The ongoing pandemic and the lockdown has brought life to a standstill. Here in Assam too there has been several phases of lockdown and unlock from time to time keeping in view the active cases of COVID-19 positive cases. All religious institutions were requested to close down. But unlock phases did allow them to open at times with minimum entry so as to avoid any community transfer. Devotees are looking forward with earnest to pay a visit to the temples of their faith and offer prayers. Post 15th August the lockdown will undergo several relaxation and we can’t wait enough.
Guwahati city in Assam is known as the city of temples. The city witnesses the footfalls of many devotees and pilgrims all the year round. There are many temples, both big and small, in and around the city. In this post I would like to mention a few most popular temples among the locals as well as tourists.
1. Maa Kamakhya Temple
Situated atop the Neelachal hills in the city of Guwahati is the most visited Hindu temple, the Kamakhya temple. Devotees, mainly from the Shakti cult, from around the country visit this temple to offer prayers to Maa Kamakhya. The Ambubachi mela and Durga puja are celebrated every year here in the temple premises which witness the most number of devotees and pilgrims.
This year, however, the Ambubachi mela didn’t see any kind of gathering except for the ceremonial rituals performed by the priests.
Maligaon Railway Station is the nearest station, from where you can take a cab, or bus, or trekker to the temple.
2. Umananda Temple
Umananda temple is located in an island off the river Brahmaputra. This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and was built by the Ahom king Gadadhar Singha in 1694. This island known as the Peacock island is the smallest inhabited riverine island in the world. Shiva Chaturdashi is the most colourful festival held here on an annual basis.
Ferry and steamer services to this island are available from Sukleshwar ghat or Fancy Bazar ghat for hire. One can also board the Inland Water Transport ferry services from Uzan Bazar ghat which costs you around Rs. 20 per person.
3. Ugratora Temple
Ugratora devalaya or temple is located at the heart of the city of Guwahati, and on the western side of Jor pukhuri . Dedicated to the first partner of Lord Shiva, Sati Devi the temple is an important Shakti temple built by the Ahom king Shiva Singha in the year 1725.
There is no idol in this temple but a ditch of water which is considered to be the great form of Goddess Ugratora. Devotees offer prayers and sacrifices to show their devotion and thereby seek the blessings of the Goddess. The best time to visit this temple would be around Durga puja when in fact, the entire city lightens up with festivities.
4. Nabagraha Temple
Located atop the Chitrasal hill the Nabagraha temple was built by the Ahom king Rajeshwar Singha in the late 18th century. Nine Shivalingams representing the nine celestial bodies are enshrined in this temple and each of them is covered with a coloured garment symbolic of that particular celestial bodies namely Surya, Chandra, Mangala, Budha, Brihaspati, Sukra, Shani, Rahu and Ketu. In the centre is a Shivalingam symbolizing the Sun.
The temple is known to be the only temple performing grihapujan. The temple is also a research centre of both Astronomy and Astrology.
5. Basistha Temple
Basistha temple, a Shiva Temple is located on the outskirts of Garbhanga Reserve Forest , about 10-12 kms from Guwahati city. This was originally an ashram, home to the famous sage Vashistha. This site has evidence of a stone temple which was later remade with bricks by the Ahom king Rajeshwar Singha in the mid 18th century.
The temple in the ashram stands on the bank of the mountain streams originating from the hills of Meghalaya which becomes the river Basistha and Bharalu flowing through the city.
6. Balaji Temple
Purva Tirupati Balaji temple is located at Ahom gaon just next to the Inter State Bus Terminus (ISBT). So needless to say it has really easy access from all the north-eastern States. Moreover Guwahati Railway station is just 9 kms away from the temple.
This temple built in 1998 was dedicated to Lord Venkateshwara. The white coloured temple is built in the similar architectural style of the South Indian temples, and is considered to be a replica of the original Tirupati Balaji temple. The temple has a Rajagopuram (70 feet in height), a Maha Mandapam, an Ardha Mandapam and the Sanctorum.
7. Doul Gobinda Temple
Located on the foothills of Chandrabati hills in North Guwahati, this temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna. Every year around Holi this temple witnesses the largest footfalls of tourists. Lord Krishna’s birthday Janmashtami is also celebrated here.
The fastest way to reach is by boarding a ferry from Fancy Bazar ghat to Rajaduar from where it’s a five minutes walk. Trekkers are also available to the temple via the Saraighat bridge. The best time to visit is from November to April when one can enjoy a river cruise and walk on the white sands of river Brahmaputra.
Cab Services in Guwahati
Local Cab services as well as Uber and Ola are available in the city which can give you a tour of most of these temples on a single day provided you wish to cover them all in a day. Different packages are available for booking a cab, details of which are available on their respective apps. Post lockdown several safety measures have been adopted by the cab companies, restricting capacity to 50% to maintain social distancing among other measures. Personal and car hygiene are maintained by the drivers promising you a safe and comfortable ride.
The alternate means of transport to these temples once you have reached Guwahati is to either board the city bus services, or ride an auto or trekker if available on that particular route.