Maha Shivratri and Shivdol of Heritage Sivasagar

Shivdol
Source: templepurohit.com

Shivdol is a group of structures on the banks of the Sivasagar tank, also known as Borpukhuri, in Sivasagar, Assam. It comprises of three different temples namely Shivdol meaning temple of Lord Shiva, Vishnudol meaning temple of Lord Vishnu and Devidol meaning temple of Goddess Durga. Lord Shiva along with Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma form the holy trinity (trimurti) of Hinduism. Lord Shiva is responsible for the destruction of the Universe, with the goal of recreating it.

Located in the heart of the city of Sivasagar the Shivdol is a popular destination for pilgrims. Tourists and pilgrims come from around the country to offer prayers to Lord Shiva. The temple stands tall at 104 feet high and is said to be the tallest Shiva temple in North East India. Situated at the topmost part of the temple is a golden dome called Kolosi which is seven feet tall.

Mahashivratri meaning the great night of Shiva is the most important festival celebrated here on the new moon day in the month of Magha according to the Hindu calendar. The origin of this festival is not very clear and there are different versions. Some believe it to be the marriage consummation of Lord Shiva with Goddess Parvati. According to another belief Shivratri is celebrated as the day when Lord Shiva saved the world from the pot of poison that emerged from the ocean during Samudra Manthan. Devotees visit the temples and offer milk, fruits, flowers, fresh leaves and sweets to the shrine. Ardent devotees also remain awake throughout the night and engage in chanting prayers, or meditating. Some also keep fast to please Lord Shiva and receive his blessings.

Sadhus on the occasion of Mahashivratri at Shivdol
Source : Swarnav Borgohain

A special prasad made on the occasion of Mahashivratri is the bhang laddo or bhang lassi which is an edible preparation of cannabis. This is basically a cannabis infused sweet or drink and is the highlight of the festival. Bhang is said to be Lord Shiva’s favourite food. After having spent one night sleeping under this plant’s leaves, he ate it in the morning and feels refreshed. It is widely believed that since then Bhang became his favourite food.

Shivratri in Sivasagar is said to have been celebrated since the construction of the Shivdol by Queen Ambika, second wife of Swargadeo Siva Singha in 1731. Every year during Mahashivratri a huge mela or fair is organised over a few days and pilgrims and tourists alike visit from far and wide to offer their prayers as well as take part in the celebrations. This coming year Mahashivratri falls on February 21st, 2020 and as usual festivities and fairs are expected to be arranged for the occasion. The brightly illuminated temple standing on the banks of the Borpukhuri ( Sivasagar tank) is the most pleasant sight to see at night, with people bustling around the fair surrounding the temple walls on all sides.

Night view of Shivdol with the Sivasagar lake
Source: flickr.com

Sivasagar is a place of rich cultural heritage and great historic importance in Assam as it was the capital of the Ahom kingdom who ruled Assam for glorious six hundred years. It was earlier known as Rangpur and got its current name after its then ruler Swargadeo Shiva Singha. Sivasagar is home to some the most amazing historical monuments in Assam built during the Ahom rule. These include Ranghar, Talatal ghar, Kareng ghar which in a way boasts of the glorious Ahom reign.

In my earlier post on Talatal ghar, I have mentioned in details how to get to Sivasagar and other related information. There is a lot to visit and explore in this historic place called Sivasagar when it comes to history, architecture and culture which would definitely leave you enriched.

Toy Train from Kalka to Shimla passing through a dark tunnel

Why do you Travel?

Travelling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.

– Ibn Battuta

Travelling enriches us with knowledge that comes from experience. It broadens our mind as we come in contact with different cultures. Our perspective changes and we become better as human beings. And in the words of Ibn Battuta, we become storytellers in the process. We have so much to share, we almost relive those moments every time we share our travel stories, which is the best part of travelling. You become richer with memories that will last a lifetime.

With a little money and proper planning it is possible to travel to places, provided you have the interest to do so. Travelling alone is fun, but the company of like-minded people always makes travelling all the more thrilling.

It doesn’t matter where you’re going, it’s who you have beside you

– Unknown

For me and my sisters, travelling was always about taking a break after the gruelling school exams. We would wait for our parents to make plans either during the summer or winter vacations.

Luckily for us, my father was an employee of Indian Railways which came with the perk of free travel passes. My father’s position allowed him four first class train passes a year to travel anywhere within the country.

Toy train from Kalka to Shimla going through a dark tunnel
Toy Train from Kalka to Shimla
Source – nativeplanet.com

People travel for different reasons like for relaxation, or work. Basically the idea is to visit new places and get a taste of their culture, food and the likes and enriching thereby. With the rise of social media, Instagram and YouTube influencers, travelling nowadays is more about work and image building, and promoting stuff rather than vacationing.

How social media changed the meaning of Travelling

Travelling before social media was a totally different concept to what it is today. Computers were totally new, and we were taught ‘LOGO’ in school…. I mean Yes… I bet many of you don’t even know what that is. Well, a turtle (a triangle cursor basically) appeared on the computer screen and typing instructions we could make the turtle to draw figures. So, LOGO was actually a computer educational programming language. Rest is history! It was around in 12th standard or so that I learnt to send an e-mail, and much later opened an account in the social networking platform called Orkut.

What I am trying to say is that the memories that we created while travelling was not for pictures. We literally lived those moments which remains fresh till this date. Everything about travelling was raw, unaffected by the thoughts or actions of sharing first, travel later on social networking sites. I agree that we all love to share what we have seen or experienced, but the difference was in the medium of sharing. Earlier we shared our experiences by relating through words and now we relate through pictures.

Dudhsagar view from afar with a train crossing by
Dudhsagar – On the way to Goa
Source – indiatoday.in

My personal experiences with travelling in India via Indian Railways

I have had the opportunity of visiting many tourist destinations of India with my parents and sisters. There was something exciting about those train journeys, 2-3 days without washing up, cramped in our seats playing cards or antakshri, making new friends, and staring out of the window towards the endless green and the dimly lit unknown towns. Though we could avail first class compartments, but sometimes we chose to travel 2nd class sleeper merely for the insane thrill and excitement.

It is not the destination where you end up but the mishaps and memories you create along the way

– Unknown

The swarming in of unreserved passengers during daytime, the monotonous loud voices of the hawkers, the sweaty smell in those small compartments is what sleeper class is all about. But the best part for me was the bustling in of the food vendors with a variety of food options like Jhal muri, puri sabji, bread omelette, tea, coffee, cucumber etc. These vendors were prohibited in the first class compartments resulting in the journey being extremely boring.

Throughout the day we would munch something or the other, get down on big stations to do a little stretching, or look through the stuff brought by the vendors on the train. I remember ordering egg thalis for dinner on the train which came with 2 eggs per thali.

The famous mango wafers of Malda Junction, the brightly lit Farakka Barrage, the breathtaking view of the Dudh Sagar waterfalls while travelling to Goa, the 103 tunnels to Shimla, the fear stricken train journey over the Pamban Bridge in Rameshwaram are memories which gives me the thrills even today.

Pamban Bridge in Rameshwaram, Tamilnadu

The true nature of travelling

Our journeys were not about comfort travel, luxurious hotels, multi- cuisine food or high end brand shopping. We mostly travelled 2nd class, stayed at budget hotels, toured in tour buses, ate normal desi food and did minimal shopping. The happiness was in being able to see new places. Those few days of vacation felt like a lifetime of good memories.

This thrill, happiness and memory is what I want to give to my child. The raw pleasure of visiting new and unknown places. Growing up I want him to fondly remember these trips, the precious moments he had spent with his parents visiting famous tourist destinations from a very young age.

It’s a big world out there, it would be a shame not to experience it

J.D. Andrews
Pallabita Bora and her son, Nevaan in front of Shiva Dol Sivasagar Assam
Myself and Nevaan in front of Shiva Dol, Sivasagar

Dr. Bhupen Hazarika, the musical exponent of Assam had composed another famous song,

Asom amar rupohi

Gunaru nai xesh

Bharotore purba dixhor surjya utha dexh

– Dr. Bhupen Hazarika

Assam has so much to boast about and we have yet to explore Assam in all its beauty. So to begin with I decided to visit all the tourist attractions as well as destinations in Assam, and what could be better than exploring it together with my child. We kickstarted our travel in mid April this year, during Rongali Bihu when we were visiting our parents for the first time after Nevaan was born. He was, to be exact, 104 days young on that particular date. And the first place he visited was the SHIVA DOL situated in historic Sivasagar. It was like seeking the blessings of the divine in this new and exciting journey of ours.