Sivasagar, previously spelled Sibsagar (“the ocean of Lord Shiva”), is a town in Upper Assam, about 360 kilometers (224 mi) north east of Guwahati. It is the district headquarters of the Sivasagar district. It is well known for its Ahom palaces and monuments. Sivasagar today is also an important centre for the tea and oil industries.
Who were the Ahoms?
During the 13th century, Assam saw the advent of a new group of people who settled here and ruled for nearly six hundred years creating history by making this land their home. This group of people belonged to the Tai or Shan family which includes the Āhoms, the Khamtis, the Phakiyals, the Naras and the Aitoniyas. Many scholars deeply believe that the name Assam is actually associated with the Shans (Āhoms). The Ahoms are also called Tai-Mao people who came from Mong-Mao situated in the present South-Western Yunan provinc
It is well mentioned in almost all of the Āhom Buranjis and other historical records that the Tais under the leadership of Sukapha advanced to the Brahmaputra valley during the thirteenth century. They left Mong-Mao in AD 1215 (1962, Bhuyan). Before they entered this valley, the Āhoms were recorded to have formed their states in regions of Northern Burma.
The Ahom dynasty ruled Assam for more than six hundred years. During this long six hundred years the Ahom Kings took up lot of structural activities- both secular and religious, which are still seen all over the state, but the main concentration of their monuments is in Sivsagar.
Sivasagar, formerly known as Rangpur, was the capital of the Ahom Kingdom from 1699 to 1788.
The early rulers used perishable materials for construction, but from the time of Rudra Singha (1696-1714), brick and lime mortar were used.
Sivasagar, formerly known as Rangpur, was the capital of the Ahom Kingdom from 1699 to 1788.
Their their kingdom fell to the Burmese in 1819 and their ruling class was all but wiped out. The province was liberated by the British in 1825 but, owing to the state of anarchy which prevailed, it was completely annexed in 1826.
For administrative purposes it was divided into three sub-divisions. It is said that the original name of Sivasagar was – ‘Kalansupar’ after the name of ‘Kalansu Gohain’ who resided in a village originally existed in the place where currently the Sivasagar tank is located.
This town’s main feature is the water body from which it takes its name. This is a 257-acre (1.04 km2) tank, also known as the Borpukhuri, which is at a higher elevation than the rest of the town, with three temples on its banks. Of these temples, the most prominent is the Sivadol, standing tall at 104 feet (32 m), drawing large crowds on Shiv Ratri. The other temples are the Vishnudol and Devidol.
A rich wetland eco-system of 33.93 square kilometers (13.10 sq mi) is on the southern bank of the river Brahmaputra, in Sivasagar district. A paradise of migratory and resident birds, over 165 species of birds have been identified and recorded here. Among these is a high concentration of geese and other migratory birds. Common species include bar-headed goose, grey leg goose, spot billed duck, mallard, gadwall, wigeon, gargany, shoveller, red-crested pochard, common pochard, ferruginous duck, adjutant stork, etc.
Ahom architectural marvels in Sivasagar are:
Devi Dol, Joysagar : The Devi Dol, was built by king Rudra Singha (AD1696-1714), on the western bank of Joysagar tank near Rangpur.. The temple is consecrated to a Durga. It resembles like a do-chala Assamese hut. Its exterior wall is plastered with lime and surkhi. The temple is provided with a portico facing south. The surviving foundation and some wall portion of mandapa and garbhagriha indicate the use of bricks in its construction.
Joi Dol, Joysagar : Built by Ahom king Rudra Singha (AD 1696-1714) the temple popularly known as Joidol or Keshavanarayan is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It stands in the western extremity on the north bank of the Joysagar tank. Exterior wall portion of the temple is carved with figures of various divinities of Brahmanical faith.
Its squattish pinnacle, with a few modifications, was adopted as standard for the later construction.
Sivadȏl, Joysagar: Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this temple was built by Rudra Singha (AD 1696-1714). The temple is popularly known as Vaidyanath Siva Temple. It consists of a garbhagriha with a domical śikhara and attached with a mukhamandapa having do-chala (gabled) hut type roof.
Gaurisagar group of temples:
At the northern bank of Gaurisagar tank Ahom king Siva Singha caused the construction of three temples, one each dedicated to Devi, Siva and Vishnu, exhibiting different architectural design-such as the Nagara style for Devi Dol and Nilachala type-circular śikhara for Siva and Vishnu Dols. .
Devi Dol, Gaurisagar: Located on the eastern extremity on the northern bank of the Gaurisagar tank and consecrated to Devi, this temple was built with brick and stone masonry by Phuleswari, the queen of king Siba Singha (AD1714-44). Devi Dol, having octagonal garbhagriha , antarala and mandapa on plan, is perhaps, the earliest example of brick built Ahom temple.
The temple possesses a nagaraśikhara over the main sanctum and clustered by four angaśikharas in four cardinal directions. The śikhara over the garbhagriha, appearing more like an elongated tower, is corrugated with vertical bands of crest and trough.
Siva Dol, Gaurisagar: Standing on the northern bank of the Gaurisagar tank, this temple was constructed by Phuleshwari Devi, the queen of Ahom king Siba Singha (AD1714-44). The temple is built in brick masonry and comprised of garbhagriha and mukhamandapa. The śikhara of the temple is domical, decorated with honey-comb design, with one aṅgaśikhara at each of the rāhāpaga. Over the śikhara are two kalaśas, placed one above the other. The temple is enclosed by an enclosure wall.
Vishnu Dol, Gaurisagar : The Vishnu Dol, having only octagonal garbhagriha and a square mandapa attached with an antarala is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The temple was built by the Ahom king Siba Singha (AD 1714- 1744).
Sivasagar group of temples
On the southern bank of a specially excavated huge tank called Sibsagar , Siva Singha constructed, three temples dedicated to Siva, Vishnu and Devi.
Siva Dol, Sivasagar : Siva Dol, having 40m. high Nagara śikhara, built of stone upto bhitti portion, consists of an octagonal garbhagriha attached with an antarala and a mukhamandapa. The temple was built by queen Ambika Devi, wife of king Siba Singha (AD 1714-44).
Vishnu Dol, Sivasagar: Dedicated to lord Vishnu, this temple was built by queen Ambika Devi, wife of king Siba Singha (AD 1714-44). The temple consists of a garbhagriha with a domical śikhara in honeycomb designs and is attached with an antarala and mukhamandapa.
Devi Dol, Sivasagar : Dedicated to Devi, this brick temple was built by queen Ambika Devi, the second wife of king Siva Singha (AD 1714-44). It consists of a garbhagriha with a domical śikhara surrounded by eight angaśikharas and has a do-chala (gabled) mandapa.
Kareng-Ghar : Ahom Raja palace or Kareng-Ghar at Garhgaon was built during the time of king Rajeshwar Singha on the ruins of old impermanent structures. It, one of the most Imposing brick edifices, with the collapsed western verandah and watch towers, appears like a square one. It has an underground cellar and four storeys in receding dimension.
Talatal-ghar : Talatal-ghar meaning house having several storeys, considered to be the largest of all Ahom monuments, is situated at Rangpur. Construction of this edifice, though started by king Rudra Singha, was completed in the time of his successor Rajeswar Singha. It is built in a north-south axis, with long annexes at either ends and the middle. The first floor built on the columns and stylobates can be approached by an elegant stairway provided in the front and by a narrower one at the mid-western portion
Ghanashyam’s House Monument, Joysagar : Popularly known as Ghanashyam’s House, this edifice was built by king Rudra Singha (AD 1696-1714). One of the most beautiful construction of Ahom period it is situated on the western bank of the Joysagar tank. The structure is dedicated to the architect Ghanashyam who is said to have built several Ahom buildings. The external surfaces, chamber and facade of this brick built structure are embellished with exquisitely moulded terracotta plaques decorated with the designs of trellis, creepers, floral, animal, divine personages, depicting different puranic stories.
The monument resembling ekratna prasada, is a fine example of the beautiful blending of the Brahmanical tradition in the garb of the Islamic one. It is an Islamic gate type flat-roofed house, having a hall like chamber with verandah having three engrailed-arched entrances, crowned with a row of battlements.
Rang Ghar: At the outskirts of Rangpur, Sivasagar, Rang Ghar was built by Ahom king Pramatta Singha as a pleasure house for the royal members and dignitaries to witness and enjoy outdoor games like bullfight, elephant fight, wrestling etc. Rang Ghar is one of the oldest amphitheatres in Asia. It is two storeyed rectangular structure with two trapezoidal ends, constructed in around year 1745. Its massive shell-shaped roof is crowned by the model of pleasure boat with makara ending and three turrets at the centre.
Maidams : These are hemispherical mounds having funerary affiliation. Ahom prefers to place their departed family members at Charaideo where their first king Sukapha was laid to rest. The Buranji informs that wives, attendants pet animals and huge quantity of valuables were also buried with the departed kings. Practice of burying alive was banned by king Rudra Singha. In appearance it is a hemispherical earthen mound erected over an underground vault with one or more chambers having domical super structure, crowned by a small open pavilion called chow-chali (four roofed cottage. Whole mound is usually enclosed with an octagonal mound
The Ahoms were the great builders. Their building activities spread far and wide beyond the limit of the political boundary of Sivasagar District.
Actually, the Āhom temples can be said to be an admixture of the Nagara, Bengal and Assamese hut style and the Islamic stylistic detailing. All these elements all together make the temples of Āhom period strikingly different from the rest of the temples of India.
It is interesting to note that a variety of architectural structures around the genre of temple building under the Āhoms. This is a proof to the fact that the Āhoms were trying to develop the architectural techniques and were trying to create a structure that could be living model for the later temples to be built taking it as an example, which did happen in the reign of Rudra Singha and Siba Singha.