Let’s go exploring Sivasagar Assam and the Ahom Dynasty in this post. Assam is a traveller’s dream destination. It has mainly been studied only in pockets. It has been associated primarily with Rhinos and tea gardens. There are only a few destinations that are depicted in all travel destinations. Hence on my recent road trip, I decided to go beyond the immediate regions and explore Haflong and Sivasagar. Sivasagar, situated in the Upper Assam, is the “temple Capital of Assam “. It is also one of the largest districts of Assam.
It was quite a fair bit of a ride from Haflong, which I left early in the morning. As I left the familiar Haflong hills behind, turned towards Lumding and then lay further ahead, Jorhat. The route would take me through the district of Karbi Anglong, which incidentally means a place of Hills. As the sunlight filtered through the forests, I drove on not so good roads moving steadily along. The song was peppy and the mood-lit as my RIDE ate up the miles and the road. After two stops for lunch and tea at obscure stalls set up on the fringes of the forests, I had Rumi playing on the stereo in the golden jungles of Karbi Anglong.
Three weeks back, I had been pondering over the map of Assam, strange names popped up randomly as my mouse cursor scrolled over the region. I could see mystic wildlife sanctuaries far away, holding deep forests and beautiful creatures. Then the pull of the magnificent Dhola- Sadiya Bridge, 9.5 km long and the longest in India, across the Brahmaputra called me. I had visions of travelling on wide-ranging roads farther and farther away. There was so much to see in Assam if one just deviated away from the cliché itineraries on the internet. My travel diary was fast being scribbled with names of places and the road map to them.
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The name Ahom Kings conjured images of curiosity and historical significance. I told myself that I needed to see this, representing how Assam had evolved. Thus, Shivasagar became part of my itinerary after my trip to another magnificent region called Haflong.
Sivasagar or also written/pronounced as Shibsagar, is all about History. Though temples are the prime attraction of Shibsagar, it also has old monuments for travellers to see and ponder. The monuments of Ahom architecture which are among the historical places in Assam, are seen in their full glory at Shibsagar. The capital of the Ahom dynasty was in this region, a dynasty that ruled uninterrupted for close to 600 years over the vast Upper Assam region comprising Shivasagar, Golaghat and Jorhat districts.
The footprints of this great dynasty can be seen near the present Sivasagar town, where they had their capital. Among the various monuments of Assam, some of the most famous ones are located out here. As years and decades passed, the Ahoms integrated with the local people and gradually embraced their customs and traditions, amalgamating them into their own. The architectural monuments of Shibsagar Assam can be divided into two parts. Firstly, there are the religious temples/structures known as “Dol”, and secondly, there are secular sources like places, tanks and maidans.
Who were the Ahoms, I wondered while Exploring Sivasagar Assam and the Ahom Dynasty
The Tai-AHOM are an ethnic group in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. The leader was called Sukaphaa, and he established the Ahom Kingdom in 1228, centred around modern Assam until 1826, which is almost 598 years. In today’s era, the Ahom tribe are primarily found in the region around Jorhat, Sivasagar, Tinsukia and Lakhimpur. The Ahoms did not try to destroy the existing culture when they set up their kingdom and were expanding it. They added to the current culture and made it more prosperous by being a part of it.
The Ahom religion embraced Shaivism and Shakti cult, building many temples in Upper Assam. Many of the Ahoms used to follow dual faiths and practices. Learning about these facts as I wandered through Sivasagar town was an eye-opener.
Exploring Sivasagar Assam and the Ahom Dynasty
The following are Sivasagar Historical places to visit:-
- Rang Ghar
- Talatal Ghar
- Charai deo
- Ahom Museum
- Sivasagar Lake
- Kareng Palace
- Shiva dol / Vishnu dol / Devi dol
Talatal Ghar is one of the must-visit monuments in Shibsagar. The monument was an erstwhile palace. There is a seven storeyed palace, out of which three are below the ground while the remaining are above. There are also secret tunnels said to be in existence.
The Talatal Ghar was the citadel of Ahom power, built by Ahom king Rudra Sinha. The entire building and the surrounding walls were made of thin bricks, while eggshells and rice pastes were used as mortar, as lime’s functionality was unknown then.
Presently only the first floor is accessible, and one floor below while the remaining are inaccessible or have deteriorated. The entire palace, including the sprawling grounds, seems disorganised initially, but its symmetry emerges in the open if one spends time out here.
Kareng Palace is situated around 13kms away from Shibsagar. This was the place where the Ahoms shifted their capital from Charaideo. The palace was built of wood, stone and bamboo with beautiful woodwork and motifs. The palace has not been able to withstand the test of time, and for the present, only a single portion of the palace remains.
The building looks like a chariot tapering off on the top into a narrow structure. This is a five-storied building with one floor below the ground. One can visit each of the floors going right to the top.
Rang Ghar was built in the year 1746. The structure is a pavilion and amphitheatre for the royal family to enjoy various sports and indoor games. The building is constructed in the shape of an inverted boat and is double storied.
The walls are decorated with panels depicting scenes of animal fights, but little survives today. Some decorative motifs are still visible as one climbs to the first floor. Beautiful landscaping is done on the grounds, along with a few sculptures that have been placed artistically by ASI.
Charai deo was the first permanent capital of the Ahom kingdom, established in 1253. The place is situated 28 km from Shibsagar. Today, it is famous for the “Maidams” ( Burial tombs ) of the Ahom Kings.
These tombs are in the shape of large circular mounds of earth, with the royal person buried deep beneath the pile. It is said that the royal person used to be buried with all his personal belongings, including attendants, in some instances. There are close to 30 such mounds under the protection of ASI presently.
Next to the main temple of Shiva Dol lies the vast and hauntingly beautiful Shibsagar Lake. It is an artificial lake built by Ahom Queen Ambika in 1734 to ensure the availability of a steady water supply. The lake is a constant source of delight and serenity to the residents of Shibsagar, for one can take a walk along with it or sit down and have a cup of tea and mull over thoughts.
There are numerous essential monuments all along the periphery and some necessary government offices; however, the presence of large trees along the edge of the lake ensures that the vibes from the lake are always peaceful.
The Ahom Museum in Shibsagar was founded post-independence and opened to the public in 1972. The museum, situated on the banks of the idyllic Shibsagar lake, surrounded by swaying trees, beckons the visitor to come to take a visit. It has one of the largest collections of Jewellery, artefacts and art related to the Ahom dynasty.
The major attractions include ancient manuscripts, metal works, weapons and traditional attires. The museum showcases the history, art, culture and daily lives of the people during the rule of the Ahom dynasty. The oldest artefacts date back to King Sukaphaa’s invasion in 1222.
The temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is said to be one of the tallest in the world, standing at 180 feet, built in the Year 1734 by Ahom Queen Ambika and draws enormous crowds even today. Shiva Dol is one of the most important temples in Assam, situated in Shibsagar. The temple is on the banks of the Shibsagar Lake and is flanked by two more temples, Vishnu Dol and Devi Dol. These temples are a must-vis all who come to this part of Assam.
The sense of serenity and auspicious vibes is powerful. The traveller definitely can feel it in the air. The walls of the temples are decorated with beautiful sculptures, and the fragrance of incense is enthralling.
What is my blog about ?
My blog focuses quite a bit on nature based places and off beat destinations. India has abundance of these kind of places . Read about the forest magic of Odisha out here or in depth story on the trek to Sandakphu to see the Kanchenjunga up-close. A visit to the Haflong would be definitely recommended , which is the only recognized hill station in Assam.
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How to reach and where to stay in Sivasagar
Sivasagar is well connected by road with the rest of the State. The state-run buses connect it to Guwahati, Jorhat, and Dibrugarh. The closest airport is Jorhat which is 75 km away. One can also take a train and alight at Simaluguri, 16 km away. There are multiple taxis which also connect Sivasagar to the places mentioned above. Dibrugarh to Sivasagar is 100 kms while Guwahati to Sivasagar is 350 kms.
About staying, use Booking.com to select comfortable hotels within Sivasagar town for visiting.
Exploring Sivasagar Assam and the Ahom Dynasty
Shibsagar, the land of Temples in Assam, is a cradle to understand the history of the AHOM Kings who played their part in shaping the Assamese tradition and legacy. I would recommend visiting Sivasagar as a must for all those travelling to this part of Assam. Go over and see the history links and how they have stood the test of time in this ancient land in the East of India. Explore the historical sites of Sivasagar, thus coming in contact with some of Assam’s famous monuments.