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iXiGOers Dec 09 2012

What is the history and culture of Guwahati?

Manavi Kapur DEC 10 2012
0 people found this answer useful Useful ?Yes

The chronicles of Guwahati can barely be captured in words. This historic place that has played a role in the epic Mahabharata, is said to be the capital of the demon king Narakasura and also king Bhagadatta. It is also said to be the land of 'Kamarupa' where the Hindu God of beauty, source of life and fertility was reborn. Dubbed fondly as the ‘gateway of the northeast’, the significance of the old city of Guwahati can be in no way undermined. The excavations at the Ambari area of Guwahati, traces the city back to the 6th century A.D. So, let’s have a quick look at the history of this glorious city:

  • The name Guwahati is the combination of the two Assamese words 'guwa' meaning areca nut and 'haat' meaning marketplace.

  • References in the Puranas, epics, and other traditional histories, lead many to assume that it is one of the ancient cities of Asia, although the date of the city's beginning is unknown.

  • The ancient Shakti temple of Goddess Kamakhya in Nilachal Hill, which interestingly is an important seat of Vajrayana and Tantric Buddhism, support the mythological assertions of the city's ancient past. Also, the ancient and unique astrological temple Navagraha in Chitrashala Hill, and archaeological remains in Basista and other locations are evidences to such assumptions.

  • The city was ruled by many dynasties. Starting from the 6th century AD, the town was referred as “Pragjyotishpur”, which deciphers as the 'light of the east'. After being a significant centre under the Pala and Varman reign, who were supposed to be a part of the Kamarupa kingdom, the influence of the place was much heightened.

  • Xuanzang a Chinese traveller describes the city as one of the most prosperous province during the 7th century AD. As per the description given by him, the place was under the rule of the Varman King, Bhaskar Varman, who developed a strong navy base in the region and a flourishing trading centre.

  • After the collapse of the Pala dynasty, Guwahati saw another chapter in the history of the place unravel with the coming up of the Kamata Kingdom. It is vaguely mentioned in the history that the Kamata Kings ruled the place from the 12th to the 15th century.

  • With the rise of the Ahom Empire, the significance of the place as a commercial trading hub was lost and mainly became a military hub. The Ahoms ruled Assam for 6 decades.

  • Guwahati was one of those lands that has never come under the reign of the Mughals. Under the able commander general Bir Lachit Borphukan of the Ahom kingdom, the Battle of Saraighat took place, near Guwahati in 1671. Under his able command the Ahom army was able to defeat the massive and powerful military forces of the Mughals for almost seventeen odd times. Bir Lachit Borphukan is considered to be a heroic figure in the history of Guwahati and is still paid due respect.
  • By the year 1826, the lower half of the state of Assam was under the British rule. Gradually, the place was a part of British India by the year 1906. Later, the city was referred as an important part of eastern Bengal in Assam.

  • After India for free, Assam's capital was shifted from Shillong to Dispur, which is currently the administrative hub of Guwahati.

Yes, Guwahati indeed has a massive and glorious past! The ruins that are preserved in the city, are the evidence of the history of this chronicled city.

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