Gateway to the Northeast – this is a fitting sobriquet for the city of Guwahati, a sprawling metropolis and the largest and most cosmopolitan city in India’s northeastern region. This territory by the indomitable Brahmaputra, having played a tremendous role in the development of other states in the region, is looking to the future albeit with its feet firmly planted in the past, which is rich with many mystical and mythical tales. Its ability to effortlessly embrace both the ancient and the modern is the essence of Guwahati, a city that has metamorphosed from being a small trading post on the Brahmaputra (Guwahati is actually a portmanteau word, made up of guwa meaning betel nut and haat meaning bazaar) to becoming one of the fastest growing economies.

Owing to its crucial geographical location, Guwahati has become the de facto investment destination for almost the entire northeastern region. In fact, Assam’s capital, Dispur, is nothing but an administrative annexe that lies within the city of Guwahati. With a population of over a million people, Guwahati is the largest city in all of the eight northeastern states and like all nascent metropolitan areas in the country, it is an overwhelmingly crowded place. Its streets are all astir with men and machines, and traffic snarls are common.

Swapan Nayak
The urban sprawl of Guwahati along the banks of the Brahmaputra
The urban sprawl of Guwahati along the banks of the Brahmaputra

The main thoroughfares are lined with glass and concrete buildings and retail outlets, and are visibly no different from their counterparts in other big cities of India. It is the back alleys and older precincts that demonstrate the real character of the city, boasting old Colonial mansions, traditional buildings and houses, and many man-made ponds, which break the monotony of the cityscape.

Guwahati is a fairly easily navigable city for the most part. Its civic form divaricates from a central nucleus, extending south, east and westward. This nucleus comprises the old city with mainly commercial areas that also have residential districts. Paltan Bazaar, Fancy Bazaar and Uzan Bazaar are the notable names, and each of these areas facilitates unique urban activities. Most of the hotels in the city are found in Paltan Bazaar, with a smattering of accommodation options elsewhere in the city. The administrative and private offices are to be found in Pan Bazaar, which also has many of the city’s best restaurants.

Fancy Bazaar is choc-a-block with retail and wholesale businesses and the area has exploded with residen-tial quarters springing up on the peripheries. Other areas such as Ulubari, Chandmari and RG Baruah Road, which were mere extensions of the core, have had a rapid growth spurt and are currently full-scale neighbourhoods in their own right.

Pankaj Goswami
The Dighalipukhuri tank, made during the rule of Ahom king Bhagadatta
The Dighalipukhuri tank, made during the rule of Ahom king Bhagadatta

From the city centre, a corridor runs southeast along the Guwahati-Shillong (GS) Road for about 10km. The GS Road is easily the most important artery of the city, considering that all the major retail-commercial stores are found along its outlines. The fact that Dispur, the official capital of the state, lies along this corridor further escalates its importance. In fact, due to this increased import, southern Guwahati areas such as Ganeshguri and Panjabari have managed to form an alternate city centre surrounding the capital complex at Dispur.

Another important strip that runs westward from Guwahati’s city centre is the AT Road, which connects the primarily residential areas of Guwahati (located on the western fringes) to the heart of the city. Also placed along this corridor are the culturally and administratively relevant areas such as the Nilachal Hills, where the renowned Kamakhya Temple is located, and Maligaon, head-quarters of Northeast Frontier Railways. After linking these areas to central Guwahati, this strip branches off into two: one band leads towards North Guwahati and the other continues west towards the airport via the University of Gauhati.

The last corridor extends towards the east and is the least busy of all three. However, it too serves as a useful link between the eastern suburbs of Noonmati and Narengi and the city centre, and it is due to this link that developmental efforts are underway in this part of Guwahati.

There are several man-made reservoirs, called pukhuris in Assamese, that serve as major landmarks of the city. Located in the heart of Guwahati is the Naagkata Pukhuri. Constructed in the mid-18th century during the reign of Ahom king Swargadeo Pramatta Singha, this tank derives its name from the Assamese custom of serpent worship. Silpukhuri, now surrounded by buildings and a chaotic market, is near the Maharishi Vidya Mandir. Commissioned by Swargadeo Rajeshwar Singha in 1753 CE, it was originally called Nau Kunia Pukhuri (nine-cornered tank).It is believed that during its construction, nine wells were dug around the corners, the waters of which were used to perform the ritualistic bath invoking the navagrahas (nine planets). However, the true nucleus of the city is Dighalipukhuri, a rectangular man-made tank around 805-metres long.

The city of Guwahati as seen at dusk
The city of Guwahati as seen at dusk

Built by the Ahom king Bhagadatta, this tank originally was much larger in size and was used as a naval yard. Later, the British reclaimed much of the land and constructed government buildings such as the Circuit House nearby. The Gauhati High Court was also built on the land-fill. Towards the eastern side of Dighalipukhuri lies Jor Pukhuri, a pair of tanks separated by a road.

ORIENTATION

Guwahati is well connected with the rest of the country by rail, air and road. The Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport is located at Borjhar, around 20km from the centre of the city. There are two main railway stations – the Guwahati Junction, which lies in Paltan Bazaar and the Kamakhya Junction in Maligaon, located 10km to the northwest from the city centre. The Interstate Bus Terminus is located around 10km south from the city centre in Ahom Gaon.

The easiest mode of transport here are buses that ply all over the city with regular frequency. Autos are aplenty as well, but charge exorbitant sums of money and are best avoided. You can also hire radio cabs for a day. But if you decide to brave the city traffic and drive by yourself, a good approach to finding your way around is to ask the local people.

HISTORY

Mythology

There is little information available regarding the origins of Guwahati, except in Hindu mythological texts, which claim that the region was once ruled by the demon Narakasura. According to the Srimad Bhagvatam, Naraka was the son of Bhudevi (Mother Earth) and Varaha (the third avatar of Vishnu) who grew up to be a malevolent demon. It is Naraka who is believed to have established the kingdom of Pragjyotisha (modern-day Assam). This kingdom finds mention in both the Hindu epics Ramayana and Mahabharata.

Vatsala Srivastava
A display at the State Museum
A display at the State Museum

Varman Dynasty

It is surmised that Assam was divided into at least two historical kingdoms, known as Kamarupa and Davaka. The latter is believed to have been located in the central region of present-day Assam and has been mentioned in the Prayag Stone Inscription of Samudragupta, as one of the five frontier kingdoms of the mighty Gupta empire. Kamarupa is also mentioned in Samudragupta’s inscription, as an ancillary but autonomous ally of the Gupta empire. The kingdom was ruled by three different dynasties, all of which are believed to be descendants of Narakasura. The first rulers of Kamarupa were the Varmans (350–650 CE), a dynasty established by King Pushyavarman after great struggle. Subsequent kings of the dynasty strived to strengthen the kingdom and expand its boundaries, but it was King Bhaskarvarman (600–650 CE) who not only fended off attacks from his rivals but also bolstered his empire by forging alliances with other strong Indian kingdoms. Thus, he is considered the most respected of all the Varman kings. Hiuen Tsang visited his court 643 CE and recorded that the king commanded a strong navy. Bhaskarvarman died a bachelor, without an heir.

After his death, the kingdom was taken over by local chieftains of the Mlechcha tribe and acquired a feudal nature. The Mlechchas ruled over Kamarupa till 900 CE when the region came under the Pala kingdom (900–1100 CE). Ratnapala was the most renowned of the Pala kings in Kamarupa, because of his patronage to artists, traders and even spiritual men. Unfortunately, neither of these dynasties could provide the region with a much needed long-term stability.

Ahom Dynasty

The Ahoms were originally Tai people who immigrated to the Brahmaputra Valley from Mong Mao in the erstwhile Yunan Province. They crossed the Patkai Hills and reached the valley in 1228, established their seat in Sivasagar in 1253 and began building their kingdom over a period of 600 years. They are credited with bringing the various tribes and ethnicities of Assam under a single polity and thus are referred to as the designers of modern Assam. Such was their military prowess that several attempts at annexation of their territory by the Mughals ended in disastrous failure.

Vatsala Srivastava
Various exhibits at the Assam State Museum
Various exhibits at the Assam State Museum

The power of the Ahom kingdom finally declined in the 18th century, which resulted in an invasion of their kingdom by the Burmese Army. The British defeated the Burmese and promptly converted the kingdom into a principality. This event marked the end of Ahom rule and the beginning of British rule, who annexed the entire region inch by inch. Initially, Assam was part of the Bengal Presidency but was reconstituted as Assam Province in 1912. After independence, Assam became a state of India and was restructured to cater to the national aspirations of the various tribes and ethnic communities within its purview.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

A northeastern itinerary would be rendered incomplete without a couple of days’ stopover in Guwahati. The city has a great number of religious places, earning it the moniker ‘City of Temples’. It also serves as a good base for trips to nearby towns of archaeological and historical interest, as well as to the famous Kaziranga National Park.

This state museum is truly a repository of Assamese history, traditions, art and culture. Located at one end of Dighalipukhuri, in the heart of Guwahati, the imposing complex of the state museum serves as a prominent landmark. It is sur-rounded by several other art galleries and handicraft emporiums, making it the de facto cultural hub of the city.

Established in 1940 by the Kamarupa Anusandhana Samiti (Assam Research Society), the Assam State Museum was inaugurated by the then governor of the state, Sir Robert Neil Reid. It was initially meant to be merely an archaeo-logical museum, but its extensive collection made it far more signi-ficant. Donations and a government grant helped set up the first build-ing and eventually, after 1953, the state government took over the museum.

After purchasing the entrance ticket at the main gate, head to the building on the far left and enter through here.

Tarini Singh
Assam State Museum
Assam State Museum

From the ground floor hall, a staircase leads to the first set of galleries. Here, an antechamber marked The Freedom Fighter Section displays black-and-white photo-graphs of Assamese martyrs who participated in the Quit India Movement. This antechamber opens into a room entirely dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi. It is a little-known fact that Gandhi visited Assam no less than four times – once to attend a session of the Indian National Congress, which was held in Pandu near Guwahati. Lined in a chronological order are images that span Gandhi’s life – of his childhood, student days in London, career as a barrister and then attorney in Johannesburg, et al. The most striking photographs, however, document his personal transformation into the Mahatma – the pivotal force behind the Indian struggle for independence. He has been captured on film collecting the Harijan fund, leading the Dandi March and posing with a young Indira Nehru.

Another gallery adjacent to this one displays paintings by con-temporary Assamese artists. This room is badly lit, but the paintings are truly beautiful. Assamese village life finds representation here, as do tea garden workers. Especially striking is a long panel depicting the battle of Kurukshetra, by artist Ramesh Ghosh. Head to the Village Life section next. An information board outside this lists details about the lay-out and composition of Assamese village. Inside are small-scale dioramas of households, a naam-ghar (prayer hall) and even one of sericulture being practised. Also displayed within this gallery are miscellaneous items such as local musical instruments, puppets, giant earthen pots, fishing equipment and utensils made of brass and terracotta amongst others.

Down the corridor from the Village Life gallery is the textile section. Vibrant, traditional clothes from the various northeastern states are showcased here. The displays also focus on the myriad tribal communities and their weaving traditions that date back centuries. Here, you can see gorgeous costumes such as a tudung – a winter coat, worn by the Shardukpen tribes-women of Arunachal Pradesh, mekhela chador – the traditional Assamese dress for women; and phanung – a lower garment worn by the Tai-Kharnyang tribesmen of Sivasagar.

Vatsala Srivastava
guwahati7_TI
Vatsala Srivastava
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Tarini Singh
Statutes and other artefacts at the Assam State Museum
Statutes and other artefacts at the Assam State Museum

From here, proceed to the floor below to the Sculpture Gallery. This section is the largest one in the museum. This vast space is divided into three sections, inter-connected by a staircase. The works exhibited here were mostly created in the pre-Ahom period, during the reign of the Varman, Salastambha and Pala dynasties. Some of the striking pieces here include the carved Nataraja found in Ambari (Guwahati), Tripura Bhairabi excavated from Nagaon and a lion flanked by two sculptures of Narasimha.

Next, head to the annexe, which has its own set of galleries. Most of these have been developed by the Indian Museum in Kolkata. The first gallery here exhibits arms and ammunition ranging from ancient hangdan (Assamese sword), Naga spears, shields and canon balls to the sten guns, rifles and machine guns. Some of these weapons were found in Kohima and are believed to have been used by the Japanese army and air force during World War II.

A little ahead, the Epigraphy section has stone and copper plate inscriptions dating back to the 5th century CE. Written in Tai, Persian, Sanskrit and Brahmi script, these inscriptions include proclamations of war victories, signed title deeds, grants for temple construction etc. This section also opens into the Numismatics and Metallic Sculpture gallery that has an extensive coin collection with over 6,000 coins from different historical periods and dynasties. The third inter-connected room in the annexe is the Pre-and-Protohistoric Terracotta section, exhibiting objects excavated primarily from the Indus Valley Civilisation at Harappa and Mohenjodaro by the Archaeological Survey of India.

At the end of these halls, towards the right, is one last room, which houses royal dresses. Created with rich fabrics such as silk, these clothes are facsimiles of the traditional dresses worn by Ahom kings in the late medieval period.

Pankaj Goswami
Devotees taking a dip in the sacred pond at Kamakhya Temple
Devotees taking a dip in the sacred pond at Kamakhya Temple

Do remember that the exhibits in this museum are divided over several floors and it might take you at least half a day to properly explore the entire space. All displays have explanatory labels, but those looking for detailed information, can ask to meet the curator or the ever-helpful museum staff.

Apart from curating these permanent exhibits, the museum directorate collaborates with external agencies and artists to organise programmes that even include video installations and photography exhibitions.

Entry ₹5, children below 10 years ₹2, students ₹2.50 Timings 10.00am–5.00pm weekdays & 10.00am–4.15pm in the winters, Closed Mondays

Kamakhya Temple

For many visitors, Guwahati is synonymous with the famous Kamakhya Temple. Indeed, a trip to Guwahati cannot be considered complete without visiting the temple premises. Even though the temple has earned the notorious reputation of being a chaotic and highly commercialised place of worship in recent years, the interiors still exude a sense of serenity and spirituality. To reach the sanctum sanctorum however, you will have to brave through relentless crowds of hawkers, devotees and beggars.

The concrete Kamakhya Mandir Road winds up the Nilachal Hill and leads you to the extremely crowded chowk, a little ahead of which is the parking area. A wide, crowded staircase, flanked by many shops and hawkers selling puja paraphernalia, leads you to the main gate of the temple. This initial overwhelming assortment of sights, sounds, smells and people will probably leave visitors nonplussed.

Pankaj Goswami
Entrance to the Kalakshetra
Entrance to the Kalakshetra

One of the 51 shaktipeeths of the country, the temple is the seat of the Goddess Kamakhya. According to legend, Lord Shiva, grief-stricken and enraged at the universe after his wife Sati’s self-immolation, rendered the tandava (dance of destruction) carrying her charred body in his arms, and destroyed everything that came in his way. Lord Vishnu, in an attempt to save the world, unleashed his sudarshan chakra and dis-membered Sati’s body. Whichever spot a body part fell on became charged with primordial energy (shakti), and came to be known as a shaktipeeth (seat of shakti). This spot is said to lie deep inside the garbhagriha and remains covered in a red silk cloth.

The inscriptions on the walls of the Kamakhya complex date back to the 5th–6th century CE. However, the main temple was constructed by Koch king Nara Narayan in the 16th century CE. It is believed to be one of the earliest architectural constructions undertaken by the Koch kings.

The structures surrounding the shikhara look like minarets and are believed to have been inspired by Islamic architecture and are credited to the Kooch Bihar architectural style. The antarala (antechamber between garbhagriha and mandapa) of the temple has a simple, plain roof. The outer walls are decorated with sculptures. A small corridor leads to a small flight of steps, which descend into the garbha-griha. This dark, underground chamber shelters a rock covered with a red silk cloth symbolising the spot where Sati’s body part fell.

A major amount of renovation and reconstruction has taken place within the temple premises over the last 10 years, so much so that old devotees claim that they don’t even recognise the temple anymore. However, believers claim that this temple has an almost metaphysical quality to it and coming here is a transcendental experience.

Swapan Nayak
Shrimanta Sankaradeva Kalakshetra lit up at night
Shrimanta Sankaradeva Kalakshetra lit up at night

Every year in the month of June, the Ambubachi festival is held in the Kamakhya Temple, during which it witnesses a sea of devotees. This is a celebration of the Goddess Kamakhya’s menstruation cycle. It is said that for three days, the goddess takes recluse from all her devotees and spends time in the lap of nature. No prayer is performed in the temple during this time.

Tip Do not carry leather bags or purses inside the temple. Refrain from carrying cash and other valuables as you will be required to submit these outside. No shoes are allowed inside the temple

Shrimanta Sankaradeva

Kalakshetra

Locally known as Kalakshetra, this multipurpose complex located in the Panjabari area of the city strives to preserve and promote the art and culture of the Northeast. The complex is named after Sankaradeva, a figure of immense importance in the socio-cultural and religious history of Assam. He is considered one of the greatest integrators of Assamese society and therefore the title of Shrimanta was bestowed upon him. The Kalashetra is a tribute to him and strives to promulgate the message of unity in diversity, not just within Assamese society but the world at large. It was conceived as early as 1986 and the foundation was laid on 2 Feb, 1988. Finally, in 1998 then President KR Narayanan inaugurated the cultural complex and it was opened to the public.

The vast, 10.28ha complex is divided into the main museum, known as the Purbajyoti Sangrahalaya; the Sahitya Bhavan, which is also called the Library; the Lalit-Kala Bhavan or the Art Gallery; an open-air theatre; the Bhupen Hazarika Museum; an Artists’ Village and a Heritage Park.

Hotel Brahmaputra AshokL
A room with a scenic view, Hotel Brahamputra Ashok
A room with a scenic view, Hotel Brahamputra Ashok

The Purbajyoti Sangrahalaya, which can be best described as an ethnographic museum, is housed in the central, white-coloured building. The primary aim of the museum is to preserve and display the artefacts related to the distinctive ethnic and cultural communities of Assam. The artefacts meticulously exhibited here inlcude textiles and clothes typically worn by Assamese people, musical instruments, terracotta and clay art, cottage industry products, Sattriya masks and bell metal products.

The highlight of the museum is the textile collection, which is divided into two parts. The first part exhibits the traditional costumes worn by the ethnicities and also focuses on the intricate weaving patterns and cloth-making techniques that are gradually slipping into obscurity. The other section is a collection of the contemporary costumes of the various communities of Assam, displayed on life-size mannequins with dioramas in the background depicting the immediate environment of the communities here.

The Art Gallery organises many workshops on subjects such as wood crafts, graphics and sketching and also boasts a state-of-the-art exhibition space for art and sculptures. The library archives rare books, manuscripts and literature of the region. There’s also a Portrait Gallery, which displays over a 100 portraits of illustrious Assamese men and women.

The open-air theatre, which has a capacity of 2,000 regularly hosts folk festivals and traditional theatre and dance festivals. Replicating the lifestyle of Assamese villages is the Artists’ Village, where the artisans exhibit and sell their creations.

Entry ₹10 Timings 10.00am– 7.30pm

Courtesy Radisson Blu Hotel
Radisson Blu Hotel
Radisson Blu Hotel

WHERE TO STAY

Guwahati offers plenty of hotels across all budgets. Almost all have restaurants, bar, Internet and accept credit cards.

The new Radisson Blu Hotel (Tel: 0361-7100100; Tariff: ₹8,500–25,000) on NH37 in Gotanagar is the only 5-star property here. The rooms and suites are stylish and comfortable and offer good views of the hills. Hotel Brahmaputra Ashok (Tel: 2602281-84, 2602287-88; Tariff: ₹4,500–15,000) is a 4-star property on MG Road, located by the banks of the River Brahmaputra. So is Hotel Dynasty (Tel: 2516021, 7120055; Tariff: ₹5,500–25,000) in Lakhtokia area. Both provide most facilities.Hotel Kiranshree Portico (Tel: 2735303-10; Tariff: ₹5,300–20,000) in Paltan Bazaar has a multi-cuisine restaurant, bar, café and pastry shop. Hotel Gateway Grandeur (Tel: 7110022, Cell: 09678041002/ 04; Tariff: ₹4,400–18,000), a new property, is in Christian Basti and has a spa, gym and swimming pool.

Hotel Raj Mahal (Tel: 2549141-46, 2511602-04, Cell: 08486020037; Tariff: ₹4,000–12,000) in Paltan Bazaar and Hotel Viswaratna (Tel: 2607712–15, Cell: 09954130005; Tariff: ₹4,200–8,900) on AT Road have a spa and swimming pool. Pragati Manor (Tel: 2341261-63, Cell: 09678005102, 09954011800; Tariff: ₹4,500–9,000) on GS Road in Christian Basti is clean and food is good. Hotel Landmark (Tel: 2455248, 2528218/ 45; Tariff: ₹2,699–12,999) in Ulubari is good value for money. So is Tata Group’s Ginger Hotel (Tel: 7160633; Tariff: ₹3,999) on VIP Road. Hotel Nakshatra (Tel: 7112345, 2222666, Cell: 09957181929; Tariff: ₹3,000–12,000) in Beltola and Hotel Prag Continental (Tel: 2540850-51, 2630930, Cell: 08876507135; Tariff: ₹2,400–5,000) in Pan Bazaar have spas.

Rains Inn (Cell: 09957223131; Tariff: ₹2,971–3,876) is an eco-friendly hotel in Paltan Bazaar. Its restaurant serves delectable local cuisine. Paltan Bazaar also has Hotel Atithi (Tel: 2732111/ 666/ 777; Tariff: ₹2,999–4,899) opposite Nepali Mandir; Hotel Siroy Lily (Tel: 2608492, 2731089, 2733124-25, Cell: 09706147119; Tariff: ₹1,280–2,800) on GS Road; Hotel Nandan (Tel: 2540855, 2739811-17, 2634797-99, Cell: 09706098845; Tariff: ₹2,500–7,000) also on GS Road; and Hornbill Hotel (Tel: 2735401-05; Tariff: ₹1,900–9,500) on Mohammad Shah Road.

Government owned Prashanti Tourist Lodge (Tel: 2544475; Tariff: ₹999–2,257) near RBI on Station Road, is decent. Other good options include Hotel Fortune (Tel: 2730027, Cell: 09207410714; Tariff: ₹1,420–3,690) near Apsara Cinema; Hotel Lilawati Grand (Tel: 2733093, 2733957, Cell: 09707012741; Tariff: ₹2,000–2,800) in Paan Bazaar; Hotel Monsoon Palace (Tel: 2608186, 2731743, Cell: 09864043958; Tariff ₹1,400–5,500) near RBI in Pan Bazaar; and Hotel Nova (Tel: 2511464, 2519465; Tariff: ₹1,890–2,450) in Fancy Bazaar.

WHERE TO EAT

Guwahati’s cosmopolitan nature also reflects in the city’s restaurants that serve motley of cuisines. Driving through the city, you will notice plenty of bakeries. This seems to be the latest trend in Guwahati. If you wish to indulge in the same, then Loyan’s and Patisserie Opera are some of the well-known bakeries here.

But it would be a shame to go back without trying the local cuisine, so try the Assamese fare served at Paradise Hotel or Khorikaa Restaurant, both local favourites. Naga Meez and Naga Kitchen are popular restaurants as well.

Those in the mood for Chinese food must look no further than these three – Chinatown, Chung Fa and Confucius. JB’s, very popular with vegetarians, is a restaurant chain that serves Indian snacks. For north Indian food, you can also head to The Dhaba. Some restaurants such as Oregano and Terra Mayaa offer a mixed cuisine menu with Indian, Chinese and Continental dishes.

For those only interested in Continental food, there are a spate of cafés, such as such as Mocha, Corner Café, Brown Bean Café and Café Coupa. Apart from all these options, you will also find the usual international fast food chains that are mostly housed within the city’s malls.

 The Legend of Narakasura

Narakasura, son of Bhudevi and Varaha, was granted a boon by Lord Vishnu that he’d have a long life and would grow up to be a mighty warrior. This boon led him to become a megalomaniac who believed that he could conquer all three worlds. Narakasura began his conquest of Earth and brought all of the Earth’s kingdoms under his control. But his thirst for power remained unquenched. Next, he attacked Swargaloka, the Abode of the Gods, defeated the king, Lord Indra, stole the earrings of the mother of Gods, Goddess Aditi and abducted 16,000 women. Enraged, the gods sought Lord Vishnu’s help, who assured them that his avatar Krishna would soon be born on Earth and would be Narakasura’s nemesis. Finally, when Krishna was born, he defeated Narakasura with infinte ease and used his Sudarshana Chakra to slay him. Naraka’s last wish was to be remembered for posterity, which was granted by Krishna as a gesture of reconciliation. Thus, Narakasura’s death anniversary is celebrated as Narak Chaturdashi (a day before Diwali) to this day.

Vatsala Srivastava

Dispur

The capital of Assam, Dispur, lies 8km from Guwahati. Dispur became the capital in 1973, when the state of Meghalaya was carved out of a larger Assam. Since the time of British rule, Shillong (which went to Meghalaya) had been the capital of this region. And Dispur had just existed on the fringes of time-honoured Guwahati.

Dispur’s main tourist attraction is the Basisthashram, a quiet retreat with small temples and a pretty waterfall, widely believed to be the site of the ancient ashram of the legendary Rishi Basistha. It is located on Sadhyachal Hill, at the confluence of the Sandhya, Lalita and Kanta streams. Shankardeva Kalashetra is a popular cultural centre, built in 1990s. Jatia is an ancient town close to Dispur. The city is also a big tea auctioning centre.

Getting There Dispur is served by Guwahati’s air, rail and road links.

FAST FACTS

When to go When to go November– February is coolest. It rains heavily from July–August

Tourist Offices

Directorate of Tourism, Govt of Assam, Station Road, Guwahati, Tel: 0361-2547102, 2544475 W assamtourism.gov.in,

Tourist Information Centre, Assam Tourism, Lokapriya GNB International Airport, Borjhar, Guwahati. Cell: 09435796317m

Assam Tourism Development Corporation, Asom Paryatan Bhawan, AK Azad Road, Paltan Bazaar, Guwahati, Tel: 2633654, 2738620, W assamtourismonline.com

Tourist Information Office, Assam House, 8, Russel Street, Kolkata, Tel: 033-22295094, 22821475

STD code 0361

GETTING THERE

State Assam

Location Guwahati lies between the banks of the Brahmaputra river and the foothills of the Shillong plateau

Distances 1,016km NE of Kolkata, 177km SW of Tezpur

Route from Kolkata Via NH31

Air Guwahati’s Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport located at Borjhar (25km/ 30–45mins/ ₹600 for a trip) is connected with regular flights by Air India, Jet Airways, Indigo, Air Asia, Go Air, Vistara and SpiceJet to New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and other cities. There are flights to Silchar, Dibrugarh, Jorhat and Lilabari within the state and to Agartala, Aizawl, Dimapur, Imphal and Bagdogra in the North East

Rail Guwahati Junction, the major railway station of Guwahati, and the Kamakhya Junction are connected to the major cities of the country. To name a few, Dibrugarh Rajdhani Express, Brahmaputra Mail, LTT-Kamakhya Express, Guwahati Express, Kamrup, Saraighat and Kanchanjanga Express connect Guwahati with cities in India. Taxis and auto-rickshaws are available outside the station. There is also a good network of city bus service

Road NH31 connects the city to the rest of the country while NH37 connects Guwahati with almost all major cities of the state Bus Assam State Transport Corporation (ASTC) operates buses to various cities in the state. From Paltan Bazaar Bus Stand (Cell: 09957563033) there are connections to many desti-nations in the Northeast and West Bengal. The ISBT Guwahati (Cell: 09401727007) offers services to neighbouring states. Private Deluxe services are also available