Avdeserted Kamakhya temple in Guwahati, Assam

Guwahati: For the first time in recorded history, the annual Ambubachi rituals at the sacred Kamakhya temple in Guwahati are wearing a deserted look. The rituals commenced on Monday morning; however, the biggest religious congregation of eastern India, the Ambubachi Mela, has been canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown.

Speaking with EastMojo, head priest Kabindra Prasad Sarma Doloi said, “We have been conducting the daily nitya puja every day followed by bhog and aarti. However, the festival has been suspended due to the COVID-19 scare.” He added that the rituals have already started at 7 am and will be performed till June 25 without the presence of any devotees.

It was decided on April 21 in a press meet by the Kamakhya Board of administrations that only priests will perform the rituals for these days and that the festival would be canceled.

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The usual congregation of devotees and pilgrims of 2019 Ambubachi Mela

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Located atop the Nilachal Hills, Kamakhya temple is one of the 51 Shakti Peeths in the country. The Ambubachi Mela is an annual fair which is held at the temple premises is the celebration of the annual mensuration course of the goddess Maa Kamakhya. This celebration attracts lakhs of devotees and pilgrims from all the corners of the globe. This is a significant source of revenue for the temple and the state as well.

“Since the last four years, the influx of devotees has been increasing to approximately 25 lakh devotees attending the Ambubachi mela just last year,” said Sarma, who is also the head of the temple management committee.

The temple remained open even during the historic yet turbulent Assam Agitation in the early 1980s. However, with the present scenario where Assam has detected over 4000 COVID-19 cases with the majority of them coming from the city of Guwahati (with 114 containment zones), physical distancing would have been a major task. Hence, the streets of Kamakhya temple which normally would have been teeming with devotees are wearing a desolate look this time.

2019 saw an influx of more than 25 lakh devotees

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However, silence has gripped the temple this year as the rituals began in the morning on Monday and will conclude on June 25 at 8:16 pm. The main door of the temple will open in the morning of June 26.

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