GUWAHATI: For the first time in the history of centuries-old Kamakhya temple that the four-day Ambubachi Mela began on Monday but there was no congregation.
No devotees – as well as sadhus – turned up at the temple, perched on the Nilachal Hill in the heart of Guwahati, as the temple management decided last month that the festival would be celebrated this year without the congregation of devotees.
Even during the height of historic Assam Agitation or anti-immigrants’ agitation of early 1980s, the temple had the Mela although the turnout of devotees was very low.
The Mela draws lakhs of people, including sadhus, from around the country and abroad. It is believed that the temple’s presiding Goddess Devi Kamakhya – the Mother Shakti – goes through her annual menstruation cycle during this time stretch.
The temple management selected a few priests who would perform the rituals over the next four days. Volunteers and police personnel were deployed to ensure that no devotee could make it to the temple.
Temple priests and shopkeepers in the vicinity depend entirely on the devotees. They have been badly affected by the pandemic. Following relaxations issued by the government early this month, most religious sites in Assam reopened but the management of Kamakhya decided to keep the temple’s doors shut.
“It was a tough decision not to reopen the temple and have the congregation but we had to make it for the safety of everyone. All priests and residents of Kamakhya locality cooperated with us. They made sacrifices to ensure that the virus of COVID-19 does not spread to the community from the temple. We’ll pray that the disease disappears so we can celebrate the festival next year,” Kamakhya Devalaya Bor Doloi (head priest) Mohit Sarma told The New Indian Express on Monday.
According to records available, the temple was rebuilt by Nara Narayan, the last ruler of undivided Koch kingdom of Kamata. The priests believe the temple existed from the time of The Mahabharata.