Guwahati: The doors of Kamakhya temple, atop the Nilachal Hill in Guwahati, will remain closed till June 25 due to the 16th century Tantric fertility festival Ambubasi Mela or Amoti as known locally.
Even before the doors closed at 6.10 pm yesterday, devotees, pilgrims, sadhus, sants, sanyasins, tantrics and tourists from across the country and abroad converged on the temple premises to be a part of the Tantric Shakti cult singing hymns, chanting prayers or quietly meditating for the Goddess` blessings.
The most powerful ritual associated with the festival for the people of Sakti and Tantrik cults is of pre-Aryan origin with the people residing then on the Nilachal hill worshipping the Earth as `Mother Sakti` who provided them food.
The belief is that Goddess Kamakhya goes through her annual menstruation cycle during Amoti and is kept in seclusion with the temple doors closed to public.
No worship or darshan is allowed in the temple along with other Sakti temples across the State during this period, Temple Trust sources said.
Being primarily an agrarian festival, Goddess Kamakhya represents Mother Earth and all agricultural activities are suspended during Ambubasi.
During the three days, no religious rites are performed in the temple and priests and devotees wear red clothes and offer garments of the same colour to Goddess Kamakhya.
The sanctum sanctorum of the temple at the bottom of two chambers has no image but a natural underground stream emanating from a fissure in a rock that symbolises the `yoni` (private parts) of Lord Shiva`s wife Sati.
At this time of the year the water turns red due to iron oxidation resembling menstrual fluids.
According to religious belief and mythology, the temple represents creation as the `yoni` of Sati which fell at the site of the temple while Lord Shiva performed the `tandava nritya` after Sati immolated herself.
The Kalika Purana describes Goddess Kamakhya as the `yielder of all desires, the bride of Shiva and bestower of salvation`.
During the festival, widows, Brahmins and brahmacharis abstain from eating cooked food till the temple doors remain shut, while married women observe fasts as per traditions.
At the end of Ambubasi on June 25 at 7.01 pm `nibriti` or completion of the ritual would be performed by giving the Devi a ritual bath to `purify` her and dress her in new clothes before the temple doors are thrown open to worshippers the next morning at 7 am, said Naba Sarma, secretary of the Kamakhya Debuttar Board.
The devotees will sacrifice animals as offerings to the Sakti Goddess as per tradition, he said.
Pieces of the Devi`s `angavastram` or the red cloth she wears during this period will be distributed among the pilgrims as this is considered highly auspicious, he added.
According to `Pranatoshini Tantra`, one who receives a piece of Goddess Kamakhya`s angavastram and does puja on that day has all their desires fulfilled.
People also clean their houses, wash their clothes and utensils and sprinkle holy water in their homes to mark the end of the occasion.
The government estimates that over six lakh devotees would be visiting the temple this time surpassing last year`s four lakh flow of devotees.
One of the 51 Hindu Sakti `piths` (pilgrim places) in the country, Kamakhya temple is regarded as the main centre of Tantricism with some scholars holding the opinion that the cult originated here.
Built by Koch dynasty king Chilarai in 1565, the temple has a beehive-shaped sikhara (roof) though the current structure has been built during the Ahom times with remnants of the earlier Koch temple carefully preserved in the style of medieval temples.