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The Antiquity of the Festival “Āmati”


Menstruation is a natural biological process that women undergo during a major period of their lives. In many a sense, menstruation due to its relationship with fertility and motherhood, is, therefore, closely associated with womanhood, and it indicates how women as individuals are different from men on so many levels.

Menstruation has always played an important role in how various societies and cultures across the world have perceived women in society as a whole. Āmati is a festival observed at Kamakhya Temple located at Guwahati, Assam. Amati festival is related to the menstruation of goddess Mother Earth that occurs annually in the month of June, i.e., when the sun enters in the Ardra nakshatra astrologically. In this paper, let us discuss the antiquity of the Festival Amati observed at Kamakhya, Assam.

To know the antiquity of the festival Amati or Ambubachi, we have searched for some information. The information may be listed below:

i) The Antiquity of the concept of Mother Goddess

ii) The antiquity of understanding the importance of menstruation

iii) Taboos and sacredness of menstruation

iv) The first mention of menstruation of Mother Earth

After getting the above mentioned information, we may come to a conclusion that the menstruation of the Mother Goddess and its importance was known to people and menstruation was considered to be sacred. This information may give us the tentative time about antiquity of Amati or Ambubachi and also it lets us know the place where menstruation of the Mother Goddess was believed to take place. After analyzing all the information, we may say that the Amati or Ambubachi has been observed long before the composition of the Rig Veda. Now let us search for the said information one by one.

i) Concept of Mother Earth

We all know that menstruation is a natural biological process that happens to a girl after attaining a certain age that is usually known as “puberty”. The attaining of puberty simply means that the girl now becomes capable of being a mother. In the case of human beings, it is quite natural all over the world. Contrary to menstruation, when a mother or girl enters menopause, it means she has lost her capability to become a mother further. But the question is: The earth is not like human beings and therefore no question arises of menstruation in the case of the earth, still people across different countries believe the earth as woman, why? The earliest written usage is in Mycenaean Greek: Ma-ka (transliterated as ma-ga), “Mother Gaia”, written in Linear B syllabic script (13th or 12th century BC).

Greek myth

In Greek mythology, Persephone, daughter of Demeter (goddess of the harvest), was abducted by Hades (god of the dead), and taken to the underworld as his queen. Demeter was so distraught that no crops would grow and the “entire human race [would] have perished of cruel, biting hunger if Zeus had not been concerned” (Larousse 152). Demeter would take the place of her grandmother, Gaia, and her mother, Rhea, as goddess of the earth in a time when humans and gods thought the activities of the heavens more sacred than those of earth. ( Leeming, Creation Myths of the World: An Encyclopedia)

Ancient Rome

Roman Epicurean poet Lucretius opens his didactic poem De natura by addressing Venus as a veritable mother of nature. Lucretius uses Venus as “a personified symbol for the generative aspect of nature”.

Basque mythology

Amalur (sometimes Ama Lur or Ama Lurra) was the goddess of the earth in the religion of the ancient Basque people. She was the mother of Ekhi, the sun, and Ilazki, the moon. Her name means “Mother Earth” or “Mother Land”; the 1968 Basque documentary Ama lur was a celebration of the Basque countryside.

In South-East Asia

In the Mainland Southeast Asian countries of Cambodia, Laos and Thailand, earth (terra firma) is personified as Phra Mae Thorani, but her role in Buddhist mythology differs considerably from that of Mother Nature. In the Malay Archipelago, that role is filled by Dewi Sri, The Rice-mother in the East Indies.

In India

“Great is our Mother Earth” (Rig veda 1.168.33) was the exclamation of the Vedic poets. In Atharva Veda, with some developed ideas mother earth was mentioned (12.1.1-18). In Aiteriya Brahmana (8.5), the earth is addressed with Shri. In pauranic Literatures, the earth is regarded as Shakti.

From the above mentioned reference it can be easily surmised that the concept of other Mother Goddess or Earth is an ancient concept and the earth is always considered as female and it is world-wide since the remote past. This Mother Earth concept was also prevalent in India since Vedic time.

ii) Understanding the importance of menstruation

If the mother concept existed, menstruation is a natural biological concept, so the menstruation of Mother Earth will definitely come into existence. To understand the importance of menstruation since time immemorial, let us read the metaformic theory.

Metaformic theory states that modern-day material culture is rooted in ancient menstruation rituals, called “metaforms”. Metaforms are rituals, rites, myths, ideas, or stories created to contain emerging knowledge relating to menstruation. Grahn outlined the metaformic theory in her book Blood, Bread, and Roses: How Menstruation Created the World. She continues to write and edit an online journal, Metaformia: A Journal of Menstruation and Culture, which includes many other authors’ works on metaformic theory and related menstrual topics. Metaformic theory has been linked to the creation of a “post-queer” theory.

Menstruation far predates languages. Our lives as the earliest evolving humans centered around survival, reproduction and biological functions: Birth, death, sex, hunting. These elements were central in shaping language, not the other way around. And that’s where anthropologists do their research into menstrual taboo: At the intersections of evolution, behavior, and biology.

iii) Taboos and sacredness of menstruation

Menstrual taboos are nearly universal, there are exceptions, and taboos themselves are variable. Certain societies operate with positive menstrual associations and euphemisms. Some modern-day hunter-gatherer societies, for example, hold an understanding of menstruation as being powerful, healing, protective and sacred. These groups are also more likely to have a degree of gender egalitarianism. In tantraism, menstruation is considered sacred.

Therefore we can say that menstruation played an important role since time immemorial in shaping the culture. So, the time of considering the earth to be mother may simultaneously prevail in the society with the menstruation occurring or may be later development. But we may be sure that people from the distant past had the concept that Mother Earth must have a menstruation period. In Vedic period, girls were allowed to marry per her choice after attaining puberty. It means that during Vedic period it was clear that menstruation was the condition that indicated the capability of women to bear offspring.

So, from the above discussion, we are now clear that The Mother Earth concept is very old and menstruation predates languages. Therefore, the importance of the menstruation period of Mother Earth has to be searched.

The Nilachal Hill is located in Guwahati, Assam. The mighty river Brahmaputra flows nearby. The “Yonipeeth” naturally formed is located in the middle hill of Nilachala. Naturally a water fountain is also at this Yonipeeth. Annually, in the month of June each year, Amati has been observed at this Peetha believing that the water of the fountain becomes red like menstruation. As menstruation is the condition for a woman to be capable of giving birth to offspring, similarly menstruation of Mother Earth will help us to sustain the lives on the Earth.

Therefore we search, where we may have the mention of the menstruation of mother earth. For this, we have to interpret the Rik found in RIG VEDA. What 5.47.3 of Rig Veda is:

उ॒क्षा स॑मु॒द्रो अ॑रु॒षः सु॑प॒र्णः पूर्व॑स्य॒ योनिं॑ पि॒तुरा वि॑वेश । मध्ये॑ दि॒वो निहि॑त॒: पृश्नि॒रश्मा॒ वि च॑क्रमे॒ रज॑सस्पा॒त्यन्तौ॑ ॥

उक्षा समुद्रो अरुषः सुपर्णः पूर्वस्य योनिं पितुरा विवेश । मध्ये दिवो निहितः पृश्निरश्मा वि चक्रमे रजसस्पात्यन्तौ ॥

Ukşā samudra arusah̗ suparn̗ah̗ pūvasya yonim pituh̗ ā vives̔a

Madhye divah̗ nihi̔tah̗ pr̗s̔nih̗ as̔mā vi cakrame rajasah̗ pāti antau

(As per R̗Gveda Sm̔Hitā by H.H.Wilson and versya of Sayanacharya,)

Here, Multi-layer Annotation of the Ṛgveda

[Rigveda 5.47.3 English analysis of grammar] as per the Book “RIG VEDA” by H. H. Wilson | 1866 | ISBN-10: 8171101380 | ISBN-13: 9788171101382]

ukṣā < ukṣan

[noun], nominative, singular, masculine

“bull; ukṣan [word].”

samudro < samudraḥ < samudra

[noun], nominative, singular, masculine

“ocean; Samudra; sea; samudra [word]; four.”

aruṣaḥ < aruṣa

[noun], nominative, singular, masculine

“red; red.”

suparṇaḥ < suparṇa

[noun], nominative, singular, masculine

“Garuda; Suparṇa; bird of prey; Suparṇa; suparṇa; Suparṇa; eagle.”

pūrvasya < pūrva

[noun], genitive, singular, masculine

“aforesaid (a); antecedent; previous (a); first; eastern; former (a); pūrva [word]; age-old; anterior; bygone; fore (a); predictive; firstborn; easterly; instrumental.”

yonim < yoni

[noun], accusative, singular, feminine

“vagina; vulva; uterus; beginning; origin; reincarnation; birthplace; family; production; cause; race; grain; raw material; birth; kind; caste; kinship; bed.”

pitur < pituḥ < pitṛ

[noun], genitive, singular, masculine

“father; Pitṛ; ancestor; parent; paternal ancestor; pitṛ [word]; forefather.”



“towards; ākāra; until; ā; since; according to; ā [suffix].”

viveśa < viś

[verb], singular, Perfect indicative

“enter; penetrate; settle; settle.”

madhye < madhya

[noun], locative, singular, neuter

“midst; center; cavity; inside; middle; center; waist; group; pulp; torso; time interval; area; series; madhya [word]; Madhya; noon; middle; middle age; span; belly.”

divo < divaḥ < div

[noun], genitive, singular, masculine

“sky; Svarga; day; div [word]; heaven and earth; day; dawn.”

nihitaḥ < nidhā < √dhā

[verb noun], nominative, singular

“put; fill into; stow; insert; ignite; insert; add; put on; establish; keep down.”

pṛśnir < pṛśniḥ < pṛśni

[noun], nominative, singular, masculine

“varicolored; dappled.”

aśmā < aśman

[noun], nominative, singular, masculine

“stone; aśmarī; rock; aśman [word]; adri; mineral; piṇḍatālaka; mountain.”



“apart; away; away.”

cakrame < kram

[verb], singular, Perfect indicative

“kram; step; go; continue; proceed; traverse; heat.”

rajasas < rajasaḥ < rajas

[noun], genitive, singular, neuter

“powder; menorrhea; dust; Rajas; atmosphere; rajas; pollen; passion; rajas [word]; sindūra; rust; tin; impurity; dark; sky.”

pāty < pāti < pā

[verb], singular, Present indicative

“protect; govern.”

antau < anta

[noun], accusative, dual, masculine

“end; last syllable; end; end; boundary; inside; border; death; anta [word]; edge; end; shore; limit; region; outskirt; destruction; boundary; limit; anta; termination; corner; conclusion; hem; end; ant; edge.”

Here we take the same meaning except one i.e. suparṇaḥ. In Assamese dictionary “HEMKOS” by Hemchandra Barua, the meaning of suparṇaḥ is “rays of the Sun”. Besides we take the synonymous meaning of other words given in the above chart to reinterpret the Rik, and we have the meaning of the above mentioned Rik as follows:

Being washed by Laouhit and being illuminated by the ray of the sun, the forefather inhabited around the Yoni in the east since then. In the midst of the rocky Yoni, the light (heavenly) was there. The cyclic menstruation of this Yoni prevents us from destruction.

ukṣā means wash or clean (Sanskrit- English dictionary by by Monier Williams, Monier, Sir (Digital Library Of India item 2015.31959), samudro aruṣa means “red sea” or Laouhit or Lohit sindhu. In ancient stone inscriptions, or copper plate inscriptions, Lohit Sindhu is used in Assam. Here pṛśni means the earth.


From the meaning of the Rik (5.47.3) of the RIG VEDA, it is clear that the description of the Rik tallys with the Yonipeeth of Kamakhya on Nilachal Hill in Guwahati. The river Lohit, today popular as Brahmaputra flows by the Nilachala Hill. It means the river goes on washing the Nilachala Hill where the Yonipeeth is located. It is always shined by the Sun. The Yonipeeth is rocky and heaven or light is here. The heavenly power of Yoni still can be read in Mahasthangarh Brahmi Stone Inscription according to which Kamdeva got its form back after having the water of the Sati i.e. the Yonipeetha. The cyclic menstruation occurred annually popularly known as Amati is similar to that of the description found in the said Rik. Therefore, it can easily be surmised that the composer of the Rig Veda knew about the Kamakhya Yonipeeth located on Nilachal Hill and also knew about the annual menstruation that is well-known as Amati. Again, in tantric practice the menstruation is considered to be sacred, and the Amati is also a festival of reverence. Therefore, the antiquity of Amati can be traced back long before the composition of the RIG VEDA. In the book “Aspect of historical geography of Pragjyotisa-Kamrupa” (p-11) written by historian Ichhimuddin Sarkar, it states “long before the advent of the RigVedic Aryans in the Indian Sub-continent the areas (Kamrup) under study were humming with busy life and human activities, The aspirants and cultural attainment of the people who lived there have been nicely reflected in various objects from different cultural levels of a number of sites.”


  1. The Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the earth by Monica Sjoo, Barbara Mor, Harper San Francisco ( A Division of Harper Collins Publisher)
  2. Message of the Vedas by Dr. B.B. Paliwal, Diamond Books
  3. Evolution of Mother worship in India by Prof. Sashi Bhusan Dasgupta, Advaita Ashrama
  4. Goddesses in Ancient India by P.K. Agarwala, Abhinav Publication
  1. Knight C. Blood relations: Menstruation and the origins of culture. Yale University Press; 1995 May 24.
  2. Knight C, Lewis J. Towards a Theory of Everything. Human Origins: Contributions from Social Anthropology. 2016 Dec 30;30:84.
  3. Lewis J. Ekila: blood, bodies, and egalitarian societies. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. 2008 Jun 1; 14(2):297–315.
  4. Rig Veda by H.H. Wilson
  5. Hemkosh by Hemchandra Barua
  6. A Sanskrit English Dictionary by Monier Williams, Monier, Sir (Digital Library Of India item 2015.31959)
  7. Aspect of Historical Geography of Pragjyotisa- Kamrupa by Ichhimuddin Sarkar. Pilgims Publishing
  8. “Rig Veda purvare pora asil Amatir dharana” an article in Assamese language by Ashok Sarma published on 22nd June 2023 in Assamese daily newspaper “Asomiya Pratidin”.
  9. Women of India: their status since the Vedic times by Arun R. Kumbhare

(Note: The research has been following a field studies and studying other books on the same subject. During the journey of the research, a noted writer, researcher, documentary film-maker Mr. Ashok Sarma who has done extensive research on the civilization, culture, language and script of ancient Kamrup was with me to carry out the whole research. Without his help, cooperation, and guidance, this research would have not been completed. Therefore, I convey my regards to him).

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