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Northeast Today

Ambubachi: The Two Faces of Mother Earth

Ambubachi: The Two Faces of Mother Earth
August 10
12:38 2019

|Ashif Shamim|

The Ambubachi Mela like every year drew an enormous number of attendants and devotees from across the country and abroad. Ashif Shamim scrutinizes the underlying hypocrisy regarding womanhood which is intrinsic to the celebrations.

First Words

In a society where people wholeheartedly devote themselves to innumerable goddesses, alongside enjoying the social system of patriarchy, the dominance of male over its counterpart is seen almost in every household. Men alone cannot be held responsible for this; because over the years we’ve seen the main defenders of patriarchy are the women. In India especially, the dominance is enjoyed, rather rebelled. The root cause of gender inequality in Indian society lies in its patriarchal system.


By definition

According to the famous sociologist Sylvia Walby, patriarchy is “a system of social structure and practices in which men dominate, oppress and exploit women.” Women’s exploitation is an age old cultural phenomenon of Indian society. The system of patriarchy finds its validity and sanction in our religious beliefs, whether it is Hindu, Muslim or any other religion. The unfortunate part of gender inequality in our society is that the women too, through continued socio-cultural conditioning, have accepted their subordinate position to men. And they are also part and parcel of same patriarchal system.



The Ambubachi-Kamakhya Conundrum

Talking about Ambubachi, it is a celebration of the annual Menstruation of Mother Earth. Since menstruation is a natural part of the reproductive cycle, it is a phenomenon unique to girls. However, it has always been surrounded by taboos and myths that exclude women from many aspects of socio-cultural life. In India, even a mention of this topic has been a taboo in the past and even to this date. Culturally in many parts of India, menstruation is still considered to be dirty and impure.

Like every year, Ambubachi Mela started from June 22nd in Kamakhya temple, Guwahati. Almost 10 lakh devotees are expected to visit the temple during this time when the Goddess is said to be going through her yearly menstrual cycle.

The festival of Ambubachi seems to eulogise womanhood. It is meant to redefine the female strength. But to what extend is it true, is something debatable.

The paradoxical thing is that, the temple which breaches the menstrual taboo of our society but prohibits entry of menstruating women inside the temple. During the Ambubachi days, many people from nearby places wash their clothes; clean their houses as they believe mother earth is menstruating. Being clean and hygienic is not an issue, but the thought process behind that cleaning is questionable. It is consensus on the concept of menstrual blood to be impure and barring women from holy places just because they are going through a natural process.

Although the mythology seems substantial, the actual history of the temple has a dark spot in it. Prominent Assamese writer and intellect Lakshminath Bezbarua wrote in one of his books (Mahapurush Sri Sankardev Aru Madhabdev) that, during re-establishment of the temple by Naranarayan 140 men were sacrificed in front of the Goddess.

The present scenerio of the temple is quite different from the past in the sense that human sacrifice has been now replaced with animal sacrifice.

Recently, one famous bollywood superstar offered one buffalo in the temple against which well known singer and a self-defined socialist Zubeen Garg raised his voice and appealed for a ban on animal sacrifice in the name of God. He also commented on the Varna system which is quite prevalent in the temple premise. The priests of the temple slammed Zubeen Garg for his remark and told him not to comment on the age-old traditional beliefs.



There is no doubt that Kamahya temple is an architectural wonder and natural beauty surrounding it is jaw-dropping. Ambubachi Mela is a festival that attracts lots of tourists and devotees find oasis of serenity around it. It is just that every coin has two sides of it just like every rose has its thorn.



(The author is currently pursuing his MA in Mass Communication. He is interested in Quizzing, Debating Politics, Content Writing, Graphic design and a frequent contributor in Quora.)



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