Kamakhya: Menstruating Goddess & social hypocrisy

Kamakhya: Menstruating Goddess & social hypocrisy

by Himakshi Thakuriya

As the Guwahati city isdecked up for the annual Ambhubachi mela and receive five lakhs of pilgrimage,the menstruating goddess or bleeding goddess of Kamakhaya also gearing up tolock it for three days for her annual 'period'.

Perhaps there are notmany temples in India where menstruation is celebrated, feted and toasted asthe symbolism of ultimate power, exposing the social hypocrisy of looking themenstruation as a taboo.

Kamakhya Devi is famousas the bleeding Goddess. The mythical womb and vagina of Shakti are supposedlyinstalled in the 'Garvagriha' or sanctum of the temple. In the month of Ashaad(June), the Goddess bleeds or menstruates. At this time, the Brahmaputra rivernear Kamakhya turns red. The temple then remains closed for 3 days, and holy wateris distributed among the devotees of Kamakhya Devi.

There is no scientificproof that the blood turns the river red. Some people say that the priests pourvermilion into the waters. However, symbolically, menstruation is the symbol ofa woman's creativity and power to give birth. So, the deity and temple ofKamakhya celebrate this 'shakti' or power within every woman.

It is believed that whenthe body of Sati was pierced into pieces by the 'Sudarshan Chakra' of LordBishnu,  parts of the body fell intodifferent places each creating a 'Shakti Peeth' which are thought to be verysacred. Similarly, the vagina of Sati fell in Pragjyotishpur or Assam, givingrise to the Kamakhya Temple.

The normal biologicalprocess of a girl makes her undergo the menstrual cycle. Since the vagina ofSati fell to give rise to the Kamakhya temple, it is believed that the Goddesssuffers her periods for three days in the month of June as a result of whichthe doors of the temple remain closed. Thus Ambubachi Mela signifies that for 3days the ambience is not pure. However, there is no downfall of enthusiasmamongst the congregation.

In a country like India,menstruation is still a taboo, which separates women from taking part in manyaspects of socio-cultural life. There are so many restrictions in their dailylives, where women are not allowed for offering prayers, touching holy booksetc. People feel shy to talk openly about menstruation since it is regarded asa matter of disgrace. But the question that arises here is: what are wecelebrating in Ambubachi Mela? The issue of the fact is that in Ambubachi Melapeople worship the Goddess who is mythologically presumed to have her periods.

Inside the closedtemple, the yoni of Goddess is covered with a red cloth. At the end of thefestival, when it is removed, the cloth is wet. And the worshippers take thered cloth as Prasad. In our society, where on one hand people feel shy to talkopenly about the maintenance of hygiene during periods, on the other hand,these same people embrace the periodic cycle of the Goddess as a matter ofspirituality.

 Moreover, the menstruation cycle is often seenas a gift. The alluring fact is that when a girl menstruates for the very firsttime, it is celebrated with much fervour. But when the talk comes about themaintenance of hygiene, people feel shy to deliberate about the same. In apatriarchal society like India, the good news is that some people still regardwomen as a boon. A few people also offer prayers for the benefit of the womanas well.

So considering all thesefactors, the question that arises is : Why do we still consider MenstruationCycle as unholy, when it is merely a biological process? Every day we worshipone or the other Devi, but at the same time harass women both mentally andphysically as well in India. So the bigger question is: Isn't it a sign ofhypocrisy?

It may be mentioned here that a headless body of a woman was found on last Wednesday from near Kamakhya temple. Circumstances point it out like a human sacrifice. But what it indicates? We are living in a world of the 21st century, and people are committing a crime in the name of superstitions and beliefs, exactly like handling menstruation.

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