Once known as "Pragiyotishpura" or Light of the East,
the most striking feature of Guwahati (also spelt as Gauhati), is
the Brahmaputra, whose swollen sandy channel is so wide that the
far shore is often rendered invisible. Of its many mysterious temples,
'Kamakhya' and 'Navagraha' both occupy commanding positions on hilltops
while 'Umananda' sits on a small island in the middle of the Brahmaputra.
A Tea City
Guwahati's main business, tea is booming with the new Assam tea
auction centre holding auctions that previously took place as far
away as Calcutta and London. The large oil refinery at Noonmati,
on the northern outskirts, symbolizes Guwahati's recent growth and
prosperity. The busy central market area contrasts sharply with
the almost rural riverside feel northeast of the centre, and the
surrounding hills rising beyond the coconut palms give Guwahati
a fairly appealing atmosphere.
Although strictly speaking Guwahati is split in two by the Brahmaputra
- only crossed by the Saraighat Bridge and the ferries - "Guwahati"
is taken to refer to the main town south of the river, while north
Guwahati is virtually a separate town. The main roads out of town
are the Assam trunk road, to upper Assam and the Guwahati - Shillong
road to Meghalaya.
Assam State Museum
Archaeological and ethnographic displays are one of the major attractions
in Assam's state museum, situated near the centre of city. The collection
includes stone and copper plate inscriptions dating from the 5th
century, a 12th century sculpture of 'Surya', terracotta pieces
The Shiva temple of Umananda stands on an island bluff in the middle
of the Brahmaputra. Its location, at the top of a flight of steep
steps up from the beach,
is more dramatic than the temple itself. Ferries and motor launches
leave from Umananda Ghat, on the shore between the State Bank of
India and the Ashok Hotel.
On the commanding Nilachal hill, overlooking the river 8-km west
of the centre, the important Kali temple of Kamakhya, with its beehive-shaped
'Shikhara', is a fine example of the distinctive Assamese style
of architecture. As one of the 'Shaktipiths', it marks the place
where Sati's 'Yoni' (vulva) landed when her body fell to earth in
51 pieces, and is one of the three most important tantric temples
in India. A short walk up the hill brings one to a smaller and emptier
temple with great views of Guwahati and the Brahmaputra.
East of the town centre, atop another hill, is the atmospheric Navagraha
temple popularly known as the "Temple of the Nine Planets",
an ancient seat of astrology and astronomy - surrounded by large
trees that shelter tribes of monkeys. Housed in a single red dome,
again in the beehive style, the central lingam is encircled by a
further nine representing the planets.
Srimanta Sankaradeva Kalashetra
Further from the centre of the town, the Srimanta Sankaradeva Kalakshetra,
on Shillong road in the Panjabari district, was opened in late 1998
in order to celebrate the cultural identity of the Assamese by promoting
dance, drama, music and art. Sankaradeva was a saint, poet, scholar,
social reformer and preacher largely responsible for the 15th century
Assamese renaissance. It houses a museum, art gallery, open-air
theatre and traditional Vaishnavite temple.
Janardan Temple, built in the style of Hindu and Buddhist architecture,
at Shukaleswar hillock near Shukaleswar Ghat of Brahmaputra, the
heart of town, is worth seeing. It was renovated anew in 17th century.
Assam State Zoo
Guwahati's leafy and well-managed zoo and botanical gardens are
5-km east of the centre. Animals include the one-horned rhino, the
state symbol of Assam, as well as tigers and leopards.
A little further is the Railway Township of Pandu, named after the
King Pandu. Over here is situated the temple of Pandunath on the
hillock. While in forest exile, Pandavas came and lived here in
the guise of Ganesha. The images of Lord Ganesha and 'Pancha Pandava'
brothers are present in the temple besides other images. The image
of Nrisingha (also spelt as 'Nrusimha') incarnation maintains a
difference from others. Further west, the sunset at Brahmaputra
is simply touching.
Besides a picturesque waterfall 11-km southeast of Guwahati, two
small red-domed temples at Basistha (also spelt as Vashistha), in
Assamese beehive style, commemorate Vashistha Muni, the author of
the Ramayana. Nestling within an impressive grove of trees, with
rock carvings in the stream to add to the air of antiquity.
The small town of Hajo, 32-km northwest of Guwahati, has a special
place in Assamese culture, having been sacred even before the Ahom
arrived as Buddhists, let alone after their conversion to Hinduism.
Holy to Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims, it attracts pilgrims from
all faiths, in apparent harmony. A long palm tree-lined stone staircase
climbs a hill to the small Hindu temple of Hayagriba Madhab where,
locals claim Lord Buddha gained Nirvana. Praying at the mosque of
Pao Mecca situated nearby grants Muslims a quarter (Pao) of the
spiritual benefit of Mecca.
Hajo's nearby village of Sualkuchi is known for the production of
golden Muga silk, that involves virtually every household and for
which Assam is famous.
Some 40-km north of Guwahati, Madan Kamdev was the site of a tantric
temple of 'Shakti' (Durga) dating back to the Pallava dynasty (11th
and 12th centuries). The temple, mentioned in the tantric scriptures
known as the "Yogini Tantra", was evidently destroyed,
though the cause is unknown. Much of the site remains unexcavated,
but a museum preserves many finds including figures in various erotic
postures, indeed some archeologists claim only Khajuraho rivals
the expressiveness of its erotica.
Guwahati airport is situated 18-km east of the centre, and is served
by taxis and airport buses, including those run by Indian airlines.
The railway station is in the centre of town with the state bus
stand right behind and operates a very useful left luggage service.
The back of the railway station leads into the Paltan Bazaar area,
from which most of the private bus companies operate.
Guwahati is the connector city of NH - 31, 37 and 40 with the other
cities of India by road. Buses ply from Guwahati around the cities
of Northeast India by National Highways. State Transport Express
and Super Express buses of Assam, Meghalaya , Arunachal , Nagaland
, and North Bengal ply from Guwahati.
Guwahati has an efficient and extensive system of minibuses too.
Cycle rickshaws are easy to find around the centre of the town.
The main terminal for river ferries is available at Sukreswar Ghat.
Hotels & Accomodation
Guwahati has a good selection of places to stay. In addition to
the budget options there are luxury hotels also available in the
city such as ITDC's Brahmaputra Ashok.
Guwahati is the commercial capital of the North East. Most of the
bazaars deal simply in the provisions; silk and other Assamese crafts
are sold at several good shops on GNB road. The places to shop for
handicraft and handloom items include the State Government's department
Pragjyotika at Ambari as well as many privately owned shops in
Pan Bazaar and Fancy bazaar, two of the main commercial markets,
that sell a range of items - from Mugs silk to bell metal, cane
work to woolen shawls and elegant Naga and Manipuri Jackets.
Temperature: Summer Max. 35°C - 22°C
Winter Max. 26°C - 10°C
Rainfall: 182 cms. (May - September)
Clothing: Cottons - Summer & Wollens - Winter
STD Code: 0361
Madan Kamdev: 40-km
Tezpur : 181-km
General Information & Accomdation info on Guwahati city of Assam - India