Saturday, March 28, 2009

ASSAM - Gateway to the North East

The Enigma of ASSAM is mired with mysticism, tantrik cults, teotonic disturbances, Tea Estates, turbulent Brahmaputra, wild life sanctuaries, silk weaving, bamboo crafts, and Bodo agitation.

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The etymology of Assam is subject to many theories and conjectures. The reliable version is that of Asama in the sense of being Peerless or Unrivalled. The Ahoms called themselves Tai, which meant glorious in Chinese or Land of the free. There seems to be a Siamese connection in the form of migration. We can reasonably assume that Ahoms were migrants from Thailand. Assam was also known during the Mahabharat times as Pragyjyothisa in Mahabharat and Kamrupa in the past.


Kamakhya Temple :

The fabled temple visit is a must if one visits Gauhati, otherwise one may be forced to return to the place. During my professional career I had been to Gauhati at least 4 times but every time I postponed the visit. At last on a holiday, that too reluctantly I visited the Shakti temple in all its glory. The mystical power is so true, that I tried to photograph a pregnant sculpture inside the temple that both the times, the camera literally refused to capture the image, the third time I was restricted by the guard who started trailing me. I aborted and surrendered to the goddess of Shakti.

Kamakiya temple is located on the Nilachal hillock which is 8 kms away from Gauhati town. The earlier temple was seems to have been destroyed by Kala Pahar, an Afghani general in 1553 AD. The present temple was built in 1565 by Chilarai of the Koch Dynasty. The temple consists of 3 chambers. During the month of May-June menstruation of Goddess Kamakhya is celeberated. The water in the shrine turns red with iron oxide resembling menstrual flow. During the MC the temple remain closed for 3 days. The festivity is known as Ambubachi. The Devi Kunda or the interior of the temple is fabled to have excess water level owing to the breach of the vaginal pulpit. Kamakhya is one of the 51 pithas.

There is a separate enclosure wherein an alter for sacrifice of animals is undertaken. This enclosure was used initially by the Khasi tribe later it gathered an aura around the sacrifice and myths were associated with the poweress of the Shakti.

Myths & Beliefs of Kamakhya :

The aura of the temple and it fables reaches out far and wide among Hindus. It is believed that Men become timid in front the goddess Devi’s curse can might deprive men of the lineage and bless a barren women to conceive.

Madan Kamdev :

This place is touted to be the Khajuraho of the North East, which is in total ruins. Many of the statues are smuggled and some are in the museums all over the world. Indian Museum @ Kolkatta houses some of the finest specimens salvaged too. There is no record of the genesis of these wonderful architecture, which was originally complex of 24 temples. It is approximately dated towards the reign of Pal Dynasty in 10-12th century AD.

These temples were originally built on the banks of the abundant river of Brahmaputra. The architecture of the temple is in Nagara style. Erotic sculptures were used as ornamentation to the temple fa├žade. A six headed Bhairav, 4 armed Shiva and miscellaneous images are found in the temple.

The main diety of the temple Madan Rati is worshipped even today on full moon day. How the temple became a ruin and the history of the temple is a matter of conjecture and hypothesis. My hypothesis is that massive earth quake and flooding had destroyed the Madana Kama complex of temples. The other possibility is that Kala Pahar destroyed this temple completely. After that the people thought the place bought bad luck to the kings and the subject alike and vacated the land. Nobody wanted to be associated with cursed place and therefore history was deliberately destroyed. The name Kamrup seems to have originated from Madan Kamadev. Located 35 kms away from Gauhati.

Asvakranta Temples :

This temple is located in North Gauhati, which can be crossed over by motor boat or ferry over the Brahmaputra river. The scenic beauty of the river is spoilt by the sand mining on the banks of the river. Lord Krishna slaughtered the demon Narakasura here. The footprint of the Lord is situated on the rocky front. Devotees visit this temple to seek salvation for the departed soul by offering Pind. There are two more temples historical Kurmajanardan and Anantasayi.

Balaji Mandir :
Balaji Mandir is just 10 years old temple which is built with modern architecture. The priests are not available after 11 am upto 4 pm, anyways temple is open, and can have nice dharsan..

Nabagraha Temple : This temple is dedicated to the nine planets In olden times, it was said to have been a great centre of study of astronomy and astrology. This is also one of the reasons why Guwahati is referred to as Pragjyotishpur or the city of eastern Astrology. Located 3 km from Rly sation.

Umananda Temple :
The great Shiva temple situated on the Peacock island in the middle of the Brahmaputra in Guwahati attracts devotees from all over the country during Shiva Ratri. One can visit the temple by crossing the river by country boat plying from Kachari ghat. On the north bank of the Brahmaputra, opposite Guwahati, where the third Pandava Arjun is believed to have watered his horse while undertaking journey during Ashwamedh Yajna.

Nepali Temple : This temple is located near Pan Bazaar @ the junction where most of the hotel accommodations are located.


Assam State Museum is 10 minutes walk from the Railway Station.
Opening hours: 10:00 - 17:00 hrs. during Summer 10:00 - 16:30 hrs. during Winter (Monday closed).

Srimanta Sankardeva Kalakshetra

The Srimanta Sankardeva kalakshetra has been set up as a grand exposition of the life and culture of the people of Assam. Named after the greatest Vaishnava saint and the greatest integrator of the Assamese society Srimanta Sankardeva, the Kalakshetra is a multi-Arts complex.

Majuli :

It is the worlds largest river Island which originally had spread of nearly 3 lakh acres now it has dwindled 886 sq kms. The erosion of the river Brahmaputra has taken its toll. There are a number of Vaishnav monasteries. Plenty of migratory birds throng this place. There are tribals living in this isle and it is considered to be a living heritage of colourful costumes and festivity. It is located nearby Jorhat, ( 65 kms ) upper Assam, which has an airport.

Manas National Park

The only Tiger Project in Assam, Manas is one of India's most magnificent National Parks. It is situated on the bank of the river Manas at the foothills of the Himalayas. It is a well known World heritage site with it's unique combination of scenic beauty and rare wealth of wildlife.

Covering an area of 519.77 Sq. Kms, it has a core area of 360 Kms and is situated in Barpeta District. Manas is one of the nine tiger reserve sanctuaries in India. Tigers however are not the only wildlife to be found here. Manas has its own peculiar faunal features, the rarest species of which are Hispid Hare, Pigmy Hog, Golden Langur, Indian Rhinoceros, Asiatic Buffalo etc. Other commonly seen animals are Elephant, Leopard, Clouded Leopard, Himalayan Bear, Wild Boar, Samber, Swamp Deer, Hog Deer etc. Kaziranga National Park

The first and the oldest National Park in Assam situated in Golaghat District, is a World Heritage site. Spread over an area of 430 sq. kms., Kaziranga National Park is the natural home of the one-horned Indian rhinoceros.

Declared a National Park in 1974 the landscape of Kaziranga is of sheer forest, tall elephant grass, rugged reeds, marshes and shallow pools.

The one horned Rhinoceros, Elephant, Indian bison, Swamp Deer, Samber, Hog Deer, Sloth Bear, Tiger, Leopard cat, Jungle cat, Hog badger, Capped langur, Hollock gibbon, Jackal, Goose, Hornbills, Ibis, Cormorants, Egret, Heron fishing eagle etc. all form a part of the very complex ecological balance of the park.
During Winter a large number of migratory birds are also seen here.
The Park can be visited by Jeep, Car or on Elephant back.

Kaziranga is 217 kms from Guwahati and 96 kms from Jorhat by road.The nearest airport is Rowriah(Jorhat). Tourists can either fly to Jorhat or can go by surface to Kaziranga from Guwahati.
The nearest railhead is Furkating.

ACK : Tourism info additions courtsey ASSAM NIC


Manuj said...

Kaziranga is a wonderful sanctuary. The safari is a bit fearsome particularly for me but exciting too.

Arti said...

Very informative, would love to explore Assam some day!

Deguide said...

@ Manuj thanks for the share of your experience in Kaziranga rhino park.

@ Arti do visit ASSAM and its surroundings during winter.


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