The shrine of Kamakhya is known for its miraculous powers. The entire hill where it is located is known as Magic Hill. Since childhood, I had been hearing fantastic stories about this shrine and the region surrounding it. Even today, in villages throughout India, people believe that everyone in the state of Assam, particularly those who live in Kamakhya, know magic. In north Indian villages, mothers are terrified at the prospect of their unmarried sons going to Assam, for they believe that Assamese women have the power to turn them into goats during the day and exploit them at night by turning them back into men. I did not have any interest in gaining such experiences, but I was curious as to whether there was any truth to these stories.
My first impression of Kamakhya was that it was a beautiful and peaceful place. Unlike other holy places in India, the priests of Kamakhya were gentle, loving, and kind. In other places, the less you interact with the custodians of the holy sites, the smaller the holes in your pocket and the greater your peace of mind. To me, the fact that the priests in Kamakhya were content with what they had, and there was not the slightest trace of greed and manipulation in their speech and actions, was magic in itself. This is why I decided to live at the home of my family priest next to the shrine. I stayed with this family for three months.
“Come, come—quick! Mother is dancing!”
Late one morning, as I was about to finish my meditation and scripture recitation, one of my host’s grandsons ran into my room shouting, “Come, come—quick! Mother is dancing!”
The boy was so excited he was not able to complete his sentences. He ran frantically from one room to another room, trying to get every member of the family to come out and watch some kind of unusual dance. Half of my mind was reciting a scripture and the other half was attending to what this boy was trying to tell us. Finally my host came in and reported, “Divine Mother is dancing on a sword. It is a rare phenomenon. It happens only once or twice in decades. You don’t want to miss it.”
Pointing to my lips, I hinted that I was in the middle of scripture recitation and I could not speak or get up from my seat. The priest said, “Just sip the sanctified water, stop the recitation, come and take a glance at this celestial dance, receive her blessings, and then resume your practice.”
“Divine Mother is dancing on a sword. It is a rare phenomenon. It happens only once or twice in decades. You don’t want to miss it.”
Although I did not know what was going on, I was sure it was something very special. Once outside, I heard the ceremonial drums, louder and more rhythmic than I had ever heard them before. All the men and women, young and old, were rushing to the southern grounds of the main temple, where ceremonial animal sacrifices are performed. My curiosity had brought me to this spot many times before. Each time, when I saw an animal being sacrificed, I wondered, “What is this cruelty? How could the Mother of Mercy devour her own children? She is said to be most benign and beautiful, but what could be more ugly and disgusting than drinking the blood of a helpless animal? This sacrifice business has nothing to do with worshipping a goddess; it is barbaric, and is simply an act of the beast within us.”
When the priest and I arrived, 30 to 40 people were standing before the sacrificial altar. I pushed through the crowd, and there, to my surprise, I saw a young man dancing barefoot on the sharp edge of a sword smeared with blood. At first, I thought that it was the blood from the dancer’s feet; then I realized it was the blood of the buffalo that had just been sacrificed. The body of that buffalo was still lying on the ground behind the sacrificial altar.
I had seen many vigorous dances before, but never one like this. As the beat of the drum accelerated, the dancer’s energy began to burst from his every pore. Soon my eyes could not assimilate all of his movements. He no longer seemed human. The vibrant energy emitting from his body pushed the crowd back several feet. The drums became louder and faster. The audience cried joyfully, “Hail to the Divine Mother! Hail to the Divine Mother!” Finally, the man collapsed and fell to the ground with a thud. Now the priests began to recite their prayers, and elderly women rushed to the dancer’s aid with their palm-leaf fans. Ten minutes later, he regained consciousness and walked away with no memory of his dance.
Later, my host explained, “Once in a while, the Divine Mother descends from her heavenly plane and enters the body of her chosen child. It happens only once every few years. This phenomenon is totally unpredictable. The person infused with the divine energy loses his sense of self-identity. He walks freely and talks freely. His every word is revealed for it flows from a higher source. Her blessings bear instant fruit. After performing her celestial dance, she ascends and is reabsorbed into her transcendental essence.”
“Once in a while, the Divine Mother descends from her heavenly plane and enters the body of her chosen child.”
Just as with many other mysteries, the question of whether animal sacrifice is a primitive custom grounded in superstition or a valid spiritual practice may be resolved as we climb the next ladder of our evolution. But the dance on the sword heightened my conviction that a human being is endowed with infinite potentials. To a large extent, these potentials are in their dormant state, but through our sincere effort and God’s grace, they can be awakened. Spiritual practices that are meant to purify the way of the soul eliminate obstacles to our spiritual growth, but sometimes divine grace takes its own course, and as it descends, all impurities are washed off. When that happens, those who are so blessed experience their oneness with the divine. Their connection with the divine enables them to become perfect conduits for the energy that supersedes the rules and laws of our known world. In every culture we hear of extraordinary phenomena surrounding such people. When we see these phenomena through our own eyes but don’t know how they happen, we call them miracles. But when we know how, we attribute such happenings to the limitless powers of God.
Source: Touched by Fire by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait