The Brahmaputra valley of Upper Assam is endowed with enchanting and picturesque natural beauty. It has been the abode of various races, tribes and ethnic groups since time immemorial. One of the historically important region from this area is Sivasagar, means "the ocean of Shiva". It got its name from the big tank situated at the heart of the town, built by Queen Ambika, consort of Shiva Singha in 18th century. This place is well known for the glorious Palaces, temples and Monuments built during Ahom reign. An interesting fact about these monuments is the use of thinly baked bricks and an indigenous form of cement made with purely organic materials - a mixture of sticky rice powder (Bora Chaul), duck eggs, a pulse called Maati Maah (Urad Dal) and a fish named Borali Mach (Catfish).
A brief History :
A contingent of hardy hill men belonging to Tai race crossed the Patkai Range from Myanmar (Burma) and occupied a depopulated region on the southern bank of Brahmaputra valley of the upper Assam region. In a short while The Ahom kingdom was established in 1228 by a Tai prince, Sukaphaa. The Ahom Dynasty ruled for nearly 600 years and successfully resisted Mughal expansion in North-East India.
Sivasagar, formerly known as Rangpur, was the capital of the Ahom Kingdom from 1699 to 1788. During this period different structures of architectural importance was constructed by several Ahom sovereigns. Some of them are preserved till date and spending a day in this clean and calm town is worth it.
Rang Ghar :
Rang Ghar ("House of Entertainment") is a double storeyed royal sports pavilion from the Ahom era, built by Swargadeo Pramatta Singha in 1740s. It served as a sports arena for watching cultural programs and games of Birds & Animal fights, specially Bull fights. The roof of this structure is shaped like an inverted royal boat with decorative pair of carved stone crocodiles at the endings. The base of the monument has a series of arched entrances with beautifully carved geometrical & floral designs. It is one of the oldest surviving amphitheaters in Asia and is a must-see thing in Sivasagar.
Just beside the tranquil and beautiful Sivasagar tank (Borpukhuri) stands the Ahom Temples (or Dol), built by queen Ambika, in 1734. The tallest in the complex is the Sivadol (dedicated to Lord Shiva) with a massive golden dome on top and is called the Kolosi. The best time to visit is during Shivaratri when thousands of devotees flock from neighbourhood areas. On its west stands the Devidol (dedicated to Goddess Durga) and to the east is the Vishnudol (Lord Vishnu). The complex also has a Tai Ahom Museum which is worth visiting to know about Ahom culture and tradition.
Talatal Ghar :
Talatal Ghar, built by Swargadeo Rajeswar Singha as an army base is situated at the outskirt of Sivasagar town. It is an elegant and stunning seven-storeyed royal palace, 4 levels above the ground and 3 below. Tourists are allowed only on the ground floor and above, the underground ones are sealed off due to its maze-like passageways and people tend to get lost within it. It houses two secret tunnels too that were used as escape route during enemy attacks, one is about 3 km and opens at Dikhow River and the other one is 16 km that connects Garhgaon Palace.
There is another elegant structure, Gola Ghar just beside the Talatal Ghar that was used as royal armoury for storing ammunition & gunpowder.
Kareng Ghar :
The present structure of Kareng Ghar, also known as Garhgaon Palace was built by Ahom king Rajeswar Singha, located 15 km from Sivasagar. It is the Royal House of Ahom kings and is the grandest among all Tai Ahom monuments. The ground floor served as the servant's quarters and stables whereas the royal apartments occupied the above storeyed. The underground floor consist of a tunnel that connects the Talatal Ghar of Sivasagar. The monument also consist of four watch towers of which only two are intact. This should definitely be part of your Sivasagar tour.
How to reach :
Sivasagar is well linked with all all the major parts of Assam. Nearest airport is at Jorhat, 75 km from centre with direct flights from Guwahati, Kolkata, Delhi & Bengaluru. From Jorhat you can opt for any public bus, shared cab or private ride and will take approximately 1 hour. Sivasagar is well connected by road and rail from Guwahati, Jorhat, Dibrugarh and many other neighbouring cities. For local transportation, one can avail auto-rickshaws or book a cab for 1 day tour.