Dr Sabyasachi Mahanta
Situated in the eastern part of Assam, the heritage district of Sivasagar occupies a very important place in the global and transtiol social, political and cultural ambience. Set against the backdrop of an immaculate scenic beauty laced with green sheets of tural vegetation, Sivasagar also boasts of a remarkable historical background with overtones of a silver lining to the history of this part of the country.
Such is its stature that Sivasagar is today mapped as one of the potential hot-spots of tourism because if its historical, cultural, and economic elitist backdrop which have always been propped by its glorious past with significant pledges for the future as well. Occupying an important portion of the psyche of the academicians, Sivasagar, the hub of heritage has very often been termed as the cultural capital of Assam - a justified addendum.
From the perspective of geographical statistics, Sivasagar as a district has a total area of approximately 2,60,290 hectares spread over three sub-divisions mely, Sivasagar, Charaideo and zira and is a part of the Brahmaputra valley. The district has a population of approximately 10 lakhs with a remarkable literacy rate soaring as high as 83 per cent. Although Sivasagar stands as the nerve centre of upper Assam when it comes to education and trade and commerce, the primary occupation of the people of the district is agriculture. Though the main crop is paddy, tea is also cultivated in the district in industrial dimensions. Rich in forest, horticulture and mineral resources, the district has two major industries—Oil and tural Gas Corporation (ONGC) and Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL).
Sivasagar, the erstwhile Rangpur earned the glory of being the capital for a considerable period of time (1701-1787 AD) of the mighty Ahoms who ruled Assam for nearly six hundred years i.e. from 1228 AD to 1826 AD. The Ahoms were great builders and many architectural marvels of these rulers make one awed at the kind of tecity and zeal they possessed. These are memorable in their own right for they transpire aesthetics, art, engineering technology, work culture and leadership as well. Their crave for architectonics was stupendous. The Talatalghar, Rangghar, Ghashyamghar, Gola-ghar, Gargaon Karenghar are nice illustrations of these aspects.
The historical monuments scattered all over the district are distinguished by their own distinctive features that can sumptuously feed the hungry eyes of the tourists and academicians from across the globe. The temples in particular are of numerous interests for the visitors for their being characterized by sophisticated terracotta and architectural designs marked by proportiote blending of tive, indigenous and Moslem elements that help one to recreate the nostalgia about a glorious past.
The mdang Stone Bridge and the Stone Bridge on the river Demow are the wonders of the engineering technology of the Ahom period that went into the making of these bridges. Moreover, the Moidams at Charaideo which may be called the Pyramids of the East are objects of worth seeing. Comprehensive research on the Moidams is expected to throw immense light on the socio-political and cultural life of the people of Assam, particularly of the Ahom era.
Sivasagar is also famous for several man-made tanks. The largest tank among them is the historic Joyasagar tank which is probably the largest man-made tank in Asia. The other tanks mely, the Sivasagar Pukhuri, Gaurisagar Pukhuri, Bogidol Pukhuri, Mechagarh Pukhuri, -Pukhuri, Purani Pukhuri etc. are also delightful to all who harbor mystical sensibilities. Significantly, these historic tanks are not dug but built up and the water level of these tanks is always higher than the surface level and the water in these tanks never dry up. During winter, most of these tanks in Sivasagar usually turn into happy bird sanctuaries of the migratory birds that migrate far away from the Siberian regions.
Moreover, the Panidihing Bird Sanctuary is for every tourist a treat to watch. Characterized by a variety of local birds, the sanctuary is also thronged by a good number of migratory birds that swamp the beels and marshy areas. The ornithologists do find here a new world of excitement for to them it is a pristine world of their desire. It is at a distance of approximately 30 kms from the historic town of Sivasagar.
From the historical perspective Sivasagar has been an abode of various ethnic communities of people living since the days of yore who have championed social peace, harmony, and unity with their own distinctive traditions and cultures. The Ahoms, Misings, Deoris, Chutias, Morans, Mataks, Nepalis, Manipuris, gas etc. have been residing in Sivasagar; but the multicultural ambience has been such that it has never fomented commul tensions for on no occasions the populace has estranged themselves from amity and brotherhood. The best testimony to this is the Azan Peer Dargah—a symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity since the time of the Ahom kings Moreover, Sivasagar district is also famous for several Vaishvite Satras which are also promoting the spirit of socio-cultural unity and integrity. These definitely hold enough scope for Eco-tourism too in Sivasagar district. Moreover, the Douls - Joy Doul, Shiva Doul et al- have been significant cultural markers buttressing the cord of multicultural exchanges amongst the multiethnic demographic fabric. Besides, they stand as testimony to the adaptability of the Ahom Kings who advocated and embraced various patterns of assimilation without any tinge of hesitation.
Nothing can be absolutely asserted about the Sivasagar of the pre-Ahom era for dearth of credibly documented statistical facts in any form. Sivasagar has hogged the limelight only after the advent of the mighty Ahom Kings who established their capital successively at Charaideo, Gargaon and Rangpur and it was Sivasagar that served as the launch pad for Swargadeo Chow-Lung-Siu-Ka-Pha to think in terms of his of creating greater Assam, a rather ambitious plan. In addition, it was in Sivasagar that for the first time a conducive ambience was created to raise a voice of strong protest against the Britishers and it was the publishing of the first Assamese newspaper Arunudoi in Sivasagar that intensified the onslaught against the colonizers. And it was in Sivasagar where the first session of the Asom Sahitya Sabha, the apex literary organization of the state, was held. Moreover, with all the vashvite satras, temples, dargahs, moidams, sea-like tanks and stone-bridges, Sivasagar deserves to be acknowledged as a heritage district. It is expected that all possible steps would be taken to preserve and protect the me and fame of the district so that we can better utilize the available scope and potentialities to develop Tourism as an industry in Sivasagar district.