A place with unparalleled splendour
Sibsagar, with its numerous rivulets, a place with its history of folklore, the inherent craftsmanship of its people, simplicity of the dwellers, ground for many battles fought over the centuries, such is the soul of the place, I was born into. Now, I stay far away from this place, but when I close my eyes, I can still hear the distant beats of the dhol (drum), nagara, beating in the rhythm of bihu geet, biya naam, naamgharar naam.
Yes, Sibsagar is the place I was born in and someday many years later, when I am old and dying, Sibsagar is the land where I would love to sleep forever on.
Now, when I think of Sibsagar, images rush to my mind………..the green paddy fields on the bank of Dikhou and Dishang rivers; memories of that splendid display of muga-eri (traditional silk dresses) worn by beautiful Assamese ladies on the eve of Bihu (the agricultural festival of Assam), a world within a world and acres upon acres of its green land, deep forest with its cascading rapids, tripping rivers, carpet of flowers, exotic blooms and lazy lakes.
Nestling within a lush green eastern part of North East India, Sibsagar stands high and tall with its rich aesthetic appeal. It is a jewelled land with its bountiful vistas of unparalleled beauty, spell bound flora and fauna and affluent culture. The lush green tea gardens tend to mesmerize the onlooker and the strong aroma of the tea leaves radiate an addictive spell. This contributes not only to the overall splendour but also to the state economy. Adding yet another feather to its cap, Sibsagar has the highest number of oil fields in Assam. The oil and the tea industries are undoubtedly the economic growth propellers in the region.
369 kms from Guwahati – Sibsagar is a historical city. It was the capital of the Ahom rulers for six centuries, which ended with the arrival of British in the 19th century. The place, which literally means ‘the ocean of Lord Shiva’, is strewn with the tell-tale ruins of a powerful empire.
Places to visit:
The most remarkable landscape of the town is the 250 year old Sibsagar tank, situated right in the middle of the town. On its banks, there are three temples – the Shivadol, the Vishnudol and the Devidol. These were built by Queen Madambika, wife of the Ahom king Siva Singha, in the year 1734. The Shivadol is believed to be the highest Siva Temple in India, having a height of 104 feet and the perimeter 195 feet.
It’s water level is above the level of the town and migratory ducks and varieties of birds come from various part of the world to spend the winter months and to flutter in this stretch of water.
Charaideo was the first permanent capital of the Ahom kingdom established by the first Ahom king Chao Lung Siu-Ka-Pha in 1253. It is situated twenty-eight kilometers east of the present Sibsagar. It is famous for the ‘Maidams’ or burial vaults of the members of the royalty.
The tombs (Maidams) of Ahom kings and queens at Charaideo hillocks are comparable to the Pyramids of Egypt and are objects of wonder revealing the excellent architecture and skill of the sculptors and mansions of Assam of the medieval days.
The actual number of Maidam has exceeded 150, but only 30 Maidams are protected by the Archaeological Survey of India and Assam State Archaeology Department, and the remaining Maidams are unprotected.
It was customary for the successor of an Ahom King to bury all articles like clothing, furniture and other necessary things that the deceased king used. The servants, attendants and sometimes the elephants, horses used by the king were also buried. Besides, gold ornaments, royal sword, silver boxes, king’s hooka pipe etc. were among other articles, which were buried with the king.
Gargaon, the one-time capital of the Ahoms, is located in 13 km east of Sibsagar. The old palace built in 1540 was destroyed, and the present seven-storeyed palace, known as Kareng Ghar, was rebuilt around 1762, by king Rajeshwar Singha, which has now become one of the main tourist attractions of the region.
About 6 km from Sibsagar is an immense seven storeyed palace, three of which are below the ground level – known as Talatal Ghar – and the rest of the storeys above. There are two secret tunnels here which connect to the bank of the river Dikhou.
Close by is Rang Ghar, an oval shaped amphitheatre, two-storied pavilion from which the Ahom kings used to watch elephant, buffalo and chicken fights and other events. The base of the monument has a series of arched entrances and atop the roof is a decorative pair of carved stone crocodiles.
The Ahoms, who used special thin baked bricks, did not use cement and but used a paste of Bora rice and eggs as mortar for their construction.
At Rangpur (which was the name of the old Ahom capital), five km from Sibsagar, there is another large man-made lake known as the Joysagar built by king Rudra Singha in 1697. It is the largest man-made lake in India, sprawls over 318 acres on the edge of Sibsagar town.
The lake and the temple Joidol (erected a year later, in 1698) commemorate the memory of his mother, Queen Joymati, who was tortured to death. Just as Sibsagar tank had three temples constructed on its shores, Joysagar too has a set of three temples of which Joydol is one; the other two are the Shivadol and Devidol, dedicated to Shiva and Devi, respectively. From what remains of the sculpture decorating these temple walls, one can see carving of elephants and other animals in panels and rows. There is a depiction of Brahma astride a peacock and hunting scenes on the outer panels along with a rare 16-armed Durga and Narashimha.
Another man-made tank with its own set of three temples – Vishnudol, Shivadol and Devidol is Gaurisagar Lake, 12 km away from Sibsagar town. Built by Queen Phuleswari Devi who lived in the middle of the 18th century, the Gaurisagar tank is spread over 150 acres and is dedicated to Gauri or Goddess Durga.
Namdang Stone Bridge
King Rudra Singha constructed the Namdang stone bridge cut from a monolithic rock over the Namdang River, 12 km from Sibsagar. Today, the National Highway 37 passes over this historic bridge.
How to get there ?
Air – The nearest airport, Jorhat, is only 55 km away.
Rail – The nearest railhead, Simaluguri, is 16 km away.
Road – Bus services are available from Guwahati and other important towns.