Since times immemorial, the prepossessing land of Assam has always been the storehouse of a number of astounding and awe-inspiring places, monuments and sculptures. More often than not, people are awestruck by these, sometimes by their artistic flamboyance or at times because of the legends surrounding them. And that is conspicuous from the fact that people keep on conversing about these places again and again. Hence, whenever one steps into the greenery of Assam, they may be simply blown away by the impenetrable and obscure aroma of mystery and mythology, which makes it one of the most favourite destinations for globetrotters.
In the same way, being an inhabitant of Assam, I also endeavour to explore the unexplored places of this land (also known as the ‘Land of Red Rivers and Blue Hills’). And for that purpose, when I searched extensively, I found that in this land, we have a place known as the ‘Khujaraho of the East’, popularly called Madan Kamdev. But there’s this question: why is this quirky place known as the ‘Khajuraho of the East’? When I asked people, I came to know of the many freakish and outlandish tales related to it. However, to find the truth and to bring an end to my elevating levels of curiosity, I finally decided to visit Madan Kamdev during the autumn of 2017.
Madan Kamdev is situated at Baihata Chariali, approximately 35 kilometres from Guwahati. After travelling for 35 kilometres on the National Highway 52, one has to again travel five kilometres through a fair village road, south east of Baihata Chariali. The entry of this road into the location is marked by a sign board of the Archaeological Department and a well-decorated gate, which makes it easier for the people to locate the place. Though the means to reach the place seem to be such a predicament, the good news is that most of the time, there are buses and small vehicles that come through the NH 52. But even then, in my opinion, a pre-ordered vehicle is the correct option to prevent the dilemmas about travelling.
After travelling for approximately 40 minutes, I finally reached the destination with a lot of zest. The area surrounding Madan Kamdev looked quite thrilling with hills and greenery, dense and thick forests and small water bodies, giving the perfect impression of it being a biodiversity hotspot. Indeed, it looked as though nature had lavishly bestowed her belongings on this scenic place. I stood still for minutes. Then I finally gathered my thoughts and walked through the stairs to reach the main entrance of the temple. However, as I entered into the temple, I was simply taken aback. Never before in my life had I witnessed or described such unique stuff which I saw in that temple.
The entire temple looked like a repository of sculptures carved out in stones, giving it a pure essence of artistry at its best. The stone sculptures delineated certain unspoken tales from Indian mythology. As I kept hovering round the temple, things simply kept getting more interesting. The temple itself had more than 500 stone sculptures, each revealing a different story altogether. Moreover, when I tried to anatomise the sculptures carefully, I found that some of them portrayed romance, culture, fun and gaiety whereas the others depicted eroticism.
Hence all these riveting things compelled me to know more about them in detail. And for that purpose, I decided to have an extensive discussion with the senior priest of the temple.
Indeed, the 40 minutes of conversation with the priest allowed me to know and understand a lot of things. Among the information that I received, the first pivotal thing that came to my knowledge was the history of Madan Kamdev and how the place received its name. In the process, it enabled me to know about the many speculations surrounding its name and the subsequent history.
The senior priest said, “After Kamdev or Madan was turned into ashes by Shiva’s rage, he was reborn here after his wife Rati was able to please Lord Shiva. And the place got its name thereafter. But another tale says that Madan Kamdev got its name because the place has an association with romance, which is evident from the numerous erotic sculptures present here.” Along with these interesting tales, the learned priest also mentioned quite a few details that gave me an overall picture of Madan Kamdev. The priest said that the ‘Monikut’(where the lord was placed) had three doors underneath it, which had not been dug out. The sculptures of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati in the ‘Monikut’ were covered by a red cloth to worship the art of eroticism and to refrain from offending some religious beliefs.
The priest carried on his conversation saying that a lot of sculptures were still hidden inside the land of Madan Kamdev. If these are taken out, they can definitely provide loads of information. Even when I roamed around the entire temple, I did feel that the stones of Madan Kamdev were overlapping one another giving a perception that something unknown was still left to be unleashed or revealed. The priest also expressed clearly that many gold items will also be found if the land of Madan Kamdev is dug out properly. Furthermore, the locals said that the temple of Madan Kamdev was very sacred. According to them, their wishes were fulfilled many a time, after they had offered their prayers here whole-heartedly.
I also visited a museum near Madan Kamdev, which held an ancient collection of sculptures. There was a park in the vicinity where people relaxed and spent some quality and leisurely time. So, the place had something for everyone – here, kids could frolic and enjoy, the youth could rejuvenate themselves and the old could simply engross them in the essence of spirituality.
However, in spite of all these attractions, Madan Kamdev has certain issues, which need to be resolved to draw more tourists to the site. The means of communication can definitely be improved to a great extent. Proper hoardings or banners marking the place out can be placed so that the people find it easier to locate the place. Finding a place to spend a night in Madan Kamdev is still an issue. Although the temple authorities have managed to construct a tourist rest house, it is yet to be furnished properly.
The resources in Madan Kamdev must also be properly preserved. The Archaeological Department must also implement proper steps to protect the sculptures from breaking down or degrading. As a visitor, it was also very difficult for me to decode the art in the sculptures – hence, the government can take necessary steps to let people know about the meaning of the artistry in the form of handbooks or brochures. The pond near the temple can also be turned into an exciting affair, by the inclusion of activities like boating and rafting. But, in my opinion, the most important thing that Madan Kamdev presently lacks is popularity. Many people are still unaware of the fact that we have a place similar to Khajuraho just a few kilometers away from Guwahati. Hence, the government, the people and the media must come together to solve these issues, so that the place can truly become a tourists’ hotspot in the years to come.
Overall, Madan Kamdev still remains a place of awe and mystery, whose essence can never be described but can only be felt. As the people say, “The silent stones see multifarious dreams.’’