyumne Shrinkhala devi, Chamunda Krouncha pattane //

Goddess Shankari in Sri lanka, Kamakshi in Kanchipuram,
Goddess Shrinkhala in Pradyumna and Chamunda in Mysore


Alampure Jogulamba, Sri shaile Bhramarambika /
Kolha pure Maha lakshmi, Mahurye Ekaveerika //

Goddess Jogulamba in Alampur, Goddess Brhamarabika in Sri Shailam,
Goddess Maha Lakshmi in Kolhapur and Goddess Eka veera in Mahur

Ujjainyam Maha kali, Peethikayam Puruhutika /
Odhyane Girija devi, Manikya Daksha vatike //


Goddess Maha Kali in Ujjain Purhuthika in Peethika,
Goddess Girija in Odhyana and goddess Manikya in the house of Daksha,


Hari kshetre Kama rupi, Prayage Madhaveshwari /
Jwalayam Vishnavi devi, Gaya Mangalya gourika //

Goddess Kama rupi in the temple of Vishnu, Goddess Madhevaswari in Allahabad,
The flame gving Goddess in Jwala muki and Mangala Gouri in Gaya.

Varanasyam Vishalakshi, Kashmire tu Saraswati /
Ashtadasha Shakti peethani, Yoginamapi durlabham //


Goddess Visalakshi in Varanasi, Goddess Saraswathi in Kashmir,
Are the 18 houses of Shakthi, which are rare even to devas.

Sayamkale pathennityam, Sarva shatri vinashanam /
Sarva roga haram divyam, Sarva sampatkaram shubham //

If read in the evening daily, it leads to killing of all enemies,
And also curing of all diseases and getting of all types of wealth.


Another legend 

The Demon Narakasura fell in love with Goddess Kamakhya once and he wanted to marry her. But as a Goddess cannot marry a Demon or Asura, Goddess Kamakhya played a trick to save herself. She laid a condition that she would marry him only if he builds a temple for her within one night. Narakasura agreed to it and almost finished building the temple overnight. This scared Goddess Kamakhya and before the final steps of the temple were completed, a cock was sent to announce the arrival of dawn by crowing, very much before the due time for the birth of dawn. Angered by the crowing of the cock,  Narakasura killed the cock on that spot. But according to the condition Narakasura couldn’t marry Goddess Kamakhya after that. It is said that the present Kamakhya temple is the same that Narakasura had constructed for the Goddess.

One more Legend

The evolution of Yoni in Kamakhya Temple has its origins in the mists of unknown history and antiquity. The Kalika Purana refers a dialogue between Devi and Shiva, where Devi asks Shiva about the yoni worship and the legend of Kamakhya. Shiva replies to her questions with a short explanation on the origins of Kamakhya.

According to hallowed tradition, Lord Brahma after having created the Universe, prided himself on his great accomplishment as a shining symbol of the supreme force of primordial creation. The Supreme Goddess was put off by the overweening arrogance of Lord Brahma. In order to suppress the pride of Lord Brahma, SHE created a demon out of herself and named him Kesi. Kesi chased Lord Brahma around the four corners of the universe, with his mouth wide open and ready to swallow Lord Brahma. Lord Brahma fled and absconded from the universe. Kesi then built a city named Kesi Puri from which the ever reverberant sounds of “Brahma Kunjah” (Kill Brahma) came out. Lord Brahma, realising his original mistake, retraced his steps and after giving up his vain pride, offered his fervent prayers to Mahashakthi in these words “Divine Mother, I am a fool to have deluded myself with the omnipotence of my superlative powers, particularly when YOU are indeed the ORIGIN, SOURCE, BEGINNING, MIDDLE AND END OF IT ALL. Please forgive this sinner for this grievous act OF MISDEMEANOUR. I pray that YOU understand that  Kesi has to be put down for the sake of the larger good of the world. Have grace on us, Oh Supreme Goddess.” Shakthi took pity on Lord Brahma and destroyed Demon Kesi with a simple blow from her mouth ending in ‘hum’ (the syllable of destruction).

In order to atone for his sins Lord Brahma had to create a mountain out of Kesi’s ashes and cover it with grass for the cattle. Accordingly Lord Brahma created a mountain. The Gods and Goddesses offered their salutations to Mahashakthi from atop the Govardhana Mountain created by Lord Brahma. Maha Sakthi pleased with their prayers burst forth as a spring from an opening atop the hill, and commanded Lord Brahma to know and understand that this place indeed would be the very Centre of Creation and the Eternal Source of his Creative Power. Devi had placed the yoni in Kamarupa essentially for the good of the world.After he was absolved of all his sins, Lord Brahma brought down a luminous ray of light from the heavens and placed it on the yoni circle.

The yoni is the quintessence of feminity and is a yantra for many Shaktha-based Tantric Cults in India. Represented as a downward pointing triangle, it stands for the sacred feminine womb, from which all life springs. The worship of the Goddes at Kamakhya is in this form of her creative power. She is venerated as a life giver. KAMAKHYA TEMPLE HAPPENS TO BE ONE OF THE VERY FEW HINDU SHRINES WHERE THE GODDESS MAHA SHAKTI IS WORSHIPPED IN HER REPRODUCTIVE ASPECT AS THE SOURCE OF ALL LIFE ON EARTH.

THE LEGEND OF KAMADEVA AND KAMAKHYA TEMPLE

Another tradition has it that the Kamakhya Temple was built by Kamadeva, the God of Love. According to this tradition, when Lord Shiva went into deep meditation upon Sati’s death at the yagna performed by her father Daksha, the Gods grew very worried and anxious about the uncertain future of the world. They came to the conclusion that further creation would only be possible if the divine UNION between the Holy Mother and the Divine Father is made possible once again. In order to bring about this UNION, they sent Kama to shake Lord Shiva out of his Yogic State of trance and thus make him fall for Parvathi, the daughter of Himavan who was the very reincarnation of Sati. Kama let his arrows fly from his bow. They struck Shiva and woke him up from his trance. Furious with the disturbance, Shiva burnt Kamadeva alive with a single glance. Later at the instance of all the Gods, Lord Shiva brought Kama back to life. Unfortunately, Kama lost all his charm and good looks. Lord Shiva however comforted him with these words: “Don’t worry Manmadha. It was all a part of my divine act. You will regain your good looks once you build a temple for my beloved Sati at the spot where her vagina fell.”

The entire Kamakhya Temple Complex also contains other major temples—Temples for Devi, for Kali, for Tara, for Bagala, for Chinnamasta, for Bhuvanesvari, for Bhairavi and for Dhumavati, for Sitala, for Lalita Kanta, for Jaya Durga, for Vana Durga, for  Rajarajesvari, for Smasanakali  and for Sankhesvari.

Likewise there are five temples of Lord Shiva in the Kamakhya complex depicting different forms of Lord Shiva—- Kamesvara (Umananda), Siddhesvara, Amratokesvara (Heruka), Aghpra, and Kotilinga (Tatpurusa).

The Kamakhya Temple Complex also contains three temples of Lord Visnu. They are the Kedara (Kamalesvara) Temple, situated near the northern side of the main temple; the Gadadhara Temple, situated in the north-western direction of the Kamakhya Temple; and Pandunath Temple, situated in the eastern foothills of Nilachal also known as Pandu.

THE HOLY MOTHER OR SRI DEVI TRADITION

According to many Indologists and Vedic scholars, the worship of the DIVINE MOTHER is a cultural gift from Pre-Aryan times. In BHARAT VARSHA it is an unbroken tradition right from ancient times. In the VEDAS there are a number of hymns addressed to the DEVI. Much later a whole body of literature known as the TANTRAS were written dedicated solely to the worship and philosophy of the DIVINE MOTHER. In the aspect of all power the MOTHER has a dual aspect—one as Avidya or Cosmic Delusion and the other that of Vidya or Cosmic Deliverance. She binds us with her bewildering Maya of cosmic illusion in this world-play of birth, death and enjoyment. On the other hand, it is she who releases us from this wheel of existence. Artists for centuries have depicted her as holding a noose in one hand, with which she binds us, and a sword in the other with which she cuts the knot.

Indian thought is famous for its symbolism and from ancient times the pictorial representation of God took the form of both male and female. The Universal Form of the motionless Absolute came to be associated with the manly male structure and the manifested energy of nature with the female form. As Vanamali in his brilliant book ‘Sri.Devi Lila, The Play of the Divine Mother’, has observed “The Absolute and Nature are therefore not two, but two-in-one. They are necessary to each other as Complimentary Manifestations of the ONE.”

In the Skanda Purana, Indira, the King of the Gods, asks Vishnu how the Brahman projects itself as Male and Female. Vishnu replies, “Listen oh Indira, the Male and Female are eternal principles involved in the projection of the Universe. They are never separate. Fundamentally they are ONE, as Gold and Ornaments made of it are ONE. This two-in-one existence came to be known as PURUSHA AND PRAKRITI or as SHIVA AND SHAKTI.”

It is something like the dynamo and the force that charges it. One is powerless without the Other.  Shiva and Shakthi are polar opposites, inseparable but having a varying relative predominance under different directions. But in the Unmanifest, the Shakti aspect of the One Reality is only a potential. It is merged in the Pure Consciousness of Shiva and is indistinguishable from it. It is only when Manifestation takes place after a period of Pralaya or Dissolution that Shakti separates from Shiva, pierces the Bindu or point from which everything expands and descends in the form of the sound of HREEM and creates this entire paraphernalia of existence. In the Tantric view, sound ia a vibration of undifferentiated intelligence, which acts as the catalyst that sets into motion the unfolding of the Manifest Satvik aspects. A primal shudder disturbs the slumbering equilibrium of Shakthi and arouses Rajas, the principle of activity to carry out the creation of the manifold Universes. This vibration or Shabda Brahmam is undifferentiated, soundless sound. It is that wavelength that is experienced only by the Divine.

The Devi Bhagavatham describes Mother as the Mother of the Trinity. The three dynamic manifestations of the Absolute as Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara (Shiva), are all manifestations of Adi Shakti, or the First Force. As Brahma Shakti, she manifests herself in the form of Saraswati. This is her Rajasik aspect. As Vishnu Shakti she manifests in the form of Lakshmi which is her Sattvik aspect. As Shiva Shakti, she manifests herself in the form of Durga, which is her Tamasik aspect. They are not three distinct DEVIS BUT THE ONE ENERGY OF THE BRAHMAN WORSHIPPED IN THREE DIFFERENT MANIFESTATIONS. SHE IS THE CREATOR OF MANY WORLDS AND UNIVERSES, NUMEROUS BRAHMAS, VISHNUS AND SHIVAS HAVE EMANATED FROM HER.

Devi or Shakti presupposes all forms of existing knowledge—past, present and future. She is the CREATIVE ASPECT of the Brahman. It is through her that ONE becomes the MANY. She is ADI SHAKTI, the primeval force and the first emanation of power from the ABSOLUTE—Brahman. SHE IS THE WOMB OF THE UNIVERSE.

I would conclude this story of KAMAKHYA, one of the 18 Shakti Peetas in the beautiful words of Albert Einstein: “The most beautiful and the most profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his mind and eyes are closed. The insight into the mystery of life, coupled though it may be with fear, has given rise to religion. To know that, what is impenetrable to us, really exists, manifesting itself in various forms, shapes and figures as the highest wisdom and most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms—this knowledge, this feeling is at the centre of TRUE RELIGIOUSNESS”