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Kamakhya Temple, Guwahati

 

Situated at the top of the Nilachal Hill at about 800 feet above sea level is the sacred shrine of Goddess Kali, as Kamakhya, the most important temple in Assam and one of the most powerful and venerated in all of India. The temple complex comprises many other smaller temples dedicated to other goddesses as well as housing all the people connected with them and has a beehive shaped structure that is a fine example of Assamese architecture. There are also five temples of Lord Shiva, each belonging to a different incarnation, and three temples of Lord Visnu.

The ancient shrine is one of the three most important tantric temples in India and is home to one of the fifty-one Shakti Peethams (according to legend, after Shakti and her consort Lord Shiva were snubbed by her father she sacrificed herself and her body, cut into fifty-one pieces, was scattered over India). The temple has an underground natural cave that enshrines the Shakti Peetham from which a spring flows.

King Nara Narayana of Koch Bihar built the present structure in the 17th century after Muslim invaders destroyed the original in the 1500s.

In addition to the daily puja (offering) made to the Goddess Devi Kamakhya a number of other special pujas are also held during the year. The temple is especially busy during the unique Ambubashi fair (mid-June), Durga Puja celebrations (September to October) and the Deodhani festival in mid-August.

The temple is a mark of identity for Assam and nothing important is carried out, like a marriage or students sitting for important exam, without devotees offering prayers at this temple first. People with unfulfilled desires, childless couples and those who want to recover from illness also visit and ask for help. The walkway to the temple has rows of shops selling pictures of different gods and goddesses, devotional CDs and prayer beads. Before entering the temple compound, which is always crowded with hundreds of devotees waiting for attention, visitors must wash their feet and cleanse themselves.

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