Guwahati: The gateway to Northeast India

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Guwahati is situated between the Brahmaputra’s south bank and the Shillong plateau’s foothills. Hence called the “Gateway to North East India”. My primary travel destination was Meghalaya, but I wished to explore the capitals of the old state of Kamarupa- the ancient cities of Pragjyotishpura and Durjaya. Hence I planned a complete itinerary for a family trip this November. On the 15th night, I flew to Kolkata while travelling with my granny & aunt. My mom had already fled to Kolkata a week before, but leaves are usually limited. I could join them a day and a night before our travel dates. I was so tired late at night that I hit my bed after a quick dinner. The next day all packed, we left for the airport around 9 am, as our flight was scheduled for 12.30 pm. The flight was 1hr 10min from Kolkata.

Guwahati: The gateway to Northeast India
The sunset on the Bharmhaputra River

Well settled at the airport, I started to browse about Guwahati. Interestingly, the name Guwahati derives from the Assamese word “Guva”, a Sanskrit word Guvaka. Guvaka means areca nut and its plant, and “Hati” means rows, which combined comes to rows of areca nut trees. Guwahati has a rich history, too, since it used to be the capital of the Kamarupa kingdom. Also, the Kalika Purana of the 10th-12th century mentions that Kiratas inhabited Kamrup. However, the Ambari excavations trace 1st century CE, in the Shunga-Kushana period and between the 2nd century BCE.

Guwahati: The gateway to Northeast India
Historical Guwahati

Another important site is the Shakti temple of Goddess Kamakhya on Nilachal hill (an essential seat of Tantric and Vajrayana Buddhism). Along with the astrological temple Navagraha, an ancient and unique temple located on Chitrachal Hill. I had quite a few things to explore in a short time. The flight was comfortable & upon reaching, our car was waiting for pickup outside the airport.

Kamakhya Temple

We were booked at CasaMia for two nights on the city’s outskirts. I wanted to visit the state museum today as we had time, but it was closed. And I skipped visiting the zoo. Instead decided to visit Umananda Temple as we had time; I was looking ahead to see the sunset on the Brahmaputra river. 

Guwahati: The gateway to Northeast India
Jetty to cross Bhramhaputra River

Hence we drove towards the Umananda Temple. As per legend, it is believed that Lord Shiva has resided here in the form of Bhayananda. The temple is located on a hill called Bhasmakala on Mayur Island. It is the smallest inhabited riverine island in the world. We had to get a jetty to cross the Brahmaputra and reach the temple. The temple was built in 1694CE by King Gadadhar Singha. But the 1867 earthquake demolished the temple & it had to be reconstructed.

Umananda Temple

According to the Kalika Purana, Lord Siva sprinkled ashes (Bhasma) at this place at the beginning of creation. To impart knowledge to Parvati (his consort). It is believed Kamadeva interrupted Lord Shiva’s meditation on this hillock. And out of rage shiva, Kamadeva was burnt to ashes by the fire. That resulted in the name of the hillock Bhasmacala and the mountain Bhasmakuta. 

Way to the temple

It was almost sunset, and a beautiful pale tint of orange slowly started to spread upon the Brahmaputra river. It was so marvellous that even the sun watched it every day in the reflections of the flowing river! I walked the stairs as I saw the sunset; it was a yearning in the beholder’s soul. I had to climb a few stairs before reaching the temple.

Guwahati: The gateway to Northeast India
Sunset on the river

The Umananda is the presiding deity of the temple. The name ‘Umananda’ comes from two Hindi words, ‘Uma’, Devi Paravati, another name and ‘Ananda’, meaning happiness. The temple’s surroundings are divine; moreover, the understated beauty of the island makes it a heaven for nature lovers. Many stone sculptures and carvings are at the site, dating back to the early medieval period. Achaturbhuja stone female figure still exists here besides rock-cut figures of Ganesha and a cave. 

Guwahati: The gateway to Northeast India
The Mayur island.

When we finished exploring the temple, it was dark & we had to return to the last jetty. The day was spent well, but I was super exhausted. Later I drove off to our hotel, where hot pipping dinner was waiting for us.

How to reach

By Air: 

The nearest airport to Guwahati is Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi, about 20km. You can book a cab or auto or board a bus outside the airport to reach the city. 

By Rail: 

Guwahati Junction railway station is well connected with most of the cities of India. Upon reaching, one can book a cab or take the state buses to contact the respective destination.

 By Road:

State buses, as well as private buses of Guwahati, regularly ply from various cities. One can also hire a cab or taxi and reach the city. You cannot drive from a private vehicle is not allowed.



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