Destinations | Dist. Wise | Kamrup
Assam was referred to as Kamrup in many ancient Indian literature. It was also known as Pragjyotishpur due to the astrological (Jyotish Shashtra) practices that prevailed in this part of the country during that time. However, "Kamrup" became a more predominant name in the later part of the history.
DIRGHESWARI TEMPLE Located on the north bank of the Brahmaputra and linked by a motorable road, this shrine is considered as one of the supreme Devi Tirthas of the state. Isolated and lying at the foot of a range of hills, it has several rock cut images which can be traced back to the 11th to 12th century A.D. This is one of the few temples where the buffalo sacrifice is done annually during Durga Puja.
About 35km northwest of Guwahati is weaving village Sualkuchi, that produces some of the best silk in the state. Sualkuchi is less than an hour’s drive from Guwahati, but a more exciting way of reaching the place is by boat or cruise.
This sleepy little village exudes a charm like no other. Almost every house has an adjacent shed (karkhana) that houses the traditional bamboo looms, the gentle click-clacking of which can be heard from the streets. You can walk into any of the numerous karkhanas and observe the talented weavers giving birth to intricate patterns on the amazing Assam silk. The weavers have been churning out exotic indigenous silks – the silvery-creamy paat and the warm-as-wool eri or endi apart from muga and the rare mejankori(from Litsea citrate). The epic Mahabharata mentions the swarnakidai vastra or golden attire of Bhagadatta, a king of ancient Assam. The attire was made from muga, which another Assam king Bhaskaravarman gifted to Chinese chronicler Hieun Tsang during his visit to India.
In the early years of the 20th century, Sualkuchi was developed as a “crafts village”. Most of the funds for this development work came from eminent Gandhians across the country who responded to the “back to the villages” slogan of Gandhiji’s swadeshi drive. Although the weaving industry of Sualkuchi remained almost confined within the tanti community till the 1930’s with encouragement from the government, people from other communities have taken up silk weaving.
There are about 17000 silk looms presently working in Sualkuchi producing an eclectic range of silk products. Most of Sualkuchi’s silk is woven into mekhela-chadar and gamosas. Owing to the increasing demand from other parts of the country, the weavers of Sualkuchi have diversified to saris, shawls and dress material. The silk weaving of Sualkuchi provides direct and indirect employment to more than 25,000 people throughout the year.
The large number of looms and the ever increasing output from them has earned Sualkuchi the monicker “Manchester of the East”.
HAJO Hajo, 32 kms west of Guwahati, in Kamrup district, is an important pilgrimage for Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims alike. Hajo is home to ancient and medieval temples and mosques and is seen by a section of Buddhists as the place where the Buddha attained parinirvana.
Hajo’s oldest temple is Hayagriva Madhav, built by the Pala rulers in the 6th century AD on Manikuta Hill. The present structure was erected by the Koch king Raghudeva Narayan in 1583 after it was destroyed by an invading army. The sanctum sanctorum enshrines the Pancha Madhav, or the five forms of Vishnu. The image of the main deity, Hayagriva Madhab is at the centre and is flanked by Jagannath and Garuda to the right and Radha Govinda and Basudeva to the left.
Apart from Hindus, Buddhists consider the temple sacred. Some scholars attribute a Buddhist origin to the temple based on the row of caparisoned elephants sculpted along the plinth. These, they say, are reminiscent of the animal figures at the Buddhist caves of Ellora in Maharashtra. Some Buddhists are of the opinion that the temple was the site of the Buddha’s parinirvana.
Another structure adjacent to the main temple is called Doul Griha. It is said to have been built by the Ahom king Pramata Singha in 1750 AD. The festival Doul, similar to the colourful festival of Holi, is celebrated here on a grand scale every year. Bihu and Janmastami festivals are also celebrated annually in the temple.
The stairway leads from the foot of the hill to a gateway that opens to the temple complex. At the foot of this stone stairway is a large pond inhabited by one of Hajo’s oldest residents- giant turtle. All around the temple are numerous loose sculptures.Most of these sculptures stand testimony to the sculptural finesse attained by the artisans of Assam. Moreover this temple preaches both Hinduism and Buddhism, which attract Buddhist Monks from far flung places.
Though Hayagriva Madhab is the most popular, Hajo has a number of other temples dating back to the 18th century. The other sacred spots in Hajo are Ganesh temple built on a giant, elephant-shaped rock, Kedareshwar temple on Madanachal Hill, the Kameswra, Kamaleswara and Hara Gouri temples. The place also has Dhopaguri Satra that was established by Madhavdeva, disciple of Sankardeva, and the Stone Bowl of Bheem, the Pandava prince.
The shivalinga in the Kedareshwar Temple is said to be svayambhu or naturally formed and is always kept covered with a big metal bowl.
Atop Garudachal Hill in Hajo is Poa Mecca, literally ‘one-fourth of Mecca’, the most important Muslim pilgrimage in Assam. The dargah here houses the tomb of 14th century Sufi saint Sheik Ghiyasuddin Aulia. It is flanked by a mosque built in 1657. Poa Mecca is revered by Hindus too. MADAN KAMDEV About 40 km north of Guwahati is Madan Kamdev, the largest in a complex of some 20 temples and loose sculptures atop Dewangiri Hill. The existence of this complex was not known until a forest in the area was cleared in 1977. Archaeologists say Madan Kamdev was built between 11th and 12th centuries. The complex has some erotic sculptures, and the sanctum sanctorum of the temple has the male and female deities in amorous embrace, making locals believe it was dedicated to Kamdev, the god of love.