Guwahati, situated on the banks of the river Brahmaputra, is northeastern India’s biggest city and serves as a doorway to the region; due to it’s western most location. Bustling and hectic at times, the city is the heart of commerce in the region and accordingly has all the modern amenities which are almost at par with other cities of the world. Guwahati Airport, along with the railway station, serves as the most important lifeline for entry into Northeast India. Because of this, most tourists end up staying in the city for a few days. Though the concrete of the city is not much impressive, Guwahati does have many charms which are worth discovering. Since the city is surrounded extensively by verdant hills which are a feast for the eyes, there are great opportunities for nature lovers to go for short hikes in these hills and explore the varied birdlife and village culture. Another important aspect of the city is it’s multifaceted culture. It is the only place in the world where one may find people from each of the more than 200 tribes of Northeast India. The city is also home to smart and educated individuals who are friendly enough to have a conversation with. Apart from the scenic beauty of the hills and the riverside, other significant sights around the city are ancient temples, museums, cultural centers, a botanical garden and a planetarium. Below is a list of 6 things you could do while in Guwahati.
1) Manas National Park
A 3 hours drive north of Guwahati and you will find yourself at the entry gate of Manas National Park & Tiger Reserve. A UNESCO credited world heritage site, the national park is home to myriad species of mammals, birds and reptiles. Tourists to this national park get a chance to indulge in jeep and elephant safaris which take them to the heart of the jungle. There is enough opportunity to spot some of the world’s most exotic mammals such as tigers, leopards, elephants, rhinos, golden langurs and deer. The birdlife is equally fascinating with about 400 species of rare and common birds who inhabit the forests here, such as the Bengal Florican, Hornbills and eagles. Due to Manas’s location at the foothills of the Bhutanese Himalayas, the landscape is spectacular and lush green, and forms for great landscape photographs. Another lesser known fact about Manas is that it is not limited to India. Much of this Himalayan tropical forest lies in the Kingdom of Bhutan, where it is called the Royal Manas National Park. Though international boundaries play hindrance in keeping this forest at its best, recent times has seen joint conservation efforts from the forest departments of both the countries.
2) Assam State Museum
If you are keen to learn about the culture and heritage of Northeast India, the State Museum is where you have to step in. Its impressive library has thousands of scripts dating back to the ancient days. The collection includes prehistoric sculptures, ivory paintings, and costumes worn by ancient people and so on. The museum is open except on Mondays and second and fourth Saturdays. There is also a special section devoted to India’s freedom movement and to Mahatma Gandhi, which sheds much light on the formation of the Indian Democracy.
3) Nehru Park
Nehru Park offers insight into the culture and life of the Assamese. The serene park has concrete statues that illustrate local forms of dances, namely Bihu, Ojapali, Deodhani, Jhumur and Bor Taal. These are the dances performed by the people of Assam and the tribal people. While the park throws light on the culture of Assamese, it offers wonderful entertainment for children. The playground has various rides and plays for children. The rock garden and open-air theater are the other important features of the park.
4) Guwahati Planetarium
Guwahati Planetarium is a ‘must visit’ tourist spot in Guwahati. The planetarium is situated on MG road near Uzaan Bazaar. Sky watching sessions are regularly conducted here. Special shows are projected on overhead screen, which offer great delight to viewers. Though the technological advancement of the planetarium is not as progressed as those found around the world, it is still a nice place to spend some time outside the concrete and to meet like minded people.
Guwahati has a very rich history. A testimony of this are the many ancient temples that reside around the city. Such as the Kamakhya Temple, which is one of the most important worship centers in India for Tantric (Shakti) Hinduism. Every year in June, the Ambubachi Mela takes place in the temple, when it is said that the Mother Goddess bleeds and completes a menstrual cycle. The event is really fascinating and magical as one gets to meet Hindu holy-men, magicians and healers. Another important temple is the Umananda Mandir which is located at Peacock Island in the middle of the mighty Brahmaputra River. My personal favprite would be the Navagraha Temple. Known as the temple of the nine planets, it was the ancient seat of astronomical and astrological studies. The nine planets are represented by nine linga’s (Shiva stones) inside the main complex. It was for this temple that Guwahati was once called as Pragjyotishpura
6) Cruise on the River Brahmaputra
Cruising the mighty Brahmaputra River is an opportunity that you cannot overlook. The magnificent river, which arrives at the city after traveling through thousands of miles though the heart of Tibet and Assam, divides the city into two halves. The longer cruise are the best as you get ample time to dream away undisturbed and be lost in Brahmaputra’s amazing views. Many international tourists come to the region to experience Assam’s famous 11 days luxury cruise across the Brahmaputra starting from Dibrugarh in the very east of Assam and ending in Guwahati in the very west. It is quite a lifetime experience to witness the rich plains of Assam; the wildlife, the cultures, the people and most of all, the river-folk. If you plan a short cruise, you could avail the services of private ferries. The facility to order for food and beverages is available in some of the cruises, and many people come to enjoy their meals along with a splendid view.
While in Guwahati, it is absolutely important to not miss an opportunity to have a taste of the famous Assam tea. Apart from the tea, the city, with its many superb restaurants and food joints, is the right place to indulge your taste buds with ethnic delicacies from all the eight states of Northeast India. It is also a pleasure to shop in tourist spots and in Guwahati, you will have your hands full. From unique bamboo products, handmade toys to a wide range of muga silk sarees, you could have an excellent shopping experience in Guwahati. For the evenings, to end a good hectic day, the city has many top notch lounges and clubs where along with excellent food and some ambient jiving, one also gets a chance to mingle with the city’s outgoing and zestful youth and matures alike.