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1. Introduction

Emilie Arrago

Thursday 12 June 2008

This pilgrimage place dedicated to the Hindu Goddess is located at the gateway of Guwahati, the capital of Assam. But despite its location at the vicinity of the city, the entire hill belongs to the goddess, under the control of the “Kamakhya Debutter Trust”. In a census made in 1971, the hill was considered as a village, which has been developed considerably since the time of the patronage of the Koch kingdom in sixteen century. Today more than hundred families, Brahmin and non Brahmin, rend service to this temple in exchange of some privileges.

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kamakya temple
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A view of Nilacala: the Bhairavi temple and the sacred tank

The Mythology and the rituals come under a branch of Hinduism called Tantrism, which is a tradition associated with magical and possession practices. The name of this goddess, “the one whose name is love” (kama-akhya) is also associated with votive rites performed by local women according to the agriculture calendar and the period of sexual activity. At present the main festival, which gathered thousand pilgrims every year, takes place in June when the goddess is said to have her menstruation for four days, which is associated with the beginning of the rainy season and “the four days of impurity of the earth” (ambuvaci mela). The season of sacrifice starts especially in autumn with the worship of Durga, to whom buffalo are offered following the instructions described in the Kalika Purana, while the sacrifice of goat are performed daily.

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The old gate on the path in the South-Eastern side of the foothills of Nilacala
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A gate on the South-Western side in the foothill - CR F. Jacquesson

The temple as we see it now witnesses a number of renovations during the past. The first three chambers known as Garbhagriha, Calanta and Pancaratna were reconstructed in 1565 during the reign of Naranarayan. But according to the archaeological studies (see Pradip Sarma, “Antiquity of the Kamakhya temple in the Nilacala”, Journal of the Assam Research Society: 1982), the reconstruction of 1565 may have done over the ground plan of an older temple. Moreover some decorative designs located in the wall below the main dome are assigned to the 11th-12th century:

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Details of the wall below the main dome
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The dome of the Garbagriha

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