The Complete Guide to Guwahati
Stretching along the south bank of the mighty Brahmaputra River, Guwahati was once Pragjyotishpura, capital of the ancient state of Kamarupa or Assam, named after the local Ahom kings. The largest city of Assam, Guwahati is a major riverine port and the gateway to northeast India. The bustling capital takes its name from gua (areca nut) and haat (marketplace. Its ancient temples, the Brahmaputra river and Assamese cuisine make it more than a strategic stopover. Guwahati airport is well-connected to the major cities of India so travelling to the city is quite easy.
What to See and Do in Guwahati
The first stop for most visitors is the Kamakhya Temple Guwahati situated atop Nilachal Hill . Seat of an ancient fertility cult, the temple is a revered Shakti pitha where a cleft in a rock is worshipped by the devout. Umananda, the tiniest river island of the Brahmpatura, is located downstream of the world’s biggest river island Majuli. A Shiva temple complex lies on the forested river island, which is accessible by a 15-minute ferry from Kachari Ghat.
There are many places to visit in Guwahati. The capital city of Assamis dotted with shrines—there’s a Jain Temple off MS Road, Sattagarh Mandir in Uzan Bazaar while Christ Church is the oldest church in town. First constructed in 1844 and destroyed by two powerful earthquakes in 1854 and 1897, the present church was built in 1903 and renovated in the late ’70s. The Navagraha temple, a unique astrological temple shrine is located on Chitrachal Hill. To keep a track of the tourist destinations, you can refer to the Guwahati map.
Srimanta Sankardev Kalakshetra, a tribute to Assam’s medieval poet-playwright, is the perfect primer into Assamese culture. Ethnic buildings in the sprawling campus exhibit murals, masks, silk saris, jaapi (traditional conical hat) and the red and white cloth gamosa. In Assam, guests are usually welcomed with a gamosa and tamul (betel nut), often served in a xorai, an ornamental bell-metal offering tray, considered Assam’s cultural symbol. The Bhupen Hazarika Museum showcases 4,000 objects owned by the maestro while an open-air theatre serves as performance space for traditional dances like bihu.
The Assam State Museum, located in a majestic colonial-era building, has excellent sculptures and anthropological galleries showcasing tribal homes and ethnic cultures. Go on a heritage walk of Old Guwahati–from the Courthouse shaped like a beehive dome to Dighulipukhuri Park, once the fortified jetty of the Ahom kings. Guwahati Planetarium nearby screens shows on outer space projected on a dome-like screen. A short walk northwest leads to the riverbank, a good place to watch the sunrise or sunset!
Guwahati city is a good base to cover nearby sights like the silk-weaving centre of Sualkuchi and Hajo, a pilgrim centre for Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims, where the Brahmaputra is at its narrowest (just 1km). Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, 40km northeast of the city, is reachable by a boat ride across the river for elephant rides into the forest, teeming with nearly a hundred one-horned rhinos. Kaziranga National Park, Assam’s premier wildlife park, lies 250km east, which is about 5-6 hrs by road. This is also one of the major attractions among Guwahati tourist places.
Where to Eat
There are several places to savour local Assamese cuisine—the ubiquitous thali serves rice, dal, greens, fries, pitika (mashed potato), a dollop of mustard paste and onions, lemon and green chilli. Being a border region that neighbours Bengal and Bangladesh, Bengali cuisine is also popular, besides a range of Indian cuisine. Here are some of the best restaurants in Guwahati to treat your taste buds:
Parampara Paradise, SilphukhriParampara on Maniram Dewan Road, near Goswamy Service Petrol Pump offers authentic Assamese cuisine and excellent thalis served on a brass plate and utensils. Their chicken bamboo is delicious!
Khorikaa, GS RoadNamed after the thin bamboo skewer (khorika) used to chargrill meats, the restaurant serves great thalis with side orders of pork, chicken, mutton, duck, pigeon meat and local fish, all served with piquant mustard chutney.
Maihang, GS RoadA northeast speciality restaurant serving mostly regional cuisine from Assam—pork patot diya, duck curry with kumura, black rice, fermented soya, smoked sesame pork, mutton curry, besides thalis.
Crackling Mustard, BeltolaCatering to a strong resident Bengali population, Crackling Mustard serves great vegetarian thalis and the classic Kosha Mangsho with Luchi (thick mutton curry with puri).
Kasturi Restaurant, UlubariServing excellent Dhakai or Bangladeshi cuisine of East Bengal, try unusual delicacies like kachu pata chingri (prawn with colocasia leaf), bhapa chingri (steamed prawns), posto, rice fish kofta, bhetki paturi, chital and mishti doi (sweet curd). A must-visit if you are a fish lover!
Gopal Maharaj, Fancy BazaarWhile the location in the cramped market may not be great, it is one of the oldest food joints in Guwahati. Locals make a beeline for its pure vegetarian fare—yellow dal fry, paneer bhurji, tandoori roti and Gopal Maharaj Special Pulao.
Hotel Sagar Restaurant, Paltan BazaarA multi-cuisine restaurant that serves south Indian, north Indian, Chinese and the best masala dosa and vada in town!
The Best Places to Party
Guwahati is not known for its nightlife, but a clutch of new hotspots are giving travellers something to look forward to. Most of the lounge bars are located inside upmarket hotels. Octave is an eclectic bar at Vivanta by Taj - Guwahati. The Radisson Blu Hotel Guwahati on NH-37, Gotanagar has a stylish bar called Reign that serves handcrafted cocktails and international beers. There’s The Zone Liquid Lounge at Mayflower Hotel, Lords Bar at Hotel Nandan, The Lounge—a contemporary pub at Hotel Dynasty and Silver Streak, an upscale discotheque in Hotel Brahmaputra Ashok. Cafe Hendrix (or just Hendrix) is another popular hangout with live bands and good music. Topaz Lounge and Café, Lachit Nagar and Terra Mayaa at Anil Plaza 2 on GS Road are good spots to hang out. Mocha, located on the ground floor of Anil Plaza 2, is a British-style café with sea green décor, hammock chairs and good snacks and beverages.
Where to Stay in Guwahati
Vivanta by Taj GuwahatiIts location in the heart of the administrative district works well for corporate travelers, while tourists will enjoy its proximity to the Brahmaputra river cruise. The restaurants here offer pan-Asian cuisine, including Japanese, while Octave, the bar, has live music to help you unwind.
Prabhakar Homestay, ChandmariSet in the hills above the busy town, this charming B&B run by Shiela and Mahesh Bora comes with five en suite bedrooms and loads of peace and quiet. The property has an excellent collection of nearly 250 orchids!
Hotel Brahmaputra Ashok, MG RoadA 3-star hotel opposite the High Court it has a good restaurant called Ushaban and a lounge named Kaziranga.
Mayflower Hotel, Paan BazaarA budget luxury hotel close to the railway station, it has well-fitted rooms, a nice multi-cuisine restaurant called Aurora and an in-house bakery and confectionery.
Hotel Nandan, Paltan BazaarLocated in the city’s central business district, Nandan is a landmark hotel that started in 1981. The first certified 3-star hotel in the northeast, it offers multi-cuisine at Transcurry and international fare at Mexitthachi.
What to Buy in Guwahati
There’s a lot to shop in Assam’s capital city—mekhela chadar, silk saris, local weaves to bamboo and cane handicrafts. The Guwahati-Shillong Road, or GS Road for short, runs through Guwahati and is lined with upscale shops and showrooms. Guwahati’s traditional markets are popular with shoppers looking for good bargains. Ganeshguri Market, named after the Ganesh temple nearby, is close to the state capital Dispur and considered as the main commercial precinct (the two cities are only 8km apart). It’s a good place to buy Assam’s famed silk products like mekhela chadar. Guwahati’s academic hub Pan Bazaar sells everything from clothes, jewellery, furniture, souvenirs, home décor items to accessories. Fancy Bazaar in Old Guwahati is great for traditional Assamese items like jaapi, gamosa, tribal art, handicrafts and ethnic clothes. While here, drop by at Assam Silk’s Tatkala Outlet on JC Das Road, Lakhtokia. River People at Mishra Building on AK Azad Road opposite Lahkar Guest House in Rehabari sells locally made cane and bamboo artefacts.
6E & Cheeky
Though steeped in tradition, there’s a quirky side to Guwahati too. Experience the beauty of the Brahmaputra; locals take great pains to explain that it is a ‘nad, not a nadi’ being a rare male river! See the sun rise across the Brahmaputra from Fancy Bazaar, enjoy boat rides or catch the serene sunset after a day’s explorations. Take a heritage walk through Old Guwahati and catch a bihu performance. Share the local love for betel leaf as you try a paan. Try to time your visit in the monsoons to catch the Ambubachi Mela, a week-long fertility festival at Kamakhya Temple attended by mystics and tantriks. During the rainy season, when the Brahmaputra is in spate, the rivulet flowing over the stone shrine turns red with mud, which symbolizes the menstruation of goddess Kamakhya. The sanctum is out of bounds for three days and reopens only after the goddess is purified with a ritual bath. Devotees collect holy spring water and shreds of the angabastra (stained red cloth) as prasad.
|Borjhar, Guwahati, Assam 781015||GAU|