This is a comprehensive work on the Kamakhya temple complex in Assam the complex processes of the deity’s sanskritization and the temple’s role in integrating the people of this region with the mainland. Incorporating details from interviews with temple priests and other temple staff and from literary materials on the temple, it deals with the socio-cultural life at the temple complex with respect to rites of passage relating to marriage, birth and death, arts and crafts, food, dress and folk medicine. With illustrations of the temple structure and sculptures and religious and cultural activities, the text makes a detailed study of the temple rituals, festivals and personnel their kinds and functions and changes in the body of the temple staff with time. Importantly, it provides a background to the study by examining the spread of saktism over different periods in the Eastern Indian region and specifically Assam.
Dr. Nihar Rajan Mishra (Ph.D.) has keen interest in exploring the significance of religious / cultural sites in India. He is currently senior lecturer in the English department Mangaldai College Assam.
The Kamakhya Temple of Guwahati is one of the most famous temples of India. After a series of visits to this temple as a devotee I gradually came closer to the people here and found interest in their ways of life. The atmosphere of püja activities at my ancestral house, the well-known stories about goddess Kamakhya and my own training in English literature gave rise to many internal doubts and queries which made me attempt a systematic study on this topic.
In preparing this study I owe the heaviest debt to my guru. Dr. Birendranath Datta (Retd.), Professor and Head of the Department of Folklore Research, Gauhati University, who readily accepted my candidature and is the unending source of patience, inspiration and encouragement to me from the beginning. I am also indebted to Dr. Nabin Candra Sarma and Dr. Kishore Kumar Bhattadharjee of the same department and Dr. D.N. Mazumdar (since deceased) of the Department of Anthropology for their many thoughtful suggestions on the topic arid allied matters.
In Kamakhya, I got whole-hearted co-operation from all the people. But I would fail in my duty if I don’t acknowledge my immense sense of gratitude to Mr. Paran Candra Sarma, Doloi of the KAmakhya Temple, Mr. Hrisinath Sarma, my guru and such well-wishers like Mrs. Rajeswari Devi, Miss Bhabani Devi, Miss Pratibha Devi, Mr. Khagen Sikdar, Mr. Jatin Athparia and above all Gopal Brahmacari but for whose sympathetic understanding and kind co-operation the present work would not have been possible.
I am also grateful to Mr. Candranath Sarma, Dr. Jwalaprasad Sarma, Mr. Riju Sarma, Mr. Kasinath Sarma, Mr. Dilip Sarma, Mr. Deepak Sarma, Mr. Prakas Sarma (since deceased), Mr. Kartik Tamuli (since deceased), Mr. Kamal Athparia (since deceased), Mr. Bani Duwari, Mr. Soneswar Khataniar and many others of Kamakhya for extending their help.
My thanks are also due to the priests and officials of the Burha-Burhi hal, Sadiya, the Kamakhya Temple, Silghat and the Mahamaya Temple, Bagoribari for their ungrudging co-operation. The sincere concern shown by Mr. Narayan Deuri of Nizarapar, Sadiya and Mr. Ghana Kanta Das of Gauripur during my material haunts to those places will always remain as valuable treasures for me.
I also thank Dr. Pradip Sarma and Mr. G.N. Bhuyan of the Department of Archaeology, Goverment of Assam, for their ready support and co-operation.
I would also like to specially mention my friends Dr. Bijoy Kumar Sarma and Dr. Krishna Candra Gowda whose support for this project can never be put into words.
My sincere thanks are also due to my colleagues like Mr. Manimugdha Borthakur, Mr. Hariman Deka, Mr. Khagen Nath, Mr. Idris Au, Dr. Amiya Devi, Mr. Arabinda Sen (since deceased), Dr. Ramen Roy, Dr. Dipti Prasad Barua, Dr. Hiren Goswami and above all Mr. Gopinath Sarma who inspired and extended different kinds of help for this project.
I would also take this opportunity to thank the authorities and library staff of Gauhati University, Kamarupa Anusandhn Samiti, Guwahati, Vivekananda Kendra Institute of Culture, Guwahati, Assani State Museum and Mangaldai College for their valuable co-operation.
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