6/23/2011 to 6/26/2011 | Assam , India | click title to navigate to previous posts

Ambubachi Mela

Shiva’s wife Sati (an incarnation of Kali) is said to have been dismembered into 51 pieces which fell across India, her genitalia, yoni, fell on Kamakhya hill.  The annual Ambubachi Mela celebrates the mother goddess, Kamakhya’s, menstrual cycle.  Apparently for goddesses “that time of the month” comes once a year.  In respect for the goddess’s privacy, during the days the goddess is said to be menstruating the main shrine of the Kamakhya Mandir is closed.  At this time sadhus and pilgrims camp out around the temple waiting the auspicious time when the temple is reopened, when goats and other animals are sacrificed by the hundreds.  The Ambubachi Mela is closely associated with Tantric Shakti cult celebrating the female aspect of spirituality in Tantric rituals. Being a place so closely identified with the female aspect, the Ambubachi Mela draws a large number of female sadhus.  I have never been anywhere in India with a higher concentration of these relatively rare, holy women. My plan had been, after the mela in Guwahati, to stop in Darjeeling en route to another festival, the massive Rath Yatra in Puri.  I had never been to Darjeeling in all my time spent in India and it was a kind of glaring omission on my “résumé.”  So it was really out of completeness rather than a strong desire to visit the hill station that I had organized my travel plans.  But the gods it’s seemed had other plans.  At least the gods as influenced by the Indian politics of professional agitation.  The mess was started when demonstrations by landless people, turned violent and burned several vehicles and buses. The people had recently been evicted from squatter’s villages erected on forest department land.  In response to the violence, police fired on the protesters and killed 3 protesters including a 9 year old boy. This event occurred on the day I had returned from Dimapur.  Then the next day they arrested the guy who led the demonstration, who was essentially a professional agitator and had latched on to the evection as his cause du jour. Upon his arrest group called the strike, for all Assam, causing me to miss my train since I couldn’t reach the station.  My first attempt to leave Guwahati was thwarted.   The government caved, as they always seem to do in India, and he was let out on bail with no money.  The situation seeming resolved I figured I’d have no problem reaching the station when I rebooked my ticket.  Incompetence would find its way to thwart me yet again.  Having already booked my ticket to Puri, due to the previous delay my time in Darjeeling was dwindling.   I still had enough time to spend a day and a half in the hill station before catching my train to Puri.  I was staying about 20 minute drive from the station, the Assamese government had put up road blocks around the Parliament during the previous days of agitation, which happened to be situated between where I was staying and the train station. The situation now pacified instead of removing the road blocks completely they only took them half down making the road go from 2 normal (3 Indian) lanes to one.  Needless to say this brilliant bit of work caused a massive traffic jam.  I reached the station 5 minutes late, only to discover that the train had in fact, miraculously left on time, lost ticket number two.  I rebooked my ticket for the third time.  The third time was the charm and I finally made it out of Guwahati but with only one night between my arrival at NJP and my departure to Puri, Darjeeling was out of the question. Instead of finally getting to Darjeeling, I ended up just spending a night in far from beautiful, hot and stinky Siligiri.  Darjeeling would continue to elude me.