Guwahati, October 11, 2018:
Kamakhya temple, a major seat of Shakti worship, observes the annual Durga Puja rituals for a fortnight unlike the rest of the country where it is celebrated for nine days and much of the rituals are held behind closed doors.
The celebration of Durga Puja at Kamakhya Temple, nestled atop the Nilachal Hills, is believed to date back to antiquity.
It begins on the ninth day of the waning of the moon or ‘Krsna Navami’ and ends on the ninth day of the waxing of the moon or ‘Sukla Navami’ of the Hindu month of ‘Asvina’ (from mid-September to mid-October). The Puja extends over a fortnight or ‘paksa’ and is locally called the ‘Pakhuvapuja’.
The most remarkable aspect of the Puja is that there is no image of Goddess Durga but the rituals are performed in the main ‘pitha’ or the sanctum sanctorum which is a conical shaped natural fissure about nine inches in length and 15 inches in width.
Special pujas are held each day during the fortnight with the doors of the temple closed to devotees during rituals performed by a team of priests selected for the occasion.
The priests are usually selected on a rotational basis each year and they all stay together, away from their homes in the Nilachal Hills, in the temple during the fortnight.
Among them is the main priest who performs the puja at the sanctum sanctorum, while the other priests chant the holy scriptures or perform the role of the ‘tantradharaka’. Those who perform the yagnas are called ‘hoota’ and those who meditate’ brahma’.
The priests begin the rituals since early in the morning, fast during the day and cook for themselves only one meal a day within the temple premises.
The rituals in the temple during the fortnight are observed daily in three phases- the ‘pratah puja, or the morning rituals, ‘madhyahnna puja’ or the mid-day puja and ‘sadhna puja’ or the evening puja.
Devotees from far and near flock to the temple whose doors usually open around 9am after the completion of the morning puja by the priests, Chandan Sharma, priest of the temple said.