NOTES ON TRADITIONAL ARTS AND VANISHING CULTURES OF ASIA
I had heard about the Kamakhya or Kamakshi temple through a scientist friend recently. He was intrigued by the world of Tantrics and as he talked about his fascination, he mentioned that this temple was important in that world.
The main temple, is a stunning old stone structure.
As with all major temples, the approach road is filled with colorful products that commercialise religion. Whether they result in devotion and peace, I do not know, but they did result in great photo subjects for my camera!
Legend has it that this is the spot where ‘where Sati used to retire in secret to satisfy her amour with Shiva, and it was also the place where her yoni fell after Shiva danced with the corpse of Sati. The middle chamber leads to the sanctum sanctorum of the temple in the form of a cave, which consists of no image but a natural underground spring that flows through a yoni-shaped cleft in the bedrock.’ (wikipedia).
Being the Goddess of Desire (Kaam), it is natural that this temple is on the must-visit list for newly-weds asking for blessings.
Traditionally, it is believed that prayers accompanied by the sacrifice of an animal tend to get heard better…so a courting couple prays with a pigeon offering:
And so the population around the temple, included pigeons and goats and buffaloes amidst bridal groups, colorful priests, tantrics, kids playing with kids and the para military – making it a visual treat!
A shed near the entrance of the main temple, is reserved for the animal sacrifice.
The wooden contraption for doing the deed was covered with sindoor and flowers – ritualistic offerings that confer a ‘holy’ aura to the sacrifice.
The two priests seated in a corner declined permission to be photographed and were shooing me away with a dismissive wave of their hands. So I pointed to the main altar indicating that I would leave them alone and just take shots of the sacrificial altar. Fortunately their conversation re-engaged them and they let me be.
It was dark inside the shed and I needed to adjust my camera settings. I was nearly ready when two other priests suddenly strode in with a black baby goat and went directly to the minor altar….
In the flash that this huge event began unfolding. My brain registered what was going on and my companions asked whether I would like to leave or continue watching…
I stood fixed – unable to think or decide – and the rest of the sacrifice unfolded before my eyes and before my Nikon :
Done. Sacrifice complete. Prayer conveyed to the Gods. I had just watched my first real life, large creature death.
My reaction? None. Totally untouched. Totally unemotional.
I’d just watched a death.
Without feeling ANYthing. It didn’t seem sad. It didn’t choke me up. It didn’t make me question the laws of life. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.
Maybe I am dead too.
25th Dec 2010