Kamakhya – The Goddess of Desire
Great Goddess, Adhi Shakti, is not only wise, violent but she is also the creator. She is very much in touch with her sexuality, fertility and related bodily functions. She is worshipped as yoni in her Kamakhya form. The name Kamakhya literally means ‘Sexual Desire.’
The earlier manifest of the goddess sanctified at the Garo hills is destroyed, although the Vatsayana priests are said to have carried away the manifest of the goddess to the Hindu kingdom in Kashmir and later sanctified in a remote hill forest in Himachal.
Table of Contents
- 1 - Kalika Puran and Kamakhya
- 2 - Devi Bhagwat Puran and Kamakhya
- 3 - Sati – Dakshya Kanya
- 4 - Raja Parba Festival in Orissa
- 5 - Shakta Tradition and Mensuration
- 6 - Iconography of Kamakhya
- 7 - Mantra of Maa Kamakhya
- 8 - Other names of Maa Kamakhya
Kalika Puran and Kamakhya
Her name means “renowned goddess of desire,” and she resides at the presently rebuilt Kamakhya Temple in 1645 C. The temple is primary amongst the 51 Shakti Peethas related to the sect that follows Sati and remains one of the most important Shakta temples and Hindu pilgrimage sites in the world.
The Kalika Purana, an important Hindu text, gives the description of the innermost cave of the main temple where the deity resides.
Inside the cave, there exists a very lovely pudendum on the stone which is 9cm in width and 6 cm in length gradually narrowing and sloping.
It is reddish in color like vermillion and saffron. On that female organ, the amorous Goddess Kamakhya the primordial force resides in five different forms.
The main Kamakhya temple is situated near the city of Guwahati in Assam, India.
The temple of the Great Mother Kamakhya is located in modern India in the district of Kamrup in the state of Assam. It is named after the ancient kingdom of Kamrup which took its name from the presence of goddess Kamakhya.
There are many more Kamakhya temples dotted around India, but the Kamrup Kamakhya is predominant in fame. Again, the menstruating goddess is found in other forms in many places in India who to are worshipped as forms of Adya Shakti herself – for example, goddess Bhagavati in the Chengannur Mahadeva temple in South Kerala.
Devi Bhagwat Puran and Kamakhya
No sacred place can excel this one in which the goddess is seen menstruating every month.
It will not be an exaggeration if it is said that though the wise persons have identified the entire world with the body of the goddess, the said Kamakhya-yoni mandala has no second in reflecting her real glory.’
Sati – Dakshya Kanya
The relevant myth with slight variations in the story of Sati, an incarnation of Adhi Shakti Parvati.
Queen Prasuti desired a daughter, Lord Brahma advised her and her husband Daksha to meditate upon the Goddess Adi-Parashakti. They gave up their royal robes, put on the guises of saints, and sat in a forest and meditated upon Goddess Adi-Parashakti.
Birth Of Sati
After a long time, Goddess Adi-Parashakti appeared awakening Daksha and Prasuti from their penance. Adi Parashakti invited them to request the desired boon from her, Daksha asked the Goddess to take birth again as their daughter. The Goddess gave them their consent but also gave them a warning that if ever she should be insulted, she would take up her Celestial form and disown them. Daksha and Prasuti agreed to take care of her.
Back in their palace, Adi Parashakti again took human birth at the bidding of Lord Brahma. Daksha and Prasuti named their daughter Sati.
Daksha was a son of Brahma and a great king in his own right. As the daughter of King Daksha, Sati is also known as Dakshayani. Sati was a newborn to Daksha and Prasuti’s 23 daughters. In bidding of Adi-Parashakti to take a human birth, Brahma’s design was that she would please Shiva with humble devotions and wed him.
Sati – Shiva Devotee
It was natural that Sati, even as a child, adored the tales and legends associated with Shiva told by sage Narada and grew up an ardent devotee. As she grew to womanhood, the idea of marrying anyone else, as intended by her father, became unfair to her.
To win the regard of the ascetic Shiva, the daughter of King Daksha forsook the luxuries of her father’s palace and retired to a forest, there to devote herself to austerities and the worship of Shiva. So rigorous were her penances that she gradually renounced food itself, at one stage subsisting on one leaf a day, and then giving up even that nourishment; this particular abstinence earned her the name Aparna.
Her prayers finally bore fruit when, after testing her resolve, Shiva finally acceded to her wishes and consented to make her his bride.
Weeding of Sati with Shiva
An ecstatic Sati returned to her father’s home to await her bridegroom but found her father less than elated by the turn of events. The wedding was however held in due course, and Sati made her home with Shiva in Kailash.
Daksha, depicted in legend as an arrogant king, did not get on with his renunciative son-in-law and basically cut his daughter away from her natal family.
Yagna ritual By Daksha
Daksha organized a yagna ritual and invited all the Gods, Goddesses and princes. But he did not invite Shiva or Sati because he was unhappy that his daughter had married Shiva. Sati learned about the yagna and asked Shiva to go with her.
When Shiva refused, Sati insisted upon going and was escorted by Shiva’s troops to her father’s kingdom. Upon reaching, Daksha got angry on seeing her and yelled at her telling her she was not welcome. Sati tried to make him understand but it was no use.
It is said that when Daksha did not stop yelling, the angered Sati took the form of the goddess, Adi Parashakti. Lightning and thunder threatened to destroy the Earth. All sorts of calamities arose as Mother Earth couldn’t bear her strong radiance and power.
The Gods, saints, sages, her mother, father, and her sisters trembled in fear and respectfully saluted her, who was the Mother of the Universe (Jagadamba). Adi Parashakti introduced herself as the Eternal Power to Daksha and cursed him to be killed by Shiva, inclusive of all the Gods, princes and Goddesses.
Self-immolation in Dakshya Yagya
She cursed the yagna ritual, that it will never be completed, that Tamas would subdue its Sattvik nature.
She declared that from that moment, she renounces all the mortal relationships, nothing binds her.
She gave her final salutations to her husband Lord Shiva, and the mother of this mortal body, and then she prayed, hoped, that she be reborn to a father, whom she could respect.
So saying, Devi Sati immolated her mortal body through the invocation and provocation of her yogic powers.
As the Tatva of Shakti left the mortal shell, the mortal body of Devi Sati collapsed to the floor in scorching flames.
Tandava Dance of Shiva
Angered and grief-stricken Shiva learned about Sati’s death and he rendered a terrible “Tandava” or dance of destruction, the more Shiva danced, the more destruction arose. Later, Shiva pulled two locks of hair and fell it on the ground.
One arose Virabhadra, Shiva’s destructive and terrible incarnation, having eight hands holding weapons and possessing a dark complexion. The second arose Bhadrakali, the Supreme Goddess’s violent and intense incarnation, having eighteen hands holding weapons like a discus, dagger, trident, spear, mace, scimitar, sword, vajra, conch shell, demon head, drinking vessel, goad, waterpot, cleaver, shield, bow and arrow.
Shiva ordered them to wreak havoc. Virabhadra and Bhadrakali were assisted by eight other Goddesses named Kali, Katyayini, Chamunda, Ishaani, Mundamardini, Bhadra, Vaishnavi and Twarita who appeared at their side.
Daksha himself was decapitated by Virabhadra, while, others fell upon Daksha and Bhrigu’s demon armies. After the night of horror, Shiva, the all-forgiving, restored all those who were slain to life and granted them his blessings.
Even the abusive and culpable Daksha has restored both his life and his kingship. His severed head was substituted for that of a goat. Having learned his lesson, Daksha spent his remaining years as a devotee of Shiva.
51 Shakti Peeths
Out of grief and sorrow, Shiva carried Sati’s body reminiscing their moments as a couple and roamed around the universe with it. Vishnu had cut her body into 51 body parts using his Sudarshana Chakra which fell on Earth to become holy spots to pray to the Goddess named Shakti Peeths, to complete this massively long task, Lord Shiva took the form of Bhairava.
Entirely all of her body parts were the symbolism of each manifestation of Goddess Adi-Parashakti, Bhairava has incarnated himself to protect her Shakti Peeths in different forms for the protection from the evil forces.
The place where her yoni fell, became the abode of Mother Kamakhya, one of her forms.
It has been argued that yoni worship is a much older tradition than the myths themselves.
According to Biswanarayan Shastri,
The yoni is regarded as the symbol of creation and worshipped with the utmost regard. The creative female force is conceived as the visible symbol of the invisible female and is identified with the Goddess.
Every year the festival of Ambubachi celebrates her menstruation for four days the temple is closed during these days and when re-opened is considered the most auspicious time to pray to the Mother.
Brenda Dobia writes about an interview she conducted with a temple priest on her pilgrimage to the Kamakhya temple
‘He repeatedly affirmed the yoni’s fundamental role in srishti, creation, and elaborated Kamakhya’s central importance as the yoni of the Earth itself. Significantly, the annual Ambuvaci festival which celebrates the menses of the Goddess involves a ritual remembering and replenishment of her powers, with Tantric adherents from Goddess sites all over the sub-continent converging there. Julia Jean reports that the regeneration of both the Earth and the devotees at this time is understood to derive from the shakti (power/energy) in the menstrual blood of the Goddess.’
Raja Parba Festival in Orissa
Raja Parba, a three-day festival in Odisha, is a celebration of menstruation and womanhood.
It is based on the belief that Mother Earth menstruates for those three days and she is given a ceremonial bath on the fourth day. For those three days, no agricultural activity like plowing or sowing takes place as Mother Earth is expected to be going through rejuvenation.
The annual festival of the earth goddess (Harchandi) is called the Raja Parba (literally, menstruation festival). The earth is believed to be menstruating on these days and the worshippers refrain from plowing, digging or interfering with her in any other ways. To Harchandi’s worshippers, women’s menstruation is the gift from and continuous with the menstruation of the goddess.
It is believed that the mother goddess Earth or the divine wife of Lord Vishnu undergoes menstruation during the first three days. The fourth day is called Vasumati gadhua, or ceremonial bath of Bhudevi. The term Raja came from Rajaswala (meaning a menstruating woman), and in medieval times the festival became more popular as an agricultural holiday marking the worship of Bhudevi, who is the wife of Lord Jagannath.
A girl’s first menstruation to is celebrated by women as a gift of the goddess; it is one of the most significant days of her life.
Shakta Tradition and Mensuration
In the Shakta (Shakti worship) traditions, menstruation is not just a biological fact; the cyclical changes in a woman’s body are believed to represent the cyclical changes in the environment, the seasons and in the very order of the cosmos. But the Great Mother’s close relationship with the bodily processes of menstruation, sex and birth do not devalue her divinity or her status as the all-powerful primal force in the universe, nor undermine the notions of her wisdom. She is a woman, a lover, a mother, a creator, a protector, a warrior, and the all-knower, all-powerful all in one.
Iconography of Kamakhya
Kamakhya is pictured as a young goddess, 16 years old, with twelve arms and six heads of varying colors, representing a powerful goddess who is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. She is ornately dressed, typically wearing a red sari, opulent jewelry and red flowers such as hibiscus.
She is seated upon a lotus, which emerges from the navel of Lord Shiva, who in turn lies atop a lion.
To each side of her sit Brahma and Vishnu, who are each seated upon a lotus, as well.
Mantra of Maa Kamakhya
The mantra of Maa Kamakhya is Kleem Kleem Kaamaakhyaa Kleem Kleem Namah.
क्लीं क्लीं कामाख्या क्लीं क्लीं नमः
Other names of Maa Kamakhya
Maa Kamakhya has many names. Amongst them:
- Kamakhya: She Who Grants Desire
- Kameshvari: Supreme Goddess of Love
- Kamakshi: She Whose Eyes Are Full of Desire
- Lalita: She Who is Easy to Approach
- Maha Tripura Sundari: The Great Beautiful One of the Three Worlds
- Shri Raja Rajeshwari: She Who is the Ultimate Ruler of the Universe
- Kali: She Who is Beyond Time
- Durga: She Who is Difficult to Approach
- Chandi: She Who Tears Apart Thought
- Mahamaya: Great Goddess of Illusion
- Mahadevi: Great Goddess
“It is certainly well known that Kamakhya is truly none other than that mother goddess Kali, who is in all things the form of wisdom.” ‒ Kamakhya Tantra