Ankle long tresses tangled in the most crooked way, body covered with a thick layer of ash, piercing, blood-red eyes, garlands of rudraksh beads meticulously twisted around the neck and wrist and a skimpy saffron dhoti carelessly wrapped around the waist. This is a quintessential aghori or tantric baba in and around the premises of Kamakhya temple, Guwahati, during the 3-day celebration, known as the Ambubachi Mela. Every Monsoon, thousands of devotees from across the nation visit the temple to celebrate something which is, otherwise, shunned in our society. The Kamakhya temple is one of the 51 Shakti Peeths scattered around the subcontinent. According to mythology, Goddess Sati jumped into a havan kund not being able to tolerate her husband’s insult by her father. After her death, Lord Shiva picked her up and started his destructive dance in a fit of rage. To calm him down, Lord Vishnu cut her body into 51 pieces and Sati’s Yoni or female genitals fell here. Here, she is worshiped as the Goddess of Desire and Fertility ever since. It is believed, that the goddess goes through her annual menses during this time and hence, all the celebration. Red hued pieces of cloths, which are believed to be soaked in the goddess’ blood are distributed to the devotees as prasad. Therefore, the doors of the sanctum remain closed for three days to allow the goddess to rest. After three days, celebrations and festivities engulf the area because now her nurturing power becomes accessible to devotees. The rituals of worshiping and the aura around the temple premises are nothing like other festivals. Here, the tantra shastra and tantric rituals take precedence. The pooja rituals are performed by smoke-breathing aghoris who make public appearance only during this time and leave the sight as soon as the celebration is over, never to be found again throughout the year. They are all around the place, displaying psychic power, carrying out unusual interactions and completely lost in a form of devotion unknown to the majority of us. They are said to be the most loyal and ardent devotees of the goddess. Their energy is at its peak during these three days. It is also very surprising to see all the attention that they get from the temple insiders and devotees alike. In fact, numerous documentaries have been made about their mysterious and probably fascinating lifestyle. Right from day one they start performing various yagnas around the temple complex. Surprisingly, each havan kund looks different than the other, each aghori chants different prayers than the other. This is a kind of pooja that has no rule book, or probably there is a rule book that no one knows about. With wild and loud prayers reverberating around the premises, unidentifiable ingredients being poured into the havan kund, unknown rituals being performed by the aghoris, the temple aura can be overwhelming and seem other-worldly. But it’s this out-wordliness of the tantric babas that make this mela a cut from the rest. Few can argue that this is not a new phenomena as aghoris have always been passionate devotees of goddesses that represent Shakti or power, but the reason of worshiping Devi Kamakhya is not common, so this might define the ethereal aura of the temple. Now, one can denounce all these rituals and activities happening around the premises in these three days, but how can one denounce faith and turn a blind eye towards the millions of people who live by it? This festival might appeal on different levels to different people, but to the tantrics, it is the ultimate way to portray devotion and nothing can take this away from them.
(Image: First Post)