Since time immemorial, the mythological land of India has always been a storehouse of many religious theories or credences that have preoccupied the minds of its dwellers with mystical sentiments. Researchers and analysts predict that the attraction of these religious beliefs mainly lies in the evidences unearthed or the trail of historical objects found in places of archaeological significance. Or it may even lie in the religious scriptures and folklore.
The religious extension of the mystical land of India is not just centered at a particular place. It revolves around the entirety of India, even in the greenery of Assam. And Assam has a very distinct connection to the mythological tales of Lord Shiva and Goddess Sati. It is believed that when the body of Goddess Sati was cut into pieces by the ‘Sudarshan Chakra’ of Lord Vishnu, parts of her body fell in different areas of India, each creating a ‘Shakti Peeth’. Folk tales narrate that the vagina of Goddess Sati fell in the land of Assam and formed one of the 18 ‘Shakti Peeths’ found all over India. Hence, in the green hills of Nilachal lies the ‘Shakti Peeth’ of the east, also known as the temple of Goddess Kamakhya.
Every year during the month of June, the main entrance of the Kamakhya Temple is closed for three days due to the belief that the Goddess Kamakhya undergoes her menstrual cycle at that time. And when that happens, it marks the beginning of the fabled fiesta of Ambubachi Mela which, over the years, has also been termed as the second Kumbh Mela.
However, it’s also important for us to keep a salubrious balance between the religious perspectives of this festival and the baleful effects it has over the state and its people, which have completely destroyed people’s reliance on the government. Today, the Ambubachi Mela has turned into a headache for the denizens, and a major imbalance is descried every time the fiesta begins.
The state apparatus splits apart – and all that the people witness are traffic congestion, blocked footpaths, accumulation of rotten items with foul smell lingering around, and most importantly, the hue and cry that completely destroys the usual peace. For those three days, it feels as though everything is out of control – and even if the locals try, they cannot maintain the regime.
This raises a pivotal question that is frequently argued upon: what is the actual benefit of organising this fiesta in such a grand way? If we carefully analyse this question, we will find that in reality, Assam has not achieved anything from this fiesta other than the degradation of the peaceful lives of the citizens. However, credit must be bestowed upon the state government for leaving no stone unturned in providing all the facilities to the congregation that turns up for this festival. This is the reason why the state always receives heaps of praise and blessings from the visitors. But then, is it really necessary to deprive other people of their mental peace and satisfaction without anything substantial in return?
The scenario is so precarious that the government spends crores and crores of monetary revenue every year to provide lodging and appropriate edibles to the visitors, without even earning a single penny in return. And that not only leads to the economic downfall of the state but also destroys the tourism in the state, an industry the government is continuously trying to uplift. So in order to make Ambubachi Mela a means to generate tourism and also to increase the reputation of the state, the government needs to discard certain old policies and adopt a few innovative ones.
A step which can be adopted by the government here involves the collection of a minimum revenue from every visitor desiring to enter the temple as a charge for conducting the Ambubachi Mela. And the conspicuous reason behind this is to maintain the balance between the revenue spent and earned. Along with this, if a state is accommodating lakhs and lakhs of devotees for three days or more, then the state is definitely entitled to earn something in return. I don’t think anyone should question this idea either, simply because there is no benefit in spending everything only to earn appreciation and nothing else. Furthermore, earning revenue from religious events is not an alien scheme, since many Indian states already follow it. So, the government should sincerely give this a thought.
In addition, the government still has to take numerous steps to ensure that the festival does not harm the normal lives of the citizens, and priority should be given to keep the streets free of any ceremonial events where the devotees are fed. Creating public nuisance is a criminal offence – and this should not be an exception in case of Ambubachi Mela either.
However, Ambubachi Mela still remains a trademark of Assam – and its immense potential to refurbish the tourism industry should not be discarded for religious beliefs or by an act of being over-generous. It’s both a religious and a resourceful thing – and hence, the government should put an emphasis to evolve the celebrations, both economically and socially. Only when that happens will Assam be benefited enormously.
The author is a student of Gauhati University and a passionate poet, debater and a cook. Currently, he is also working as one of the editors of Poetry World Organization.