The Tantric Cult

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This photo essay originally appeared in The Eclectic Times ( August, 2012 Issue.


Primarily associated with the Tantric Shakti cult of worship, Ambubachi celebrates the menstruation period of Goddess Kamakhya. The gateways of the holy Kamakhya Temple in Guwahati remain closed for three days while lakhs of believers chant words from Holy Sciptures, musing on life’s journey, singing devotional sings and holding religious discourses outside the gate. The gates are opened on the fourth day, for a ‘darshan’ of the Devi. It is also considered holy if they can procure a piece of cloth, called the anga-vastra, which is believed to have been used by the goddess during the period.

Devotees from all across India and abroad throng the temple. There are Sanyasis, black clad Aghories, the Khade-babas, the Baul singer or the singing minstrels of West Bengal, intellectual and folk Tantrics, Sadhus and Sadhvis, with long matted hair, along with the ordinary pilgrims from rural Assam and West Bengal. They bathe in the ponds of the temple, have food in the community distribution, sleep in the community arrangements, chant prayers and sing songs, as though in some trance where only the blessings and benevolence of the Devi matter.

And one cannot help but marvel as Nature, too, in its subtle ways, seems to bow down before the goddess with all its reverence. Black clouds hover across the sky and heavy shower wet the land.