Sacrifice In The Name Of Religion
Religion is opium, say communists. But spiritualists are of the belief that religion is life and religious intoxication leads to self-discovery of one’s identification with almighty, all-powerful God. If both the ideologies are put together and taken in serious consideration, life can be led in a more proper way. Extreme of everything is dangerous.
Extreme of religion in the form of practices, which sometime is of no spiritual value or significance, leads to superstition and it continues in the form of traditional practices and becomes life blood of religious faith and belief. We need to identify those mal-practices to have a clean and pollution-free religion, where one can find relief and comfort of spiritualism, not the pain and discomfort.
The temple of Kamakhya, in Guwahati, Assam, is one of 51 Shaktipeethas that has a rich history of spiritual practice. If one goes by the legend, as it goes, the Kamakhya temple has long been considered the highest seat of tantricism, which has been an integral part of India’s spiritual tradition for centuries.
Legend has it that human sacrifice was once an integral part of tantricism, which is wide spread in Assam and other parts of India. However, the practice was officially abandoned some 250 years ago.
Like many other ancient temples in Assam, the Kamakhya shrine also had a history of human sacrifice but with time, the practice was replaced from human being to animals, and it still continues. Monthly, it is said, minimum of four to five cows or buffalos are sacrificed and, on an average, daily 8 to 10 goats are sacrificed in the temple. A 1933 edition of the journal of the Assam Research Society says people were sacrificed at the temple till the early 18th century in Assam.
When asked by Uday India as to how it is justifiable to kill innocent animals in the name of religion, Navakant Sharma, Secretary of Kamakhya Debuttar Board, the board which looks after the temple, says: “The concept of sacrifice is very wide, deep-rooted in mythology and philosophy and therefore cannot be explain in a mere simple way.”
Time and again many attempts have been made by many animal rights NGOs, which demand the practice of sacrifice should be stopped in the temple premises. Last year during the Ambubachi festival, the four-day festival which witnesses the largest gathering in the temple every year, thousands of monks from around the country assembled to stop this practice of sacrifice, but it still continues as religious practice in the temple. The government also does not have any say in this matter, as it does not want to hurt the popular sentiment of the people.
Kamakhya temple is situated atop the Nilanchal hills, eight hundred metres above sea level, overlooking the mighty Brahmaputra beside the city of Guwahati in Assam. As per the records of the temple authority, around 4,000 pilgrims visit the shrine every weekday. The number of pilgrims goes beyond 5,000 on holidays.
Kamakhya is an important tantric mother goddess closely identified with Kali and Maha Tripura Sundari. The name of the goddess also name means “goddess of desire”. As Kamakhya is associated with fertility, many childless couples also throng the temple every day. In the Kalika Purana, Kamakhya is referred to as the goddess who fulfills all desires, is the bride of Lord Shiva and the benefactor of salvation. Kamakhya is one of the 51 Shaktipeethas of the subcontinent where Goddess Durga is worshipped in many forms.
According to mythology, Sati (Dakshayini), the daughter of King Daksha, who had married Lord Shiva much against the wishes of her father, went uninvited to the yajna that Daksha was performing. She was insulted by her father for attending the yajna without an invitation. Daksha hurled abuses at her husband and humiliated them. Deeply hurt and angry, Sati threw herself in the blazing fire of the yajna and died. Shiva was infuriated, and lifting the dead body of Sati over his shoulder, began tandava—the dance of annihilation—which shook the whole universe and thereby frightened the other Gods, who in turn approached Lord Vishnu to stop the tandava of Shiva and to put an end to the blind fury of Shiva. Lord Vishnu, with the help of his Sudarshan Chakra, reduced the body of Sati to pieces and Shiva, without his wife’s body, returned to meditation. Fifty-one of Sati’s body parts fell all over the earth and each of these places is revered as holy and became Shaktipeetha. The reproductive organ of Sati—Yoni—is said to have fallen at the place where the Kamakhya temple stands today.
Assam was known previously as Kamrup Kamakhya desa. Kama, the God of Love who was reduced to ashes when his arrow targeted Shiva, regained his original form (Kamarupa) after he fulfilled his promise and built a temple for Sati. Mythology also has it that Narakasura tried to build a path to the temple overnight with a desire to wed Kali but was killed when he failed to do so.
According to history, the original temple was destroyed by foreign invaders and had to be restructured. King Naranarayan of Cooch-Behar in the late 17th century, is credited with building the present temple. Representing the old Ahom sculpture, the vertex of the temple is oval shaped, like beehive, having seven spires, three golden pitchers on blossoming lotus and upon that a golden trident. The temple exterior flaunts of beautiful frescos, which adorn gods and goddesses. Kamakhya, as the name goes, is the goddess of wish fulfillment. It is believed that the Goddess fulfills all desires of a devotee who wishes to have some grants from her and so the sacrifices are made as promised by the devotees to the Goddess.
By Joydeep Dasgupta from Guwahati