Northeast India is known for its alluring beauty, endowed with rich natural resources. The region is dotted with wildlife sanctuaries and incredible tourist destinations, as well as places of historical interest, folklore, legends and adventure sports.
The region also boasts a rich cultural heritage that attracts tourists from all across the globe. One such destination in Assam province is the ‘Umananda’ island, the smallest river island in the world, located in the midst of the mighty Brahmaputra river. Umananda has been attracting tourists from the nook and corner of world as it holds a historical significance.
Assam, a place of historical and religious importance as well as an amalgamation of various ethno-cultural groups, it has a long list to offer its visitors. One such place of historical importance is the ancient ‘Umananda’ temple, situated on a namesake island amidst the mighty river, Brahmaputra.
Also called Peacock Island due to its unique shape, it is the smallest inhabited river island in the world. Umananda Devaloi the historical name of the Umananda temple and was built under the initiative of Ahom King Gadadhar Singha in the year 1694. Every year, thousands throng to the temple to offer prayers and seek blessings from Lord Shiva as the shrine is considered very sacred.
“I have been to Kamakhya temple in the morning and after that we came here to pay obeisance in the Shiva temple here in Umananda. The journey has been amazing and a very pleasant experience to have sought blessings from Lord Shiva,” said Namita Jaggi, a pilgrim from Delhi. It is worth mentioning that according to Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva created this place for his wife Uma’s happiness and pleasure. Shiva is said to have resided in the temple in the form of Bhayananda.
“I appreciate the lived ancient tradition and the rich heritage of this temple and the people’s efforts to hold on to the tradition and to have preserved such old heritage. Kamakhya is known to everyone and Umananda is also very significant as to seek blessings from such ancient temple is in itself a feel good thing,” said Geeta Mehta, another pilgrim.
Moreover, Monday is considered to be the holiest day in the temple and the new moon brings bliss to the pilgrims. “We have heard about Umananda and it is believed that when Shiva was carrying the corpse of Maa Sati and her body was completely burned into ashes Siva sprinkled ashes (bhasma) at this place and imparted knowledge to Parvati (his consort). It is said that when Shiva was in meditation on this hillock, Kamadeva interrupted his yoga and was therefore burnt to ashes by the fire of Siva’s anger and hence the hillock got the name Bhasmacala. After paying obeisance to Maa Kamakhya, a visit to Umananda is a must,” said Deepak Choudhury, pilgrim from Jharkhand.
Apart from seeking blessings, many come here to have a scenic overview of the beauty of river Brahmaputra, right at the heart of Guwahati city. There is no dearth of reason making Umananda unique. Equally significant is the island’s uncanny ability to sustain one of the most endangered species of primates – the Golden Languor.
Besides the main Shiva temple, there are five more temples on the island – the Ganesha, Hara Gauri, Chalantika, Chandrashekhar and Vaidyanath temples. Pilgrims flock in large numbers to make offerings to the Gods and Goddesses and many believe that it will fulfill their wishes and desires.
“People come here to fulfill their wishes and desires and it is believed that those couples who have no children come to this temple to seek blessings as after paying obeisance to the deity there dream of having children gets fulfilled. This temple is rather known as the meeting place of ‘Maa’ Parvati and Shiv,” said Bipin Sharma, Priest. A 10-minute ferry ride from the river banks of the busy city takes one to this island of wonder. However, motor boats are also available everyday for tourists, which make commuting easier and exciting for them.
It is noteworthy that in recent years, with the state-owned Inland Water Transport introducing regular ferries to Umananda, the graph of tourist footfall has spiked thereby giving a boost to the tourism sector. Assam has already set a benchmark for itself in the Tourism map of the country.