Goddess of Creative Power, Desire and Fertility
|Affiliation||Devi, Parvati, Sati, Mahakali, Shakti|
|Mantra||kāmākhye varade devī nīla parvata vāsinī tvaṁ devī jagataṁ mātā yonimudre namostute|
|Weapon||sword, trident, discus, shield, bow, arrows, club, lotus, bell, goad, kapala, conch|
Kamakhya is an important Hindu Tantric goddess of desire that evolved in Kamarupa in Assam. She is worshiped as Siddha Kubjika, and is also identified as Kali and Maha Tripura Sundari. According to the Tantric texts (Kalika Purana, Yogini Tantra) that are the basis for her worship at the Kamakhya temple, a temple in the Kamrup district of Assam. The earlier manifest of the goddess sanctified at the Garo hills is destroyed, although the Vatsayana priests are said to have carried away the manifest of the goddess to the Hindu kingdom in Kashmir and later sanctified in a remote hill forest in Himachal Pradesh. She resides at the presently 10th/11th century Kamakhya Temple rebuilt in 1565 CE. The temple is primary amongst the 51 Shakti Peethas related to the sect that follows Sati, and remains one of the most important Shakta temples.
This historical origin of the Kamakhya Temple, to which the goddess Kamakhya is associated is not certain. The earliest stratum appears to be from the seventh century, and the evidence of a temple complex is dated to 10th/11th century. The Kalika Purana, dated similarly, gives an extensive description of the goddess, Assam and the temple.
The origin of worship 'Shakti' at the site is associated with the legend of Sati, who was the wife of the ascetic god Shiva and daughter of the Puranic god-king Daksha. Daksha was unhappy with his daughter's choice of husband, and when he performed a grand Yajna for all the deities, he did not invite Shiva or Sati. In a rage, Sati threw herself onto the fire, knowing that this would make the sacrifice impure. Because she was the all-powerful mother goddess, Sati left her body in that moment to be reborn as the goddess Parvati. Meanwhile, Shiva was stricken with grief and rage at the loss of his wife. He put Sati's body over his shoulder and began his tandava (dance of cosmic destruction) throughout the heavens, and vowed not to stop until the body was completely rotted away. The other Gods, afraid of their annihilation, implored Vishnu to pacify Shiva. Thus, wherever Shiva wandered while dancing, Vishnu followed. He sent his discus Sudarshana to destroy the corpse of Sati. Pieces of her body fell until Shiva was left without a body to carry. Seeing this, Shiva sat down to do Mahatapasya (great penance). Despite the similarity in name, scholars do not generally believe that this legend gave rise to the practice of sati or the voluntary giving of the wife's body on the pyre of her husband .
According to various myths and traditions, there are 51 pieces of Sati's body scattered across the Indian subcontinent. These places are called shakti peethas and are dedicated to various powerful goddesses. Kamarupa ("form of desire") is the region in which the yoni ("vulva," "womb," or "source") is said to have fallen to earth, and the Kamakhya temple was said to have been constructed on this spot.
Kamakhya is mentioned in the Kalika Purana as the most important goddess of Tantric worship, and is referred to in the text as Mahamaya, the "great goddess of illusion", who takes on many forms depending on her mood. Devotees also call her Kameshwari ("beloved goddess of desire"), and consider her a form of Maha Tripura Sundari, also called Shodashi. She is identified with Kali in the Kalika Purana, Yoginitantra and Kamakhya Tantra, each of which echoes this verse:
"It is certainly well known that Kamakhya is truly none other than that mother goddess Kali, who is in all things the form of wisdom."
Four Adi Shakti Peethas
The great mythological texts including the Kalika Purana (the Asthashakti) and various Tantras recognize the four major Shakti Peethas as Adi Shakti Peethas. Like (Bimala, Pada Khanda) inside the Jagannath Temple, Puri, Odisha, (Tara Tarini) Sthana Khanda (Breasts), near Brahmapur, Odisha, (Kamakhya, Yoni khanda) in Guwahati, Assam and (Dakhina Kalika, Mukha khanda) in Kolkata, West Bengal originated from the limbs of the Corpse of Mata Sati. In a hymn, the Kalika Purana (Asthashakti) clearly says:
“Vimala Pada khandancha,
Stana khandancha Tarini (Tara Tarini),
Kamakhya Yoni khandancha,
Mukha khandancha Kalika (Kali)
Anga pratyanga sangena
Vishnu Chakra Kshate nacha……”
Peetha Body Part Place
Vimala Pada khanda Puri, Odisha
Tara Tarini Stana khanda Brahmapur, Odisha
Kamakhya Yoni khanda Guwahati, Assam
Dakshina Kalika Mukha khanda Kolkata, West Bengal
Mantras for general worship of the Mahavidyas at the Kamakhya temple complex reveal a close identity with Kamakhya herself. Several of these goddesses are worshipped as forms of Kamakhya explicitly. Devi Kamakhya's Ashtashaktis or eight incarnations are Guptakama, Srikama, Vindhyavasini, Kotishvari, Vanadurga, Padadurga, Dirgheshvari and Bhuvaneshvari.
Once Narakasura, motivated by his desire, wanted to marry Devi Kamakhya. When proposed, the Goddess playfully put a condition before him that if he would be able to build a staircase from the bottom of the Nilachal Hill to the temple within one night before the cock crows to indicate Dawn, then she would surely marry him. Naraka took it as a challenge and tried all with his might to do this huge task. He was almost about to accomplish the job before it was dawn. When Kamakhya Devi got this news, she playfully strangled a cock and made it crow untimely to give the impression of Dawn to Naraka. Duped by the trick even Naraka thought that it was a futile job and left it halfway through. Now the place is known as Kukurakata situated in the district of Darrang. The incomplete staircase is known as Mekhelauja Path.
Drunk with power, as he knew himself to be unrivalled in prowess, he brought all the kingdoms on earth under his control. Next, he turned his eyes towards Swargaloka. Even the mighty Indra could not withstand the assault of this son of Vishnu and had to flee the heavens. Narakasura had become the overlord of both the heavens and earth. Addicted to power, he stole the earrings of Aditi, the heavenly mother goddess, and usurped some of her territory, while also kidnapping 16000 women.
As promised to Mother Earth, Narakasura was allowed to enjoy a long reign. At last Vishnu was born as Krishna. Aditi, who was a relative of Krishna's wife Satyabhama (believed to be an Avatar of Bhudevi - Narakasura' mother), approached Satyabhama for help. When Satyabhama heard of the Narakasura's ill treatment of women and his behaviour with Aditi, she was enraged. Satyabhama approached Lord Krishna for permission to wage a war against Narakasura. As promised to the Devas and Aditi, Krishna attacked the great fortress of Narakasura, riding his mount Garuda with wife Satyabhama. Lord Krishna used the Narayanastra and the Agneyastra against the army of Narakasura. The battle was furiously fought. Narakasura possessed 11 Akshauhinis that he unleashed on Lord Krishna. However, the Lord slew them all with little effort. Lord Krishna also killed Mura, Narakasura's general. Thus Krishna is called 'Murāri' (the killer of Mura).
Narakasura used several divine weapons against Lord Krishna, but Krishna easily neutralised all those weapons. At last, when Narakasura tried to kill Lord Krishna with a trident, he saw Goddess Kamakhya standing beside Hari, and eventually Lord Krishna beheaded him with his Sudarshana Chakra (discus). Everything happened because of the maya made by the Goddess Kamakhya.
Before Narakasura's death, he requested a boon from his mother, Satyabhama, that everyone should celebrate his death with colorful light. Thus this day is celebrated as 'Naraka Chaturdashi' - the day before Diwali. Krishna's and Satyabhama's victory on Narakasura translated into freedom for all his prisoners and honoring of Aditi. Having rescued the 16,100 women, Krishna married them to restore them to their former dignity.
Kamakhya is pictured as a young goddess, 16 years old, with twelve arms and six heads of varying colors, representing a powerful goddess who is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. She is wearing opulent jewelry and red flowers such as hibiscus.
She holds in each of ten hands a lotus, trident, sword, bell, discus, bow, arrows, club or scepter, goad, and shield. Her remaining two hands hold a bowl, which is made either of gold or a skull.
She is seated upon a lotus, directly on top of Lord Shiva, who in turn lies atop a lion.
- "Seated on top of Nīlacala hill on the banks of the Brahmaputra river in the state of Assam, Northeast India, Kamakhya temple is one of the oldest and most revered centres of Tantric practice in South Asia. Since at least the eighth century, the region of Kamarupa (the ‘place’ or ‘form of desire’, or Assam) has been recognised as one of the most important of the sakta pīthas (‘seats of power’) or centres of goddess worship that dot the sacred landscape of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh." (Urban 2019:256)
- "It is difficult to date the historical origins of Kamakhya temple due to the many layers of sculptural fragments that currently lie scattered all over Nīlacala hill. The oldest stratum appears to date to at least the seventh century, and the numerous sculptural pieces found around the complex suggest that there was a major temple complex there during the Pala dynasty (tenth–eleventh centuries, the Assamese counterpart to the Pala empire of Bengal). The most important text composed in Assam, the Kalika Purana, also dates to the Pala era and contains extensive descriptions of Kamakhya, the region of Assam, and the yoni pītha." (Urban 2019:261)
- J.S. Hawley, Sati, the Blessing and the Curse. Oxford University Press (New York: 1994). p. 50-1.
- B. Shastri. Kamakhya Tantra. Bharatiy Vidya Prakash (Delhi, Varanasi: 1990). p. 20.
yā devi kālikā mātā sarva vidyāsvarūpinī |
kāmākhyā saiva vikhyātā satyam devi nacānyathā ||
- Viswa Shanti Devi Yajna. Viswa Shanti Devi Yajna Committee. Mandala Communications (Guwahati: 2004). pp. 22-8.
- Kāmarūpa Anusandhān Samiti (2007),Journal of the Assam Research Society - Volume 38,p.30
- Swami, Parmeshwaranand (2001). Encyclopaedic Dictionary of the Puranas. New Delhi: Sarup and Sons. p. 941. ISBN 8176252263.
- B. K. Chaturvedi (2017), Vishnu Puran
- Dianne M. MacMillan (2008), Diwali: Hindu Festival of Lights, p.24
- Ayilam Subrahmaṇya Pañcāpageśa Ayyar (1957), Sri Krishna: The Darling of Humanity, p.42
- Muriel Marion Underhill (1991), The Hindu Religious Year, p.59
- Hindu Goddesses: Vision of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Traditions (ISBN 81-208-0379-5) by David Kinsley
- Renowned Goddess of Desire: Women, Sex, and Speech in Tantra (ISBN 978-0195327830) by Loriliai Biernacki
- The Power of Tantra: Religion, Sexuality and the Politics of South Asian Studies (ISBN 978-1845118747) by Hugh Urban
- The Kalikapurana: Sanskrit Text, Introduction & Translation in English (ISBN 8170812305) by Biswanarayan Shastri