Kamakhya Temple Guwahati Assam

Kamakhya Temple – A Pilgrim’s Ultimate Destination

New Year resolutions made with a difference…I decided to visit Kamakhya Temple at Guwahati to start off the new year with new promises! The last year was a blessing for us which came in the form of our baby boy. And so we decided to visit this holy place to express our gratitude and seek the divine blessings. Not that it’s customary but definitely is calming.

Devotees in Kamakhya temple on New Year day
Devotees in Kamakhya temple on New Year day

Kamakhya Temple, an ultimate destination for pilgrims, is visited by thousands of devotees on New Year day to offer their prayers in the holy shrine. The ocean of people wait in long queues to be able to step inside the temple where the main shrine is located. There is no idol of the presiding deity Goddess Kamakhya, but she is worshipped in the form of a yoni like stone. Devotees carry puja essentials according to their beliefs to offer inside as pandas or pujaris perform rites on their behalf.

The wait to get inside the temple could be way too long judging by the long queue. So we decided to skip it that day as it would be tiresome with a baby. There’s another shorter route, provided you spend some extra bucks, which takes less time compared to the main one. We remained content by lighting diyas (earthen lamps) and incense sticks on the allotted space outside the temple. Incase you want a detailed puja with proper rites you can get it done by the pujaris who are available in the temple premises. Ardent devotees even offer animals as sacrifice to overcome the doshas in their astronomical charts.

Pallabita Bora and her son Nevaan at the Kamakhya temple premises
Me and Nevaan at the temple premises

Ambubachi mela at Kamakhya temple

Every year during the monsoon season (Assamese month Aahar) the Ambubachi mela is celebrated with proper rituals according to the Shakti cult at the Kamakhya temple. It is the celebration of the yearly menstruation course of goddess Kamakhya. It is believed that Maa Kamakhya, the Mother Shakti goes through her annual cycle of menstruation during this time stretch. The temple remains closed for three days and on the fourth day Goddess Kamakhya is bathed and other rituals are performed. The doors of the temple are then reopened for everyone and prasad is distributed.

A devotee during Ambubachi mela at Kamakhya temple
A devotee during Ambubachi mela
Source : Swarnav Borgohain

Lakhs of pilgrims from all over the country and abroad visit Kamakhya temple during this annual Ambubachi mela. People of all sects and ages visit the temple from far and wide… some who are ardent devotees, others like sadhus, intellectual and folk tantriks, babas, baul singers, aghoras make it their abode for those few days of the mela. Though this celebration is mainly observed by the shakti cult, yet people apart from this cult also visit the temple because of their devotion. This year the festival dates are from 22nd June to 26th June.

Durga puja at Kamakhya temple

Durga puja is also celebrated annually here in Kamakhya temple. This festival which falls during Navratri in the autumn season also attracts a lot of visitors. The puja is performed in a unique way with Mahasnan or the ritualistic bath of the deity followed by sacrifices. Kumari puja is another important ritual observed during this festival where young girls are dressed up beautifully and is worshipped as a manifestation of Goddess Kamakhya.

Kamakhya temple gorgeously decorated on the occasion of Durga puja
Kamakhya temple gorgeously decorated on the occasion of Durga puja

Kamakhya temple, situated on top of the Nilachal hills on the western part of Guwahati city, is a very famous pilgrimage destination for Hindus, especially Tantrik worshippers. It is, in fact, the most important temple in Assam. The temple is very near the Kamakhya railway station. Bus services, trekkers, auto rickshaws, rental cabs are available to take you to the temple. The beauty of the place is enhanced by the small colourful stalls on both sides of the road leading to the temple. In here you get a variety of stuff to choose from to take back home as a souvenir of your visit.

My visit to Kamakhya temple on the first day of New Year 2020 was to find my inner strength and peace. I have my priorities straight and to maintain my focus I needed the divine blessings. I just hope that I get to travel more this year and create some good memories with my son.

Maha Shivratri and Shivdol of Heritage Sivasagar

Shivdol
Source: templepurohit.com

Shivdol is a group of structures on the banks of the Sivasagar tank, also known as Borpukhuri, in Sivasagar, Assam. It comprises of three different temples namely Shivdol meaning temple of Lord Shiva, Vishnudol meaning temple of Lord Vishnu and Devidol meaning temple of Goddess Durga. Lord Shiva along with Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma form the holy trinity (trimurti) of Hinduism. Lord Shiva is responsible for the destruction of the Universe, with the goal of recreating it.

Located in the heart of the city of Sivasagar the Shivdol is a popular destination for pilgrims. Tourists and pilgrims come from around the country to offer prayers to Lord Shiva. The temple stands tall at 104 feet high and is said to be the tallest Shiva temple in North East India. Situated at the topmost part of the temple is a golden dome called Kolosi which is seven feet tall.

Mahashivratri meaning the great night of Shiva is the most important festival celebrated here on the new moon day in the month of Magha according to the Hindu calendar. The origin of this festival is not very clear and there are different versions. Some believe it to be the marriage consummation of Lord Shiva with Goddess Parvati. According to another belief Shivratri is celebrated as the day when Lord Shiva saved the world from the pot of poison that emerged from the ocean during Samudra Manthan. Devotees visit the temples and offer milk, fruits, flowers, fresh leaves and sweets to the shrine. Ardent devotees also remain awake throughout the night and engage in chanting prayers, or meditating. Some also keep fast to please Lord Shiva and receive his blessings.

Sadhus on the occasion of Mahashivratri at Shivdol
Source : Swarnav Borgohain

A special prasad made on the occasion of Mahashivratri is the bhang laddo or bhang lassi which is an edible preparation of cannabis. This is basically a cannabis infused sweet or drink and is the highlight of the festival. Bhang is said to be Lord Shiva’s favourite food. After having spent one night sleeping under this plant’s leaves, he ate it in the morning and feels refreshed. It is widely believed that since then Bhang became his favourite food.

Shivratri in Sivasagar is said to have been celebrated since the construction of the Shivdol by Queen Ambika, second wife of Swargadeo Siva Singha in 1731. Every year during Mahashivratri a huge mela or fair is organised over a few days and pilgrims and tourists alike visit from far and wide to offer their prayers as well as take part in the celebrations. This coming year Mahashivratri falls on February 21st, 2020 and as usual festivities and fairs are expected to be arranged for the occasion. The brightly illuminated temple standing on the banks of the Borpukhuri ( Sivasagar tank) is the most pleasant sight to see at night, with people bustling around the fair surrounding the temple walls on all sides.

Night view of Shivdol with the Sivasagar lake
Source: flickr.com

Sivasagar is a place of rich cultural heritage and great historic importance in Assam as it was the capital of the Ahom kingdom who ruled Assam for glorious six hundred years. It was earlier known as Rangpur and got its current name after its then ruler Swargadeo Shiva Singha. Sivasagar is home to some the most amazing historical monuments in Assam built during the Ahom rule. These include Ranghar, Talatal ghar, Kareng ghar which in a way boasts of the glorious Ahom reign.

In my earlier post on Talatal ghar, I have mentioned in details how to get to Sivasagar and other related information. There is a lot to visit and explore in this historic place called Sivasagar when it comes to history, architecture and culture which would definitely leave you enriched.

Rang Ghar front view

Ranghar – The Tai-Ahom Heritage Monument

Sahityarathi Laxminath Bezbaruah had composed this beautiful song back in the days when Assam was not economically sound. But the poet firmly believed that we, the Assamese, can never be poor.

Ami Asomiya, nohou dukhiya

Kihor dukhiya hom?

Hokolu asil, hokolu ase

Nubuju nolou gham.

Sankare dile bishudh dharam,

Lachite baahut bol

Sati Joymotir satitwa tezere

Asomi aai probol.

Bajok doba, bajok sankha

Bajok mridang khul.

Asom akou unnatir pothot

‘Jai Aai Asom’ bul.

Yes, Assam has a very rich cultural heritage which is much precious to every Assamese. The language, literature, religion, custom, tradition, values which have been passed down from our ancestors is what makes us rich. Economically we are gradually growing too, but socially and culturally we never were and never will be poor.

Historic Sivasagar bears testimony to this rich cultural heritage of Assam in general, and Tai- Ahom cultural legacy in particular. And standing tall is the Ranghar, one of the earliest pavilions of outdoor stadia in the Indian sub-continent.

Ranghar

Ranghar was first constructed during the reign of Swargadeo Rudrasingha with bamboo and wood. It was later re- built with brick by Swargadeo Pramatta Singha in AD 1744 – 1750.

Ahom kings and nobles watched various activities like buffalo fights and other sports mainly during the Rongali Bihu festival from this amphitheatre. They would sit all high and mighty enjoying the fun down at rupohi pathar. Ranghar, in my opinion, therefore became more like a symbol of power and majesty of the Tai Ahom royalty.

Keeping with this tradition Ranghar comes to life once a year during Rongali bihu. Day long cultural programmes are held and people come from far and wide to experience this colourful event.

Ranghar is a popular tourist attraction of Assam. I too have visited Ranghar several times ever since my childhood. But my most memorable visit was the school field trip to Sivasagar when we were in 7th standard. Our school used to organise trips for students every year for all the classes. The lower classes were not taken to trips but allowed to picnic in school campus. But, if I remember correctly, from 5th standard onwards students were taken on day long short trips.

beautiful ranghar and its surroundings
Beautiful Ranghar and its surroundings

Source – commons.wikimedia.org

I loved these trips but at the same time was always nervous because I suffered from motion sickness. I knew very well that such bus trips would make me sick and I could barely enjoy. But I always ended up signing for these trips for the mere joy of going together with friends. Planning started several days ahead of the actual trip on the lunch menu, games to play and other stuff. Playlists of songs were finalised to be played on the Walkman. Breakfast was provided by school but we had to carry our own lunch boxes. This planning was the real exciting part of the entire trip.

In school ours was a crazy group of seven friends and we called ourselves Rainbow group. Back in those days to own a camera was a luxury and only a few of us could afford it. I don’t quite remember who among us carried a camera but we did manage to take a few pictures. And I am very sure most of my school buddies still cherish those beautiful moments and pictures as well.

Me and my child Nevaan in front of Rang Ghar
Me and Nevaan in front of Rang Ghar

This year, in the month of April, I revisited this historic monument to create memories with my 3 months young baby. As we were travelling for the first time with our baby from Guwahati to Ledo, a distance of 522.9 kms, we decided to take a break at Sivasagar for a night. It was an exhausting journey with a baby and two fur babies. After taking a good rest for the night we went to visit Ranghar, Talatal ghar and Shivdol early next morning. The charm and glory of this town and the historic Ranghar will never fade.

Sivasagar should be a must visit destination in your bucket list. It has much to offer when it comes to historic monuments, and most villages in Sivasagar will give you the real thrill of raw Assamese village life. And trust me Spring is the best time to visit Assam when nature is at its best.

Talatal Ghar – The epitome of Tai Ahom architecture

The most interesting memory I have of Talatal Ghar is one that gives me an eerie feeling. Actually Talatal Ghar was used as the location of a very hit Assamese movie “Anthony mur naam” and the song concerned is “Ei rati jui jwole”. In the scene set at midnight there’s this woman, clad in a white saree who lures a group of armed policemen with her mysterious movements around the palace. This woman, disguised as a spirit, has someone to protect and hence lures the policemen away with her singing. There’s something uncanny about the song and its melody which gives you the chills. Somehow this scene is deeply rooted in my memory and my brain automatically associates Talatal Ghar with eerieness. Though in reality this is far from the case.

Talatal Ghar in Sivasagar district of Assam, also known as the Rangpur Palace was built as a military base. It has three storeys that are under ground( currently closed for tourists) and four above the ground, and thus the name “Talatal”. The underground storeys had two tunnels which linked the Dikhow River and the Garhgaon Palace and  served as easy access and secret routes during wars. Present day Talatal Ghar has only the ruins but the architecture has a lot to say about the Ahoms.DSC_1061

HOW TO GET THERE:

Well guys, we do have airports here, the nearest being Jorhat Rowriah Airport. It’s a domestic one though with only Jet Airways and JetKonnect flights. However, you can take a rental cab from there to Sivasagar which would take you around 90 mins. If you are the adventurous type then hire a bike, though I am not very sure if any bike services are available there. However, I am here to help always and would update you on that.

If you have arrived at the Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport, Guwahati you can do the same but it would take you longer from Guwahati to Sivasagar, about 6-7 hours. There are also train services available to Sivasagar from Guwahati and Shatabdi Express( GHY to DBR) is a good option which currently runs on alternate days. From Guwahati the options are more. We have quite a few cab services which you can self drive also. Bike rentals are also available from Guwahati. So I would personally suggest you to land at Guwahati and then go on about the other plans.DSC_1094

ACCOMODATION:

Obviously you have to hold for a night or two at Sivasagar and there are quite a few hotels here. Hotel Shiva Palace is a good one with both restaurant and lodging. But it would be awesome if you could homestay at a native’s place which would expose you to our people and our food. Would update you on homestay soon.

Talatal Ghar is a must visit for those who love archaeology and architecture. And like I already said it would serve as a very good location for movies, music videos, photography and the likes. It is unnecessary to give you further details because you have to come and explore it yourselves.

Pic courtesy: Swarnav Borgohain@ https://www.instagram.com/i_mkaku/