History

Traditionally, Guwahati has been an important administrative and trading center and a river port. The name Guwahati is derived from two Assamese words: 'guwa' (areca nut) and 'haat' (market place). The name used to be spelled as Gowhatty (pre-colonial and colonial), standardized to Gauhati (colonial-British), which was then changed to the present form in the late 1980s to conform to the local pronunciati .There is almost a magic that hovers over the city.

Epigraphic sources place capitals of many ancient kingdoms in Guwahati. It was the capital of the mythological kings Naraka and Bhagadatta (reference in the Mahabharata). The ancient sakti temple of Kamakhya in the Nilachal hill (also important seat of tantric and Vajrayana Buddhism), Navagraha, the nine planets temple (ancient and a unique temple for astrology) located in Chitrachal Hill and archaeological remains in Basista and many other locations support the mythological characters and the city's ancient past.

An excavation in the Ambari area of the city shows signs that Guwahati goes back even up-to the 6th Century AD. Guwahati stretched to about 19 km and was probably the principal base for King Bhaskar Varman's strong naval force of 30,000 war-boats, with officers who were knowledgeable of the sea-routes from the Indian Ocean to China), as per the descriptions made by the great Hiuen Tsang. The city was known as Pragjyotishpura (i.e. City of Eastern Light) and Durjoya in different time periods, and was the capital under the Varman and the Pala dynasties of the Kamarupa kingdom. The city remained as the capital of Assam till the 10-11th century AD under the rulers of the Pala dynasty. There are also suggestions that Guwahati was a city of great size and had both economic as well as strategic importance until the 9-11th century AD. However, during medieval times, i.e., in between 12-15th century AD the city lost its earlier glory and became mainly a strategic outpost of the Koch Hajo and Ahom Kingdoms of western and eastern Assam. This was largely because of the destruction of the Kamata Kingdom. When the western part of the Koch Kingdom (Koch Bihar) fell to the Mughals, the eastern half (Koch Hajo) eventually became a protectorate of Ahom. But Guwahati was an important outpost even during times when the Ahom and Mughal powers ruled within borders which fluctuated between the Kartoya river (now in North Bengal) to the Manas and Barnadi rivers.

History also says that Borphukan, a civil mill authority of the lower a region appointed by the kings, made Guwahati the `seat of power'. The Borphukan's residence was in the present Fancy Bazaar area, and his council-hall, called Dopdar, was situated about 300 yards (270 m) to the west of the Bharalu stream. The Majindar Baruah, the personal secretary of the Borphukan, had his residence in the present-day Deputy Commissioner's residence.

However, if one landmark historical event was to identify Guwahati, then it is the 1671 Battle of Saraighat. And the hero of this epic battle was the great Ahom General Bir Lachit Borphukan, who made the Mughals succumb to defeat by the sheer dint of his intelligence and ardent patriotism. Thus, the Mughals failed, not once, but seventeen times.

Battle of Saraighat

 The well-known Battle of Saraighat was fought near this place named Saraighat on the bank of BramhaputraRiver. The Battle of Saraighat was fought in 1671 between the Mughal empire (led by the Kachwaha king, Raja Ramsingh I), and the AhomKingdom (led by Lachit Borphukan) on the bank of Brahmaputra river at Saraighat, now in Guwahati. Although  Ahom army was much weaker than also they defeated the Mughal army by brilliant uses of the terrain, clever diplomatic negotiations to buy time, guerrilla tactics, psychological warfare, military intelligence and by exploiting the sole weakness of the Mughal forces—its navy. The Battle of Saraighat was the last battle in the last major attempt by the Mughals to extend their empire in to Assam.

Evaluation of modern life

In old days the city there was dense forests at several areas in the city. There were no streetlights on GS Road and glow worms used to welcome those who passed by. Every night citizen of Guwahati used to hear the roar of tigers and snarls of leopards and fox howling. The only mode of public transport was the blue buses of Assam State Transport Corporation.

Now all that has changed. Shopping malls, multiplexes, flyovers and big streetlights characterized GS Road. There was a time when trains used to run through Ambari . There was no television till 1982 and small local clubs used to show the latest movies on video. According to her, the winds of change swept through Guwahati since 1982 when television came just before the Delhi Asian Games. “People now get connected to the outside world more easily. Television has started making a sharp impact on our lifestyles.”

Consumerism and materialism have become a priority for the people at present; there is a new apartment-centric culture, which is not very healthy. The people of Assam, who are basically agrarian and loved to keep in touch with nature, have suddenly moved to apartments.

Guwahati is a cosmopolitan in its true sense and presents all the amenities of a modern city. A drive round the city shows you the glittering shops, the inviting restaurants, the buzzing traffic, wide thoroughfares, tree lined roads and streets, busy offices and commercial establishments. Come in the vicinity of an educational institution and one hears the carefree laughter of the colorful youth and the future citizens of the country. A peep into the market place reveals the variety of wares. And to crown it all, are the people - a friendly population of around 12 lakh. The people of Assam carry the famous Indian tradition of hospitality to new heights. Guwahati boasts of a four star-hotel in the heart of the city and numerous three-star hotels, most of them located at scenic spots of economy hotels and lodges, accommodating guests to the state capital have never been a problem for Guwahati. Both national and international banks have branches in the city to cater to the huge volume of business and personal transactions of the region. Guwahati has given the nation its share of academic and professionals, which speaks volumes of the level of the educational institutes in the city.

If one has a little amount of spare time, leisure and entertainment avenues abound in the city. Cinema theatres, auditoriums, the zoo cum botanical garden, the state museum, the planetarium, the district library, numerous parks, river cruises, game parlors, glitzy restaurants, a visitor is presented with a wide range of choices. As a cultural centre, the Sankardev Kalashetra opens a window to the rich cultural heritage of the state Assam. set amidst a luxurious landscape, a visit to the complex in an experience in its own right. The Balaji Temple, net to the national highway, showcases the marvelous blend of ancient and modern architecture. The Bashista Temple grounds at the southern end of the city is not only a pilgrimage site but also a favored picnic spot for the citizens. Nestled among hills, rocks and sparkling clear water, one communicate with Mother Nature herself. For the religious minded, the Kamakhya Temple weaves its magic over the city. Sitting atop the Nilachal (Kamakhya) hill, the temple is a prime pilgrimage site and receives the highest number of visitors in the state.

For visitors interested in a bit of shopping or looking for a new souvenirs, the numerous marketplaces in the city offer a wide spectrum of products. One can buy the famous Assamese pat and muga silks at the many retail outlets. Special showrooms operated by ARTFED offer and showcase the traditional craftsmanship of the state.

Pandu - The River Port

Pandu derives its name from the Pandunath Temple that stands on the bank of the mighty Brahmaputra. In 1586 A.D Raghudev Narayan, the Koch King rebuilt the Pandunath Temple. The Ahom King Gourinath Singha also donated land for the temple in 1707 shaka (1785 A.D) Pandu has been associated with many significant events in the history of Assam. During the region of the Ahom Kings the place assumed strategic importance in terms of defence against external aggression. Pandu was the chief military base during the battle of Saraighat where General Lachit Barphukan defeated the powerful Mughal army by General Ramsingha in 1672.

People also believe that the Pandavas took holy dips in the Brahmakunda of the river Brahmaputra and climbed the Nilachal Hill to worship Goddess Kamakhya before they set on their final journey to heaven. Vashistha in his search for an abode of peace and tranquillity once landed at Pandughat. As the demon king Narakasura encountered him, he continued his journey eastwards and settled at the present hermitage. "Vashisthahram" on the confluence of three hilly springs Sandhya, Lalita and Kanta.

As Pandu was surrounded by extensive fortification (gor), it is also known as 'Gar Pandu. Pandu remains one of the important ghats (river harbours) of the Brahmaputra.

Raibahadur Gunabhiram Barua in Assam Bandhu refers red to Pandu as Paru or Padu which was the main harbour of Guwahati at that time. The boundary of Pandu was the Brahmaputra in the North, Sadilapur in the West, Nilachal hill with Kamakhya Temple at the top in the east and the A.T. (Assam Trunk) Road in the south. This extensive area, comprising people belonging to different castes and communities was the populous Pandu village that has now almost disappeared. Only a few families around the temple of Pandunath now bear testimony to the glory that was old Pandu.

The 41st session of Indian National Congress (A.I.C.C.) was held at Pandu on 26th

December 1926, Mahatma Gandhi also attends the event. Pandu had this moment of glory and celebration to its credit. To quote D.G.Tendulkar, “Guwahati beat all previous records, and in an incredibly short time erected, in the midst of surrounding of natural beauty, on the banks of the Brahmaputra, a city under khadi canvas, Assam bamboo, Assam mud, Assam straw and Assam labour were responsible for the very simple but artistic huts erected for the occasion"(Mahatma, Life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi), Vol. II, New Delhi, 1969, P-238).

Religious Tolerance

Guwahati is a city that is important to pilgrims of all faiths and religion. The land is dotted with numerous temples, mosques and monasteries that represent the religious tolerance of the people of Assam.

Pilgrimage is Assam is one of the most pacifying and leveling experiences one can ever have. Assam is home to many important and sacred shrines belonging to different religion. This has made Assam a sacred place for people of these faiths. It also shows the religious tolerance that the people of Assam have. The presence of many operating Buddhist Monasteries shows us that Assam is still an important Buddhist destination. Most of these holy sites are situated amidst some breathtaking scenic places giving the pilgrims a peak into the natural beauty of Assam along with the opportunity to worship the gods and ask for their blessings. The temples and mosques of Assam are probably the oldest and architecturally most stunning in entire north east India. Hindus, Muslims and Christians got a rare chance to celebrate festivals of their respective faiths together today. Hindu festival of colors, Holi Christian's Good Friday marking the crucification of Jesus Christ and the birth of Prophet Muhammed.

The Saraighat Bridge

 History

Saraighat is a place near Guwahati in Assam, on the north bank of the river Brahmaputra. Sarai was a small village where the old abandoned N.F. Railway station of Amingaon was located. SaraighatBridge is at Jalukbari in the District of Kamrup, Assam connecting north and south bank. The ChilaraiPark or Lachit Udyan is situated at the end of the bridge. SaraighatBridge is constructed over the mighty Brahmaputra, also called the Red River. It is the first rail-cum-road bridge on this sacred river. This bridge is also the first bridge on river Brahmaputra in Assam. It was opened to traffic in October 1962 by the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. This is a double decker bridge with a national highway on top and railway tracks below. Construction of SaraighatBridge was started on January 1958. It was opened for passenger traffic on 7 June 1963. The estimated cost of the bridge was Rs.10, 65, 16,891. Its length is 1492 meters. A new three-lane concrete road bridge is being constructed by the side of the SaraighatBridge

The Settlements

Early settlement took place in the Guwahati plain along the river Brahmaputra and gradually extended upto the railway line and beyond in the south during the fifties and sixties resulting in new settlements like Sarania, Gandhibasti, Lachit Nagar, Santipur etc. During the same period, Maligaon and Jalukbari area were also developed to the west of the Guwahati plain through the Kamakhya corridor, due to establishment of N.E.F Railway Headquarters at Maligaon and the University at Jalukbari. During the seventies, due to shift of capital from Shillong, the city further expanded into the Beltola plain through the narrow corridor like Fatasil, 1.

Dispur and Noonmati, resulting in developments of settlements such as Khanapara, Basistha, Kahilipara, Kalapahar, Narengi etc. However, further expansion of the city beyond the Beltola plain in the east and south is restricted du( to 1114, existence of Khasi and Jaintia Hills ranges.