Ambubachi Mela is celebrated during the month of ‘Aashadh’ of the Hindu calendar, in the Kamakhya Devi Temple in Assam. Kamakhya Temple is one of the 51(52 by some accounts)Shakti Peeths in Hindu Mythology and great reverence is shown by Hindus all over the world.This year, the Ambubachi Mela shall be celebrated from 22nd June to 25th June.
The Goddess Kamakhya is described as the goddess of desire and of fertility. This temple is situated on the Nilachal Hill, in the city of Guwahati, Assam. Legend has it that deeply saddened by the death of Goddess Sati, Lord Shiva performed the Tandav with her dead body. Using his Sudarshan Chakra, Lord Vishnu cut her body into 52 pieces and wherever the parts of her body landed, they became Shakti Peeths. Kamakhya is where Devi Shakti’s Yoni or womb fell. Ambubachi Mela symbolizes the period of menstruation that the Devi goes through.
1. Reason behind Ambubachi Mela: It is believed that the Earth menstruates for three days during this time. On the 4th day, the Ambubachi Mela is held. The main temple, as well as all the temples in the compound, is closed for Puja. A red silk cloth is offered to the deity as a symbol of the menstruation. The deity is made to rest during these days and only the simplest offerings are made.
2. An important Tantric Center: Kamakhya Devi is believed to be an incarnation of Goddess Kali, who is the presiding deity of the occult and Tantra. During this fair, tantriks from all over the country, as well as neighboring countries like Bangladesh and Nepal, descend at this place. Apart from them, sadhus and sanyasis from far and wide come here.
3. Time for reflection: Since the temple symbolizes the womb of the deity, it is placed on the same pedestal as that of a mother, who is a giver. Thus, during this time, people thank the Mother Earth for her bountiful produce and resources.
4. Rakta Bastra: The Temple is opened on the fourth day after being shut for three days. Devotees make a beeline to receive a piece of the special red cloth. This red cloth symbolizes the menstrual cloth of the deity, known as ‘Rakta Bastra’ or the ‘Bloodied Cloth’. It is considered very auspicious and many people tie it around their arm or wrist.
5. Celebrations by the general public: During this time, people refrain from performing puja, plucking fruits, ploughing, digging holes in the ground etc. Basically, any activity that may hurt Mother Earth is generally avoided. The rituals are stricter for widows. Since I belong to Assam myself, I saw my grandmother, who was a widow, eat fruits and boiled food. She also refrained from eating anything that touched the ground. All food items were placed above the ground. On the 4th day, when supposedly the menstruation is over, people clean their houses, wash bed linens and curtains and purify their homes.
The foundation of any religion is the faith and devotion of its devotees. Occurrences such as Ambubachi Mela repose our belief in the innate goodness of humanity and the respect shown to Nature. This fair is symbolic of the virtues of faith and our belief in a supreme being.