Google ‘Assam’, and on the knowledge panel, you will get to see a mention of the Umananda Island. Not only, this place is a mark of identity for Assam, it is also regarded as the smallest inhabited river island in the world. Not to forget that Assam is also the land of the largest river island, Majuli. But let us save this for another time.
Northeast India hides in itself a number of unexplored marvels, and Umananda island is just one of them. This wonderful island has managed to remain hidden from the crowd for long. However, it is a sought-after location for the natives.
Located not very far from Guwahati, a 10-minute ferry ride from the riverbank can take you to this beautiful island. Perched on the mighty Brahmaputra, this island is home to the Umananda Devaloi, a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.
The temple was built in 1694, under the initiative of Ahom king Gadadhar Singha. The ancient and revered temple is considered very sacred. Devotees who come to visit Kamakhya temple also pay a visit to Umananda temple, as they believe that their visit would remain incomplete otherwise.
Umananda is a culmination of two words- Uma, which is another name for Hindu Goddess Parvati (Shiva’s wife), and Ananda, meaning joy. It is said that this island was created by Shiva, for his wife Parvati’s happiness and pleasure. Mythology says that Lord Shiva resided on this island in the form of Bhayananda.
The Umanada island is also known as Bhasmachal. Bhasma in Assamese means ash, and achal means a hill. So, the name literally translates into ‘hill of ashes’. It is called so because apparently, Lord Shiva was in a state of deep meditation on the island when Kamadeva broke his penance, which invited Shiva’s wrath, who in turn burnt him to ashes!
Besides the main Shiva temple, there are five more temples on the island – the Ganesha, Hara Gauri, Chalantika, Chandrashekhar, and Vaidyanath temples.
Facts to remember:
Dotted with tamarind trees, the Umananda island was also home to the endangered species of golden langur, introduced to the island in the 1980s. The last one died in 2020.
Any place of such religious importance is always associated with some popular folklore. One such legend says that though Assam faces devastating floods every year, water never enters the Umananda temple. It is also believed that if on any given day this temple is drowned, the entire city of Guwahati will be underwater.
Apart from the temples, people visit the island for its scenic beauty. A ferry ride on the mighty Brahmaputra already fills the visitor’s heart with immense peace and tranquility.
Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. According to a British officer, the beauty of this island lies in its unique shape. He named the Umananda Island as Peacock island, as its structure appeared to him as the splayed feather of a peacock.
The best time to visit the Umananda temple is between September to February. Mondays are considered the holiest day to visit the place. Celebrated in the month of February, the Mahashivratri is observed with great pomp and honor on the island.
As the island is located in Guwahati, it opens up a long list of other attractions located in and around the city that one can visit.
The renowned Kamakhya temple, Sri Sri Ugratara Devalaya, and the Shukreswar Devalaya are just to name a few. The Assam State Museum and zoo can also be covered.
How to reach:
By flight: The airport is about 22 kilometers away
By train: Guwahati Railway Station is the closest railway station at a distance of 2 kilometers from the temple.
As the island can only be reached by ferry, you can head towards the Kachari Ghat, and take a ferry for a wonderful 10 minute ride on the Brahmaputra.
The island is open on all days and ferry services are available between 7 am to 5 pm. Motorboats are also available.
It is noteworthy that in recent years, the state-owned Inland Water Transport introduced regular ferries to Umananda, which led to a spike in the graph of tourist footfall in the place. Entry to this island has been made free for all.
Accommodation & Food
While you visit the place, you might not find any hotels or resorts on the island, but there are numerous options of accommodation just across the river. As mentioned, it hardly takes 10 minutes to reach the city.
Also, the island will not give you the luxury of fancy hotels or restaurants (let us not forget that it is a small ancient religious place), but there are some small local establishments from where you can find something to munch on.
DOs and DONTs:
- No matter how wonderful the ferry ride might be, do not forget to wear the life jacket
- An island is a holy place, make sure you keep it holy
- Smoking is prohibited inside the temple premises
- The temple follows a dress code and all visitors are supposed to follow it if they want to enter the premises
- It is expected that the visitors will show respect to the ancient customs
The magnificent Umananda Island with its ancient Umananda temple location might not be a perfect fit for your Instagram, but it is definitely a location that has the ability to soothe your body and mind. Hiding many of nature’s abundant secrets, this small river island will continue to boast of its beauty and rich history way beyond Instagram.
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