Guwahati city is the gateway to the Brahmaputra River, the Assam region and in particular the Kaziranga National Park. Although there is little to do here, there is a certain buzz in the local bazaars that focus mainly on selling provisions. But for tourists, Guwahati is mainly part of an onward journey that takes place on the Brahmaputra itself.
Guwahati is the second-largest metropolis in eastern India after Calcutta and it is an important river port and Assam’s primary commercial hub. Excavations trace Guwahati’s origins to the 4th century and it was the capital of Assam until the 10th century. There are several ancient Hindu temples in the city and it is a place renowned for its 'tantric' traditions as well as astrological importance.
Guwahati was once called Pragjyotishpur - "the city of eastern astrology". Sites of astrological interest include the Guwahati Planetarium with its distinctive dome and sloping walls, and the Navagraha temple, which is dedicated to the nine planets in the solar system and is a centre of astrological research.
The Kamakhya temple is also worth a visit. Hindu legend claims that the angry Lord Shiva divided his dead wife’s body into 108 pieces and her yoni (vagina) landed on Kamakhya Hill, making it a place of great female spirituality and tantric worship. Visitors to Guwahati should also see the Aswaklanta temple and the ruins of the Madan Kamdev temple with their impressive erotic carving.
The city has a zoological garden, Commonwealth War Graves, several scientific museums and the Assam State Museum, which is a handsome colonial building housing many tribal culture and anthropological collections. Just north of the river, Sualkuchi is renowned for her silk weavers and visitors can stop at these workshops to see how these exquisite sarees are manufactured.
Guwahati’s riverbank is a popular spot and a scenic promenade for taking in the sweeping views of the Brahmaputra. The people of Guwahati are a melting pot of ethnic groups from the north east and other Indian states, and the city is known for its warm and hospitable locals.
- Matthew Nicklin, North India
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