- Religion and Philosophy
Ambubachi-when Mother Earth menstruates
Ambubachi (Ameti) is a fertility festival in the Hindu religion. It is observed in the month of Ashar (June-July) of the Hindu almanac , usually on the 7th to 9th days of Ashar (around 24-26 June).
It is believed that Mother Earth undergoes her menstrual periods during this period . This festival is observed throughout India, but the most important festivity is observed at the Kamakhya Temple in Assam, a north eastern state of India.
The Kamakhya tyemple is one of the most venerated Shakti temples in India, & is regarded as one of the 51 Shakti Pithams associated with the legend of Shiva & Daksha Yagna.
The Kamakhya temple is situated on a small hill called Nilachal Hill in the western outskirt of the city of Guwahati, the capital of Assam. Actually it is a temple complex with several temples dedicated to different forms of Mother Goddess as Dasa Mahavidya, including Bhubaneswari, Chhinnamasta, Tripura Sundari & Tara. It is a very important site for the Tantric style of worship, & thousands of Tantrics, a special sect of Sadhus with several sub-sects ,attend the Ambubachi festival here.
The present temple was constructed by the king Chilarai of Koch dynasty in 1565 A.D. It has a bee-hive like top or Shikhara . The temple is decorated with beautiful sculptured images of Hindu gods & goddesses. In the sanctum sanctorum, there is natural rock with a cleft (a Yoni or female genitalia like structure) which is considered as the symbol of the Goddess Kamakhya or Mother Earth. A natural spring flows through it & keeps the interior moist. During the Ambubachi festival, the water turns red for three days resembling menstrual flow of a woman. Possibly Iron Oxide is the cause of this red coloration, but why this phenomenon occurs only for three days, & that also in every year in a cyclical manner, is mysterious to say the least. The devotees strongly believe that it is a miracle.
The Goddess is worshiped according to the Tantric rites, including the Vamachara (Left hand path) & Dakshinachara (Right hand path) of the Tantra rituals. Animal (mostly goats) - sacrifice is an integral part of this ritual. Birds (usually pigeons) are also sacrificed , but instead of slaughtering, the birds are set free in the name of the Goddess. The pigeons do not left the temple, & thousands are seen flying & playing there.
The most interesting thing at Kamakhya during the festival of Ambubachi is the presence of thousands of Tantrics, sadhus belonging to the different schools of Tantra, one of the most ancient & secret wing of Hinduism. The Tantrics, with their distinctive red cloths (instead of the normal saffron of the general sadhus) & different types of hairstyles (called Jataa) are a thing to see! Female Tantrics are called Bhairabis & they also throng the temple during this time.
Hundreds of thousands of general devotees & interestingly hoards of Astrologers with their ardent followers from all over India visit Kamakhya during this time. Visiting Kamakhya & performing religious rites (Yagna) is a must today for the astrologers , as doing so project them as possessing Tantric powers which increase their professional skill!
Ambubachi festival is something to see, & devout or not, everyone will definitely get some interesting reward, at least psychological, here.