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- Just like any other year, this year also saw a large number of devotees and tourists gathering at the annual Ambubachi Mela in Nilachal hill
- The state government and the tourism department are keen on projecting the Kamakhya temple on the spiritual map of the country
- This year, for the first time, the temple authorities last week declared not to allow naga (naked) sadhus on the temple premises
Guwahati, June 23, 2017: The annual Ambubachi Mela has been inaugurated by Assam chief minister on June 21. The grand gathering is being projected by the state government on the country’s tourism map, as tantriks, sadhus and devotees from different parts of the country have started coming together here at the Kamakhya temple on top of Nilachal hill.
Officially inaugurating the four-day festival at Sonaram School playground at Bharalumukh, Sonaowal says, “The Kamakhya temple is a part of Assam’s identity in the country and abroad. It is one of the biggest centres of spiritual culture. We are taking steps to promote it and ensure that more and more people come. Last year, nearly 10 lakh devotees came and we expect more this year.”
Devotees from Bengal, Odisha, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh and many other parts of the country have visited the temple premises before the door closes the next morning. The temple remains shut for four days as devotees believe that goddess Kamakhya undergoes her annual menstrual cycle.
In conversation with The Telegraph, Debashish Biswas, a devotee from Malda in Bengal said, “This is my second visit to the mela and hope to have a glimpse of Ma Kamakhya once the door reopens on Monday morning.” Biswas, visiting with his wife Debashree, added, “I got married four years ago but we don’t have a baby yet. Many people told me that a visit to Kamakhya thrice in a row helps and we have come here to pray to Ma.”
Kamakhya temple is considered to be one of the 51 sacred shakti peths in the country and the devotees have been associating beliefs like these for ages with the holy shrine that have attracted tourists and enthusiasts to the mela at Kamakhya temple.
The temple has a very significant origin story associated with mythical King Daksha and his son-in-law Shiva. According to legends, His daughter Sati, married Shiva against her father’s wishes. Sati’s actions angered Daksha who invited all the gods to a yagna, except his son-in-law Shiva who he did not approve of. Sati, who attended the yagna only to be more humiliated by her father, plunged into the sacrificial fire of the yagna. An angered Shiva held Sati’s charred body and broke into the tandava nritya, the legendary dance of destruction. The supreme God Vishnu had to step in and in order to save the three worlds from an impending doom, used his sudarshan chakra and cut Sati’s body into pieces. As Shiva carried Sati’s body in sorrow, a part of Sati’s body fell on the Nilachal Hills and that is why the hill turned blue. This hill and the sacred temple is believed to have special abilities and the energy of creation. Also, according to the Kalika purana, Kamakhya temple marks the spot where Sati used to retire in secret with Shiva.
For a long time the mela has remained mostly a religious congregation, but this year the BJP government has big plans to attract enthusiasts. A lot of thought is being put into transforming it into one of the biggest centers of religious tourism in India. A strong promotional campaign has been launched on social media as well.
Not only the nearly 10 lakh devotees and tantriks, interested tourists and researchers from various parts of the country and nations like the UK, the US, Canada, the Netherlands, Nepal, Bangladesh and others as well gathered at the temple last year. The list of VIPs who attended included big names like BJP chief Amit Shah, chief ministers of nine states, ministers, MPs and religious leaders who have been invited for the first time to this mela, among others.
Other than the 3.2km motorable road, there are three staircases that the devotees can climb to reach the Kamakhya temple and several other ancient shrines on Nilachal hills. An interesting tour package has been launched by the tourism department this year that offers exciting experiences for the tourists and devotees, such as tents on Nilachal hills and a river cruise on the Brahmaputra during Ambubachi mela, as part of its plan to mark a permanent spot for Kamakhya on the spiritual tourism map of the country.
This year, for the first time, the temple authorities last week declared not to allow naga (naked) sadhus on the temple premises. They believe such sights might create an awkward and uncomfortable atmosphere for devotees with families.
“Efforts were on to construct another road to reach the temple from Pandu on the western side of of Nilachal hills. We are planning to start a water taxi facility from Kamakhya temple to Umanand temple to fulfil the wishes of devotees,” Tourism minister Himanta Biswa Sarma stated.
– prepared by Durba Mandal of NewsGram. Twitter: @dubumerang
Diwali is arguably one of the most auspicious and celebrated holidays in South Asia. It is celebrated over the span of five days, where the third is considered most important and known as Diwali. During Diwali people come together to light, lamps, and diyas, savour sweet delicacies and pray to the lord. The day has various origin stories with the main them being the victory of good over evil. While the North celebrates the return of Lord Rama and Devi Sita to Ayodhya, the South rejoices in the victory of Lord Krishna and his consort Satyabhama over evil Narakasura.
Narakasura- The great mythical demon King
Naraka or Narakasur was the son of Bhudevi (Goddess Earth) and fathered either by the Varaha incarnation of Vishnu or Hiranyaksha. He grew to be a powerful demon king and became the legendary progenitor of all three dynasties of Pragjyotisha-Kamarupa, and the founding ruler of the legendary Bhauma dynasty of Pragjyotisha.
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Narakasura was created, grew up to be strong and powerful but he was not satisfied with it, so he decided that he would worship Lord Brahma. He performed severe penance and was driven by the power of his penance; Lord Brahma appeared before him. Narakasura knew his mother loved him dearly so he asked Lord Brahma to grant him a boon that he would only die by the hands of his mother, Bhumidevi. Lord Brahma smile and ultimately granted him the boon.
Narakasura burst out laughing as Lord Brahma vanished. He thought no mother would kill their child so Lord Brahma had made him immortal. Drunk and maddened by his own power Narakasura brought all the kingdoms under his control and targeted Swargalok (Heaven). Even Indra (King of Gods) and demi-gods had to retreat in front of Narakasura. He kidnapped and took 16,000 women from the palaces as prisoners. Troubled by Naraksura's deeds the gods rushed to Lord Vishnu for a solution.
Lord Krishna and Devi Satyabhama were born to kill Narakasura
Lord Vishnu was born as Lord Krishna and Narakasura's mother Bhumidevi took the avatar of Krishna's wife Satyabhama. As Satyabhama, Bhumidevi was unaware of the knowledge of Naraksura being her son. Aditi the mother of all gods approached Satyabhama crying for help with bloodied ears as Narakasura had torn off the glowing earrings from the ears of Aditi.
Satyabhama was furious on gaining the knowledge of Narakasura's atrocities she asked Krishna to fight the demon king while she fights alongside him. Krishna agreed and they attacked the great fortress of Narakasura, riding his mount Garuda with his wife Satyabhama.
The furious battle unleashed. Krishna defeated Narakasura's general Mura and came to be known as Murari (the killer of Mura). Narakasura used several divine weapons against Krishna, but Krishna slew all those weapons effortlessly. The demon hurled a shakti towards Krishna, which mildly hurt Krishna and he fell unconscious. Upon this sight Satyabhama was enraged, she furiously pulled out a weapon of her own and hurled it at Narakasura's chest. Anxious Satyabhama turned to her fallen Lord, Krishna got up with a smile and he was completely fine. He was only playing his part. It was Satyabhama who was an incarnation of Bhoomidevi, whose hands were destined to slay Narakasura.
ALSO READ: Choosing Environment-Friendly Diwali
Lord Krishna and Goddess Satyabhama had put an end to the Narakasura's kingdom of evil. As Narakasura lay on his deathbed he realised that Satyabhama was no one but an avatar of his own mother. He requested a boon from his mother, for no one to mourn his death. Instead, he wished for people to celebrate it with light and colours. They freed the 16,000 women who later married Lord Krishna to restore them of their honour in society, retrieved Mother goddess's earrings. This day is celebrated as 'Naraka Chaturdashi' popularly known as Choti Diwali - the day before Diwali as the triumph of good over evil.
Keywords: Diwali festival, goddess Laxmi, demon king, Lord Krishna, Satyabhama, the festival of light, Naraksura, Narak Chaturdashi
For all the great inventions that we have at hand, it is amazing how we keep going back to the safety pin every single time to fix everything. Be it tears in our clothes, to fix our broken things, to clean our teeth and nails when toothpicks are unavailable, to accessorize our clothes, and of course, as an integral part of the Indian saree. Safety pins are a must-have in our homes. But how did they come about at all?
The safety pin was invented at a time when brooches existed. They were used by the Greeks and Romans quite extensively. A man named Walter Hunt picked up a piece of brass and coiled it into the safety pin we know today. He did it just to pay off his debt. He even sold the patent rights of this seemingly insignificant invention just so that his debtors would leave him alone.
Anyone wearing safety pins that were visible began to be associated with the rock movement in the 70s. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Later, he even invented the sewing needles and a couple of other important inventions but never kept any of the patent rights.
When the punk rock tradition took over in the seventies, safety pins became a fashion rage. They were used as piercings and to patch clothes together. Anyone wearing safety pins that were visible began to be associated with the rock movement. In some cultures, the safety pins have become symbols of good luck.
Keywords: Safety-pins, Punk Rock, Brass, Accessories, Walter Hunt
In South India, Deepavali marks the end of the monsoon and heralds the start of winter. The festival is usually observed in the weeks following heavy rain, and just before the first cold spell in the peninsula. The light and laughter that comes with the almost week-long celebration are certainly warm to the bones, but there is still a tradition that the South Indians follow to ease their transition from humidity to the cold.
Just before the main festival, the family bathes in sesame oil. This tradition is called 'yellu yennai snaana' in Kannada, or 'ennai kuliyal' in Tamil, which translates to 'sesame oil bath'. The eldest member of the family applies three drops of heated oil on each member's head. They must massage this oil into their hair and body. The oil is allowed to soak in for a while, anywhere between twenty minutes to an hour. After this, they must wash with warm water before sunrise.
Women applying oil to the heads of men Photo credit: Indians in Kuwait
In some parts of the peninsula, soap is not used to wash off the oil because it nullifies its effects. Some cultures who do not like the oil to remain in any way on their skin wash it off with shikakai and herbs, which is a paste that is traditionally used as a substitute for soap. Sometimes, the oil is heated with flowers and spices as well and is less sticky than in its pure form.
The purpose of this ritual is to cleanse the body, detoxify it, and produce heat in it. Sesame is a very heaty substance and tends to heat up the body. This heat, or 'usshna' in Kannada, prepares the body to face the sudden cold that comes to the peninsula immediately after Diwali. South India has no smooth transition weather-wise from monsoon to winter. There are a few days of stable, rainless weather, and suddenly the cold winds descend.
In many ways, the celebration of Diwali is centered around preparing for winter, considering the amount of heat and light the rituals consist of – lighting lamps, bursting crackers, and consuming warm treats. Those who practice these rituals earnestly find the shift in seasons and weather quite pleasant.
Keyboards: Sesame Oil Bath, Diwali Ritual, Traditional Sesame Oil Bath