Nilachala Kamakhya

Sebaits of the Kamakhya Temples’ Complex

Photo courtesy of Kulasundari Devi (© 2012)

Photo courtesy of Kulasundari Devi (© 2012)

The Kamakhya Temples’ Complex located on the sacred Nilachala Hills are regarded as one of the most vibrant Shakti Peetha of India. Perhaps the most important aspect of their collective history and culture is the tradition of the Sebaits (servitors or servants of the Temples’ Complex), who are closely involved with worship, ritual, festivals, tradition, and culture, and who are an inseparable part of the religious and socio-cultural tradition of the Kamakhya Temples’ Complex.

There is clear historical evidence that the ruling dynasties of erstwhile Kamarupa, who worshiped and patronized the Peethas / Temples of Kamakhya Temples’ Complex, brought select, skilled specialists from various parts of India to serve the temples and take part in the elaborate religious duties. All the Sebaits offer their sincere and dedicated services towards the proper management of the entire religious tradition (regular and special worship, festivals, and other duties) as well as other affairs related to the management of the temples, and have done so since their ancestors were brought to serve in this capacity.

The system of distribution of duties, services, and responsibilities of the Sebaits is called Pali or Pala, which rotates within the families of a particular group of Sebaits based on their duties and responsibilities. According to the system, a particular family of a particular group of Sebaits offers their services for a particular day or duration, and then vacates in favour of another family of the same group of Sebaits. This rotation system has been documented as per the Hindu calendar and the same is being followed since time immemorial.

The religious daily schedule of rituals and other necessary duties of the Kamakhya Temples’ Complex is unique, starts very early in the morning, and ends in the very late evening. This unique religious culture has evolved out of the traditional scholarship and practice of the Sebaits, and the process continues today. The essence of the system and tradition is its practical approach, and the rhythmic style of the puja and rituals, guided by the Kulacara Tantra Marga of Kamakhya.

To be eligible as a Sebait to participate in the ritual worship of the Kamakhya Temples’ Complex, the male member(s) of a family of the Sebait groups has to go through the process of Diksha (initiation) under the Guru traditionally associated with their family. The Guru-Shishya parampara (lineage tradition) is an inseparable part of the system and tradition of the Kamakhya Temples’ Complex. Without Diksha (initiation), some groups of Sebaits are not allowed to offer religious and ritual services in any worship in any temple in the entire complex. Though the initiation is the primary criteria for qualification of a Sebait to become a part of ritual system and traditions, there are some Sebait groups who do not necessarily have to be initiated to offer their services.

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