Travel Bucket List: India – Assam Part 1

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My post on northeast India written more than two years back was the genesis for this series and so lately I have been thinking that I have been unfair about lumping all the eight states as one being, especially when I have researched in detail the other states. So, to overcome this, I will be doing each state in detail and will be starting with the state of Assam, one of the larger states.

Located south of the eastern Himalayas along the Brahmaputra and Barak River valleys in north-eastern India, Assam is bordered by Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh to the north; Nagaland and Manipur to the east; Meghalaya, Tripura, Mizoram and Bangladesh to the south; and West Bengal to the west via the Siliguri Corridor, a 22 km wide strip of land that connects the state to the rest of India. The state language is Assamese, followed by Bengali, which is official in the Barak Valley and Bodo which is official in Bodoland Territorial Region.

Known for its tea and silk, the state was the first site for oil drilling in Asia. Assam is home to the one-horned Indian rhinoceros, along with the wild water buffalo, pygmy hog, tiger and various species of Asiatic birds, and provides one of the last wild habitats for the Asian elephant. The Assamese economy is aided by wildlife tourism to the Kaziranga National Park and the Manas National Park, which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Assam receives more rainfall than most parts of India; this rain feeds the Brahmaputra River, whose tributaries and oxbow lakes provide the region with a hydro-geomorphic environment.

Assam and adjoining regions have evidence of human settlement from the beginning of the Stone Age. The first dated mention of the region comes from Periplus of the Erythraean Sea in the 1st century and Ptolemy’s Geographia in the 2nd century which calls the region Kirrhadia after the Kirata population. In the classical period and up to the 12th century the region east of the Karatoya river, largely congruent to present-day Assam, was called Kamarupa, and alternatively, Pragjyotisha. Though a western portion of Assam as a region continued to be called Kamrup, the Ahom kingdom that emerged in the east, and which came to dominate the entire Brahmaputra valley, was called Assam; and the British province too was called Assam. Though the precise etymology of Assam is not clear, the name Assam is associated with the Ahom people, originally called Shyam or Shan.

According to a late text, the Kalika Purana from around the 9th to the 10th century, the earliest ruler of Assam was Mahiranga Danav of the Danava dynasty, who was removed by Naraka of Mithila and established the Bhauma dynasty. The last of these rulers, also Naraka, was slain by Lord Krishna. Naraka’s son Bhagadatta became the king, who, it is mentioned in the Mahabharata fought for the Kauravas in the battle of Kurukshetra with an army of kiratas, chinas and dwellers of the eastern coast. At the same time towards the east in central Assam, the Asura Kingdom was ruled by another line of kings. Evidence indicates the presence of civilization in Assam around the 2nd century with a rock-cut stupa at Sri Surya Pahar that has been dated to 200 BC contemporary with the rock-cut Karle and Bhaja caves of Maharashtra. Samudragupta’s 4th century Allahabad pillar inscription mentions Kamarupa and Davaka in central Assam as frontier kingdoms of the Gupta Empire. Davaka was later absorbed by Kamarupa, which grew into a large kingdom that spanned from Karatoya river to near present Sadiya and covered the entire Brahmaputra valley, North Bengal, parts of Bangladesh and, at times Purnea and parts of West Bengal. The kingdom was ruled by three dynasties who traced their lineage from a mleccha or Kirata Naraka; the Varmanas, the Mlechchha dynasty and the Kamarupa-Palas, from their capitals in present-day Guwahati or Pragjyotishpura, Tezpur or Haruppeswara and North Gauhati or Durjaya respectively. All three dynasties claimed descent from Narakasura.

The Ahoms, a Tai group, ruled Upper Assam. The Shans built their kingdom and consolidated their power in Eastern Assam with the modern town of Sibsagar as their capital. Until the early 1500s, the Ahoms ruled a small kingdom in Sibsagar district and suddenly expanded during King Suhungmung’s rule taking advantage of the weakening rule of Chutia and Dimasa kingdoms. By 1681, the whole track down to the border of the modern district of Goalpara came permanently under their sway. Ahoms ruled for nearly 600 years between 1228 and 1826 with major expansions in the early 16th century. The Koch, another Bodo-Kachari dynasty, established sovereignty in 1510. The Koch kingdom in Western Assam and present-day North Bengal was at its zenith in the early reign of Nara Narayan between 1540 and 1587 and later split into two, the western part as a Mughal vassal and the eastern as an Ahom satellite state and later in 1682, Koch Hajo was entirely annexed by the Ahoms.

Despite numerous invasions, mostly by the Muslim rulers, no western power ruled Assam until the arrival of the British with the Mughals making seventeen unsuccessful attempts to invade. The discovery of Camellia sinensis in 1834 in Assam was followed by testing in 1836–37 in London. The British allowed companies to rent land from 1839 onwards and then tea plantations proliferated in Eastern Assam, where the soil and the climate were most suitable. Problems with the imported Han Chinese labourers from China and hostility from native Assamese resulted in the migration of forced labourers from central and eastern parts of India. After initial trial and error with planting the Chinese and the Assamese-Chinese hybrid varieties, the planters later accepted the local Camellia assamica as the most suitable variety for Assam. By the 1850s, the industry started seeing some profits. The industry saw initial growth when in 1861, investors were allowed to own land in Assam and it saw substantial progress with the invention of new technologies and machinery for preparing processed tea during the 1870s. In the later part of the 18th century, Ahom occupied Assam was captured by the Burmese who then leashed a reign of terror on the Assamese people who fled to neighbouring kingdoms and British-ruled Bengal after which the First Anglo-Burmese War took place in 1824 and ended under the Treaty of Yandabo in 1826, with the Company taking control of Western Assam and installing Purandar Singha as king of Upper Assam in 1833 under an arrangement that lasted till 1838 after which the British gradually annexed the entire region.

Initially, Assam was made a part of the Bengal Presidency, then in 1906 it was made a part of Eastern Bengal and Assam province, and in 1912 it was reconstituted into a chief commissioners’ province. The Assam territory was first separated from Bengal in 1874 as the North-East Frontier non-regulation province, also known as the Assam Chief-Commissionership. It was incorporated into the new province of Eastern Bengal and Assam in 1905 after the partition of Bengal between 1905 and 1911 and re-established in 1912 as Assam Province. After India’s independence, the Indian government divided Assam into several states beginning in 1970 within the borders of what was then Assam. In 1963, the Naga Hills district became the 16th state of India under the name of Nagaland and a part of Tuensang was added to the new state. In 1970, the districts containing the Khasi Hills, Jaintia Hills, and Garo Hills were formed into an autonomous state within Assam which then became the state of Meghalaya in 1972 and the same year, Arunachal Pradesh or the North-East Frontier Agency and Mizoram, from the Mizo Hills in the south were separated from Assam as union territories, with both becoming full states in 1986.

A significant geographical aspect of Assam is that it contains three of six physiographic divisions of India: the Northern Himalayas or the Eastern Hills, The Northern Plains or the Brahmaputra plains and Deccan Plateau or the Karbi Anglong. The climate is cold and there is rainfall most of the year. Geomorphic studies conclude that the Brahmaputra, the lifeline of Assam, is an antecedent river older than the Himalayas. Assam is one of the richest biodiversity zones in the world and consists of tropical rainforests, deciduous forests, riverine grasslands, bamboo orchards and numerous wetland ecosystems with many now protected as national parks and reserved forests. Assam has conserved the one-horned Indian rhinoceros from near extinction, along with the pygmy hog, tiger and numerous species of birds, and it provides one of the last wild habitats for the Asian elephant. The state has the largest population of wild water buffalo in the world as well as the highest diversity of birds in India with around 820 species which go up to 946 when subspecies are included.

Assam’s economy is based on agriculture and oil with Assam producing more than half of India’s tea. The Assam-Arakan basin holds about a quarter of the country’s oil reserves and produces about 12% of its total petroleum. The Assamese culture is traditionally a hybrid one developed due to assimilation of ethnocultural groups of Austric, Dravidian, Tibeto-Burman and Tai origin in the past. Therefore, both local elements or the local elements in Sanskritised forms are distinctly found.

We shall start our exploration of the state with its largest city Guwahati as well as its capital Dispur, which is a circuit city region located within Guwahati.

Guwahati

The largest city in Assam and also the largest metropolis in northeastern India, Guwahati is a major riverine port city along with hills and is called the Gateway to Northeast India. Dispur, the capital of Assam, is in the circuit city region located within Guwahati and is the seat of the Assam government. The city is also called the City of Temples because of the many ancient Hindu temples in the city. The city of Guwahati lies between the banks of the Brahmaputra River and the foothills of the Shillong plateau with the northern bank of the Brahmaputra, being gradually incorporated into the city limits. Guwahati is the largest city in Northeast India and the region hosts diverse wildlife including rare animals, primate species and endangered birds.

Once known as Pragjyotishpura or the light of the east, Guwahati was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Kamarupa and derives its name from the Assamese word Guva which is derived from the Sanskrit word Guvaka, meaning areca nut and its plant and Hati meaning rows with the city’s name translating to the rows of the areca nut tree. Guwahati’s myths and history go back several thousands of years, though the exact date of the city’s beginning is unknown, references in the epics, Puranas, and other traditional histories of India, lead many to assume that it is one of the ancient cities of Asia with the Kalika Purana mentioning that Kamarupa was inhabited by Kiratas. The city was the seat of the Borphukan, the civil-military authority of the Lower Assam region appointed by the Ahom kings. The Mughals invaded Assam seventeen times but were defeated by the Ahoms in the Battle of Itakhuli and the Battle of Saraighat on the outskirts of Guwahati. In 1972, the capital of Assam was moved to Dispur, a neighbourhood in Guwahati.

The Brahmaputra river flows to the north of the city which is bordered on the south by the foothills of the Shillong plateau and to the east by the Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary. The Bharalu River, a tributary of the Brahmaputra, flows right through the heart of the city and to the south-west of the city lies Dipor Bil, a permanent freshwater lake with no prominent inflows apart from monsoon run-off from the hills that lie to the south of the lake and drains into the Brahmaputra, acting as a natural stormwater reservoir for the city. There are also multiple hills within the city limits.

The Umananda Temple is located on Peacock Island that lies on the Brahmaputra River and is named after and dedicated to Lord Shiva. The name Umananda comes from the words, Uma, another name for Goddess Parvati and Ananda meaning happiness. Peacock Island is one of the smallest inhabited islands with the temple and its surroundings a haven for nature lovers. . The Island is home to a very rare and endangered species called the Golden Langur who are considered highly sacred. The temple is situated on top of a hill called Bhasmakala or Bhasmakuta. The island was originally built in 1694 by King Gadadhar Singha but was destroyed by an earthquake in 1897 and later rebuilt by a wealthy local merchant. The Umananda temple was crafted beautifully by the skilled Assamese workmen and aside from Lord Shiva, there are 10 other Hindu Gods whose idols reside in the shrines. The sanctum sanctorum encloses the rock on which Lord Shiva is said to have sat to meditate. According to a legend, Lord Shiva resided on this island as Bhayananda and it is said that at the beginning of creation, Lord Shiva sprinkled ashes here and imparted the supreme knowledge to his wife, Goddess Parvati. It is said that the Goddess Urvasi resides on this island and brings Amrit or nectar to Goddess Kamakhya which is why the island is also called Urvasi island. Even the Bhasmakuta hill on which the temple is located has a story. Legend says that when Kamadeva disturbed Lord Shiva during his meditation, he turned him into ash on this hillock, hence earning it the name of Bhasmakuta. The temple can be reached by a winding flight of stairs and is an ode to the mastery of the Assamese craftsmen and architects. Avoid visiting the island during monsoons as access to the island can be denied due to the rising water levels of the River Brahmaputra as well as due to flash floods. The temple is open from 5:30 am to 6 pm every day.

Located on the Nilanchal Hill in the western part of Guwahati,  the Kamakhya Temple is one of the most revered shrines of Goddess Shakti in India. According to the Hindu scriptures, there are four important Shakti Peethas or temples with the highest powers of divinity in the country and the Kamakhya Temple is one of them. The temple celebrates the power of the woman to give birth and is regarded as extremely auspicious among the followers of the Tantrik sect of Hinduism and was built and reconstructed multiple times between the 8th and 17th centuries. The main entrance of the temple is designed with carvings decorated with flowers and the temple has a massive dome and is decked up during the Ambubachi Festival and Fair held in June. One of the oldest temples in the country, the Kamakhya Temple has a long history. It is believed that this temple was built during the Mleccha dynasty in the 8th or 9th centuries. The Kamarupa Kings from Indra Pala to Dharma Pala were ardent followers of the Tantrik cult and at that time this temple became an important destination for Tantrikism. The Kalika Purana was composed in the 10th century and enhanced the importance of the temple as a seat for Tantrik sacrifices and sorcery. Mystic Buddhism or Vajrayana emerged here around that time and several Buddhist professors in Tibet were known to belong to Kamakhya.

The Kamakhya temple was destroyed during Hussein Sha’s invasion of the Kamata kingdom, the ruins remaining undiscovered until the 1500s when King Vishwasingha revived the temple as a site of worship. The Kamakhya temple was reconstructed in 1565 during the reign of his son and ever since then, the shrine has been an important religious centre for Hindus. The current structure of the temple is said to be of the Nilachal type, another word for architecture with a hemispherical dome and a cruciform shaped base. The temple has four chambers aligned from east to west and is described as the Garbhagriha or the main sanctum sanctorum rests on a base that has several sunken panels embellished with the sculptures of Ganesha and other Hindu deities. The lower parts of the Garbhagriha are made of stone while the zenith is in the shape of an octagon and is made out of bricks. The Garbhariha is situated below ground level and can be reached by a series of rock-cut steps. A rock fissure in the shape of a vulva-shaped depression is present here and worshipped as the goddess Kamakhya. The depression is filled with water from an underground spring and this is the general pattern of all the Garbhagrihas in this temple. Towards the west of the Kamakhya temple lies the Calantha, which is a square-shaped chamber of the atchala type. Small moveable idols of Gods and Goddesses are found here, while the walls of this chamber have many images and inscriptions carved onto its surface. To the west of the Calantha is the Panchratna which is a large rectangular construction having a flat roof and five small spires protruding from its roof. Towards the west of the Pancharatna is the last structure of Natamandir which has an apsidal end and ridged roof of the Ranghar type Ahom style. The walls of the Natamandir has inscriptions from Rajewas Singha and Gaurinath Singha inscribed upon them.

Legend has it that during the month of Ashadh or June according to the Gregorian Calendar, the Bramhaputra River that flows beside the temple turns red. It is believed that this is a divine phenomenon and that it happens because the Goddess menstruates during this time. While some people claim it is due to the high iron and Cinnabar deposits in the water, others continue to believe in the miracle and so every year during the Ambubachi Mela, the river and the temple attracts thousands of devotees. The Ambubachi Festival is a celebration of the Goddess’ fertility and the celebration hinges on the belief that the Mother Goddess, Kamakhya, Shiva’s young bride, is menstruating at this time. The Temple remains closed and the Goddess is bathed after those three days after which the normal activities of the temple are resumed. It is believed that at the time of monsoon when this festival is observed, Mother Earth is at her fertile best due to the rain nurturing her womb aka the soil.

On regular days, the temple remains open from 8 am to 1 pm and then again between 2:30 to 5:30 p. Entry fees for the general public are free while for the special entry it is INR 101 and direct entry is INR 501.

The ISKCON temple in Guwahati is known as the Shri Shri Rukmini Krishna, after Rukmani, the wife of Lord Krishna. It is located on a hilltop of the Ulubari Chariali area and is constructed of white marble. The interiors of the temple include the deities of Lord Krishna and Rukmani and there are various halls inside the temple for preaching the teaching of the society which is based on Vaishnavism. The temple is surrounded by lush green gardens which inspires quiet contemplation of the divine.

Dedicated to Goddess Bhuvaneshwari, the white shrine is perched atop a hill adjacent to the. The Bhubaneswari Temple provides visitors with a magnificent panoramic view of the city with the sunset views on the Brahmaputra River as viewed from the hill a must-see when in Guwahati. Though the temple is high upon a hill, it requires a 20-minute walk from the bus stop.

Perched on top of the Chitrachal or Navagraha Hill, the Navagraha Temple is dedicated to the nine celestial bodies. Believed to be the dwelling of the Sun, the temple enshrines nine Shiva Lingas in different coloured clothes representing planetary gods including Chandra or the Moon, Mangala or Mars, Budha or Mercury, Brihaspati or Jupiter, Shukra or Venus, Shani or Saturn, Rahu or the North Lunar Node and Ketu or the South Lunar Node surrounding the Sun or Surya in the middle. Built in 1752 by the Asom King, Raja Rajesvar Singha, the Navagraha Temple is built in the old Shikara style and is known to have survived major earthquakes. Instead of a roof, there is a huge dome with a beehive pattern. The temple premises are also used as a research centre for both astronomy and astrology and offer spectacular views of the Brahmaputra river and the valley below. The temple is open from sunrise to sunset daily.

Perched on the Sukreshwar or Itakhuli Hill on the southern bank of the Brahmaputra river, the Sukreshwar Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Built in 1744, by the Ahom King Pramatta Singha, the temple was improvised and financial changes were made in 1759 by Rajeswar Singha. The temple offers an enchanting view of the valley below with a few steps leading down to the river and is popular for the spectacular sunrise and sunset. The temple is popular for conducting post-death rituals and there is a common belief that rituals here can help the dead attain peace or moksha. The temple complex also houses a Vishnu temple and a few chambers to conduct religious ceremonies. It is also said to house the largest Shivalinga in India. As per Kalika Purana, this hill was originally shaped like a hump of an elephant and hence known as Hastagiri. Open all through the year from 6 am to 7 pm, the best time to visit is during Mahashivaratri.

The Ugra Tara Temple enshrines the deity of Tara Devi. Built in 1725 by the Ahom ruler Siva Singh, the Shakti temple is unique in the sense that it does not have an idol like other temples do, instead, the inner sanctum sanctorum houses a small pit of water which is worshipped as Goddess Tara who is believed to be an incarnation of Goddess Parvati. There is also a water tank called Jorepukhuri, situated to the east of the temple which survived a devastating earthquake that destroyed the upper part of the temple. Goddess Ugra Tara is revered as Goddess Kamakhya and is showered with offerings and sacrifices and it is believed that the Goddess likes consuming meat, coconut and liquor; hence, get offered the same. According to legend, the navel of Goddess Sati is said to have fallen here while another legend suggests that when Lord Yama, the God of Hell complained to Lord Brahma that nobody was being sent to hell from the Kamarupa region because of its sacredness, Lord Brahma, in turn, went to Lord Shiva, and he, in turn, sent Goddess Ugra to drive away from her people and she sent in her army to bring them back. The army met Sage Vashishtha on its way back and disturbed his meditation. In anguish and rage, the sage cursed Goddess Ugra and Lord Shiva and from then on, all the Vedic sadhanas were given up in the Kamarupa region and people started worshipping the Goddess who became a Goddess of the Vamachara sadhana and the army became the Mlecchas. Goddess Ugratara is also worshipped in Buddhism. The temple is open between 5:30 am and 8 pm daily.

Perched on the hillock of Shukleshwar on the Shukleshwar ghats of the Brahmaputra river, the Janardana Temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. While the origin of the temple cannot be traced, it is believed to have been renovated sometime in the 17th century. The temple is an amalgamation of Buddhist and Hindu architectural styles, incorporating design elements from both with milky white interior walls with elaborate carvings of deities. The sanctum sanctorum of the temple enshrines a Buddhist statue and is revered as a place of meditation and worship by both Hindu and Buddhists. According to the myth associated with the temple, Lord Buddha is believed to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and he is known as Lord Janardana. Lord Janandana once fought and defeated the mighty demon Raja Bali in the disguise of a Vamana or a dwarf to protect the people from the wrath of the asuras or the demons. The battle spot came to be known as Janardana Tirtha and later, a temple was constructed around it known as the Janardana Temple. The temple is open from sunrise to sunset every day.

Located 40 km north of Guwahati, the Madan Kamdev Temple is an archaeological find in Baihata Chariali and is spread over an area of 500 metres, perched on top of a hillock. Here, the idols and sculptures of Madan Kamdev are scattered all over and the idols have detailed architecture and carvings on them.

Assam’s capital since 1973, Dispur is a suburb of Guwahati and houses some of the important buildings of the state like Assam Secretariat, State Emergency Operations Center and State Assembly House. Dispur is also famous as a tea auction market and is has beautiful weather throughout the year.

Pandu is another Guwahati suburb and is named after King Pandu, the father of the Pandavas. The Tila Hills here has a temple dedicated to Pandu known as the Pandunath temple. Five Ganesha idols representing the five Pandavas are found here and it is believed that during their exile, the Pandavas hid here under the disguise of Ganesha. The place also presents various other idols.

Built over the Brahmaputra River, the Saraighat Bridge is the first railway-cum-road bridge. The construction of the bridge was started in 1958 and it was first inaugurated for goods trucks in 1962, by then Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. A year later, on 7th June 1963, it was open to public traffic. The double-decker bridge has a road highway on top with a rail line below. Originally built for the North Frontier Railway, the bridge is a vital link between the North East region and the rest of the country; it has Lachit Borphukan Park situated on the south end and Chilarai Park situated on the north end. The 1.4 km long bridge connects both banks of the Brahmaputra river in Saraighat, a small town famous for the huge war between Ahoms and Mughals. An adjacent three-lane concrete bridge was also created and inaugurated in 2017.

The Assam State Zoo cum Botanical Garden or the Guwahati Zoo as it is popularly known spreads over an area of 430 acres of a densely vegetated forest area known as the Hengrabari Forest Area in the centre of Guwahati. Often referred to as the green lung of the city, the zoo is the largest of its kind in the North-East region and has landscape gardens, wildlife and a serene environment. Established in 1958, it is home to 113 different species of animal, with more than 900 animals, birds and reptiles. Over the years, the zoo has created a charming botanical garden in its vicinity. The main attractions of the zoo are the fauna exhibits, the botanical garden, a museum, a reptile house and a herbarium collection. The zoo has started several captive breeding programs to increase the population of endangered species like the one-horned rhinoceros, gharials and white tigers.

Located 18 km southwest of Guwahati, Dipor Bil or Deepor Beel is a freshwater lake in the former channel of the Brahmaputra river. Sprawling over an area of 40 sq km, the lake was declared as a Bird Sanctuary in 1989 owing to its rich biodiversity and heritage and is home to a vast variety of bird species. Dipor Bil offers a spectacular view of the fascinating wetland and rich forest ecosystem with as many as 19,000 different species of rare and endangered birds. In 2002, the Ramsar Convention listed it as a Ramsar site and Birdlife International has also declared it as Important Bird Area (IBA). Winters are the best time to visit as the weather conditions attract hibernating birds from far west and south countries. As per research 18 varieties of phytoplanktons have been found at the site including rare plants like Euryale Ferox, Potamogeton crispus etc. Dipor Bil has been derived from the Sanskrit word Dipor meaning elephants and bil meaning wetland or lake. It is believed that the lakeside was once an important dockyard for the Tai- Ahom and the Mughals and at one point in time, the Kampitha and Rambrai Syiemship which was the political authority of Meghalaya had control over this site. Known to be the largest lake or beel in the Brahmaputra valley of Western Assam, Dipor Bil has also been classified as representative of wetland type under the Burma Monsoon Forest biogeographic region.

Chandubi Lake is a natural lake born when an earthquake hit the region in 1897 and the forest that was there vanished and became the lake. It is located at the foot of the Garo Hills and is surrounded by tea gardens, deep forests and tiny villages and is free from pollution because it is slightly inaccessible. Spread over 2000 hectares, it is a lovely picnic spot that attracts a large number of migratory birds during the winter months. The lake forms the breeding ground of the birds, both residential and migratory. Chandubi which means the setting sun is thought to have gotten the name because an unknown British officer was mesmerised by the sunset here. Another version claims that the legendary merchant Chanda Sadagar used this beautiful lake as a transit point for his business and as the lake grew popular because of the merchant, it eventually came to be associated with his name.  The prominent feature of the lake is the natural lagoon that was formed. The Chandubi Festival usually takes place in the first week of January when local villagers come together to perform traditional dance forms and celebrate their unique culture.

Located in the heart of the city, Nehru Park is a charming garden built in 2000 and named after India’s first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. The park was originally a church with several cemeteries, which was later converted into a park. Nehru Park boasts of 45 sculptures carved out of concrete depicting various dance forms of the state as well as an open-air theatre, a rock garden, a charming lawn and a few artificial ponds. There is also a jogging track and a children’s garden with rides. The musical fountain which starts once night has fallen is a local favourite. The park is closed on Thursdays and other days is open between 10 am and 8 pm. The entry fee for adults is INR 10 per person and a child pays INR 5.

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The Assam State Museum or the Assam Rajyik State Museum is one of the most famous museums of Northeast India that gives insights into the ancient and modern history of the region. The museum was established during the British colonial rule in 1940 and set up by the Kamarupa Anusandhan Samiti, Assam research society to showcase the history, sculptures, and handicrafts of Northeast India. The Museum offers an extensive collection of artefacts and sculptures dating back to the 5th to the 12th centuries to World War II and is divided into various sections each one showcasing a different era in history. The manuscript section displays the ancient manuscripts in Assamese, Tai and Myanmarese with a collection of these documents written on the bark of old trees and well-preserved. The arms and ammunition section has a vast collection of swords and armours from the Medieval to the Mughal period including the Ahom dynasty from the 1200s as well as a collection of ammunition from World War II. The prehistoric terracotta section has on display statues from the Indus Valley Civilization and various terracotta objects extracted from the different parts of Northeast India. The numismatics and metallic sculptures section have a collection of metal relics of Lord Vishnu, Goddess Durga and the Buddha along with a collection of coins from the Mughal and Ahom dynasties. The epigraphy section has a collection of stone and copper inscriptions belonging from the 5th to the 18th centuries while the natural history gallery has the collection of the natural biodiversity of the state including the life of a one-horned rhino. The museum also has on display the various handicrafts and handmade objects of Northeast India along with reconstructed tribal huts. Opened in June 1984, the conservation lab helps to conserve the present collection. During the summer months, the museum is open between 10 am and 5 pm while it is open from 10 am to 4:30 pm during the winter months. The entry fee is INR 5 while a camera fee of INR 10 is levied in case visitors want to photograph the exhibits.

The Guwahati War Memorial opened to the public in December 2016 and is a local favourite. The memorial houses a replica of the Amar Jawan or the eternal soldier and depictions of the Battle of Saraighat between the Mughals and the Ahoms. The entrance is decorated with an army tank used in the war donated by the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force.  There are also a few sculptures on a boat showcasing war scenes on the water. The memorial also displays scenes from the Kargil war, the attack on Karachi by the Indian Navy in 1971 and the Sino-Indian war.

The Regional Science Centre is one of the 27 such centres maintained and administered by the Government of India’s National Council of Science Museums. Locally known as the Science Museum, this is a wonderful initiative to educate, enlighten and entertain the visitors through the medium of science and technology. Established in 1994, the museum houses rare instruments, machinery, rare science equipment and demo experiment setups. The science centre also boasts of interactive displays to learn from, both for kids and adults, ranging from everyday activities to prehistoric exhibits and non-formal science education. In addition to the permanent galleries showcasing various exhibits, the museum also has a dynamic science park, a mock prehistoric park, a superb 3D animation theatre, a spacious auditorium and an inbuilt aquarium. The Science Centre was the first in the entire northeast to have a stereoscopic digital 3D cinema projection facility and another highlight is the Digital Planetarium which provides one with a unique experience of artificial sky gazing. The Magic and Miracle Show enlighten visitors against the misuse and superstitions of magic and in the process educates them to the wonders of science through which magic is possible. The Super Cold Show demonstrates experiments on different elements to exhibit different behaviours on being exposed to super cold conditions while the Sky Observation Programmes enable visitors to witness celestial bodies with the help of a 6-inch refractive telescope. There is also a tiny butterfly park that demonstrates the lifecycle of a butterfly. The science centre is open between 10 am and 5:30 pm but the ticket counter closes at 5 pm. Charges are INR 25 per person for Indians and INR 50 for foreigners. The planetarium show takes place between 12 noon and 3 pm and has a fee of INR 20 while the Super Cold Show which takes place between 11 am and 4 pm has a ticket fee of INR 10. The 3D Film Show and the mock coal mine have multiple timings and have a ticket fee of INR 25 and INR 10 respectively.

At the Guwahati Planetarium, apart from the regular Sky watching sessions, special shows are projected on a dome-shaped overhead screen. These shows are available in Hindi, English as well as Assamese.

Named after the poet-playwright and reformer, the Srimanta Sankardev Kalakshetra is a cultural institution whose aim is to promote the culture, art and tradition of Assam. Built in 1990, the Kalakshetra showcases the artistic excellence of the Northeast and is sprawled over a vast area, boasting a museum, a library, an art gallery and a children’s park among others. The complex has been constructed in the conventional Assamese design and showcases the lives of the local people, groups and sub-groups of the state. The Kalakshetra is open between 10 am and 7:30 pm and has an entry fee of INR 30 for Indian adults, INR 10 for children below the age of 14 while foreigners need to pay INR 100. There are camera charges of INR 10 for a still camera and INR 100 for a video camera.

The Maati Centre is an initiative by a former World Bank employee Pabitra Lama Sarmah and her husband, Rishi Raj Sarmah. Established to promote the talents and hand crafted works of local artisans from nonprofit organizations like Tihar Jail and Dastakar Ranthambore, the centre has emerged as a wonderful blend of local culture and regional arts. With the idea to promote handicrafts and heritage, Maati Centre provides a platform to showcase young and independent artists and gives them a broader exposure. The centre protects, documents and maps the oral and folk and tribal arts to restore the long lost culture.

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