The Brahmaputra is considered a ‘nada’ or a male river and is the only male river of India: While all the other rivers flowing in India – the Ganga, Jamuna, Saraswati, Mahanadi, and Sabarmati, for instance – are addressed as ‘nadi’ and considered to be females, the Brahmaputra is considered a ‘nada’ or a male river. This is because of the strength with which it flows and also because of its width and height. Interesting, right?
The Kamakhya temple situated atop the Nilachal hills in Guwahati is one of the 108 shakti peeths. This is the place where Sati’s womb and vagina fell when Lord Shiva went berserk on knowing of her death and performed a tandav with her dead body on his shoulders.
This temple does not have an idol of Kamakhya Devi, but the devotees are led towards a small room with a subterranean pool where the goddess’s organ is kept covered with a red cloth. Every year during Asaad (June), the temple remains shut for three days, when it is believed that Goddess Kamakhya goes through her annual menstruation cycle. It is said that the pool of water where her uterus fell turns red during these three days. On the fourth day, the temple opens with much fanfare and celebration to the Ambubasi Mela.
Where: Around 10 km from Guwahati railway station
It is said that the lamp at Dhekiakhowa Bornamghor, a naamghar at Jorhat, has never been put off since 1461. This lamp which was lit by the saint Madhavadeva in 1461, and has been burning ever since, religiously re-fuelled by priests from generation to generation.
‘Naam’ in Assamese means ‘prayer’ and ‘ghar’ means ‘house’, so ‘naamghar’ literally means a ‘prayer house’. Very commonly found in Assam, naamghars have been around in Assam since the 15th century. These sacred spaces not only serve as prayer halls, but also as places for cultural activities and centres for learning.
Where: Dhekiakhowa Bornamghor, Jorhat
UNESCO World Heritage Sites: The Manas Wildlife Sanctuary and Kaziranga National Park – both UNESCO world heritage sites – are located in Assam. While Kaziranga is famous for its one-horned rhinos, Manas is known to have quite a few rare and endangered animal species of the world.
Where: Kaziranga is around 280 km from Guwahati and can be reached by road. Manas Wildlife Sanctuary is 176 km away from Guwahati.
Assam is a land of many unique festivals with Bihu being the most important.
Although Bihu is the main festival of Assam, the people here celebrate a lot of other festivals with great enthusiasm. Three different types of Bihus are celebrated here – Magh Bihu in mid-January, Rongali/Bohag Bihu in mid-April, and Kaati Bihu in the month of October. The last three days of Durga Puja or Navratri are also celebrated with great gusto here.
When to visit: Although each of the Bihus is celebrated here with great enthusiasm, Rongali Bihu is a must-visit, owing to the various kinds of food prepared for the festival. The Bihu dance performed at this time in every household or locality is definitely worth a watch, too.