The city of Guwahati is home to some of the most revered of holy sites in the country. Be it the Kamakhya temple or the Basistha Ashram, the Navagraha temple or the Tirupati Balaji temple, Guwahati gives plenty of options to explore for those with divine seekings. One such blissful site is situated on a small island in the middle of the mighty Brahmaputra and is one of the most visited Shiva temples in the country. Yes, we are talking about the Umananda temple. Situated on the peacock island which is one of the smallest inhabited riverine islands in the world, the Umananda temple has grown into one of the religious hallmarks of the city of Guwahati. The temple was built by the Ahom king Gadadhar Singha in 1964 AD, who, himself was a devout Shiva worshipper.
While there are numerous Shiva temples spread over the length and breadth of the country, it’s the sheer location of Umananda that marks itself out as one the most aesthetic shrines you could ever see. The temple, being located in the middle of the Brahmaputra has to be reached with the help of ferries from the city – touching - bank of the river. The journey is in itself nothing short of an adventure. The feel of divinity amidst the mighty Brahmaputra is an unparalleled feeling.
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The hill atop which the Umananda temple is situated is known as Bhasmacala and there is a mythological legend related to it. It is said that lord Shiva had resided at the very place the temple is now situated. According to Kalika Purana, Shiva had sprinkled bhasma (ashes) on that location. Shiva is said to have imparted knowledge to his consort Parvati here. Once while Shiva was meditating, Kamdeva had interrupted His meditation. Lord Shiva , known for his anger burnt Kamdeva down to ashes and those ashes got spread everywhere and thereafter the name of the hill became Bhasmacala. It is also said that Urvashikunda was also situated here and goddess Urvashi used to bring Amrit for goddess Kamakhya and hence the island is also known as Urvashi island.
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Coming to the name Umananda, Uma is another name for goddess parvati. It is said that lord Shiva lived in this island much to the ananda ( joy) of His consort Parvati ( or Uma) and this was what gave the place its name- Umananda. Like the entire country, Maha Shivratri is celebrated with great pomp and grandeur at Umananda too. But the colourful celebrations at Umananda is something entirely different from what one experiences elsewhere. Devotees throng the temple during Shivratri and the small island comes alive like never before.
The temple which was built by the Ahom king Gadadhar Singha was partially destroyed by an earthquake in 1897. The temple was reconstructed later with the help of the local population. The temple is very skilfully decorated with the carvings and craftsmanships of local artists. Sculptures of Hindu Gods like Ganesha and Surya adorn the walls of the temple along with Lord Vishnu and His incarnations. The island is also home to some stunning wildlife and will give you plenty of photogenic moments. Langurs are a mainstay here and you might even catch a glimpse of a peacock. The beauty of the place enthrals you and it is only by being there that you know why the place is so revered by locals and visitors alike.
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So the next time you are in the city of Guwahati or its near about and are looking for a place to let go of the worries of life and spend some divine moments with Lord Shiva, do make it a point to visit Umananda and feel an eternal bliss like none other by chanting those three magic words- OM NAMAH SHIVAAY (what did you think?) !