Guwahati is also known as the temple town of Assam. There are many ancient and new temples in Guwahati with different religious significance. The temples of Guwahati are not grand like Rameshwaram, Madurai, Trivandrum or Guruvayur but these temples are very significant for Hindus. For example, in India, menstruating women considered unholy but in Kamakhaya temple menstruating goddess is worshipped. It is considered the most powerful “Shaktipeeth”. And the Umananda Temple of Shiva is situated on a small island inside the mighty Bhramaputra river.
The stories associated with these temples make them one of their own kind in India. These temples are mysterious in many ways and attract devotees as well as tourists.
Popular temples in Guwahati
This temple is devoted to the menstruating goddess and also known as Kamakhya Dham. Temple is around 9 Km from Guwahati city on a small hill called Nilachal Hill. Kamkhya temple is the oldest among 51 Shakti Peethas.
The present-day temple was built by King Naranarayan of Cooch Behar in 1665. The main temple has seven oval spires and each topped by three golden pitchers.
Kamakhya temple’s mystery and the story of the origin
There are different stories about the origin of Kamakhya temple but the story of Shiva & Sati is most significant. Sati’s father Daksha did “Yagna” and he didn’t invite Shiva & Sati because Shiva was ascetic. Even though Sati went alone to her father’s house. Her father insulted her for marrying Shiva and due to humiliation Sati jumped into “Yagna” fire and died.
When Shiva came to know about Sati’s demise, he got extremely angry and distressed. He destroyed the “Yagna” and severed the head of Daksha. After that, Shiva started doing “Tandav”, the dance of destruction.
He was so grief-stricken that he put the body of Sati on his shoulder and roamed around in-universe. To bring Shiva from grief Lord Vishnu cut the body of Sati into 51 pieces with his “Sudarshan Chakkar”. It is believed that the womb and vagina of Sati fell, where the temple of Goddess Kamakhaya.
According to another story, the Hindu God Kamadev (God of love) lost his virility to a curse. He prayed to the Goddess here and she blessed her with the potency. After that Kamadev established the temple for goddess at this place, hence it is named Kamakhya after Kamadev.
It is also believed that it is the place where Shiv and Sati first courted.
In India, most Hindu temples don’t allow menstruating women inside temples considering them unholy. This is the only temple where womanhood is celebrated. There is no idol inside the temple, the goddess is worshipped in the form of “Yoni” or the female genital.
Festival in Kamakhaya temple
Interestingly the temple remains closed for 3 days in the month of Hindu calendar “Ashaad”, which falls in the month of June. It is considered that goddess menstruate on these 3 days. The red color water comes out of the temple, which is believed to the body fluids of the goddess.
This water is considered holy and distributed as “Prasad” among devotees. Some people dip the handkerchief in this water and keep that dried cloth in their house as a blessing from the goddess. This is the only temple which celebrates the womanhood and menstruation is considered a blessing. This makes the Kamakhya temple unique as well as progressive. No one really knows how the water becomes red, it’s Kamakhya temple’s mystery. Though some people believe that the priest put vermillion in water to make it red.
Kamakhya temple timing
The temple remains opens every day from 08.00 AM to 01.00 PM and then again open at 02.30 PM and remain open till 08.30 PM. There are long queues to enter the temple. Temple is lesser crowded after 02.30 PM till 5.30 PM.
Special entry for Kamakhya temple
The entry to the temple is free but one has to stand in queue for around 3 hours.
There is a special entry ticket of 501 INR. If you buy this ticket then you can reduce the waiting time for entry inside the temple. It normally takes 1 hour if you buy this ticket.
The entry through this ticket is available between 08.30 AM till 10.30 AM and 03.00 PM till 04.00 PM.
Animal sacrifice in Kamkhya temple
The Kamakhya temple is one of the few temples, which are dedicated to the tantric goddess. Also, this is one of those few temples of India where animal sacrifice is still practiced.
During the Navratri festival (Durga Puja) buffalos along with goats, ducks and pigeons are sacrificed in the temple. The meat of this sacrifice is distributed among the poor and tribal people. Many organizations are protesting against this practice but it is still continuing in Kamakhya temple.
Black magic in Kamakhya temple
On the way to temple, I saw the baskets full of pigeons. These pigeons are sold for sacrifice to the goddess. Many people practice black magic in Kamakhaya temple. They believe that by performing some particular rituals they can get power to control other person or solve the complex issues in the relationship.
There are people/priest in & around Kamakhaya temple and they offer these kinds of rituals known as “Vashikaram”. These people scam people for performing these rituals. I personally believe that these are bad practices and should be discouraged. The sacrifice of birds and animals is also done by people who perform these rituals and practices.
How to reach Kamakhya temple
The temple is located around 8 km from Guwahati city and railway station. A cab or auto rickshaw is the most convenient way to reach the temple. It will cost between 100 to 150 INR.
If you are on a tight budget then shared autos and taxies are available from Guwahati railway station, they charge 15 to 20 INR.
There are state government buses for Kamakhaya temple from Guwahati railway station at regular intervals.
I had climbed around 120 stairs to the Kamakya temple from the car parking. On the way, there are several shops selling on the sides of stars. These shops sell different Indian souvenirs and items used for worship of goddess Kamakhaya.
There were musicians sitting on the side of the path leading to the temple. They were singing beautiful Assamese folk songs.
This temple is situated on the top of Nilanchal hill, slightly higher then Kamakhaya temple. We climbed the stairs to reach the main temple. Bhubaneswari temple is much smaller and fewer people visit this temple. The Goddess Bhuvaneswari is considered as the feminine ruler of the whole universe. We got the view of Guwahati city from the top of the hill even though there were many trees in the area.
There are no direct buses to the temple, you can hire a cab or auto rickshaw for Bhubaneshwari temple.
This temple is located on Peacock island in the middle of Bhramputra river. Umananda Temple was built by Ahom King Gadadhar Singha in 1696 and it is dedicated to Lord Shiva.
It is believed that on this island Shiva burnt the Kamadeva into ashes when he disturbed him during his meditation. The hill on which temple is built on the island is known as Bhasmacala meaning ashes mountain. There are approximately 150 stairs to reach the temple from the boat jetty.
Peacock island also inhabits the Golden langurs of Assam. I saw some langurs on the trees and they were very quiet. I have been told by the locals that these langurs are very docile and never disturb tourist. Locals believe that the langurs are calm due to the temple of Shiva on the island.
How to reach Umananda Temple
The temple can be reached by ferry. If you are on a tight budget then take a boat run by Inland water transport from Uzanbazar Ferry Ghat (Ka Hari Ghat). It costs only 20 INR per person.
Otherwise, you can rent a big boat or ferry from Sukleshwar ghat or Fancy Bazar Ghat. It will cost around 300 INR for return journey depending upon your negotiation skills.
It is believed that in ancient times famous sage Basistha lived in this ashram. There is a temple of Shiva in ashram compound.
It is around 14 Km outside the Guwahati city and as per my knowledge can be reached by private cab or autorickshaw. There is nothing special about this place and can be easily skipped.
Purva Tirupati Shri Balaji temple
This is a modern temple and built in traditional south Indian style of architect. The temple is well maintained and there is big idol similar to the one of Tirupati Balaji in Tirupati Tirumala. Purva Tirupati Shri Balaji temple has beautifully manicured lawns and open space around it.
The temple is 6 km from the main city of Guwahati and can be reached by car or autorickshaw.
This temple is located on Navagrah hill, which is also known as Chitrasal Hill. The temple is dedicated to 9 celestial bodies named Surya (Sun), Chandra (Moon), Mangala (Mars), Budha (Mercury), Brihaspati (Jupiter), Shukra (Venus), Shani (Saturn), Rahu (North Lunar Node) and Ketu (South Lunar Node). There are 9 Shivalinga and each covered with a different type of cloth which represents each celestial body. Here people come for “Grah Shanti puja” means to cool off planets.
The overview of Guwahati city from the temple is worth a visit otherwise if you are not a religious person then skip this place.
There were many monkeys in the temple premise so avoid carrying eatable to the temple.
These are some of the popular temples in Guwahati. The stories related to these temples can be overwhelming for many people but these temples have strong followings. If you think, I missed any interesting temple then please let me know.