The ancient Kamakhya temple in Assam is set to open to devotees on Sunday after a nearly six-month hiatus, with strict Covid-19 restrictions in place. However, the inner sanctum sanctorum will remain closed, and the temple will only be open for parikrama, authorities said.
Last month, a notification was issued by the Assam government stating that the temple would open on September 24. “However, we were not ready then,” said Kabindra Prasad Sarma, chief priest of the temple. “In fact, even now we are opening the temple phase-wise. We will consider opening the inner sanctum sanctorum only after Durga Puja,” added Sarma.
The temple gates will open at 7.30 am sharp. “People can enter between 7.30 am and 1 pm and 2 pm and 5.30 pm,” said the priest, adding that police and health department officials will be deployed at the entry point at the base of the hill to screen people. “If any one has tested negative for Covid-19 in the last three days and can produce a report, then they may enter. The others will have to undergo a Rapid Antigen Test at the entry point,” he said.
Perched atop Guwahati’s Nilachal Hills and overlooking the Brahmaputra river, the Kamakhya temple is one of the oldest Shakti peeths of Hinduism and the mother goddess represents procreation and fertility. Legend has it that the Kamakhya temple came into existence where the gentilia of Parvati fell, when a grieving Lord Shiva was carrying her body around the world after her death. In fact, lakhs of devotees visit the temple every year in June during the famous Ambubachi mela, which marks the goddess’s menstrual cycle.
Due to the pandemic this year, the temple remained shut throughout the duration of Ambubachi mela, perhaps for the first time in its history.
The notification by the Kamrup (Metro) district authorities has limited the number of devotees to 500 per day. Children below 10 and adults above 65 will not be allowed to visit. Each devotee will be allowed 15 minutes for parikrama.
“At a given point, we will not have more than 20-30 people inside the temple premises,” said Sarma, adding that in pre-Covid times, the temple would easily have an average of 5,000 people on a daily basis.