Feb 152014
 

Guwahati is a sprawling city on the bank of The Brahmaputra River in the state of Assam. Surrounded by the small Shivalik hills of The Himalayas, it is the largest city in North-Eastern Part of India and referred as the Gateway to The North-East India (Siliguri in West Bengal is also referred as a Gateway to The North-East India). This city has a great historical past starting its journey from the ancient days Pragjyotishpur to the modern days Guwahati.

I got a chance to visit Guwahati last month for an official meeting. It was my first visit to the North-East and it started with a confusion. Guwahati is a major city of Assam and Dispur is the capital of Assam. I read about Dispur many times, but Guwahati was not so popular in school books. Later, whenever I heard about Assam, I only heard Guwahati, not Dispur. Guwahati is the biggest city and all flights from my workplace go to Guwahati only. Then what about Dispur? I always thought Dispur is famous only as the capital city and Guwahati is another major city of Assam. However, I never tried to find the correct fact. The same case is in Gujarat also, where Gandhinagar is the capital, but Ahmedabad is the biggest city.

When I passed through the roads of Guwahati, I reached to an urban market known as Dispur. That was the time to look at Google Maps, to clear my doubt about Dispur and Guwahati. and the fact is that Dispur is a sub-urban area of Guwahati, where the Secretariat and Assembly of Assam is located. The extension of Guwahati covered the area around Dispur already and expanding more and more beyond that. Now, Its up to you to think about the actual capital of Assam.

This confusion was started way back in 1972 with the partition of Assam State. Meghalaya state was carved out from Assam to became a full state of India and then the capital of Assam, Shillong, became the capital of Meghalaya. Guwahati was a small city on the bank of Brahmpaputra in those days. After the partition, when the search for the new capital began, Guwahati didnโ€™t qualify for that in absence of the required infrastructure. So the rule makers of Assam hurriedly shifted their offices in a Tea Auction Center and Surrounding Buildings at Dispur, which became a temporary capital. Years later, new buildings were constructed at Dispur and it became the permanent capital of Assam. But the rapid expansion of Guwahati city in the recent years, covered all area around Dispur and beyond. Today, Dispur seems like a locality in the city of Guwahati, from where the Government of Assam operates.

Reason behind the name Guwahati: Guwahati was basically a large market (Haat) for the Beetle Nuts (Guwa) in old days on the bank of Brahmaputra River. Due to this beetle nut market, local people used to know it as Guwahati. The British found it difficult to use Guwahati, so they made it Gauhati. Now it is officially known as Guwahati, however many people still use the name Gauhati.

Beatel Nuts

Beatel Nuts

Places to Visit in Guwahati: It was very tricky to plan a sightseeing in that 5 days trip (with 3 days official meeting from 0900 hrs to 1700 hrs), but thanks to a local blogger Madhusmita, whom I found on a blogger’s platform, I was able to plan the entire trip in a efficient manner. As suggested by Madhu, I explored some famous places of Guwahati, that included:

(1) Kamakhya Temple: Unarguably the most sought place to visit in Guwahati. Many people reach Guwahati only to seek the blessings of Goddess Kamakhya. One of the 51 Shakti Peethas of Hindu Mythology, this temple is believed to be 2000 years old (Destroyed and Built several times, current structure is about 500 years old) and considered as very scared among the Hindu Pilgrims. It was the place where the yoni (vagina) of Goddess Sati fell during the dance of Lord Shiva with the corpse of Sati. It is also a major center of Tantric Practices in India. Whether you like it or not, but while at the temple, lookout for the animal sacrifices in a hall near the temple.

Kamakhya Temple

Kamakhya Temple

Temple Timings: Daily from 0800 hrs to 1300 hrs and then from 1430 hrs to 1730 hrs. To avoid rush, better to visit in the afternoon.
Entry Tickets: General Queue (Free of Cost), Defense Queue ( INR 10, INR 50 and INR 101 depending on the time of the day) and Direct Queue (INR 501 and VIP Passes)

How to Reach? Kamakhya Temple is situated on the edge of the Nilachal hill at the height of approx. 800 feet and is about 9 kms from the railway station. Direct Public Buses are available from many points in the Guwahati like Paltan Bazaar, Pan Bazaar, Chandmari, Dispur, Six Miles etc. These public buses drop you at the base of the hill. From there, a shared jeep available to the temple (fare INR 10), that is about 3 kms away from the base.

Direct/VIP Entry Gate of Kamakhya Temple

Direct/VIP Entry Gate of Kamakhya Temple

(2) Bhubaneshwari Temple: Situated on the top of the same hill, on which Kamakhya temple is. It is about 2-3 kms upfront (vertically approx. 200 ft) from Kamakhya Temple, but not visited by many visitors. This temple is dedicated to Goddess of the Universe (Bhuvan: Universe, Ishwari: Goddess). The outside view point offers an excellent view of Guwahati City including IIT Guwahati and Brahmaputra River. Advisable to go there only on a clear day, as nothing is visible in the smoke and haze. If weather is not good, there is nothing exciting to see there except the temple.

Bhubaneshwari Temple

Bhubaneshwari Temple

Temple Timings: Sunrise to Sunset
Entry Tickets: Free of Cost

How to Reach? Vehicles, normally Maruti Omni Van are available outside the temple market of Kamakhya Temple. They usually charge INR 100 per vehicle for the return trip to Bhubansehwari Temple.

Viewpoint outside Bhubaneshwari Temple

Viewpoint outside Bhubaneshwari Temple

(3) Peacock Island/ Umananda Temple: A small island situated in the middle of Brahmaputra River is also a recommended attraction of Guwahati. The temple of Lord Shiva is situated on the island. I tried two times to reach there, and I was late both the times. So, I couldn’t go to the island. However, I took a ferry to sail around the island. This island temple is a good place to get a nice view of the riverside, with the Brahmaputra flows around the island.

Temple Timings:

Sunrise to Sunset. But you need a ferry to reach on the island, and typically the last ferry departs about 30 minutes prior to the sunset. So, in the month of January, I reached around 1630 hrs and missed the last ferry by 10 minutes.

Entry Tickets: Free of Cost

Peacock Island: Brahmputra River

Peacock Island: Brahmputra River

How to Reach? To reach Peacock Island, you need a ferry from Surkeshwar Ghat or from Kachari Ghat. Both ghat located near the famous Pan Bazaar, while Surkeshwar ghat is closed to Pan Bazaar, Kachari Ghat is about 2 kms away from Pan Bazaar, near the High Court of Guwahati. This Kachari is actually the Kachahari ( The Court, The Tahsil) of the routine conversation.

There are to ways to get a ferry:
1. Hire a private ferry from Surkeshwar Ghat: It takes about 15-20 minutes to reach there at Peacock Island and charges are usually INR 120 per person.

2. Get a public ferry from Kachari Ghat: It takes about 5-10 minute to reach at Peacock Island and charges are usually INR 10 per person. In daytime, they operate at the frequent intervals.

(4) Bashishtha: Approx.9 kms from Dispur. It is a quiet and scenic place away from the hustle and bustle of Guwahati City. This place has a temple of Lord Shiva and it is believed that the great Sage Bashishtha (Vashishtha) lived here in a cave and had set up the ashram. A small river flows along the temple. People say that three rivulets Sandhya, Kanta and Lalita meet here, but only a narrow water stream was visible during my visit. It is a very popular picnic spot among the locals, but from the point of view of a tourist, nothing exciting to offer. Try to walk around the temple for 1-2 kms to get a taste of the village life surrounded by plenty of green palm and banana trees in Sandhyachal Hills.

Bashishtha Temple

Bashishtha Temple

Temple Timings: Sunrise to Sunset
Entry Tickets: Free of Cost

How to Reach? Direct Public buses available from Dispur to Bashistha at frequent intervals. The buses generally stop outside the temple market, 200 meters away from the temple.

(5) Srimanta Sankardeva Kalakshetra: Popularly known as Kalakshetra, this cultural center is situated near Juripar on Punjabari Road. It is a nice place with large water pools, lot of trees, a hill, beautiful trails, an open air theater and some museums. In the campus of Kalakshetra, there is also a museum to preserve and showcase the various objects associated with the life of the living legend Dr. Bhupen Hazarika. It is a nice place to visit for 2-3 hours.

Inside Kalakshetra

Inside Kalakshetra

Timings: 0900 hrs to 1700 hrs
Entry Tickets: INR 30 per person, Additional INR 10 for the camera.

How to Reach? Situated on the Punjabari Road, this place is easily accessible from the many parts of Guwahati using Public Buses/ Shared Jeeps. Buses are available at frequent intervals from Pan Bazaar, Paltan Bazaar, Chandmari, Dispur and Six Miles.

Open Air Theater @ Kalakshetra

Open Air Theater @ Kalakshetra

(6) Shilpgram: Just adjacent to the Kalakshetra, about 300 meters from the main Punjabari Road, this is a place for the various cultural activities of Assam as well as from the other North-Eastern States. Shilpgram Complex has many pavilions selling the handicrafts from the states of North-East as well as the exhibition halls, a large auditorium, a fool stall etc. However, If there is no cultural event, it is not an interesting place. You can easily ignore it.

A State Pavilion @ Shilpgram

A State Pavilion @ Shilpgram

Entry Tickets: Free of cost.

How to Reach? Situated on the Punjabari Road, this place is easily accessible from the many parts of Guwahati using Public Buses/ Shared Jeeps. Buses are available at frequent intervals from Pan Bazaar, Paltan Bazaar, Chandmari, Dispur and Six Miles.

(7) Walk Along the Brahmaputra River to watch a Spectacular Sunset: The most accessible part of Brahmaputra River is near Pan Bazaar around the Surkeshwar Ghat. I went there twice to watch the spectacular sunset from the bank of the river. A good walkway is not there, so expect to walk in the sandy river bed. Footpath is there along the road between Kachari Ghat to Surkeshwar Ghat and beyond, but that is away from the river. I was intended to reach Umananda Temple on a river island, but the ferries were closed by that time, so I took a public ferry to cross the river from Surkeshwar Ghat to Dolgobinda/Rajadwar village and came back by another ferry. Sailing in a ferry with a lot of local people around, on the mighty river was an exciting experience.

Sunset on the bank of Brahmaputra River

Sunset on the bank of Brahmaputra River

Ferry Prices: The easily accessible ferry is available from Surkeshwar Ghat from early morning to late evening. The usual one way price in a government ferry is INR 8 per person.

A Public Ferry @ Brahmaputra River

A Public Ferry @ Brahmaputra River

(8) Local Bazaars (Markets): The famous Bazaars of Guwahati are Paltan Bazaar, Uzan Bazaar, Pan Bazaar and Fancy Bazaar.

Paltan Bazaar is a hub of cheap hotels and private/shared vehicles for the sightseeing in North-East India, as it is located close to the Railway Station.

Uzan Bazaar had its origin from the word Uzan (upper) in Assamese. It is a famous market for fresh river fishes.

Pan Bazaar is basically famous for its fabric market and book shops. The famous Cotton College and Don Bosco School is located in the area of Pan Bazaar.

Fancy Bazaar was originally known as Fansi Bazaar, as The British used to openly hang the criminals here in a tree. That tree was located at the site of present day Guwahati Central Jail. In the course of time Fansi Bazaar became Fancy Bazaar and today, it is a major center of retail and wholesale commercial market. We bought a good quantity of Assam Tea, Darjeeling Tea and Green Tea from here and also some packets of Bamboo Achar and Olive Achar.

Tea Shopping @ Fancy Bazaar

Tea Shopping @ Fancy Bazaar

(9) Authentic Assamese Cuisine in Guwahati: For the taste of the authentic Assamese food, I had two recommendations from my friend Madhu. Those were Delicacy Restaurant near Ganeshguri Flyover on GS Road and Maihang Restaurant at Bhangagarh.

Delicacy Restaurant

Delicacy Restaurant

While I couldn’t visit Maihang due to lack of time, I visited Delicacy for the lunch on the last day of this trip. Delicacy has a nice menu of the dishes from North-East India, specially the different non-veg dishes prepared with Chicken, Duck, Pigeon, Pork, Fish etc. However, we ordered a vegetarian thali, known as Akhaj. It contains many bowls (at least 7 bowls) of Dal, Vegetable, Kheer and a good quantity of rice in INR 120 per person only. However, you can ask for more quantity of rice and daal without any extra cost. Please note that people don’t eat Akhaj by the spoon, but their palm only, but spoon is available on the demand. It was a very tasty authentic Assamese food, that we enjoyed most during our trip.

Akhaj: Veg Thali @ Delicacy Restaurant

Akhaj: Veg Thali @ Delicacy Restaurant

Some of the other attractions of Guwahati, that I was not able to visit on my trip due to the time constraints are: Hajo Temple (An ancient pilgrimage center on the other bank of Brahmaputra River, 32 kms from Paltan Bazaar), ISKCON Temple (1.5 kms from Paltan Bazaar) and Assam State Zoo (5 kms from Paltan Bazaar on G.S. Road near Dispur).

Apart from these, I also went for an Elephant Safari in Pabitora Wildlife Sanctuary located about 43 kms from Dispur in Guwahati. This wildlife sanctuary has a dense population of one-horn Rhinoceros and often considered as an alternate to Kaziranga National Park (approx. 220 kms from Guwahati) to sight them closely. Apart from Rhinos, Wild Buffaloes, Wild Boars and Leopard, Pabitora is also a great place for bird-watching.

Elephant Safari @ Pabitora Wildlife Sanctaury

Elephant Safari @ Pabitora Wildlife Sanctaury

The Great Indian One-Horn Rhinoceros @ Pabitora Wildlife Sanctuary

The Great Indian One-Horn Rhinoceros @ Pabitora Wildlife Sanctuary

I had heard a lot about the beauty of North East India, so there was a great excitement on the trip to Guwahati. I think, Religious faith in Kamakhya Temple and the waterfront of Brahmaputra River is two strong reasons to visit this city. 5 days are not enough to judge the essence of a city, but there is nothing more exciting to see in Guwahati apart from these two major attractions. However, the people of Guwahati are really awesome, eager to interact and happy to help. A trip to Guwahati only, for the purpose of sightseeing is not recommended, but combining it with nearby Shillong, Cherapunji, Manas National Park, Kaziranga National Park and other places of Assam and Meghalaya will be a great experience indeed. From a tourist point of view, this largest city of North-East India is basically a base station to explore the beauty of entire region.

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  14 Responses to “Guwahati: A Gateway to The North East India”

  1. Really useful and interesting….thank u very much ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Guwahati is home to incredible parks and beautiful temples. best places to visit in guwahati are awe inspiring and worth seeing.

  3. very detailed account. Very insightful. Thanks.

  4. very informative , useful for tour planning .

  5. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this wonderfully detailed and well organized list of things to do in Guwahati! I so appreciate it. By the way, I think your picture of the silhouette of the ferry on the Bramhaputra is superb. You should enter it in travel photo contests!

  6. Thanq so much..

  7. Hi..I booked two tickets from hyd to guwahati on spicejet.after three days I booked another ticket for my frd.I gave my mobile no only to all three tickets.now my qs is how canwe get all three seats together.my flight is on 1 dec.so i have so much of time.in hyd which terminal we shd go through.plz ans becz its our fst flight journey do we three frds dont want to miss fun

    • Hi, you can ask the SpiceJet representative at the check-in counter to allot the seats together. Its not a problem at all. If you don’t get the seats together, board the plane at your allotted seats. After take-off, if the seats are vacant, you all can change your seats and sit together. At present, Hyderabad Airport is having only one terminal, integrated for both the domestic as well as international flights.

  8. It is always heartwarming to visit the north east. Great weather and beautiful environment. I really loved the way you have present you content and itโ€™s informative and interesting. You have made things very easier for travellers by mention the timing, routes, cost etc.

  9. I wish you had more time to look around. And I agree with you that Guwahati is a “base station to explore the beauty of entire region”. I hope you come back again to explore our region. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Seems like there is lots to see in and around Guwahati. Lovely post!

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