The city is a quaint mix of commerce and culture, pragmatism and religiosity. It hosts the world's largest tea auctions and houses one of the country's most important centres of Tantric Hinduism. The city was once hailed as an important hub of learning, and a popular pilgrimage destination for Hindus.
Once known as "Pragiyotishpura" or Light of the East, Guwahati is famous for its many mysterious temples. The Kamakhya and Navagraha temples both occupy commanding positions on hilltops while Umananda sits on a small island in the middle of the Brahmaputra.
Guwahati's main business, tea, is booming with the new Assam tea auction centre holding auctions that previously took place as far away as London. The large oil refinery at Noonmati, on the northern outskirts, symbolizes Guwahati's recent growth and prosperity. The busy central market area contrasts sharply with the almost rural riverside feel northeast of the centre, and the surrounding hills rising beyond the coconut palms give Guwahati a fairly appealing atmosphere.
Population: approximately 780,000
Climate: Guwahati enjoys a temperate climate, with warm summers and cool winters. The north-east monsoon lashes the city, bringing more than 1600 mm of rainfall to Guwahati between May and September.
Main Language(s): Assamese, Hindi and English Time Zone: GMT 05:30
Phone Area Code: 0361 Best Time To Visit: Between October and March, although you might need to bundle up, especially in the evenings.
Airport Distance from City Center: 28 kms Taxi Rates from Airport to City: Pre-paid taxi service available at Rs. 270 to city centre
Assam State Museum This museum chronicles Assam's rich natural and cultural heritage with a range of attractions, the most impressive of which is the reconstructed Assamese village. The collection includes stone and copper plate inscriptions dating from the 5th century, a 12th century sculpture of 'Surya', terracotta pieces and costumes. Also see the weaving exhibit and sculpture gallery.
This island temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Its location, at the top of a flight of steep steps up from the beach, is more dramatic than the temple itself. To get there, take a ferry from Umananda Ghat to Peocock Island, which lies on the Brahmaputra River.
On the commanding Nilachal hill, the important Kali temple of Kamakhya, with its beehive-shaped 'Shikhara', is a fine example of the distinctive Assamese style of architecture. Kamakhya temple is one of the most important tantric temples in India. It was also believed to be an old Khasi sacrifice site.
The Navagraha temple is popularly known as the "Temple of the Nine Planets". An ancient seat of astrology and astronomy, the temple is surrounded by large trees that shelter tribes of monkeys. Housed in a single red dome, again in the beehive style, the central Shivalingam is encircled by a further nine representing the planets.
Srimanta Sankaradeva Kalashetra
The Srimanta Sankaradeva Kalakshetra 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.
The Janardan Temple is famous for having being built in the style of Hindu and Buddhist architecture. It was renovated anew in 17th century, and is a popular tourist attraction.
Assam State Zoo
Guwahati's leafy and well-managed zoo and botanical gardens are also a big attraction for visitors. Animals include the one-horned rhino, the state symbol of Assam, as well as tigers and leopards.
This shrine lies amid lush vegetation about 12 km from Guwahati station. The sage Vashistha is believed to have lived there.
Assamese cuisine is chiefly made up of fish, rice and a heavy mustard seasoning. The most common fish are locally known as rahu, elish, puthi and chital. Chinese food is also well represented in Guwahati, and some of the restaurants along Rajgarh road, near the Gandhi Memorial, are owned by Chinese immigrants.
Assam Trunk Road,
Phone: 361 522 478, Fax: 361 639 282
GN Bordoloi Road
Bidur Chinese Restaurant
Off GN Bordoloi Road
GN Bordoloi Road
GN Bordoloi Road
Bohag or Rangali Bihu: This spring festival, celebrated in mid-April, signals the beginning of the agricultural season. The most colourful of the three Bihu festivals, Bohag Bihu is celebrated with dance, music and song.
Magh or the Bhogali Bihu: This harvest festival, celebrated in January, is marked by a feast, buffalo fights and other entertainment.
Kati Bihu: This festival, celebrated in the month of Kartika is a relatively low-key event
Ambubasi Mela: This monsoon mela, held at the Kamakhya Temple in Guwahati, is attended by thousand of tantric devotees from across the India. The temple remains closed for three days, and only devotees are allowed into the temple on the fourth day.
Jonbeel Mela: Every winter, Jagiroad, a small town near Guwahati, is transformed into a buzzing hub of activity. Tribes and communities from across the north-east come together to in an inspiring show of solidarity and harmony. The highlight of the mela is a bazaar, where goods are bartered, rather than sold. The mela also showcases the traditional dances and music of the communities represented.
Durga Puja: This is another major festival in Assam. Durga Puja is celebrated for five days in October and pujas (prayers) are organised in local areas. Idols of the Goddesses Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswati as well as Lord Ganesha and Lord Kartik are worshipped. In the evenings, plays on mythological themes are organised.
Phakua: The festival of Holi is known as Phakua in this state, and is celebrated in March. The best place in Assam to visit during this festval is Borpeta, 137 km from Guwahati. Borpeta Naamghar is the worship place of the Vaishnavite religion founded by Shri Shankardev and his disciple, Shri Madhavdev. It is famous for the Douljatra, when the idol of Lord Vishnu is carried on a rath through the town, accompanied by hundreds of people playing phakua (a musical instrument), singing naam kirtan (religious music) accompanied by khol, and bhortaal (Assamese musical instruments).
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