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 and costumes.
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
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
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.
HOW TO GET THERE
Air: Guwahati airport is situated
18-km east of the centre, and is served by taxis and airport
buses, including those run by Indian airlines.
Rail: 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
Road: 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
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
WHERE TO STAY
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 store.
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