Destination India: See India’s tantric side in Assam

June sees the arrival of the monsoon across India, marking the off-season for tourism but the on-season for some of India’s most fascinating festivals. Far from the mainstream tourist trail in the northeast of the country, Assam is a land of tea plantations and jungles, home to some of the last tigers and one-horned Indian rhinos on earth – but in June, all eyes are on the Assamese capital Guwahati for the Ambubachi Mela festival.

Darjeeling Tea Hills

Guwahati’s Kamakhya Temple marks the spot where the genitals of the Tantric goddess Sati fell after her body was consumed by flames, and the goddess is honoured by sacrifices throughout the year. However, celebrations go into overdrive during the Ambubachi Mela, when the temple is thronged by thousands of devout sadhus (ascetic holy men) who perform Tantric rituals to celebrate the menstrual cycle of the goddess of fertility. On a good year, the mela attracts over a million pilgrims, offering a fascinating insight into the Tantric cult that dominated eastern India before the rise of mainstream Hinduism.

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