During this current situation, life is getting dull and monotonous. Working from home has got us straining our eyes from dusk to dawn while sitting in front of our laptops and surfing on our smartphones. We all are eager to take our luggage and fly off to a new city, a new state to relax our minds and soul. Having a dilemma about where to go? Well then, we have got you covered! Add a new item to your bucket list because we are going to take you to the Gateway of Northeast India – Guwahati!
The city of Guwahati is home to one of the most diverse wildlife, scenic beauty and rich history. It is the largest city in Assam as well as the largest metropolis in northeast India. It is a busy, yet colorful city with a vast range of picturesque sceneries. Guwahati has always been on the bucket list of many international as well as domestic tourists for a long time. Situated along the southern banks of river Brahmaputra, it hosts an in-bank port which forms essential transport for goods and services along the North East India.
The city roughly comprises of a quaint North side and a bustling South which holds residential and commercial areas with the state secretariat in Dispur, a suburban locality and business district.
According to the legend from Mahabharat, Guwahati’s historical name was Pragjyotishpur which was established by Kamdev, the Indian god of love and beauty. Later, it was ruled by Narakasur who held 16,100 women in his captivity. Hence, Lord Krishna along with his wife Satyabhama raided Pragjyotishpur and freed the women from Naraksur’s captivity and reinstated the rule to Mauravi, the daughter of Mur who was a senapati in Narakasur’s army. Mauravi then married Ghatotkach, the son of Pandav Bheemsen. The myth behind Guwahati has fascinated scholars for quite some time.
The history of this city is truly beautiful. The city’s medieval era can be traced back to the kings of Kamprup Janapad. King Prithu from them, brutally defeated Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khilji, who was the Sultan of Delhi at that time. Notable among the Varman dynasty was King Bhaskarvarman.
Later, from the 13th century onwards, the land was ruled by Ahom kings. They were successful to defeat the Mughals not once or twice but seventeen different times, mainly in the battles of Saraighat and Itakhuli.
From the ancient era, the entire area of Guwahati has been covered by forests and greenery. It comes with no surprise that this region is also home to diverse flora and fauna. We can find wildlife such as Asian elephants, pythons, tigers, rhinoceros, primate species and endangered birds in National Parks and wildlife sanctuaries like the Kaziranga National Park, Manas National Park, Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary and Guwahati zoo.
The Kaziranga National Park hosts two-thirds of the world’s great one-horned rhinoceroses and hence is a World Heritage Site. The park is also listed officially as a tiger reserve and is home to one of the world’s largest population of tigers. Want to get that adrenaline rushing? The thrilling Elephant Safari is an exciting way to explore the wildlife in Kaziranga. You can also take a jeep to cover all the four zones of the park. The sanctuary also offers a perfect place for sighting different species of birds such as black-nested stork, the lesser white-fronted goose and the ferruginous duck to name a few. The Kakochang Waterfall should not be missed while visiting the national park. It is said that the sound of the clear sparkling water flowing down from the waterfall heals the mind and soul. Other famous attractions that can be visited near the waterfall are the ruins of Numaligarh and the ruins of Deopahar. For all the tea lovers out there, Tocklai Tea Research Institute is 116 km away from Kaziranga. You can take a leisurely tour of the vast lands of tea plantations which will give you a soothing experience and a taste of the real essence of Assam.
The Manas National Park is a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site, a Project Tiger Reserve, an Elephant Reserve and a Biosphere Reserve in Assam. This park is famous for the rare golden langur, the red panda and the wild water buffalo. The park is also known for its rich biodiversity, spectacular landscapes and sceneries which includes forested hills and tropical evergreen forests. River rafting on the waters in Manas National Park is a must for the adventure enthusiasts out there! The thrilling 35 km ride will take you through the wild deciduous forests of the park. The best way to enjoy the park is to take a jeep ride or an elephant safari and enjoy the open air and witness tigers, leopards from a safe distance.
Due to its rich history, the temple culture in and around the city is quite striking, where most of the temples were built during the Ahom rule.
It is considered a taboo to talk about woman’s menstruation in most parts of the world. But the Kamakhya Mandir in Guwahati celebrates this very natural process. Instead of a statue of any goddess, the human vagina, as a symbol of fertility and prosperity, is worshiped here. Every year Ambubatchi Mela is held here for four days representing the four days of woman’s menstrual cycle.
There’s Umananda Temple as well, dedicated to Lord Shiva on Peacock Island in river Brahmaputra. Legend says that Lord Shiva in his penance was disturbed by Kamdev here on the island. Shiva reduced him to ashes here with just one look. So, the island is traditionally called Bhasmachal.
There are a few other noteworthy temples like Doul Govind Mandir, Ugratara Mandir, Ashwaklanta Mandir, Lankeshwar Mandir and the most well-known among them is the Vasishtha Mandir which is a Shiva temple built inside the ashram of great sage Vasishtha by King Rajeshwar Singha.
Are you a shopping freak? Well, the same old city area of Guwahati is famous for marketplaces or ‘bazaars’ to showcase local craftsman’s talent, reflect their culture and of course, their amazing street food. Bamboo products and silk garments are very popular in Guwahati, so grab one as a souvenir to take back home!
Paltan Bazaar is full of hotels, restaurants, shopping complexes and street shops. Due to the Guwahati Railway Station and bus terminal, it is said that the Paltan bazaar never sleeps. Furniture products, home décor items and bamboo items are some things that are widely sold in this bazaar, including North eastern tribal garments made up of clay and wood, which reflect the simplicity and the creativeness in their tradition. Talking about clay and a local craftsman’s talent, toys made of clay are one of the most popular items sold in this market. The aroma of the Assamese tea will drag you to the various tea shops and is spread all over the bazaar so make sure you grab a cup while you’re there! The Indian Tea House is a popular tea shop for this experience. All that shopping will definitely whet your appetite. Grab a snack at the bazaar with a wide variety of cuisines from Assam to Tibet.
Fancy Bazaar is known for their wholesale and retail stores. It is in the western part of the busy commercial city center, also called the “Chandni Chowk of Guwahati”. The bazaar consists of a billion tiny shops and stalls. The hustle and bustle on the road with the shoppers bargaining, the chaotic yet amusing amalgamation of the shopkeepers, the aroma of the various street food makes the whole experience lively. The market is famous for its Assam silk and garment shops. The “Jappi” is a very popular Assamese cap made from bamboo, the Assamese gamcha (thin shawl) and traditional Assamese saree should definitely be on your shopping list. The Assamese tea and the steaming hot momos will quench your thirst and fill your stomach while you are busy shopping in this crowded bazaar. Craving something sweet? JB’s restaurant is considered the best place to buy and taste some mouth-watering desserts. The bazaar has a well-connected system through a number of cabs and auto rickshaws and is in the heart of the city, so don’t miss out!
The food also proves to be one of the most diverse things you can come across in this beautiful city; you’ll find Tibetan-, Burmese- and even Bangladeshi-inspired dishes at street food stalls all over Guwahati, and even some very interesting indigenous recipes, including Momos, Jhal muri, Luchi, Assam tea, Thukpa, Chowmein, Khaar, Masor Tenga, Payash, etc. Make sure you get a load of these!
All in all, this city attracts humans from all walks of life and has something to offer for everybody; whether you are a wildlife explorer, a tea lover, a spirituality seeker, a historian or a curious traveler wanting to experience nature, this city will never leave you empty handed.
You will surely want to visit this living paradise on earth at least once in your lifetime
–Saima and Mihir