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.
The 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
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.
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 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. There is a
temple of Pandunath situated 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.
The small town of
Hajo, 32-km northwest of Guwahati, has a special place in Assamese
culture. 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 findings including
figures in various erotic postures, indeed some archeologists claim only
Khajuraho rivals the expressiveness of its erotica.