Ambubachi Mela is an annual Hindu Festival held at the very famous Kamakhya Temple, atop Nilachal Hills in the city of Guwahati in the Northeastern state of Assam. This age old festival is celebrated during the monsoon season in the Assamese month of Ahaar around the month of June in English calendar. Also known as Kamakhya Devi Festival this festival is related to Tantrik Shakti Cult.
This festival is held for four days and legend has it that Mother Goddess Kamakhyagoes through her menstrual cycle during these days. The temple remains shut during these days as it is believed that Mother Earth becomes unclean. In Assam people abstain from farming practices, performing any form of puja and visiting Naamghar (Temples) during this period. On the fourth day Devi Maa Kamakhya is bathed and decorated with new red clothes. Many ancient sacred rituals are performed during this day to retrieve the purity of Devi Kamakhya. The main temple doors are then opened for devotees to offer their prayers and worship Maa Kamakhya.
The holy prasad is distributed to the devotees once the main temple doors are opened. The prasad of Devi Kamakhya is in two forms – Angodak and Angobastra. The literal meaning of Angodak is the fluid part of the body. It’s the holy water from the spring that is given to each devotee. Angabastra (Anga meaning body and bastra meaning cloth) is the red cloth that is used to cover the stone “yoni” during the menstrual days.
Thousands of pilgrims throng every year to Nilachal Hills during Ambubachi Mela, most of which are sadhus and sanyasis who come from all over the world. A lot of aghoris and baulsingers from Bengal are also seen in this festival. During this time, they also tend to visit nearby holy places. The most popular of them being the iconic Umananda Temple in Peacock Island in river Brahmaputra.
With the huge gathering of pilgrims every year, the state government and the temple authorities face several issues like accommodation, food and water supply for the pilgrims and sanitation issues. But the worst among it is the abuse of cannabis which is very common with most of the sadhus. This year the state authorities has put a ban on public smoking and also on illegal use of cannabis. Attempts are being made to educate some of the pilgrims on the ill-effects of cannabis consumption through various bodies and NGOs.
The temple gates of Kamakhya Temple for this year’s Ambubachi Mela will open tomorrow and thousands of pilgrims are expected to visit the shrine.
This travelogue was first published on http://www.thetimesofworld.com/