It is embarrassing but I had never explored North Guwahati before. It was one of the major blots in my career but I have managed to do it finally, although more things can be done here.
Does it sound confusing? Let me explain for those who are NOT from Assam and have never been to the city. The present city of Guwahati occupies the southern bank of the river Brahmaputra. So, North Guwahati is a smaller area on the northern bank of the river. It has mostly remained the less “happening” cousin of the main city for a long time. However, since the 90s many major institutions and offices are being built on the Norther Bank as the main Guwahati became too congested. These include the IIT Guwahati and the currently being developed AIIMS is a few KMs ahead of it further north.
However, the Guwahati City as we know it today, attained its current form only when the British arrived. While the ancient history of this region is not well documented, it is not too difficult to imagine that during those times, North Guwahati was equally important as South Guwahati if not more. This is because even now there are scores of ancient temples and archaeological sites can be found scattered all over the area and I am sure much more is buried underneath the current residential areas.
I have already described the Kanai Boroxi Boa Rock inscription in the previous post and how this indicates that this area was important during the ancient and medieval periods. So, I will discuss the rest of the visit to North Guwahati in this post.
After visiting the inscriptions, we reached the main road that runs through the town and soon reached the Doul Govinda Temple. This is a very popular temple among locals. However, it is comparatively new, around 150 years old and we needed real antiquity. So, after some googling we figured out that most of the major sites are a bit far off and will be problematic considering the time constraint. So, we hired a local auto-rickshaw for INR 500 to show us two major temples and then drop us back to this point.
The present Aswaklanta Temple was built by Ahom King Shiva Singha in 1720 on the northern bank of the mighty Brahmaputra although the original shrine definitely is far older, dating back to an era that has been hardly documented. As expected, it was located atop a hill on the bank of the river with steep stairs leading it. We quickly ascended the starts and reached the top temples, which reminded me of the temple at Joydoul in Sivasagar.
There are actually two temples, one situated in the foothill and the main one atop the hill, respectively known as Kurmajanardan and Anantashayee. Ashwaklanta literally means the place where the horse got tired. There are many origin stories. According to one, this is where Krishna’s horse got tired when he was looking to fight Narakasur. However, another legend connects the horse story to the Pandavas. There are lots of exquisite sculptures including dasavataras on the wall of the temple.
Several questions remained unanswered though. The walls of the main temple apparently has dasavataras sculpted on them and some of them were identifiable. However, there were a few additional ones that we could not identify and in fact, even the pujari expressed his cluelessness when we asked. Nevertheless, we got another interesting story from him that the Shaligram was brought from Nepal which still resides in the sanctum sanctorum. It looks like Vishnu in anantashayya but photography is not allowed inside.
We could also see some scattered ruins in the temple compound. They were found during excavations and they reminded me of a few pieces at Madan Kamdev. We also walked down to the river bank through a narrow flight of stairs on the backside of the temple to locate one of the ”kundas”. Apparently, there are twelve kundas around the temple, on the banks of the river. The one I reached, was a rock on the bank of the river which looks like a Shivling.
After Ashwaklanta, we quickly returned to the auto-rickshaw. Dirgheswari is located on the opposite side, so we had to return back to town and drive another 5 KM.
Dirgheswari Devalaya is also located atop another hill. Many ancient images made on rocks can be seen scattered around the place. The current brick temple was built by Ahom king Siva Singha. It is considered a Shakti Peeth here. It is a live temple and devotees can always be seen flocking here. It’s another strategic location, a hillock overlooking the Brahmaputra. It is said that Lachit observed the movement of fleet from a rock near this place.
The actual temple actually seems newly renovated. We could not do much here. It is a very popular temple and a lot of devotees had already gathered there. The main structure seemed pretty new but there are some ancient parts such as a rock with footprints that are believed to be of the goddess. Some legends connect it to Sati but there is also a story connecting it to Sage Markandeya. More interesting elements here are the sculptures on the rocks outside the main temple.
So, this was more or less it about North Guwahati. We did not have much time for the rest and it was also a very tiring hot and dry day. Nevertheless, following are some other temples that we missed out on.
It is built near the confluence of the Barnadi and Brahmaputra rivers. As per Yogini Tantra there was a pond called Manikarnika outside the temple that no longer exists. A rock inscription informs here that the present temple was built by Ahom King Rajeswara Singha in the mid-18th century.
The Rudreswar Temple or Devaloya is a Shiva temple built in 1749 CE by Ahom king Pramatta Singha, in memory of his father Rudra Singha.
This is actually a branch of the original Auniati Satra in Majuli. To know more about Satras you can just read one of my Majuli blogposts.
How to reach North Guwahati?
You can drive from Guwahati, crossing the Saraighat Bridge. However, the easiest way is to catch the Guwahati Ropeway and enjoy the aerial view of the river. It will leave you at a point behind the Dol Govinda temple. You can hire two-wheelers from the ropeway terminal. Otherwise, you can walk a bit to reach the main road and find auto rickshaws as we did.
Additional Read: Do check the list of major historical temples in Guwahati on Periplus NE.