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Mother Goddess worship in Assam


KAMAKHYA — A Socio-Cultural Study: Nihar Ranjan Mishra; D. K. Printworld (P) Ltd., `Sri Kunj', F-52, Bali Nagar, New Delhi-110015. Rs. 950.

THIS BOOK provides an insight into the religious and socio-cultural life of the Assamese society with special reference to worship of Goddess Kamakhya in the temple located on the Nilachala Mountain in Guwahati in Assam.

It also provides information about the different royal dynasties of various ethnic communities including the Ahoms, Bodos, Devrichutiyas, Khasis, Lalungs and the Rabhas who had worshipped Mother Goddess in Her different names and forms in the past. Some of these practices still continue to a certain extent in the State.

While explaining the close connection between Saktism and Tantricism as followed in the Kamakhya temple, the author opines that the Goddess probably has a folk origin. This is corroborated by Her name and the puja rituals being performed at various levels by different ethnic communities in the temple complex.

Among the traditions, rituals, festivals and the taboos followed in Assam, the author specially brings to attention one ritual that is followed in the Kamakhya temple. It is called "Ambuvaci" or "Ameti" in Assamese which refers to the Devi's yearly turn of menstruation period.

During this time people refrain from going to the temple and doing any auspicious work including digging the soil. To avoid any calamity or any dreadful disease, people often offer a pair of pigeons or goats or simply a plate of vegetarian food to Kamakhya.

Besides Goddess Kamakhya, people also worship the major Goddesses Durga, Kali, Jagaddhatri and Lakshmi. Among the minor Goddesses, Apesvari is popular even among the Muslims. She is associated with the nymph Apsara.

In the northern parts of Kamarupa people believe that nymphs frequently cast their shadows on the ground. It is believed that if by any chance a child stamps on these shadows, it will be cursed with epilepsy or paralysis.

Forms of worship

Ethnic communities worship Sitalamata as Ai and believe that she is the remover of all diseases. Kumaripuja or virgin worship is very popular in the Kamakhya temple. The temple of Dikkaravasini in Sadia region, the Kamakhya temple at Silgat in Nowgaon District of the central region and the temple of Mahamaya in the western border district of Dhubri are important shrines visited by people often.

Assam has a rich stock of Sakta literature in both Sanskrit and Assamese. The Kalika Purana and the Yogini Tantra in Sanskrit give the legend of Kamakhya in detail. The unwritten or oral literature consists of Karati mantras and Dharani mantras which are curative and preventive in nature respectively.

Socio-cultural tradition

While explaining the socio-cultural life of the people in the temple complex of Kamakhya, the author explains the family system, their livelihood and some of the social taboos. Since the temple celebrates several festivals as well as rituals, the residents include Brahmins and other communities.

The author discusses the important myths still prevalent in the temple complex. These are related to the origins of Goddesses Kamakhya and Kumaripriya and that of Vamachara practice.

With regard to the exquisite artefacts of Assam, the author writes that the people are experts in arts and crafts and they make various kinds of art materials exclusively based on the architectural aspects of the Kamakhya temple.

Lastly, the book conveys the message to the readers that Kamarupa now called Assam is the most sacred place on this Earth. Kamakhya is the "Yonipitha" and hence the fountain head of all creation.

This book will be useful to scholars and others interested in knowing about the temple of Kamakhya and the rituals associated with it.

HARIPRIYA RANGARAJAN

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